Ireland's Cause

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Chapter 4: Ballymore ambush

Sean and Gerry walked with Gerry’s dog across the rain soaked field. Gerry had collected Sean at his house and after a fast cup of tea they set off, in the damp windy early morning in Gerry’s Vauxhall Viva. Gerry drove them to a lay by where they got out of the car and put on their rain jackets and Wellington boots and then released the dog from the back seat of the car. The dog bounded out delighted to be out and running about. The sun was just up but well hidden behind the rain threatening clouds. Gerry and Sean had a good look around as they paused beside the car before climbing over the gate into the field. Walking slowly along the hedgerow with the dog running back and forth, sniffing the ground getting more excited with the scent of the rabbits that were vanishing into their rabbit holes. Gerry had brought this dog because he was a young excitable dog that would run all over the fields allowing Sean and himself to wander nonchalantly through the fields. All though they were about 5 miles from Glenbeg, they were fairly familiar with this area having spent the last 15 years involved in this war throughout the South Derry/ East Tyrone area.

A local supporter had approached them about a UDR (Ulster Defence Regiment, a part-time local loyalist British Army Regiment) man that had recently bought a house down a long lane just at the other side of the hill that they were presently walking up. The rain was holding off and Sean and Gerry both lit cigarettes, Sean supplying the match and cupping his hands to protect the flame while they both lit their fags. When the got to the top of the hill having crossed three fields and with their car well out of sight they viewed the potential ambush site. They had a great view from the top of the hill and could see for miles around.

“It’s some grand land down there. Good farming land” says Gerry

“It is” agreed Sean admiring the quality of the land and the view from where they stood,

Gerry continued “But back to business. He can drive from his job or the Barracks either way” as he pointed to the west and then to the east.

They following the road line as it wound through the south Derry countryside.

“We would have to try and guess which road he takes and set up on some point there” Gerry said.

“Yeah” said Sean “but that is not going to happen. It’s too risky. The only common denominator is the lane way down to the house. How many houses down there do you know for sure?” he asked.

“Our contact says that there are five houses in total, all black (loyalist Protestants’)” replied Gerry.

“So we can’t stake out down there, especially if they are all loyalists” pondered Sean “That leaves the top of the lane.”

“A good spot” agreed Gerry “he’ll be winding down and relaxing his guard if he’s returning home from duty, or else half asleep in the morning, heading to work. He’ll have to slow down and come to a halt at the top of the lane, to drive out onto the main road. We could be hidden down there without being seen”

“When he goes to work, in the morning will be best” says Sean.

Gerry agreed “He starts work every morning in Coleraine at 8. If we had a volunteer right in that dike at the top of his road we could blast him out of it right there.”

Sean thought out aloud “We could drive by at 7 in the morning, one of the lads gets out and hides in the ditch, but he would be exposed until the car return to collect him after the shooting.”

He paused deep in thought for a few minutes and then said

“Get your mutt Gerry, we better go, we have been standing here too long.”

Sean threw the butt of his cigarette into the ground and stood on it. Gerry whistled and the dog came bounding up to them, jumping up and down, mud splattering all over them. They slowly walked back to the road and their car as the dog continued to jump and chase scents with the two lads laughing at his antics.

They jumped into the car just as the rain came belting down.

“Sit down there Spring” Gerry shouted at the dog who ignored him and continued to leap around the back seat still full of energy.

”Let’s drive around to the main road and past the UDR man’s laneway to see where our car can wait until the shooting starts” say Gerry.

“Good idea” replied Sean. He was very comfortable with Gerry, they were both close to the same age and had been in the Fianna (Republican Scouts) together. They had shared good times and bad times growing up together in the Republican Movement. Their adventures had brought them all around Ireland and as well as Hugh and Stephen, Gerry was Sean’s closest comrade and one of his most trusted.

“Look” said Sean, pointing at a small dirt lane that branched off the main road. “The car could drop off the gunman, then drive here and reverse up there off the road. The driver could then lower the window and listen for the automatic rifle and then speed back for the firing volunteer.”

