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The formation of the Ulster Home Guard

  • William Butler (a1)
Abstract
Abstract

This article explores the problems encountered in the formation of the Ulster Home Guard, supposedly a direct equivalent to its well-known British counterpart, as part of the paramilitary Ulster Special Constabulary in Northern Ireland, during the Second World War. Predictably, the Ulster Home Guard became an almost exclusively Protestant organisation which led to many accusations of sectarianism from a variety of different national and international voices. This became a real concern for the British government, as well as the army, which understandably wished to avoid any such controversy. Though assumptions had previously been made about the numbers of Catholics in the force, this article explores just how few joined the organisation throughout the war. Additionally, the article investigates the rather awkward constitutional position in which the Ulster Home Guard was placed. Under the Government of Ireland Act, the Stormont administration had no authority on matters of home defence. It did, however, have the power to raise a police force as a way to maintain law and order. Still, the Ulster Home Guard, although formed as part of the Ulster Special Constabulary, was entrusted solely with home defence and this had wider implications for British policy towards Northern Ireland throughout the Second World War.

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Corresponding author
*School of History, University of Kent, W.M.Butler@kent.ac.uk
References
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1 For more on the Protestant volunteering tradition of the seventeenth century onwards see: Miller D. W., ‘Non-professional soldiery, c.1600–1800’ in Thomas Bartlett and Keith Jeffery (eds), A military history of Ireland (Cambridge, 1996), pp 316317 . For a full discussion of its re-emergence in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries see: Butler W. M., ‘The Irish amateur military tradition in the British army, c.1854–1945’ (Ph.D. thesis, University of Kent, 2013).

2 Beckett I. F. W., The amateur military tradition, 1558–1945 (Manchester, 1991), p. 266 . For a full description of the raising of the L.D.V. see: Mackenzie S. P., The Home Guard (Oxford, 1995), pp 3351 .

3 Hansard 5 (Commons), ccclxi, 238–76 (22 May 1940).

4 Memorandum by the secretary of state for war to the War Cabinet Legislation Committee, 5 Mar. 1942 (T.N.A., Cabinet minutes, CAB/75/14); Notes on the formation of the Ulster Home Guard, 1945 (P.R.O.N.I., CAB/3/A/77). For the L.D.V. in Great Britain see Beckett, Amateur military tradition, pp 266–7; Mackenzie, Home Guard, pp 33–7.

5 J. W. Blake, Northern Ireland in the Second World War (Belfast, 1956), p. 59.

6 Ibid., pp 155–60. This includes a fuller discussion of plans made in case of an invasion from the south.

7 For more on the formation of the U.S.C. see: Farrell Michael, Arming the Protestants: the formation of the Ulster Special Constabulary and the Royal Ulster Constabulary, 1920–27 (London, 1983), pp 3846 ; Hezlet Arthur, The ‘B’ Specials: a history of the Ulster Special Constabulary (London, 1972), p. 20 .

8 Bowman Timothy, Carson’s army: the Ulster Volunteer Force, 1910–22 (Manchester, 2007), pp 190201 .

9 Farrell Michael, Northern Ireland: the Orange state (London, 1980), pp 9596 .

10 Farrell, Arming the Protestants, p. 45.

11 Beckett, Amateur military tradition, pp 269–70; Mackenzie, Home Guard, pp 37–8; Summerfield Penny and Peniston-Bird Corinna, Contesting home defence: men, women and the Home Guard in the Second World War (Manchester, 2007), pp 2830 .

12 Belfast Newsletter, 18 June 1940; Newry Reporter, 22 June 1940; Belfast Weekly Telegraph, 29 June 1940; Transcript of a radio broadcast by Major May, ‘Today in Ulster’, 19 Feb. 1942 (P.R.O.N.I., LA/7/3H/11).

13 Statement by Lord Craigavon, Northern Ireland cabinet conclusions, 20 May 1940 (P.R.O.N.I., CAB/9/CD/169/1).

14 Ibid.

15 Hansard N.I. (Commons), xxiii, 1211–13 (22 May 1940).

16 Robert Fisk, In time of war: Ireland, Ulster and the price of neutrality, 1939–45 (London, 1985), p. 158; Northern Ireland cabinet conclusion by Lord Craigavon (P.R.O.N.I., CAB/9/CD/169/1).

