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15 October 2014
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Defending Ulster from Hitler's Paratroops

by CSV Media NI

Contributed by 
CSV Media NI
People in story: 
Billy McKnight
Location of story: 
St Patrick’s barracks, Ballymena, NI
Background to story: 
Civilian Force
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
17 June 2005

This story is taken from an interview with Billy McKnight at the Ballymena Servicemen’s Association, and has been added to the site with his permission. The author fully understands the site's terms and conditions. The interviewer was David Reid, and the transcription was by Bruce Logan.

[They started these, the what-do-you-call-them, “Local defence volunteers”. And we had a black uniform, and they gave us a Lee enfield rifle and 100 rds of ammo. I was 17 at the time. I don’t - maybe I wasn’t just 17. They didn’t ask you what age you were. And they sent me to St Patrick’s barracks, up there, along with the “Rifles”. In Ballymena. And we trained with the “Royal Ulster Rifles” up there. And then you were out about 3 nights in the week. They reckoned if they were going to drop paratroops, they would drop them either at Dawn or at dusk. So we were away up at the top of the mountains for 3 nights a week. And you had to stand guard up there. I did about 15 months with them, and then when I was 18 I left that and I joined the Fire Service.

There would have been maybe about the 3 or 4 of us out at the one time. And you stayed there. There was an army lorry that came and lifted us from where the hall was, and took us away up onto the top of the mountain. And you just stayed there. There was a sort of an auld hut of a place, you could have gone in and made a cup of tea in it, but that was all. But you had about, they had about 3 of out all the time.

You were trained to deal with it. If you seen a, if you seen any paratroops coming you were to shoot at them. They had ways of signalling to HQ. There was always somebody there. A dispatch rider kind of thing. He’d have took the message back, you see?

That Local defence volunteers, we had an old black uniform and khaki greatcoat. And then about a year after that they turned them into the Home Guards. That would have been 41. It was 40 it started, it was 40 I joined in. and then in 41 they changed it to this Home Guard business. Then in 41 I joined the Fire Service, then. Just, the time of the raids.

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