The Northern Ireland Troubles, 6

The Royal Ulster Constabluary, Part 1 She was married, she was young, she was pretty and she was a clerk, she was also a police woman. What she was not was a threat to anyone, any more than the poor old cleaner of a police station who was also killed just because he was unsuspecting and therefore an easy target for a coward. The report of her death was the trigger, I suppose the release valve really, the excuse to go and do something, anything, to get back at the senseless killers. I was working hard at the time, running a big staff and a large number of contracts, but I had to do something, I could no longer stand by. Fighting for a cause is one thing, soft targets, and women to boot, are beyond the pale. I obtained permission from the Department and became an elderly constable in the RUC Reserve.
I did the training, a sort of basic run through on the Law as it affected us, I learned to shoot and care for a gun all over again, I wanted to go to the Springfield Road Station, which was in the thick of it at that time but I finished up in North Queen Street, second best.
Obviously I could only operate at nights and weekends and my duties were to carry a Sten gun and do as I was told. Dressed in uniform, with my personal weapon in a holster, a flak jacket, the Sten and a truncheon, I either stood at gates, sat in huts or rode about in a Land Rover for two years. In that time I discovered a number of things, I rediscovered the tedium of the armed serviceman, the effects of adrenaline, the weird notions of Authority, yet again the irrational behaviour of the terrorist, the philosophy of when and when not to carry a gun, and that level of apprehension I had experienced at sea and later in the sewer.
There was a period when I had to sit in a hut in the garden of a Judge, sometimes with another copper, sometimes alone, from seven o’clock until near midnight. We had a walky talky squawking away, but as we could only hear one side of the conversation it was pretty uninteresting.
On one occasion when I was guarding a Judge’s house by myself, a car with two young people in it pulled into the drive. I admit to apprehension. I got up and stood with my gun pointed at them. They neither looked surprised nor afraid, all they did was put the car very quickly into reverse and depart at speed. Whether they were terrorists I never knew, what they were doing there otherwise is unfathomable. All I know is I was relieved to see them go. I reported it on the radio, but never heard any more.
I had always thought it my duty to shoot if I saw terrorists brandishing guns and with this aim in view I went everywhere with my Walther in its hidden holster. WRONGGG! Guns, calibres, ranges, shot sizes, makes, any damn thing at all to do with guns was a constant topic of conversation during those long night vigils and it was then an old hand put me right about carrying a gun when in civilian clothes. His thesis was – say one was in a pub and a terrorist came in and held up the place, the natural reaction of the off-duty constable would be to pull out his weapon and shoot, or at least warn before shooting. A minute later, a soldier or another policeman comes in and sees a man standing there with a gun in his hand, the chances are he too shoots and ask questions later, by which time the off-duty copper is dead. QED. I stopped carrying a gun off-duty Strangely that is exactly what happened at a petrol station in North Belfast only a few weeks later. Soldiers shot the copper.

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