17 Northern Ireland cabinet conclusions, 25 May 1940 (P.R.O.N.I., CAB/9/CD/169/1).

18 Hansard N.I. (Commons), xxiii, 1256–7 (28 May 1940).

19 Ibid.

20 D. C. Lindsay to Gransden, 25 May 1940 (P.R.O.N.I., CAB/9/CD/169/1); Belfast Weekly Telegraph, 29 June 1940.

21 Newry Reporter, 22 June 1940.

22 Ollerenshaw Philip, Northern Ireland in the Second World War: politics, economic mobilisation and society, 1939–45 (Manchester, 2013), pp 145146 .

23 Ibid., p. 146; Bowman John, De Valera and the Ulster question, 1917–1973 (Oxford, 1989), pp 220233 . Indeed, as Charles Wickham later admitted when putting together notes for the official history of the Home Guard, ‘the War Office would not raise the L.D.V. here because they were afraid of getting involved in local political and sectarian differences … The only way of getting it done quickly was to use the framework and machinery of the Special Constabulary’: Wickham to H. C. Montgomery, 5 Feb. 1943 (P.R.O.N.I., HA/32/1/794). In a handwritten note at the side of the letter, which had been distributed to the British representatives compiling the history, it was noted that ‘we know this but won’t put this sort of thing in a book about the Home Guard. We want to avoid, as far as possible, any stressing of the Special Constabulary connection.’

24 Blake, Northern Ireland in the Second World War, p. 157.

25 See Kennedy Michael, Division and consensus: the politics of cross-border relations in Ireland, 1925–1969 (Dublin, 2000), pp 7091 ; Kelly Stephen, Fianna Fáil, partition and Northern Ireland, 1926–1971 (Dublin, 2013), pp 93106 .

26 Northern Ireland cabinet conclusions, 25 May 1940 (P.R.O.N.I., CAB/9/CD/169/1).

27 Blake, Northern Ireland in the Second World War, p. 171.

28 Ollerenshaw, Northern Ireland in the Second World War, p. 31.

29 Irish News, 29 May 1940.

30 Ibid., 31 May 1940. Although the newspaper did not support the formation of the U.H.G., this same issue did carry advertisements for the newly formed home defence battalions of Northern Ireland, which were under the control of the British Army.

31 Hansard N.I. (Commons), xxiii, 1347–52 (4 June 1940).

32 Ibid.

33 Hansard N.I. (Commons), xxiii, 1426–7 (11 June 1940); ‘Local Defence Volunteers: status and organisation’, undated document (P.R.O.N.I., HA/32/1/793).

34 Letter from the County Fermanagh commandant to area commandants, 31 July 1940 (P.R.O.N.I., Brookeborough papers, D998/25/8); Weekly orders, 2nd (Belfast) Battalion, U.H.G., 3 Jan. 1942 (P.R.O.N.I., LA/7/3/H/7).

35 Hansard N.I. (Commons), xxiii, 1817–18 (24 July 1940).

36 Gregg to Andrews, 18 Feb. 1943 (P.R.O.N.I., PM/2/16/48).

37 H. C. Montgomery to R. Gransden, 23 Feb. 1943 (ibid.).

38 C. G. Markbreiter to Norman Brook, 26 Mar. 1941; Sir John Anderson to prime minister, 28 Mar. 1941 (T.N.A., CAB123/197). Attestation Forms held at P.R.O.N.I. did not include a section for the indication of religious affiliation. Anecdotal evidence suggests that some unofficial forms did, however, include this section.

39 Statement issued by Craigavon at press conference, 30 May 1940 (P.R.O.N.I., CAB/9/CD/169/1).

40 Hansard N.I. (Commons), xxiii, 1256–7 (28 May 1940).

41 Ibid.

42 Hansard N.I. (Commons), xxiii, 1347–52 (4 June 1940).

43 Ibid.

44 J. C. MacDermott to Major-General Sir William Thomson, 8 Aug. 1940 (P.R.O.N.I., HA/32/1/793).

45 Fisk, In time of war, p. 230.

46 Pakenham-Walsh to MacDermott, 22 Nov. 1940 (P.R.O.N.I., CAB/9/CD/169/1).

47 Fisk, In time of war, p. 231.

48 In fact, during the mid-1920s, Craigavon had attempted to convert the ‘C’ Specials into an Ulster Territorial Army Division when they were no longer required. The proposal was not accepted, largely because the British authorities did not want to take over the cost of the force or risk the upcoming boundary settlement. See Craig to Lord Derby, 9 Nov. 1923; Derby to Craig, 19 Dec, 1923; Stephen Walsh to Craig, 25 Feb. 1924 (T.N.A., Home Office papers, HO45/24851); Extract from draft conclusions of Northern Ireland cabinet meeting, 9 Nov. 1923 (P.R.O.N.I., HA/32/1/404).

