Ulster Volunteer Force
UVF emblem, with the Red Hand of Ulster and the motto “For God and Ulster”
13 January 1913 – 1 May 1919 (various units active since 1912)
25 June 1920 – early 1922
Opposition to Home Rule
Area of operations
Unknown, at least 100,000 in 1912
Military wing of the Ulster Unionist Council
Absorbed into the Ulster Special Constabulary
Irish nationalists (including Irish republicans)
Ulster Volunteer Force in 1914
The Ulster Volunteers was a unionist militia founded in 1912 to block domestic self-government (or Home Rule) for Ireland, which was then part of the United Kingdom. The Ulster Volunteers were based in the northern province of Ulster. Many Ulster Protestants feared being governed by a Catholic-majority parliament in Dublin and losing their local supremacy and strong links with Britain. In 1913, the militias were organised into the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) and vowed to resist any attempts by the British Government to ‘impose’ Home Rule on Ulster. Later that year, Irish nationalists formed a rival militia, the Irish Volunteers, to safeguard Home Rule. In April 1914, the UVF smuggled 25,000 rifles into Ulster. The Home Rule Crisis was halted by the outbreak of World War I in August 1914. Many UVF members enlisted with the British Army’s 36th (Ulster) Division and went to fight on the Western Front.
After World War I, the British Government decided to set up two self-governing regions in Ireland: Northern Ireland (made up of six Ulster counties with Protestant/unionist majorities) and Southern Ireland. However, by 1920 the Irish War of Independence was raging and the Irish Republican Army (IRA), the army of the self-declared Irish Republic, was launching attacks on British forces in Ireland. As a response to these attacks, the UVF was revived. However, this revival was largely unsuccessful and the UVF was absorbed into the Ulster Special Constabulary (USC), the reserve police force of the Northern Ireland Government.
A unionist paramilitary group calling itself the Ulster Volunteer Force was formed in 1966. It claims to be a direct descendant of the older organisation and uses the same logo, but there are no organisational links between the two.
1 Before World War I
2 World War I
3 After World War I