Ballycarry talk to focus on story of Ulster Defence Regiment

The first in a local series of talks examining life in Northern Ireland over the past century will examine the story of the Ulster Defence Regiment.

Tuesday, 14th September 2021, 1:10 pm
Updated Tuesday, 14th September 2021, 1:12 pm

The talks, organised by Ballycarry and District Community Association, will all take place in the village community centre.

They will include discussions on the road to partition and creation of Northern Ireland, the NI Film Archives, sport and the Northern Ireland government 1922-1972, along with the Belgian Army in Northern Ireland during the Second World War.

The first talk, on the history of the Ulster Defence Regiment, will feature guest speaker Mitch Bresland BSc, a former full-time member of the regiment.

The first talk, on the history of the Ulster Defence Regiment, will feature guest speaker Mitch Bresland (pictured).

A long-time resident of Larne, Mr Bresland grew up five miles from Strabane in Co Tyrone near Donemana.

At a time when the Troubles were at their height in the early 1970s, he learned about what atrocities happened the previous night usually through morning assembly at Strabane Secondary School, which he attended until 1974.

Having three brothers serving in The Ulster Defence Regiment at that time, his most vivid recollection was the murder of the first member of the Regiment, Winston Donnell, on August 14, 1971, Internment Day, whilst he manned a checkpoint on Clady Bridge. Mitch’s brother was a member of the same patrol.

On leaving school, he pursued a career in Mechanical Engineering at the Government Training Centre in Londonderry which lasted three days due to sectarian abuse and intimidation.

This career was rejuvenated on a transfer to Ballymena Training Centre before obtaining an apprenticeship with GEC in Larne.

During this time he joined The Ulster Defence Regiment as a part-time soldier in 1976 and, one week after completing his apprenticeship, he joined The Ulster Defence Regiment as a Full Time soldier in April 1978.

He completed 22 years’ service between that and the Royal Irish Regiment as a result of an amalgamation in 1992.

During his service, Mitch served in Larne initially, Ballymena, Antrim and Lisburn with detachments for operations to the border areas of Armagh and Fermanagh. In 2000 on completion of his service, he was serving as a Warrant Officer Class 2.

He is the holder of the General Service Medal, Long Service and Good Conduct Medal, and the Accumulated Campaign Service Medal with six bars.

Since 2010, he has been the Senior Staff Officer with Decorum NI, an organisation that supports former member of the Security Forces who served during Operation Banner – Armed Forces, Police, Prison Service – and their families.

Billy Thompson, chairman of Ballycarry and District Community Association, said that the group was delighted to have received funding from the Shared Heritage Fund for a programme which includes a series of talks focused on the century of life in Northern Ireland from 1921.

“The UDR is an important chapter in the modern history of Northern Ireland for many, including myself, and we look forward to this important public talk as part of our programme,” he said.

The talk will take place at 7.30pm on Wednesday, September 22, and admission is free, with donations welcome towards community funds.

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Ballycarry photographic murals help tell village story - click here

Ballycarry group on the look-out for old photos from the village - click here

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