Monday, 4 January 2010

Royal Signals 'Wire' magazine Apr-May 73

The Squadron has now had a year of service in Ulster and this would seem an appropriate time to review the life and activities of the inhabitants of Kitchen Hill factory. As our last notes were more about the Christmas season we thought we'd concentrate in this edition on the everyday operational events which make up life in the Squadron.

Protective duties
Apart from the normal Signals activities there are a few others which the Squadron gets involved in. Every night we supply two men for local protection, on foot patrols with the resident rifle company around the Lurgan area. We also supply an eight-man armed guard on the married quarters; for who's protection we are not quite sure! To ensure that the inhabitants of the luxurious accommodation of Kitchen Hill Knicker factory don't forget what Northern Ireland is all about we run a system of attachments to roulement Battalions. Signalman Sage, our orderly room clerk and general man about town, has recently had a 48-hour attachment with 1 Royal Hampshires, so we asked him to give us a written report on the attachment, Here it is:

It was 07.30 hours 26th February that I left Lurgan by SDS on detachment to 1 Royal Hampshires at Newry. I arrived at about 10.00 hours and was introduced to the section Commander and Section with whom I would be spending my 48 hours. Within 10 minutes we were out on a mobile patrol through the streets of Newry. The patrol consisting of two open Land Rovers and five soldiers in each. It didn't give you a lot of confidence to start with, going round the streets of Newry and getting dirty looks and V signs from the local inhabitants. We then received a message over the radio of a bomb in the Ulster bus depot and on arrival there we found a large crowd had gathered just outside the depot, we had to move them back as apparently the bomb was due to go off in 30 minutes. It was an hour later that the bomb went off, completely destroying the Bus Depot main building. A quarter of an hour later we were again on the road to continue our patrol, setting up VCP's at different road junctions for periods of 10-15 minutes and then moving on. The Land Rover moved at varying speeds to avoid any gunman getting a fix on us with a rifle or rocket launcher. The patrol lasted about four hours. By this time my eyes began to get tired from constantly looking out for gunmen who might appear at any moment from behind a door, tree, rooftop, etc. These type of patrols went on through­out the day and night with very little time off, and I can tell you by then I was beginning to feel very exhausted.

It was later on that night that I was introduced to the famous Derrybeg Estate. I have never seen so many bottles and bricks flying around. It's times like this that you feel you would like to be back at Brigade H.Q. with a pen in your hands. But the Gods were with us and we got out alright with just a few scratches and bruises and my heart beating a little faster than usual!

The second day started at 06.00 hours with a 2-hour patrol through Newry and then back to camp to load up the 'pig' with VCP equipment, and then off to the border on the Dublin road for the first of two 6-hour duties, checking vehicles. It was during this first stag that the BBC visited us at our location just outside the Customs post. Having stripped their cars down and frisked them thoroughly they started to film us checking cars, and passengers. This was shown on the National 9 o'clock news that evening.

The second stage of six hours started at 23.59 till 06.00 and was more eventful with one arrest under the special powers act and some aggro when two men at first refused to be searched. After being 'kindly' spoken to they eventually condescended to be searched.

These past 48 hours had left me with a great deal of respect for 1 Royal Hampshires with whom I had spent my time, and also a lot wiser to the situation in Ulster, and the rough time these lads get down near the border.

Limelight on ‘Bravo’ Troop
On the Signals side as Alpha Troop had a big splash in The Wire not so long ago, we'll concentrate on Bravo Troop led by W.O.2 (Y. of S.) ' Pegleg' Dunbar. The Lurgan comcen, a tributary station, has a main link to H.Q. Northern Ireland and nine simplex pony circuits forwards to Brigade units. All these circuits are manned by a three-man shift and life can get fairly hectic. One of the problems of working to roulement units is that the procedure and sometimes the typing is not all that accurate, so virtually every message has to be repunched before onward transmission. (Nimble fingered Data Telegraphists only need apply for a job here.) For the statisticly minded we show the analysis of traffic for the last year:

In Messages 68,463 - Out Messages 69,412 - SDS 85,688
Total 223,563

As you can see the SDS performs a vital function within the Brigade communications set-up. Without the efficient service provided by Corporal Hobday and his four merry men over the Brigade area (approximately 120 by 50 miles), there is no doubt that at peak times the comcen would be overloaded, to the detriment of the service we provide.

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