12 - The B Specials
Malta to Ballymoney
a tour of duty in Malta and North Africa I left the Royal Marines
at the age of thirty-one on 11 July 1953 and returned to
return trip to England was quite an event. I returned to England on
board the aircraft that had taken the old Kings body home. Other
passengers included Tony Mottram the tennis player and his wife, a
Sergeant Major and a Lieutenant from the Malayan Police. Mottram
the tennis player was on board the plane with his wife but they did
not bother with our group at any time.
airhostess was a WREN (Woman’s Royal Navy) and she presented us
with a tray of drinks, courtesy of the pilot. This was repeated
quite a few times. It transpired that I knew the WREN because she
had been in Portsmouth at the same time as myself.
landed in Delhi after the pilot missed the runway on the first two
tries. He then invited us into the pilot’s bar and we stayed
there for four hours before continuing our journey.
was a delay at Beirut because of engine problems and we stayed
there until the engine was replaced. The engine went again and we
ended up having to wait in Rome for the repairs to be completed.
When we arrived in London it was bitterly cold and I was still in
my tropical dress. The WREN gave me the loan of her greatcoat
stating that she was more acclimatized to the London weather.
sailed through customs without any problems, in fact I was never in
the queue because the supervisor recognised me, he had been an
officer with 45 Commando. He offered me a cup of coffee and passed
my baggage straight through. Tony Mottram and the Malaysian Police
inspector both had cameras but they did not declare them to customs
despite our advice. The customs noticed the cameras and demanded
the bill of sales. That incident held us all up for over an hour
until they paid customs on the cameras.
had missed the boat train to Heysham so I had to spend the night in
the deep shelter in Goodge Street. The train took me up to the
ferry at Stranrear. I had missed the crossing but the Provost
Marshall at the ferry was an ex-Royal Marine major and he
accommodated me at his hotel for the night rather than the nearest
Queens Visit to Northern Ireland
my discharge from the Royal Marines I settled down in Ballymoney
with my wife. I became a Postman in Ballymoney town in 1953 and
also joined the B Specials. That was the year the Queen stopped in
Ballymoney on her tour of Northern Ireland. I was working in the
Post Office at that time and had to do my delivery round as quickly
as possible so that I could get down to the station and see the
Queen on her visit.
of the Ballymoney B Specials were introduced to the Queen at
Ballymoney railway station.
October 1953 I joined the Ballymoney Platoon of the B Specials
Major John Munnis was in charge.
Carton was the man who formed the B Specials in Ballymoney. When he
died Major John Munnis succeeded him. Major John Munnis was the
last County Commandant in the Ballymoney area. He joined the Ulster
Defence Regiment in 1970 when the Bs were disbanded. In his
civilian capacity he was the manager of Dixon’s shoe shop in
Major Munnis was promoted to County Commandant, Tommy McMullan took
over as Platoon Sergeant of the Ballymoney Platoon with the support
of William Hill and Alfie Hanna. When Tommy McMullin went to
England to live I was promoted to Platoon Sergeant of the
Ballymoney Platoon had a training hut in Ballymoney Showground’s.
We also had a miniature firing range at that location. Our full
bore shooting training took place on the North Antrim coast at
Portballintrae once every year. We fired .303 rifles, .303 Bren
guns, .45 revolvers and the 9mm Sten gun.
I was already familiar with the .45 revolver. I carried a
.45 when I was in the Royal Marines on the Vickers machine gun
Ballymoney platoon did not have routine patrol nights but were
always called out in response to a specific incident.
Torr Head Incident
operated along with the RUC out on night patrols and road checks.
Just like the UDR we were always subject to verbal abuse from the
general public. We were often blamed for harassment, usually when
we operated road checks on a Sunday and the Roman Catholics were
trying to get to Chapel on time.
1956 until 1962 the Bs were very busy in the Ballymoney area
because the IRA were involved in another murder campaign. On one
occasion at 1am one morning I had to take a patrol to Dunloy
crossroads and set up a check point there. The IRA had attempted to
attack an installation at Torr Head on the northeast coast.
had attacked an RUC car and if their machine gun hadn’t jammed
the whole carload of police would have been killed. The police
managed to return fire and hit one of the IRA men in the head. That
man lay in a Dundalk hospital for years with a head injury.
worked in the Post Office at that time and I was expected to start
work at 4am every morning and start my postal deliveries at 6am.
After some incidents I would still be out on the road patrolling
and was late for work in the Post Office. One day I was very late
and the supervisor took me to the side and complained. When I told
him that I was out on patrol and came straight into work after the
patrol he told me to go home, as he did not want me in the job. He
threatened to sack me on the spot but unfortunately for him most of
the staff were ex-service. One of these men pinned the supervisor
to the wall and informed him that he would not be walking the
streets of Ballymoney a free man if it were not for men like myself
out guarding him. He was left in no doubt that if he sacked me he
would have a ‘serious problem’ on his hands.
of my deliveries took me to the Post Masters house. He inquired
about the trouble there was in the town the previous night. I told
him we were called out because a man had been shot at Torr Head and
we had to cover the Ballymoney area. I then told him about the
supervisor threatening to sack me for failing to clock in on time
after the incident. The Post Master told me not to worry about the
problem. When I returned to the Post Office after my deliveries the
supervisor approached me and asked me to report to the Post Master.
There I was informed that if the supervisor ever threatened me
again I was to let him know and he would sort him out.
were paraded in the Ulster Hall for the disbandment of the B
Specials Craig came round the Platoons to shake hands but I turned
my back on him, as did the rest of the Platoon. We had listened to
too many lies from the Unionist politicians who promised the earth
and gave nothing. The remainder of the Platoons did the same so he
walked away from the parade.
Unionist politician had a similar experience with Ballymoney B men
just before the Ulster Hall parade. One evening he attended a
Ballymoney Ulster Special Constabulary dinner as the guest but he
refused to make a speech after the Mayor and Colonel Crampsie had
spoken. One of the men
called out, ’There’s a traitor amongst us!’ The politician
never responded and he never returned to Ballymoney.