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Chapter 12 - The B Specials


From Malta to Ballymoney


After 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 Ballymoney.

The 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.


The 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.

We 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.


There 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.


I 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.


I 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 transit camp.


The Queens Visit to Northern Ireland


After 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.

Some of the Ballymoney B Specials were introduced to the Queen at Ballymoney railway station.


The B Specials


In October 1953 I joined the Ballymoney Platoon of the B Specials Major John Munnis was in charge.

Karl 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 Coleraine.

When 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.

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 crew.

The Ballymoney platoon did not have routine patrol nights but were always called out in response to a specific incident.


The Torr Head Incident


We 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.


From 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.

They 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.


I 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.


One 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.


The Craig Incident


We 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.

Another 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.