How much property did the army requisition?

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.

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.

Property NameRequisitionDerequisitionNotes
Castle Barracks, Enniskillen23 January 195713 February 1957The 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, Killadeas01 February 195701 December 1959In a memo from 11 February 1957 the military stated that the house was unsuitable for their purposes. But presumably alternatives were not found.
Redoubt, Enniskillen07 January 195708 February 1957Owned by Portora Royal School, the bursar was paid £240 for 12 weeks rent
St Marys Parochial Hall, Garrison14 January 195705 February 1957
Parish Church Hall, Fivemiletown28 November 1958Requisitioned for the RUC. £90 had to be paid to the owners for reparations after it was handed back.
Royal Naval Air Squadron, Eglinton1956July 1959The Army has been temporarily using part of RNAS Eglinton due to a barrack rebuilding programme elsewhere.
Castle Archdale29 October 195931 July 1964The 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 Rectory14 April 196008 December 1961Including the stone barn and avenue leading from Churchill Road.
Brownlow House06 November 1961Property given to the RUC in favour of the Army.
Dates and locations derived from PRONI Record HA/32/1/1298 Ministry to Home Affairs

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.

Belfast Property

  • Flax Street Mill (dates unknown)
  • North Howard Street Mill (returned in 1995)
  • Albert Street Mill (returned March 1977)

Property outside Belfast

Property NameRequisitonDerequisitionNotes
Blighs Lane (possibly the BSR Die Casting Shop)October 1969May 1974By 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, CarnmoneySeptember 197031 January 1977Likely requisitoned for the newly formed Ulster Defence Regiment. Known in Northern Ireland Office (NIO) memos as Carnmoney Army Base
Worcester Valve Factory, Armagh11 October 1971January 1975The construction of Mahon Road Barracks allowed troops to be moved from the factory into their new accommodation
Saracen Limited Factory, Blighs Lane6 August 1972May 1974
Camco Factory, Carnmoney11 January 1973Also known as the Brettle Factory. For use as a temporary UDR Company location
Jersey Capwood Factory, Lurgan19 January 1973July 1980
Kitchen Hill (possibly an early reference to the Jersey Capwood Factory), Lurgan8 February 1971July 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, BelfastDecember 1979
Lurgan Town Hall1973July 1980Since 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, Crossmaglen12 December 1977A 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.
Dates and locations derived from PRONI Record COM107/1/9 Army occupation of factories (1969 – 1972)

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.

LocationTask
Vere Foster SchoolSangar repaired as well as 400m of chain link fencing and a covered passageway between the sangars.
Black Mountain Primary SchoolHardstandings laid and extended. Security lighting installed.
Finiston SchoolChain link fence was erected. The Makrolon™ in the OP was replaced and a bomb screen erected around the perimeter.
Oliver Plunkett SchoolTrackway 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 SchoolShowers 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 SchoolAnti-sight and anti-rocket screens installed, 200m of fence and 600m of dannert wire and six OPs built.
Saint Bernadettes SchoolDefences improved and high mesh fence installed as well as an anti-bomb screen erected.
Saint Genevieves SchoolA total of four OPs constructed. Anti-sight screens installed as well as a covered passage to the OP. Security lighting installed.
Saint Peters SchoolProtective wall constructed, anti-bomb and anti-sight fences installed. The community centre was demolished.
Saint Pauls SchoolA request for security lighting to be installed was later cancelled
Christian Brothers SchoolTwo OPs constructed. A request for security lighting to be installed was later cancelled.
Saint Josephs CollegeSection post dug-in and supplied with electricity. Sangars constructed at the entrance, and two on the roof.
Holy Trinity SchoolA Company that was deployed here was relocated to Monagh Road Camp
Roger Casement SchoolSight-screens installed as well as fences around the perimeter.
School locations identified in Annex A to a report by the Officer Commanding (OC) 8 Field Squadron (Fd Sqn) Royal Engineers (RE) on an emergency tour in Northern Ireland (July – September 1972)

Other Locations

LocationTask
Unity FlatsSandbag wall 20ft. Bomb fence erected around the OP.
Ardoyne Bus DepotTwo windows bricked up and 20m of chain link fence erected
Andersonstown Bus DepotChain link fence erected around the perimeter as well as two standard Observation Posts (OP) and two elevated OPs constructed
Clarence EngineeringAn armoured sangar was placed at this property. It was later winterised.
Drenta HouseSight screens were erected, the perimeter fence realigned as well as the rooftop OP being renovated and two additional OPs erected.
Denmark Street FlatsOP constructed
New Lodge LibraryOP constructed
Donegall QuayMetal fence removed and replaced with a sandbag wall
Henry Taggart HallBomb screen replaced and an anti-sight screen installed
1 Antrim RoadRoof installed on an OP
Royal Victoria Hospital, BroadwayA 200m glissade was installed and three OPs constructed (1 internal, 2 external)
Woodburn HotelMain gate sangar improved
1 Glenveagh DriveDefences improved
Musgrave HospitalOP constructed. This is likely to have been to protect the new military wing that had been constructed in the grounds of the civilian hospital.
Other requisitioned locations identified in Annex A to a report by the Officer Commanding (OC) 8 Field Squadron (Fd Sqn) Royal Engineers (RE) on an emergency tour in Northern Ireland (July – September 1972)

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.

LocationDescriptionOccupation DateClosure Date
Grand Central Hotel, BelfastCity of Belfast Battalion UDR19841992
The Deanery, ClogherCompany location for Tyrone Battalion UDR1973
Derryvolgie House, Lisburn9 UDR Company location1973Government offices until demolished in 2019.
The Abbey, Kilkeel3rd (Down) Battalion UDR, Company
Pinehurst Textile Factory, Lurgan19721991
Locations requisitioned for UDR use, not including any dual use army / police sites

Contribute

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.