Gerry agreed and added “The volunteer that carried out the hit would have to ensure that the UDR man’s car stopped on the lane way and did not block the road to hinder the getaway.”

Sean said “Yeah, you’re right. So the gun would have to be capable of heavy intense firing. We could use the StG 44 assault rifle. It would be ideal for close quarter shooting like this and we have all trained in its use.”

“Spot on kid” replied Gerry as he stuck the car into second and gunned the car up the slight incline, the dog falling off onto the floor between the front and the back seats with a yelp. Sean laughed and leaning backwards patted the dog on the head and helped him back up onto the back seat.

On Wednesday night, at ten minutes to eight Sean parked his car at the edge of town nears Hugh house and walked into the town and to Cleary’s pub. Sean walked into the pub and took a fast look around the room. Several of the locals were there already, sitting at the bar hunched over their pints talking about life in general and solving all the troubles of the world.

“How’s it going Sean” they said and most nodded their heads in greeting.

Sean stood at the corner of the bar calling for a pint of Guinness from Paddy Cleary’s niece Nicola.

“How’s the uncle” he asked her.

“Upstairs resting or doing paperwork” she replied as she pulled the pint and left it to settle.

Paddy had a farm a few miles outside of town and often had his nieces into the pub to help out. He was unmarried and was glad to be able to throw a few bob to his nieces. Adrian, their father and Paddy’s brother had died in a car crash and Adrian’s wife Nora was badly hurt in the crash, 10 years previously. So bad was Nora’s injuries that she could not work and needed around the clock assistance. Paddy had worked his way from being a farm labourer for local big farmers to owning his own 100 acre’s farm and the pub in town. The farm was in an area that had very good land and had not come cheaply. Paddy was very proud of his achievements and although he did not boast or say it to anyone, he was conscience that these holdings gave him a certain standing in the local community. Added to that of his assistance, both financially and support wise to his sister in law and her family and Paddy Cleary leapfrogged into an elevated status to the locals. Hugh was comfortable holding meetings in Cleary’s as he knew Paddy from the old days and Paddy had helped out in the Resistance Campaign. Even though he had never joined the IRA, he was considered a staunch supporter. Plus, it was handy for the local company members to either walk there or as Sean had done drive to the edge of town and walk from there. Hugh also pointed out that any stranger would stand out if snooping around and that the lads could have a pint in comfort.

Even though the meeting was due to start at eight o’clock, Sean knew that it would be close to an hour late starting as some of the boys would be working late and grabbing their dinner before coming. Other of the lads would be at football training and would be last coming in, after training was over. With the stretch to the evenings it would be half past eight to quarter to nine before they would show Sean thought.

Paddy had recently added an extension, using Sean’s Building Company, to the original building which consisted of a new bathroom both upstairs and down, the meeting room downstairs and an extra room upstairs. Paddy used that room as an office for his own use. He often had the nieces staying over so he needed the extra rooms upstairs and thought that the downstairs meeting room would also bring in some more customers.

Sean was an extremely cautious volunteer and insisted on checking the rooms regularly for bugs and listening devices. In fact, Paddy encouraged him as he did not want to be compromised in any way as he told Sean and Hugh. Sean took his pint from Nicole and told her that he was going to check out the meeting room. She nodded and passed him the key from a nail behind the bar. He walked down the hallway past the bathroom and stopped at the door into the meeting room. He quietly unlocked the door. There were no windows which added to the security of the room. Sean quickly toured the room looking for anything out of place. He checked the light fixtures, the electric outlets and all of the furniture for any signs of tampering or bugs for listening to them. Last week he had borrowed the bug finder from the South Armagh lads and had gone through the room for any listening or recording devices but thankfully he had not come across anything. After twenty minutes of searching he downed his pint and went back out to the bar, locking the door behind him. As he entered the room he saw most of the lads scattered around the room in different groups having a drink and talking. Sean called for another pint and sent one over to his father Hugh. When the footballers arrived in they would retire into the meeting room. Sure enough at around quarter to nine the footballers came rushing in the door heading straight for the bar to order and then if they were volunteers, following the others into the meeting room.

