A summer’s day
It was warm and sultry. The insects were humming taking the benefit of the afternoon heat. On the other side of the Caledon estate wall, cattle were quietly chewing their cud making that singing noise of content beasts.
I was lying in the grass at the side of the country lane, relaxing.
It was August 1972, two days after Operation Motorman as part of a UDR patrol. We were guarding the home of a fellow soldier on the border who had been threatened. My rifle was at my side.
All of a sudden, the cattle became disturbed. My mind came back from its musings. Something was happening on the other side of the wall. I picked up the rifle and carefully put the butt into my shoulder, tightened the sling around my elbow and raised the rifle to scan the top of the wall.
Cattle snorted and blew. They were clearly disturbed. What was happening on the other side of that wall? I continued to scan the top of the wall.
A man carrying a rifle climbed atop the wall. There was a wrenching feeling in my gut. What to do now? My mouth went dry but somehow I managed to shout out
The man walked towards me, rifle at his side.
I shouted again “Halt!”
“Halt or I fire!”
My hand pulled back the bolt and a round went into the breach.
With my finger I put off the safety catch.
I was trembling, my finger pressing the trigger!
Pressure point one.
With that the man shouted,
“It’s ok, it’s me, the Earl of Caledon!”
Luckily for me, my corporal Davy had been viewing all that was happening, and he had been running up the road from where my colleagues were lying. He had his sterling sub machine gun in his hand. When he heard the call from the Earl he ran to me shouting “Will put it down!” He grabbed the SLR and removed it from me, and put on the safety catch.
What could have been a very tragic incident had been averted. I had nearly shot the 2nd in command of 2 UDR Captain the Earl of Caledon.
When we got back to base everyone was talking about what had happened. It was seen as a funny story. It could though so easily have been very different.
The story does not end there. Two weeks later I was on radio duty in Gough Barracks Armagh. The duty officer was the Earl of Caledon. There was not much conversation between us!