Oct 10, 2021
4 mins read
In this brief excerpt from the 17,000 words I have written so far I introduce Dave Fogel. Fogel was an early leader of the Woodvale Defence Association and is a pivotal figure in the early history of militant loyalism in the area. Some of the information below comes from a Belfast Telegraph feature on British soldiers who stayed in Northern Ireland to marry local girls. The article is from April 1968, before the outbreak of the Troubles. Fogel had been a private based in Palace Barracks since 1965. Meeting a local girl would change the course of his life in a way he would never have imagined.
*Other information in the passage comes from an interview Fogel gave in early 1973 after he had left Northern Ireland due to power struggles within the nascent Ulster Defence Association.
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Almost a year and a half before the troops arrived in Northern Ireland to try and manage the growing disturbances a young Londoner named David Fogel from Paddington spoke to the Belfast Telegraph. Fogel, a 21-year-old private with the 4th Battalion Queen’s Regiment, hailed from Paddington and had been in the province since 1965 when his battalion had been stationed at Palace Barracks in Holywood. As many of Fogel’s comrades prepared to leave and return to England, the newspaper ran a story about the fifty or so soldiers who had decided to remain in Northern Ireland and begin a new life with local girls. Shortly after his arrival in the country Fogel had started dating a Catholic girl called Bernadette:
In those days where the Catholics lived was safer, I found, than the Protestant Shankill Road. That was full of yobboes looking for a punch-up. I could not make head or tail of the religious differences. Frankly, I did not care.
[Sunday Independent, 28 Jan. 1973, p.1]
Unknown to Fogel he was fated to become well-acquainted with the Shankill and its people. After his relationship with Bernadette ended he met and shortly thereafter married Mona Peden a 22-year-old shop assistant who lived at 8 Glencairn Street in the Ballygomartin area of the Greater Shankill. ‘There have been a big number of marriages since we came here. We meet girls at NAAFI dances in the barracks or in town’, Fogel explained. ‘In my ‘A’ company about five have married [sic], but in some of the other four companies there have been 10 or [sic] marriages. And I know a number of men who intend to come back to marry Ulster girls.’ [Belfast Telegraph, 5 Apr. 1968, p.5]
On Friday 5 April the battalion paraded for a farewell inspection by Brigadier J.M. Strawson, commander of the 39th Infantry Brigade who was accompanied by the Commanding Officer, Lt. Col. K.J. Carter who presented him with a regimental shield. Strawson told his charges ‘You hear a great deal of talk about fall of morale in the Army, but there has been none in this battalion and none in the 39th Brigade.’ Somewhat presciently Strawson added ‘Your reputation in Northern Ireland has been high, and I ask you to keep it high up to the last.’
Dave and his wife had set up home in a rented room in Palmer Street in the Woodvale neighbourhood to the north of the Shankill Road. He took a job as a machinist in Mackie’s where he encountered many other young men from the Shankill area. Fogel later recalled the social conditions he and his new wife lived in:
Like most of the Catholics in the Falls-like half the working-class in Britain-our house was small and old. It was the only thing we had in common with the Catholics. The parlour was a front room leading straight off the street with a scullery at the back, two bedrooms upstairs and an outside lavatory. No bathroom-for that we had to go round to the mother-in-law’s.
I suppose it wasn’t bad for 30-bob-a-week and it was a good atmosphere there. Everyone knew everyone. The sort of community feeling you don’t get much in England now.
[Sunday Independent, 28 Jan. 1973, p.1]
Little could he have known it then, but a few short years after the departure of his comrades, Fogel, who had left the army – ‘They weren’t sorry to see me go and I left as I joined – a private’ - would once again find himself engaged in military activity. Rather than being a mere private in the British army he would be the leader of a new loyalist paramilitary organisation in the neighbourhood he now called home.