Ten of the 15 members of Glenbeg Company were in attendance. Since internment last year and definitely since Bloody Sunday there was an air of expectancy that the activity was going to increase, which they knew in turn would bring a backlash from the local RUC and Brits down on the community. Sean brought the meeting to order.

“Right lads” he said “I’m calling this meeting of the Glenbeg Company IRA to order. Most of the lads are here and the others will be brought up to speed by Stephen or Gerry. As you all know we are under orders from GHQ to up the tempo on a local basis. This is imperative to assist the lads in Derry and Belfast and to try to take some of the pressure off of them. We have to try to identify targets and hit them, rapidly. We want the Brits to dread coming into our South Derry/East Tyrone area.”

There were murmurs of approval and a tightening of the stomach muscles in anticipation of the up and coming actions.

Sean continued “We have new recruits joining, especially since Bloody Sunday and we are assessing and training them”

Sean was aware that several of the new recruits had relatives in the room.

“I’m ordering ye now not to run on any solo training runs with any of them. This is important because we are entering a crucial phase of this struggle and we need to be disciplined and focused. Everyone will get a chance and,” he paused to laugh, “pardon the pun and a shot at the Brits. Different volunteers are going to specialize in different areas and expertise. Myself, Gerry and Stephen will be in contact with everyone on an individual basis to talk to each of ye about this. In the meantime, I want to fill you in on some up and coming activity.”

He paused to take a sip of his pint and pulled a local map from his jacket pocket, then continued

“We are hitting a UDR man in Ballymore Friday morning. I want Gerry, Stephen, Barry, Jimmy and yourself Eamon to run with this one. Myself and Gerry have examined and did a recon on the site. Stephen you will be the shooter. We have the StG 44 machine gun in the local dump for you. When you get dropped off at the top of the lane, there is a dike which you will hide in. Gerry and Barry will be in the first car scouting ahead. Jimmy and Eamon will be in the car dropping Stephen off and then waiting in this dirt lane.”

He looked at the group to see their reaction and, pleased at the look of anticipation of those mentioned and the disappointed look of those left out, continued.

“Jimmy and Eamon, once you hear the firing you will return for Stephen. Gerry and Barry will circle the area in case there are any Brit Patrols around. Jimmy you will have a Thompson gun in case of emergency. Here’s a drawing of the area and your positions. Barry you will be in time to get to work cos we are hitting him at 7:30 approximately when he drives up his lane on his way to work. I’m decided that I’m not going cos I want you lads to gain the experience and to work together.”

The Volunteers looked at each other, glad to be finally in action as Sean continued with his instructions,

“Eamon contact Eddie to secure two cars for tomorrow night, I want a can of petrol in each car and the cars torched afterwards.” he finished.

The others nodded and looked pleased at their being chosen to go or disappointment if not chosen. Sean had included the others in the plan just in case there was a sudden backing out by anyone and to make them feel part of the operation.

He looked around the room “Any questions or thoughts?” He asked.

Gerry added “The team of five will meet after this meeting, to go through the plan in more detail alright lads?”

This was greeted with more quiet nods of the head. After the Brits themselves the next hated target was the part time UDR members. The UDR (Ulster Defence Regiment) were a paramilitary Organisation that consisted of staunchly loyalist Orange Protestants that had no regard for their Catholic neighbours. It was also believed that they were also intertwined and acted together with loyalist death squads.

Sean continued “Next on the agenda is training in Belfast. GHQ want us to start targeting commercial sites with car bombs, like they are doing in Belfast and Derry. We are sending a team of five volunteers to go to learn the mechanics and engineering needed to adapt a car, plus of course the bomb making skills needed. This ties in with what I had said earlier about specializing and training. Like I said earlier we will be in touch with you all to discuss volunteering for this assignment. It will mean heading to Belfast next week for 4 or 5 days training.”

Sean looked at the Volunteers and nodding at some of them and said “Barry you and a few more will have to be out of consideration due to work commitments. Anyone working for me and Hugh will be sorted, but we will sort this out over the weekend. Any of ye farmers will be free to go too I hope.”

