Ulster Volunteer Force

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There was no overall command structure or province-wide organisation of the volunteers, so to rectify this situation in January 1913 the Ulster Council decide that the Ulster Volunteers should be united into a single body which would be known as the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF). The fact that this step was taken by the Ulster Unionist Council and not the Grand Lodge of Ireland may be explained by the fact that although all Orangemen were Unionists, not all Unionists were Orangemen. Recruitment was to be limited to 100,000 men and restricted to those between 17 and 65 and who had signed the covenant.
The Volunteers were organised by county divisions. The fours Belfast parliamentary constituencies [ North, East, South and West ] and Londonderry City were treated as counties giving a total of 14 counties. Each division was to consist of a variable number of regiments according to volunteer strength, and each regiment was, for the same reason, to consist of a variable number of battalions. The target fixed by the Ulster Unionist Council was more or less achieved, with Belfast raising 30,000 voulnteers, Antrim and Down 11,000 each with even Cavan and Monaghan raising 2000 each.
In charge of the UVF was to be Lt General Sir George Richardson, aged sixty-six and by July 1913 he had established himself in Belfast and was firmly in control.
Intially the voulnteers had little uniform. They paraded in ordinary clothes with the addition of belts, bandoliers and haversacks.
By winter of 1913 the volunteers had recieved a list of equipment that should be purchased that included puttees, gaiters, belts, water bottles, army boots, rifle slings, waterproof ground sheets, great coats and a grey soft felt hat.

uvf patrol       
 UVF men on patrolling the streets of Ulster

uvf badgeWhen a volunteered joined the UVF his first acquisition would be a small bronze badge with the red hand of Ulster on it and the famous motto ‘For God and Ulster’. He would also have a khaki canvas armband with the details of his regiment and battalion printed on it in black. One thin black line on the armlet denoted a squad leader, two lines a section commander and three lines a sargent Major. Officers wore armbands in red canvas. As organisation progressed he was encouraged to possess a personal store of emergency rations, and certain members of each company would be responsible for entrenching tools, maps and cooking utensils. One directive stated ;
‘Every volunteer should be urged as strongly as possible to keep always in his posession some food such as tinned meat, sardines, chocolate or potted meat, tea....which in addition to bread and busicuits....he may be able to collect at his home in case of an emergency.’

                                               uvf south belfast   uvf south down
                                                                                   Armbands worn by UVF members of the time

The UVF possed an array of specialist units which would have been the envy of many a contemporary army. These units included : Special Service Sections, the medical Corps, the motor car corps, the nursing corps and the signalling and despatch riders corps. They also possed a two mounted units : theBallymena and Enniskillen Horse.

uvf cavalry        uvf women
The UVF Cavalry -a section of the Enniskillen Horse at the trot
and  Florence Kerley (left) in UVF uniform, with Master and Mrs Belshaw, of Melrose Street, Belfast

The UVF did not only enlist the support of Ulstermen. The women of Ulster also responded magnificently to the cause. Many women were not content to be nurses and caterers - though some did these jobs and went on to nurse in the great war. Women also played their part as signallers, motorcycle despatch riders and ambulance drivers. At UVF headquarters a small group was engaged in intelligence work which included deciphering intercepted police messages.

uvf document

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