Dennis Faulkner Kt, CBE VRD UD DL

Sir Dennis Faulkner

The following is the tribute spoken by General Sir Roger Wheeler at Colonel Sir Dennis Faulkner's memorial service in Down Cathedral.

I have the privilege of being asked by Katie [Sir Dennis' daughter] to make a brief tribute to Dennis’s service in the Army.

Dennis and I felt that we had a special friendship because, together, we formed a regiment in 1992, the Royal Irish Regiment, which had a unique role and structure within the British Army. The Home Service, both full and part time, here in the Province, General Service or Regular Battalion and a TA Battalion, and a very successful Regiment it has been too.

But long before that, after serving in the RN and RNVR, Dennis decided to join the UDR in 1971 because he wanted to help deal with the terrorist threat, initially serving with 3 UDR in County Down. Because of his Royal Navy experience, he was asked to start a boat platoon to intercept traffic using Carlingford Lough to smuggle weapons and explosives from the Republic into Northern Ireland, as well as moving terrorists between the two countries. Although this was planned initially for six months, operations continued for 20 years, with Royal Marines operating under the command of 3 UDR. The Unit consisted of 6 boats under the control of a Marine radar unit mounted on a Land Rover on shore which was used to direct boats onto identified targets. On one occasion Dennis stopped a boat with Charlie Haughy on board and duly searched it. This caused a fuss which resulted in Dennis receiving a signal from the Foreign Office, directing that there was a blue line along certain coordinates on the Lough which was not to be crossed except in hot pursuit. Two days later Dennis sent a response saying that he had had vessels searching the Lough for the past 48 hours and that they could not find a blue line anywhere. This was typical of his sense of humour but apparently not appreciated in the Foreign Office.

FaulknerDennis served in the UDR with distinction for many years. In 1970 he was the first part-time Officer in the UDR to be promoted to Lt Colonel and in 1982, he was promoted to full Colonel as Regimental Colonel UDR. He retired in 1986 and was appointed Honorary Representative Colonel Commandant UDR and was a valuable adviser to successive GOCs and Commanders UDR.

While the Province was under serious threat from terrorism he and his colleagues patrolled night after night. His strong sense of public service and responsibility was demonstrated by his attendance at the funerals of 157 UDR soldiers and by his support to their families. He was heavily involved in the foundation of the UDR Benevolent Fund of which he became Chairman. Indeed, he was instrumental in setting up the Benevolent Fund as it is today, as a result of visiting the wife and young family of a soldier killed by an under-car device. He discovered that she had been given a cheque for £200 from the then Benevolent Fund which he took back because he thought such a small amount was a mistake. He went to the Trustees to ask for the amount to be increased and if necessary he would make up the difference himself. A couple of days later CLF spoke to him about this and tasked him to raise half a million pounds within the year. Amongst his most successful fund raising activities was a dinner in the Mansion House in London, as a result of his personal friendship with the Lord Mayor. It was attended by the Chairmen of large industrial organisations, financial institutions and senior military figures. At the end of the evening he had raised £700,000 and by the end of the year, £1.7 million. This was an astonishing achievement and under his chairmanship, the fund continued to grow. Dennis was adamant that the funds were there to address the needs of our soldiers, whether it be due to ill health or people falling on hard times and unable to clothe or feed their families.

I had not met Dennis until the autumn of 1990, when the then Chief of the General Staff, Field Marshal Sir John Chapple, invited me, as Colonel of The Royal Irish Rangers, to begin discussions with Dennis, as the Representative Colonel Commandant UDR, about the amalgamation of our two regiments. This resulted in the formation of the Royal Irish Regiment on 1 July 1992.

RNWFaulknerFollowing the Amalgamation Parade, involving a Battalion from each Regiment held at midnight at the School of Infantry, Warminster, as well as a party afterwards, we caught the Red Eye to Belfast to attend the Passing Out Parade of the first joint squad of recruits that had been training together for several months. This parade was in Ballykinler in the late morning. We were both flagging a bit but at 10.30, I suggested to Dennis that a drop of
Bushmills would do us no harm before we went on parade and he agreed. After the Amalgamation parades of our new Regiment, we became firm friends. Indeed, I was given a warm welcome by Dennis when I arrived a few months later as GOC and Felicity and I were generously entertained at Ringhaddy many times in the following three years. We never sailed with Dennis but enjoyed trips on Strangford in that wonderful steam launch and have stayed at Ringhaddy many times since.

(Right; Colonel Sir Dennis Faulkner and General Sir Roger Wheeler review an Old Soldiers' Day Parade in Saint Patrick's Barracks, Ballymena.)

Dennis’ long life of public service, particularly in the Army, is an example to us all. No greater accolade
could have been paid to him than to be knighted by Her Majesty The Queen in Nugent House immediately following her presentation of Colours to the UDR in Thiepval Barracks in 1991.

Farewell Old Friend