The group nodded and some started thinking of excuses that they could give their bosses in case they were picked to go.

Sean spoke again “Remember any new potential recruits that approach you, keep them to yourself and then pass on their names and address, plus any information that you have about them to me. Are we sorted lads?”

There were a few suggestions about possible targets and discussions on these possible targets. Then they started talking about some local rumours but Sean ran these meetings on a business only line. The meeting finished with everyone leaving except the lucky five who stayed behind with Sean to go through the planned hit in detail. The unit went through the plan several times discussing different aspects of the details. Finally, Sean was satisfied that the Volunteers were all comfortable in their roles and duties for the ambush so he wrapped up the meeting. As they finished up and filed out the door to head towards the bar, Sean stopped suddenly after turning off the lights. He closed the door behind Jimmy and locked it. He stood silently in the darkened room, his back to the wall and listening intently for any unusual noises. Hearing nothing, after five minutes he slowly unlocked the door trying to stay as quiet as possible, he left the room and once outside tried to relock the door as quietly as possible again. He went to the bathroom and washed his face, flushed the toilet and walked back into the bar where Stephen had ordered a pint for him.

He winked at Stephen “Not a dickie bird” he said and lit a cigarette, quite content with the progress of the local company.

Upstairs Paddy slowly lifted the listening device out of the floor boards and carefully put it into the glass ornament cabinet in the corner of the room. It blended in with the other antiques and odd looking paraphernalia inside the cabinet. When in use Paddy would slid the narrow listening end into a knot hole in the floor through the small slit in the carpet, and into the meeting rooms ceiling fixture. The listening device resembled an oil funnel with a narrow tube containing the device on one end and the funnel on the other end for Paddy to put over his ear in order to listen to what was being said below. The glory of this device was that it fitted right in with the other odds and ends that Paddy had placed, with the cooperation of the local British intelligence officer, into his ornament cabinet. Paddy had been listening in on these meetings since he had built the extension, once again with the cooperation and encouragement of the local Brit Intelligence Officer. To add further irony to this extension, he had used Sean and Hugh building company to build the extension. A stroke of genius he often thought. Sean was so cautious that he probably would not have held any meetings in the new extension except that he had built it and that he had kept an exceptional close eye on things during the construction.

Paddy had started passing on information last year. He had gone through a particularly bad stretch of losses in his betting on the ponies and with that debt, was in difficulties trying to make the payments to the bank on his farm loan, which was actually secured with his pub. The annual pilgrimage to Cheltenham was an annual event for him but last year he had gone with a mission; to attempt to score big time to clear off at least some of his debt to the bookies. Of course that plan hadn’t worked and the more he lost the more desperate he became. On the last night he even tried his hand at the big money poker game which was really the last nail in his coffin.

The next morning after Cheltenham ended, stone broke and his credit cards maxed to the limit, he sat alone at the bar of his hotel nursing a double brandy. He sat there wondering how he was going to handle the hotel when his credit card was rejected. He shuttered. He considered ordering another double but decided not to. Instead he draped his jacket over the back of the chair and headed for the toilet. He had drunk way too much yesterday all the way through to this morning. No winners and then the disastrous poker game last night had cleaned him out. Totally cleaned him out. Up to his neck in debt at home, the banks closing in on his farm and pub. He didn’t even have the money to pay his way out of the hotel, never mind all the months in arrears that he was behind. He threw water on his face and then ran to a cubicle and dropping to his knees threw up into the porcelain bowl, having empty his stomach he continued to dry retch. Finally, he stopped exhausted from the effort. He automatically tried to clean up the mess. Failing miserable he gave up and went back to the sink. Looking at the mirror he shook his head in disgust at himself and the failure he had become. Without the farm and pub, he was nothing. How could he look after his sister in law and nieces’?

Back to labouring on some rich Protestant farm, he thought, “Probably the fucker that buys my farm from me.”

He rested his head in his hands in disgust. He would be nothing again, after all his hard work. Angry at the hopelessness of his situation tears of self-pity welled into his eyes and flowed down his cheeks.