49 Fisk, In time of war, p. 231.

50 Memorial letter on the Local Defence Volunteers in Northern Ireland, 23 Sept. 1940 (P.R.O.N.I., HA/32/1/781).

51 Draft memorandum to the cabinet by J. C. MacDermott, 26 Sept. 1940 (P.R.O.N.I., HA/32/1/793).

52 Gransden to Churchill, 7 Oct. 1940 (ibid.).

53 Markbreiter to Gransden, 12 Oct. 1940 (P.R.O.N.I. HA/32/1/793).

54 Ibid., partially quoted in Fisk, In time of war, p. 389.

55 Gransden to Markebeiter, Oct. 1940 (P.R.O.N.I., HA/32/1/781).

56 Anonymous letter to Gransden, 12 Oct. 1940; Memorandum on the status of the Home Guard in Northern Ireland, 18 Oct. 1940 (P.R.O.N.I., HA/32/1/793).

57 MacDermott to Major-General William Thomson, 27 Sept. 1940 (ibid.).

58 Wickham to Major W. A. B. Iliff, Ministry of Public Security, 16 Oct. 1940; Wickham to MacDermott, 23 Oct., 15 Nov. 1940 (ibid.).

59 Pakenham-Walsh to MacDermott, 23 Nov. 1940 (ibid.).

60 MacDermott to J. M. Andrews, 29 Nov. 1940 (P.R.O.N.I., CAB/9/CD/169/1).

61 Morrison to David Margesson, 1 Jan. 1941 (T.N.A., Cabinet papers, CAB123/197).

62 Margesson to Morrison, 15 Jan. 1941 (ibid.).

63 N. Brook to Sir A. Maxwell, 17 Feb. 1941 (ibid.).

64 Prime minister’s personal minute, 17 Mar. 1941 (ibid.).

65 Mackenzie, Home Guard, p. 85.

66 Fisk, In time of war, pp 157–8.

67 Northern Ireland cabinet conclusions, 25 Mar. 1941 (P.R.O.N.I., CAB/9/CD/169/1).

68 Fisk, In time of war, p. 232.

69 War Office responsibility for the Ulster Home Guard, Aug. 1941 (T.N.A., War Office papers, WO32/10013).

70 Fisk, In time of war, p. 232.

71 Declaration of the Ulster Special Constabulary, 1941 (P.R.O.N.I., CAB/9/CD/169/1).

72 Letter from the Inspector General’s Office to all area commandants, 13 Nov. 1941 (P.R.O.N.I., Hart papers, D3077/L/4).

73 Minute of a meeting of the Home Policy Committee, 10 Mar. 1942 (T.N.A., Cabinet papers, CAB75/13).

74 Wickham to H. C. Montgomery, 5 Feb. 1943 (P.R.O.N.I., HA/32/1/794).

75 Notes on the formation of the Ulster Home Guard, 1945 (P.R.O.N.I., CAB/3/A/77).

76 Letter from the Inspector General’s Office to all county commandants, 18 Aug. 1942 (P.R.O.N.I., LA/7/3H/13).

77 Wickham to Sir R. D. Bates, 16 Mar. 1942 (P.R.O.N.I., HA/32/1/815); Bowman, Carson’s army, p. 153.

78 Letters between MacDermott and V. H. B. Majendie, 4, 8 Sept. 1941 (P.R.O.N.I., HA/32/1/788).

79 L. D. Hickes, to G.O.C., N.I. District, 22 Aug. 1941 (T.N.A., War Office papers, WO32/10013).

80 The Times, 30 Oct. 1944.

81 I would like to thank Dr Timothy Bowman, Professor Ian Beckett, Professor Mark Connelly and Professor Alvin Jackson for their advice on a number of matters relating to this article, as well as Ian Montgomery of P.R.O.N.I. for his help in accessing certain previously unseen material. I thank the anonymous readers for their constructive comments, as well as Dr Robert Armstrong and Dr Liam Chambers for their guidance and patience throughout the publication process.

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Irish Historical Studies
  • ISSN: 0021-1214
  • EISSN: 2056-4139
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