Following the Second World War troop levels in Northern Ireland returned to what could be considered normal levels, and with the Cold War simmering across the world the majority of operational work was carried out by the Royal Air Force (RAF) and Royal Observer Corps (ROC), with the Royal Navy continuing to use real estate around Londonderry for training.
This article aims to bring together a number of sources of information I have in order to demonstrate the extent of requisitions undertaken by the army, typically for short duration, in support of surges in violence but also for the accommodation of the newly formed Ulster Defence Regiment in the 1970s.
Table of Contents
Post-War Garrison in Northern Ireland (1945 – 1969)
I have put together the following table to assess the permanent garrison in Northern Ireland as it stood in the years following the Second World War. It does not reflect any Second World War sites in the process of closure, nor does it reflect any of the sites retained by the United States around Londonderry following the end of the war. I am also not including any RUC property or Army reserve property.
The Border Campaign (1956 – 1962)
Between 1956 and 1962 the IRA waged a vicious and invigorated campaign against the British forces in Northern Ireland. As a result, the Army responded by surging the number of troops in the country. As the property locations reflect, additional troops were billeted in the border regions where they would be operating.
|Castle Barracks, Enniskillen||23 January 1957||13 February 1957||The War Office returned the castle tot he local authority in 1950, so it was necessary to requisition two rooms in the Keep for use in 1957.|
|Manor House, Killadeas||01 February 1957||01 December 1959||In a memo from 11 February 1957 the military stated that the house was unsuitable for their purposes. But presumably alternatives were not found.|
|Redoubt, Enniskillen||07 January 1957||08 February 1957||Owned by Portora Royal School, the bursar was paid £240 for 12 weeks rent|
|St Marys Parochial Hall, Garrison||14 January 1957||05 February 1957|
|Parish Church Hall, Fivemiletown||28 November 1958||Requisitioned for the RUC. £90 had to be paid to the owners for reparations after it was handed back.|
|Royal Naval Air Squadron, Eglinton||1956||July 1959||The Army has been temporarily using part of RNAS Eglinton due to a barrack rebuilding programme elsewhere.|
|Castle Archdale||29 October 1959||31 July 1964||The RAF continued to use Castle Archdale after the war and it was anticipated they would move out in January 1958, for the Army to move in.|
|Benmore Rectory||14 April 1960||08 December 1961||Including the stone barn and avenue leading from Churchill Road.|
|Brownlow House||06 November 1961||Property given to the RUC in favour of the Army.|
Operation Banner (1969 – 2007)
Temporary requisitions were required again during the surge of troops into NI at the start of what became Op Banner. The records below come primarily from the local Northern Ireland civil departments. This list does not include permanent purchases of property or land, such as that required to house the newly formed UDR, or expansion of existing MOD property.
- Flax Street Mill (dates unknown)
- North Howard Street Mill (returned in 1995)
- Albert Street Mill (returned March 1977)
Property outside Belfast
|Blighs Lane (possibly the BSR Die Casting Shop)||October 1969||May 1974||By March 1975 the Army had removed all Nissen huts and sniper screens. They had been left at site initially because it was too dangerous for engineers to remove them.|
|Ex-Ligh Alloys Factory, Carnmoney||September 1970||31 January 1977||Likely requisitoned for the newly formed Ulster Defence Regiment. Known in Northern Ireland Office (NIO) memos as Carnmoney Army Base|
|Worcester Valve Factory, Armagh||11 October 1971||January 1975||The construction of Mahon Road Barracks allowed troops to be moved from the factory into their new accommodation|
|Saracen Limited Factory, Blighs Lane||6 August 1972||May 1974|
|Camco Factory, Carnmoney||11 January 1973||Also known as the Brettle Factory. For use as a temporary UDR Company location|
|Jersey Capwood Factory, Lurgan||19 January 1973||July 1980|
|Kitchen Hill (possibly an early reference to the Jersey Capwood Factory), Lurgan||8 February 1971||July 1980 (planned)||The RUC have been using these barracks since the Lurgan station was destroyed in 1973.|
|Department of Commerce land and factory, Whiterock Industrial Estate, Belfast||December 1979|
|Lurgan Town Hall||1973||July 1980||Since Lurgan RUC station was destroyed by terrorist attack in 1973, the police have been accommodated in Lurgan Town Hall but have also been using Kitchen Hill Barracks. The new Lurgan police station was due to be operational by July 1981.|
|6 Cullaville Road, Crossmaglen||12 December 1977||A requisition order was signed on this date for the property beside the existing police station in order that the joint RUC / Army site could be expanded.|
1972 Troop Surge
This year was the single most deadly in the 40 year conflict. It was also the year of Bloody Sunday and Operation MOTORMAN1The forced removal of barricades creating “no go” areas in Londonderry. The tactics against security forces and the civilian population changed from being predominantly gun attack to bombs; and the terrorists developed a lethal arsenal of home brew explosives and weapons. It was the intent following Operation MOTORMAN on 31 July that once the barricades had been cleared that the army would maintain a strong presence in the areas to hold the land and maintain dominance.