His body shaking with the sobbing. “My God what have I become? What did I do wrong? What am I going to do? Oh God.” He thought to himself.

After a few minutes he shook his head remembering that he was in a public hotel bathroom and anyone could walk in on him. He washed out his mouth and threw more water on his face and head. He dried himself, patted down his damp hair, straighten his clothes and walked out the door and back to his drink. He needed a miracle for this one he thought to himself. He sat into his chair at the bar. There was now a guy two chairs away looking at him. The guy grinned crookedly at him and lifted his bottle of champagne and tilted it in Paddy’s direction.

“Big winner yesterday” he slurred “Winner big time” he grinned.

Paddy looked at him “Good man” he cheered the man hollowly.

“Will you have a glass of champers with me?” the guy asked.

Paddy shook his head; he did not want to listen to this guy’s glory story. He had too much on his mind. The bartender put another double brandy on the bar in front of him.

“From the gentleman” he told Paddy nodding his head towards the drunk winner.

Paddy looked at the guy “Thanks very much” he said lifting his drink. Without drinking he said “So you had a big win eh? “

The man moved into the seat beside him “Oh yeah big time” he replied.

An hour later, Paddy had heard all about Keith’s hugely successful Cheltenham week and Keith had heard all about Paddy’s rapidly downwards spiralling life. At some stage during a lull in the conversation, while Paddy was looking forlornly into another drink that Keith had bought, Keith patted Paddy’s shoulder

“Listen Paddy. It’s 7 in the morning. Let’s grab a couple of hours shut eye before we check out. I have an idea that might work out for the both of us, but we should discuss it with clear heads. So let’s meet in the restaurant at, say 12:30 just before we check out. We can grab a bite to eat and hear my idea. What do you say?”

Paddy turned and looked at Keith not sure what to say or expect to hear from him. Keith had promised that he would sort out his hotel charges and that Paddy could fix up with him another time. He couldn’t believe his good luck and thought that he might have meet his guardian angel.

“That sounds like a plan my good man” said Paddy as he heaved himself off his seat onto his unsteady feet and tottered over to the lift and up to his bedroom where he collapsed onto the bed and was snoring within seconds. Vague hope now in his heart.

The phone ringing insistently by his head woke Paddy up with a start. Through a muddled brain and fog filled mind Paddy reached for the phone by his bedside locker.

“Good morning sir” the cheerful voice at the other end of the line sang “This is your check out reminder at 12 o’clock sir. Please vacate the room to allow the house staff to clean up. Thank you sir.”

Paddy dragged himself out of bed, his heading pounding. After showering and shaving he felt a bit more humanlike. Getting into a set of clean clothes and a blazer jacket, he threw everything else into his suitcase. He looked into his empty wallet and sighing, put it into his inside jacket pocket. Taking a deep breath, he went out to face the world wondering if that English fellow would be there.

“What was his name again? Oh yeah Keith, yeah it was definitely Keith” he thought.

He got the lift down to the lobby and walked over to the receptionist to place his bag into the storage area.

“I need to get some breakfast” he told the receptionist “I’ll be back shortly to pay up”

She nodded in return and continued to check out the other people. Paddy took a breath, straightened his blazer and walked into the restaurant hoping against hope that Keith would be there, to at least pay for a bit of grub.

“Yes! Thank God, there he is in the corner away from everyone” thought Paddy as he walked through the tables over to where Keith sat.

Paddy was glad that there was only a small crowd in the restaurant. It was 12:30 and in between breakfast and lunch time.

“A Bloody Mary please.” Paddy said to the waitress as he sat down opposite Keith.

Keith looked surprisingly fresh for a man that had been on the lash since yesterday afternoon.

“Good man” he greeted Paddy in a much more distinctive English accent. “Put in your order and eat it up and then we can talk business.” He told Paddy.

“No bother” say Paddy as he called over the young waitress and put in his order.

Paddy wiped the last of the egg yolk up with his toast, swallowed it and followed that by draining the last of the tea from his mug.

He sat back in his chair “That Keith, was the best meal for a long time,” Paddy stated loudly. “A good fry is the best hangover cure known to man” he chuckled.

