Northern Ireland, 1941, newspaper article

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  1. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    ​From The Age, Monday, October 6, 1941

    What Ulster Is Doing
    From Our Own Correspondent

    Northern Ireland, or Ulster as it it more familiarly known, in the 1938 return had a population of only 1,290,000. But it has a strong character of its own, and it has within its borders the largest shipyard in the world, and also the largest rope works. It also has the NORTH IRISH HORSE, which is not a mounted regiment at all, but a light tank regiment. The NORTH IRISH HORSE was disbanded after the last war, but one man, Major Ronald ROSS, remained on the service list. So it became known as “the one man regiment”. Now, in its resurrection, it is concerned with the intricacies of tanks, and the recruits who came mainly from the counties of Armagh, Fermanagh and Tyrone, are taking their part along with famous regiments, such as the ROYAL INNISKILLING FUSILIERS, the ROYAL ULSTER RIFLES and the ROYAL IRISH FUSILIERS, not to mention the IRISH GUARDS, which contain many Ulster men.

    Some of the war leaders of the day come from Northern Ireland. There is, for instance, General Sir John Dill, the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, and General Sir Alan Brooke, who has been Commander in Chief of the Home Forces since June, 1940.

    Volunteer System
    In the war effort, Northern Ireland is doing substantially all that we are doing in Britain, but there is one considerable difference, for in Ulster all the men who are serving are volunteers. There is no conscription. Some people in Ulster would like it imposed, but the position is complicated by the opposition of the neighbouring Eire to the conscription of Irishmen at all.

    Rather than precipitate a crisis Mr. CHURCHILL decided against imposing conscription in Ulster, and Ulster loyally accepted the decision. But in every other way Northern Ireland is pulling its weight with full enthusiasm. Ulstermen are serving in the ROYAL NAVY, and the Ulster Division of the ROYAL NAVAL VOLUNTEER RESERVE is on active service. Numbers of men are in the AIR FORCE, some 5,000 youths are training in the AIR TRAINING CORPS, there is a HOME GUARD of more than 30,000, and Ulster women are engaged in the WOMEN’S AUXILIARY SERVICES in the United Kingdom.

    Apart from all this, the industries of Northern Ireland are geared for war production. This is particularly so in the case of ship building. The famous Harland and Wolff yards at BELFAST can launch 200,00 tons of shipping in a year. In March last the number of workers “clocking” on each day was 20,000.

    All kinds of vessels have been built here, and some have gained fame in the war. There is, for instance, the aircraft carrier FORMIDABLE, the largest warship ever built in Northern Ireland, which took part in the battle of MATAPAN in March last. There area also such ships as the BELFAST, the PENELOPE, the TERROR, the VANDYCK, and a number of former passenger liners now commissioned as auxiliary cruisers, such as the ALCANTARA and the CARNARVON CASTLE, which have distinguished themselves against commerce raiders.

    Many thousands of workers, both male and female, are working night and day in the production of aeroplanes of various types, and the famous Belfast engineering works have been turned over the manufacture of tanks, instruments, auxiliary machinery, shells, guns, gun mountings and gun liners.

    Northern Ireland’s principal industry is agriculture, and huge supplies of food are now being sent to Britain - as Ulster is subject to the same scale of food rationing as the mainland. The farms are under a strict census, so that production shall be on the right lines. Special war measures have been taken, and tinned foods are now prepared for shipment to Britain. Milk and potatoes are sent across the Irish Sea in large quantities, as are cattle, sheep and pigs. Apples and pears are a welcome addition to the British larder. In fact, Britain has good reason to thank the Ulster farmers for many good things at this time of shortage. The campaign to increase the acreage under plough has had considerable success, and this year Ulster has almost doubled the acreage under crops as compared with 1939.

    There are special auxiliary fire-fighting squads, and it is noteworthy that at the time of the fierce attacks on BELFAST last spring the Northern Ireland authorities sent a request to Eire for help. A full response was immediately forthcoming. Fire brigades from DUBLIN, DUNDALK, DROGHEDA and other towns, including CORK, in the extreme south, came to the assistance of Northern Ireland. Eire also sent ambulances and first-aid parties, and the Irish Red Cross did excellent work among the 300 refugees from BELFAST who flocked to DUBLIN.

    There have been comments upon the conditions on the frontier between Northern Ireland and Eire, and the matter has been ventilated in the British House of Commons. The allegation is that it is easy for potential spies to cross the frontier and travel to DUBLIN, where they may place the information at the disposal of the German Minister, who still resides there. There may be truth in this, but there is no doubt that the authorities are well aware of the possible danger, and have taken steps accordingly.

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