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Ulster Volunteer Force to form separate division in the British Army
Edward Carson addressed the Ulster Unionist Council yesterday: 'England’s difficulty is not Ulster’s opportunity. England’s difficulty is our difficulty.' Photo: Illustrated London News [London, England], 18 July 1914

Ulster Volunteer Force to form separate division in the British Army

Published: 4 September 1914

The Ulster Volunteer Force is to be given its own division within the British army.

A meeting of the Ulster Unionist Council was told yesterday by Sir Edward Carson that negotiations with the War Office had brought a scheme that he could recommend for acceptance.

‘If we get enough men from the Ulster Volunteer Force they will go under the War Office as a division of their own - and if we get enough they can go as two or more divisions.’

‘We also will be allowed by the War Office to have with them their old officers. And the War Office will allow us to have back with them any of the officers who have had to mobilise.’

An armed UVF Guard at a training camp. (Image: Irish Life, 14 Aug 1914. Full collection of Irish Life available from the National Library of Ireland)

Carson urged all Ulster Volunteers to enlist now in the British Army: ‘Go and help save your country! Go and help to save your Empire! Go and win honour for Ulster and for Ireland.’

‘To every man that goes, or has gone - and not to them only, but to every Irishman - you and I say from the bottom of our hearts, ‘God Bless you and bring you home safe and victorious.’

Sir Edward continued: ‘For my own part I have only one regret in the whole matter, and it is that I am not young enough to enlist in the ranks and go with them.’

The meeting also saw a pledge from Sir Edward that Ulster unionists were fully committed to fighting for the Empire, but that they would be determined to reassert their opposition to Home Rule once victory was assured.

A confidential report for Co. Tyrone, August 1914. It states: 'Some of the company commanders and local leaders of the U.V.F. in this county have joined the colours here and will, it is said, get commission in new Battalion (the fifth) of the Inniskilling Fusiliers which is in course of formation. The general hope is, however, that both parties will come together eventually and that it will not be found necessary to have Battalions made up on denominational lines.' Click for full document. (Image: National Archives UK, CO 904/94)

He told the meeting: ‘We will postpone active measures in the interests of the country and the Empire, but when the country is once more safe we will then assert our powers as before.’

For now, though, there would be absolute loyalty to the Empire: ‘England’s difficulty is not Ulster’s opportunity. England’s difficulty is our difficulty. And England’s sorrows have always been, and will always be, our sorrows.’

Sir Edward declared that the Germans had seriously misread the situation in the United Kingdom by pushing towards war at a time when the country appeared to be convulsed with domestic difficulties.

‘They little understood for what we were fighting. We were not fighting to get away from England. We were fighting to stay with England, and the power that attempted to lay a hand upon England, whatever might be our domestic quarrel, would at once bring us together, as it has brought us together, as one man.'


Century Ireland

The Century Ireland project is an online historical newspaper that tells the story of the events of Irish life a century ago.