He needed to be careful he thought, he didn’t want Keith to know quite how desperate he was, wishing that he could remember everything that he had told Keith the night before or was it this morning? Keith smiled and leaned towards Paddy, a smell of expensive aftershave and mint in the air around him.

“Paddy listen to me carefully. Your bookies in Omagh, in Lisburn, in Cavan and in Dublin will not extend you any more credit. You just put in the worst six months of gambling that I have ever witnessed.” Keith informed him in a quiet tone.

Paddy shot back in his chair, mouth opened, staring in shock and bewilderment. He felt his chest tightening and the air go out of his lungs. He was staring in shock at Keith.

Keith put his hand on Paddy’s hand. “I want you to stay calm and take a deep breath and listen to me. Your bank is in the process of winding up your mortgage and calling in their debt. Actually, the letter should have arrived at your farm address while you are here. The farm address that you started using when your bookies started sending you notices Paddy, so that the locals couldn’t see the solicitors’ letters.”

He squeezed Paddy’s hand in a friendly way, while Paddy just looked with his mouth opened, his mind filled with crazy uncertainty.

Keith continued “The banks will move fast because they want the pub to be sold, to pay off the farm loan. The bookies will issue a court order because they want their money. You, my dear man, are heading for bankruptcy.”

Keith paused and he again squeezed Paddy’s hand. “But it can be avoided if you work with me and a little plan that I have.”

“Who are you and what the fuck do you want?“ gasped Paddy.

“Pardon my ignorance” Keith politely answered “My name is Lieutenant-Colonel Keith Ramsbottom. “I am from MI5, British Intelligence and you my dear chap, are going to assist me in the future or else you will lose everything. Say goodbye to your farm, your pub, your respect and status in your community. Actually that has the possibility of starting now.”

Keith paused and took a drink from his coffee cup “Paddy we can start the humiliation this morning. You have built up quite a hefty bill here over the past few days of the Cheltenham Festival plus of course all that drink last night and this morning. Why even this lovely tasty meal with your how many Bloody Marys? 3 or 4 maybe.”

He paused again, “Now I can pay your hotel bills and we can work out our relationship moving forward. Paying off your debt and keeping you as a good community person or we can call it quits. I’ll head out that door and you are on your own Paddy.”

Keith then stretched and pushed his chair back, lighting a cigarette he looked and waited for Paddy to speak.

That was last year at Cheltenham and Paddy has been assisting Keith since.

Having returned the listening device to the ornament cabinet, Paddy walked across the room and out the door into the hall into the original part of the building. He walked into his bedroom and locked the door behind him and prepared for bed. His niece, Nicole would lock up at closing time and sleep in one of the bedrooms as the nieces regularly did. Tomorrow morning, he would signal to his Army handler by pulling up one side of his bedroom curtain open and leave the other closed. He would also put the outside light on when he drove out to his farm to work for the day and wait for his handler in the barracks to come out to meet him to pass on this latest development.

“Christ” Paddy thought “this is the biggest piece of information that I had overheard since I started this mission.”

Normally it was news from different meetings or planning the development of the company. The information that he provided was all useful, such as names and the structure of the local company but this was a shooting or murder of a UDR man. This was big time and the Brits would react to this news. He would have to ensure that his handler didn’t expose him. He shuttered at the thought of Sean Clarke knocking on his door and shooting him into the head.

“No” he thought “the Brits better not expose me; I am too important of a source of information” he reassured himself.

The next morning Paddy rose early after a good night’s sleep. After getting dressed he half opened the bedroom curtain and went downstairs to cook the breakfast. Nicole came down soon afterwards. Paddy asked her to do the bar for the day while he was out at his farm and gave her a few pounds for last night. Leaving the house through the bar he turned on the outside light. Nicole was only delighted to get the day’s work, cash into the pocket and it was Thursday, nearly the weekend. She could buy herself something new to go out in.

