Chapter 1 – My
I joined the Royal Marines on 13 June
1939 at the age of 17 years and I was discharged on 11 July 1953
after fourteen years service, six of them as a prisoner of War in
Europe. I then served in the B Specials for seventeen years from
November 1953 until they were disbanded in 1970. In 1972 I joined
the UDR and resigned from the Regiment in 1979 after seven years
When my father left school he went
straight into the baking trade and was employed in our hometown,
Coleraine. He was unable to join the Army at the Coleraine
recruiting offices because everybody there knew him and would have
known he was under age. So a friend and himself walked all the way
to Londonderry city to the army recruiting office there but even
the Londonderry recruiters knew he was too young so they chased
Both of them came back to Coleraine for
a couple of years and then started walking to the recruiting office
in Omagh. They managed to hitch a couple of lifts on their journey.
My father was only sixteen but he was accepted into the Royal
Enniskilling Fusiliers. He qualified as a trained soldier two years
before the First World War started.
My fathers unit was posted to Gallipoli
in 1915 but the records of his exploits are very scant. He then
went to France, was wounded and arrived back in Coleraine in 1916.
He spent his time in Coleraine convalescing. As soon as he was fit
for duty he returned to France and was wounded again. He
convalesced in England that second time. He then rejoined his
regiment and was wounded for a third time at Mon’s when part of
his leg was blown off during a battle. He was finally discharged
from the army in 1917 as unfit for military service.
When my father left the army he had a
three severe war wounds to contend with. The worst health problem
was the loss of most of his calf muscle from one of his legs.
Prior to my father becoming a policeman
he worked in the bakery in Coleraine for a while. He did not enjoy
his time there so he moved to Scotland and worked as a baker. When
he returned to the Province again he joined the RUC for a year.
Because of his war wounds he could not understand why the RUC had
initially accepted him. But after the first year in the RUC he had
to sit a medical board and he failed. He was discharged as a result
of that medical board My father then moved the family from
Coleraine to our new home in Glenstall near Ballymoney. He was a
postman there until he retired near the end of WW2.
My mother was called Annie (nee
Hamilton) from Ballymoney. I was born on 12 July 1922 hence my
name, William. At that time my father was a RUC constable. He was
stationed in Londonderry at the time and was allowed two hours off
duty to come home to Coleraine to see my mother and myself. The
first man to shake hands with my father was a Roman Catholic. My
father had a good reputation for being a fair man. Although he was
in the Orange Order he could not bear anyone speaking against Roman
Catholics. He taught us all that we were human beings first.
I had three brothers and five sisters.
From the eldest my brothers were called John, then myself, Bobby
and Andy. My sisters were called Nelly, Mary, the twins Sadie and
Elsie and finally the youngest, Annie. We were all educated at Eden
My First Job
After I left school I worked for
Boyd’s Engineering in Bendooragh. My boss was called Andy Boyd. I
worked in the blacksmiths shop for eight months. One day he played
a trick on me by reaching me a bit of hot iron that burned my hand.
I told him that one day I would play a trick on him. Andy said,
‘You can’t play a trick on me. I’m the boss’. I assured him
that I would get even.
A couple of weeks later we were staving
an axle for a thresher we were in the process of making. We had the
axle staved, dipped a couple of times and then left to cool over
the anvil. Andy walked in and said, ‘Well, I see you got the axel
done’. I told him we were ready to fit it. He reached for the
axel, which was still hot and burned his hand. He looked at me and
said, ‘Door! Open! Walk out and don’t come back!’
A couple of week’s later Andy Boyd’s
son Albert came to the family home and asked me to return to work.
This time they wanted me to work in the paint shop at Boyd’s
Engineering. I was worried that Andy Boyd would not let me back to
work but his son told me that Andy had nothing to do with the paint
I was working there for two days when
Andy walked into the paint shop and just stood back looking at me.
‘Who brought you back?’ he asked. ‘Albert’, I replied. Andy
said, ‘Ah well, there’s nothing much I can do about that. You