The reason I have selected this year in particular was down to one document I uncovered in the archives of the Royal Engineers. Annexed to a report by the Officer Commanding (OC) 8 Field Squadron (Fd Sqn) Royal Engineers (RE) was a summary list of the tasks they had been allocated and completed during their tour. The squadron had been deployed on an emergency tour to NI between July and September 1972. From this document I have been able to locations and properties that were in use at this time. Due to the operational area of the unit involved in these tasks, the tables below only cover the Belfast area.
West Belfast Schools
I am sure the idea of requisitioning and fortifying Catholic schools in West Belfast did not help to ease tensions, but never the less, during the summer holidays of 1972 the army did just that. The task list from the RE archives details some of the work that was being done to establish and maintain these schools as operating bases for the enhanced troops deployed during this time.
|Vere Foster School||Sangar repaired as well as 400m of chain link fencing and a covered passageway between the sangars.|
|Black Mountain Primary School||Hardstandings laid and extended. Security lighting installed.|
|Finiston School||Chain link fence was erected. The Makrolon™ in the OP was replaced and a bomb screen erected around the perimeter.|
|Oliver Plunkett School||Trackway laid as well as 70m of new road, two elevated OPs constructed, an entrance guard post constructed, bomb screen erected. Security lighting installed. The two elevated OPs were later re-sited.|
|Saint Teresa’s School||Showers and kitchen facilities built. Anti-sight screens were erected around the kitchen and vehicle park, as well as three sangars constructed. 500m of fence and 300m dannert wire installed. Security lighting installed. When the school was to reopen in September 1972 a new camp was set up in waste land to the north of the school; this was to become Fort Monagh.|
|Holy Child School||Anti-sight and anti-rocket screens installed, 200m of fence and 600m of dannert wire and six OPs built.|
|Saint Bernadettes School||Defences improved and high mesh fence installed as well as an anti-bomb screen erected.|
|Saint Genevieves School||A total of four OPs constructed. Anti-sight screens installed as well as a covered passage to the OP. Security lighting installed.|
|Saint Peters School||Protective wall constructed, anti-bomb and anti-sight fences installed. The community centre was demolished.|
|Saint Pauls School||A request for security lighting to be installed was later cancelled|
|Christian Brothers School||Two OPs constructed. A request for security lighting to be installed was later cancelled.|
|Saint Josephs College||Section post dug-in and supplied with electricity. Sangars constructed at the entrance, and two on the roof.|
|Holy Trinity School||A Company that was deployed here was relocated to Monagh Road Camp|
|Roger Casement School||Sight-screens installed as well as fences around the perimeter.|
|Unity Flats||Sandbag wall 20ft. Bomb fence erected around the OP.|
|Ardoyne Bus Depot||Two windows bricked up and 20m of chain link fence erected|
|Andersonstown Bus Depot||Chain link fence erected around the perimeter as well as two standard Observation Posts (OP) and two elevated OPs constructed|
|Clarence Engineering||An armoured sangar was placed at this property. It was later winterised.|
|Drenta House||Sight screens were erected, the perimeter fence realigned as well as the rooftop OP being renovated and two additional OPs erected.|
|Denmark Street Flats||OP constructed|
|New Lodge Library||OP constructed|
|Donegall Quay||Metal fence removed and replaced with a sandbag wall|
|Henry Taggart Hall||Bomb screen replaced and an anti-sight screen installed|
|1 Antrim Road||Roof installed on an OP|
|Royal Victoria Hospital, Broadway||A 200m glissade was installed and three OPs constructed (1 internal, 2 external)|
|Woodburn Hotel||Main gate sangar improved|
|1 Glenveagh Drive||Defences improved|
|Musgrave Hospital||OP constructed. This is likely to have been to protect the new military wing that had been constructed in the grounds of the civilian hospital.|
Ulster Defence Regiment (1970 – 1992)
With the formation of the UDR in 1970, a large acquisition of land and property was required. With limited exceptions, there were few occasions were property was requisitioned for the UDR, and most, if not all was purchased. I have drawn up a list of the properties and land that I think was requisitioned solely for UDR use. This is based on the fact that the other locations were either existing RUC/Army locations or were green/brownfield sites on which camps were built.
|Location||Description||Occupation Date||Closure Date|
|Grand Central Hotel, Belfast||City of Belfast Battalion UDR||1984||1992|
|The Deanery, Clogher||Company location for Tyrone Battalion UDR||1973|
|Derryvolgie House, Lisburn||9 UDR Company location||1973||Government offices until demolished in 2019.|
|The Abbey, Kilkeel||3rd (Down) Battalion UDR, Company|
|Pinehurst Textile Factory, Lurgan||1972||1991|
If you have any information that could contribute to mapping properties or locations that were used by the military during Operation Banner, then please let me know. An address or grid reference, with a description of the use of the site would be incredibly useful, as well as any dates or documented evidence / photographs.