Paddy was cleaning out the shed that he had was over-wintered the cows in, when he heard the car pull up. He opened the door of the shed and glanced out. No problem it was Andrew, his British Army handler and another soldier, both in plain clothes. They hurried into the shed after Paddy called them. They had scouted out the area in case Paddy was setting them up but they were in a unionist area so they were not too worried. The one soldier remained inside the door looking out while Andrew went over to Paddy. Paddy was feeling excited now about the information and the possible consequences. They shook hands and Paddy started telling his story and his need to not be exposed. Andrew listened carefully his mind racing ahead. This was the type of information that made all those months of listening to reports of small talk worthwhile. He reassured Paddy and told him that there would be an extra payment to the bookies made on his behalf. He was not panicking as they had until tomorrow morning to carry out whatever action they would take, but they would definitely not expose their prime source of information. Paddy was glad to hear the reassurances and the calm manner of the soldier.

Things notched up when the soldiers returned to the barracks. Upon reporting his news to his commanding Officer a staff meeting was called. There were only two options discussed, warning the UDR man to prevent the ambush or warning the UDR man and ambushing the IRA team. Both had pros and cons to consider and both had possible political implications.

Friday morning Stephen and Sean waited at their building site in the stolen car. They had visited the arms dump and had retrieved the StG 44 and the Thompson Machine Gun. Stephen was geared up in camouflaged combat clothes, his mask was on his head but not pulled down. It was 6:30 in the morning and they waited calmly, smoking cigarettes, for the rest of the team in the other stolen car. Stephen practice with the StG 44, getting used to the feel and balance of the German World War 2 machine gun. Jimmy pulled into the site within minutes, with Gerry, Eamon and Barry. Gerry and Barry stayed in that car while Jimmy and Eamon joined Stephen in the other car. Sean jumped out as Stephen climbed into the back seat. Sean regretted the lack of walkie talkies and vowed to himself that he would get money down to Jackie in Cork to get some from the States. Still they had surprise on their side. Gerry in the scout car, drove off first with the second car shortly behind. Daylight was breaking through the clouds as they drove though the countryside to Ballymore. The land improved as they drove into the loyalist farming area. It had stopped raining earlier in the morning but the February morning was still cold and damp. At approximately five to seven they approached the top of the UDR man’s lane. The scout car was just turning the corner in the distance. Eamon slowed the car down, nervously looking all around. The scout car had not spotted anything and they could not see anything suspicious. Looking behind him in the mirror Eamon stopped at the top of the lane and said urgently

“Go, go. Go” as Stephen leapt out of the back door and bounded into the ditch with a leap and a splash of stagnant water and mud that lay at the bottom of the dike.

The car quietly picked up speed and drove away. Stephen croached in the dike half kneeling half standing. He had around half an hour to wait and he wanted to be ready and able to move quietly and quickly when the time came. He moved forward a yard and had the perfect view of the lane and line of fire for when the UDR man drove up the road. Eamon continued up the road to the dirt lane and reversed into it, out of sight from the main road and surrounding fields. Meanwhile Gerry and Barry in the scout car drove cautiously around the country roads looking for any signs of abnormality or security force movement.

Jimmy and Eamon sat smoking and listening carefully for any sound or the sound of gunfire. The plan had approximated a half an hour of waiting time and then action. Both volunteers were disciplined and able to follow orders but as the time past the 7:35 mark and still no sign of the gunfire they started to become very worried. Their orders were that if nothing happened by 7;45 they were to return for Stephen and make for the rendezvous point. At exactly 7:45 they pulled slowly out of the dirt lane looking all around, extremely aware that the Brits could now be waiting for them with not the best of intentions in mind. Walkie talkies were badly needed to be able to communicate in these situations. Eamon drove cautiously up the road thankfully there was no other cars in sight. As they got closer they spotted the camouflaged figure emerging from the dike. He waved to them as he scrambled up out of the dike. The car drove slowly beside Stephen, he rush forward, yanked the door opened and dived into the back seat.

“No fucking sign of him. Christ I’m fucking cold and stiff as a board. Thank God I was wearing wellingtons or my feet would be drenched.” He wheezed as the car sped off.

Mission unaccomplished but everyone returned to base safe and sound.

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