Margaret Thatcher visits 3 UDR

Sunday, 18 June, 1978
Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Thatcher in the 3 UDR Radar Vehicle.

Margaret Thatcher was the leader of the Conservative Party and Leader of the Opposition in Westminster when she visited the 3rd Battalion The Ulster Defence Regiment on Sunday, 18 June 1978.

The Battalion was determined to demonstrate the versatility of the UDR's operational capabilities by land, sea and air. For some time there had been a suspicion that terrorists were able to land caches of arms and terrorist material on the Irish Sea coast of the Ards Peninsula, move them by vehicle to Strangford Lough, and then transfer the cache to small craft for transporting to the lough's western shore. This route avoided the risk of a cache being detected as it passed through Belfast from the Irish Sea to terrorist groups in Northern Ireland. These likely routes were in the Battalion's area of responsibility and it had to be capable of interdiction operations in order to seize materiel or deter such activity. The Battalion had been supplied with a vehicle equipped with a Marine Radar system to support amphibious operations, including Joint Operations with Royal Navy vessels.

Following her briefing at Headquarters 3 UDR, Mrs Thatcher was flown in a Royal Air Force Puma support helicopter in a flight of helicopters bound for Dunnyneill Island on Strangford Lough. A section 'roped' down to search the island from an Army Air Corps helicopter while the two RAF Pumas provided top cover. Mrs Thatcher was then flown to Pawle Island where the 3 UDR Operations Platoon and Corporal Brian Brown with his dog were searching the island and a farmstead. She then moved to near Killyleagh where the Marine Radar vehicle and crew were tracking two of the Operations Platoon's Rigid Raider dories moving through the busy waters of the lough.

She later wrote to the Commanding Officer:

I greatly enjoyed my visit to 3UDR......Thank you for arranging such a useful briefing. The UDR are fighting to ensure that violence will not triumph in Ulster. I think the courage and resolution of the men and women who serve under you is most moving and I hope you will give them my very best wishes.