The UVF calls for volunteer platoons (1971)

The Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) was the older of Northern Ireland’s Loyalist paramilitary groups, emerging in 1966. Its first leader, Gusty Spence, was a former British Army soldier and prominent Shankill Road ‘hard man’. Membership of the UVF remained comparatively small but grew quickly after the formation of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) in December 1969. When the ‘Provos’ increased their attacks on British soldiers and Loyalists targets in 1971, UVF leaders issued this recruiting circular, calling for the formation of “platoons” of 20 armed volunteers:

“Being convinced that the enemies of our faith and freedom are determined to destroy the State of Northern Ireland, and thereby enslave the people of God, we call on all members of our Loyalist institutions, and other responsible citizens, to organise themselves IMMEDIATELY into platoons of 20 under the command of someone capable acting as Sergeant.

Every effort must be made to arm these platoons with whatever weapons are available. The first duty of each platoon will be to formulate a plan for the defence of its own street or road, in cooperation with platoons in adjoining areas. A structure of command is already in existence and the various platoons will eventually be linked in a coordinated effort.

Under no circumstances must platoons come into open conflict with Her Majesty’s Forces or the Police. If through wrong political direction Her Majesty’s Forces are directed against Loyalist people, members of platoons must do everything possible to prevent a confrontation. WE ARE LOYALISTS; WE ARE QUEEN’S MEN. Our enemies are the forces of Romanism and Communism which must be destroyed.

Members of platoons must act with the highest sense of responsibility and urgency in preparing our people for the full assault of the enemies within our provinces and the forces of the Eire [Republic of Ireland] government which will eventually be thrown against us. We must prepare for this! This total war!

Members of platoons must work unceasingly to restore normality within our Protestant districts. Every effort must be made to clean up and repair damaged property and get the business life of the community flowing again. In this way, we can prevent the enemy destroying the economic well-being of our people. Vandalism, destruction of property and looting must be dealt with without mercy.

Intervention by United Nations Forces or Direct Rule from Westminster MUST BE RESISTED. If such is proposed, further instructions will be issued. The future of Northern Ireland will be determined by the courage, the heroism and the sacrifice of Ulster Protestants. No-one must be allowed to interfere with that sacred trust.



A Belfast mural paying tribute to the service of UVF members during the Troubles