NEWSPAPER Reports -28 Mar 1941 - The Northern Whig and Belfast Post

transcription of article:

How the Royal Engineers Train in Northern Ireland

Bridge Building at Record Speed

Napoleon's meteoric rise from the position of corporal of artillery to Emperor of the French has few parallels in military history, but there is an officer of a regiment of the Royal Engineers at present stationed in Northern Ireland who might bid fair to make the famous Frenchman look to his laurels.

When the officer arrived in Northern Ireland last August he, like Napoleon, was a mere corporal, but now after only eight months he is a Lieutenant with distinct possibility of future advancement. Unlike Napoleon, the Engineers' officer did not owe his promotion to the antics of fate, but to hard study and the fact that he, in common with Napoleon , is a leader of men.

It may be that Ulster has been allocated the honour of bringing true the words of Hore-Belisha that "there is a Marshal's baton in every soldier's rucksack."
The regiment has a second link with France in another Lieutenant who is of French parentage, and whose father is at the moment in the forces of General De Gaulle. Apart from family ties with that country, he told me that he has a sweetheart there whom he has not seen since French capitulation.


In the regiment is a Clydesdale man who until recently was a violinist in the band of the late Teddy Joyce. Since coming to Ulster he has settled down in more ways than one, While playing with the band in London prior to hostilities he met an Irish girl to whom he became greatly attached. Shortly after arriving in the Province he was overjoyed to again meet the girl and they have been married.

As I have friends in Clydeside I asked him if he had received any word about the extent of the damage during the recent Blitz and he informed me that the district in which his people lived had fortunately escaped. when I asked him if he had been worried when he heard the news of the raid he admitted a little perturbtion, but added "I just knew however that the Clydesdale people would have to accept the same fate as the people in London and other cities. I am quite content because I know that our time is coming to pay Jerry in his own coin and when we do ..."

He did not complete his sentence but his face and eyes were eloquent enough even if I had not already heard the terms of endearment regarding Hitler which probably only such men can give the final polish to.

There is a splendid spirit and esprite de corps among the men, despite the fact that they hail from widely different stations in life.

There are men in the ranks who left jobs in which they earned about £1000 a year and volunteered for the army, and they work shoulder to shoulder with labourers to whom that sum is a myth. One ranker receives his army pay each week, plus an allowance of £3 from his parents, and when each Friday night comes and "there is joy in the old town" to which his guests are those of his comrades to whom the allowance is equal to a weekly wage.

The regiment is a cosmopolitan one in which Irish, Scots, Welsh and Englishmen have been blended together into a most efficient unit. Among the Irish element are two Dubliners who walked all the way from their native city to Belfast to enlist.

When I visited the regiment they were finishing a rigorous training scheme lasting 60 hours, during which they had slept for only five hours. I was amazed at the cheerfulness and energy of the men who went about their task of building a pontoon bridge across a river as if they were starting a new day. They showed a quickness and intelligence which augers well for the progress of other units of the Army when the day for action comes.

To Greater Heights

The part of the river chosen for the bridge proved difficult because of the bad foundations, but the men quietly overcame all obstacles and the bridge was erected at high speed. The officers are not content with the present efficiency of their men and they are pushing on daily to greater heights.
Colour was lent to the operation by the appearance of a British plane which staged an impromptu dive-bomb attack, only to be driven off by the regiment's anti-aircraft defences.
While on the bus coming home from the exercise I heard a civilian pay a compliment to the high speed work of the modern soldier.
While passing that part of the river which had been bridged by the pontoon when he passed earlier in the day he pointed out to his companion "It did not take them long to put that bridge up and take it down. They can make bridges for you while you wait."

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