- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Robert McDonald, Robin Martin, Norman Irwin
- Location of story:
- Coleraine, Aberdeen, Port Suez
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 31 January 2006
Robert McDonald, Robin Martin and Norman Irwin all lived in Coleraine, though they only knew each other by sight. They all joined up within 1-2 months of each other. Recruitment was quick to fill out a battery.
They were in the RASR - Royal Artillery Supplementary Reserve. As a result they got called up immediately after the war started. As the reserve of the regular Army they took active service. This was very important. There was no conscription in NI, and the TA could opt out.
They all trained in the base on what is now Artillery road. There were 3 Troops. The 6th battery set up 3 troops — X, Y, Z. Robert McDonald and Robin Martin were in X
Norman Irwin says:
It was the town dump originally. The Crown buildings are on the site now. They built the artillery camp especially for us. Eventually they moved it up to where the TA base is now.
The training was mostly square-bashing, v little rifle work. We trained on the 40mm Bofors.
We trained until the war started. September 1939.
[When were you shipped abroad?]
We went to Scotland first. We were almost a year there.
Various parts of Scotland. Oil refineries.
Until August 1940. Then we went down to England for Gunnery training. It was the first time we’d seen a Bofors since we left in September. It was good to see the guns again.
[Were you not doing Air defence in Scotland?]
We had Lewis MGs. They were as much use as shaking a stick at them.
[Were there any AA batteries guarding Belfast?]
Apparently during the big raids on Belfast they ran out of ammo.
We were in 3rd AA brigade. The Brigade had 2 regiments, 8 and 9th. 8th was Belfast-based organisation, 9th was Derry-based. Each regiment had 3 heavy batteries and 1 light battery.
We were the 6th battery in the 9th regiment. 5th battery was in the 8th regiment. And there were Support troops as well.
[So the military buildup started under Chamberlain?]
That goes back. They knew the war was coming.
All sorts of things like that.
The first subventions to farmers to get them to grow flax.
I don’t know whether they had Spitfires. They certainly didn’t have any Spitfires at the start. All we saw were biplanes. The old Gloucester Gladiators, if you can remember them. There were 3 famous ones in Malta called Faith, Hope and Charity.
After the training at Morcombe we were taken to Farnborough where we got all the tropical gear. They took us to Egypt on a ship, MV Dominion Monarch. We sailed 8th Sept 1940.
[Robert’s book states you went to Aldershot, then Liverpool. The ship stopped for 2 days at Freetown, Sierre Leone]
We didn’t get ashore until Cape Town
[When you crossed the equator …]
There was a big party. Neptune came aboard, the whole nine yards. The bo’sun’s belly. All that stuff.
[You were ashore at Cape Town for 2 days]
Yes, we were. The people were v kind to us and took us on outings.
[You crossed the equator again …]
There was no party. It was old hat then!
We were mariners by then, we were nearly 6 weeks at sea. 42 days in all.
We went up to a camp outside Cairo. We didn’t have any equipment, so we had to wait for it to arrive. Then we were sent out to defend the Suez canal.
November 1940 - Port Suez, govt oil refinery
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