2 RUR on the Syrian Frontier

Event
Tuesday, 12 July, 1938

In July 1938, the 2nd Battalion The Royal Ulster Rifles handed over its duties at Nathanya and moved to the Syrian frontier where it patrolled from two company bases. One base was at Al Malikiya in the east and the other at Igrit.

The first month was uncomfortable and proved strenuous for the two company columns. The Riflemen had to site and build the first camp; while at Igrit, they had to enlarge the camp from platoon size to company size. The local villagers and gangs resented this military intrusion because it handicapped their arms smuggling. They sniped frequently by night at the military patrols. On the night 11/12 July, 2nd Lieutenant Law's patrol, escorting a Sapper working party along the frontier fence, encountered several gangs who tried to bar his progress. He cleared the roadblocks successfully using heavy fire from close range. For his action, he was awarded the Military Cross.

Patrolling the Syrian frontier by night was a great mental and nervous strain for the men of 2 RUR. Therefore, to give them as much relief and change as possible, each company spent a month at Igrit, a fortnight in reserve with Battalion Headquarters on top of Jebel Kanaan, and a month at Al Malikiya. It was at Igrit that a rifleman wrote that almost legendary letter:

‘Dear Mother,

I have a present for you, but as it is too big to send home, I am keeping it in Bethlehem where Jesus Christ was born and, by Jesus I wish I was back in Portydown where I was born.’