It’s just a postbox

The residents of the Falkland Islands nickname British service personnel the “whenis” because the members of HM Forces are prone to start many a sentence with, “When I (was in…)”. It is true. Ex-HMF people do have lots of stories, some of them as tall as the Empire State Building.

Here’s one, which is probably true.

Northern Ireland in the early 1970’s.  To be exact, the border with the Republic of Ireland.  Unlike border patrols along the border between the Federal Republic and German Democratic Republic, there was no border markers, fences, death strips or watchtowers to indicate the presence of the border and subsequent no-go zone.

On some roads in Northern Ireland you’d see a yellow strip painted across the road to indicate 500 metres to the border.  The only other indicators were that speed limit signs in the Republic were in kph, not mph, and allegedly the tarmac quality south of the border was poorer quality than on the Queen’s highway.  (Not that you knew that… or cared.)

So, night patrol – very close to the border.  A section of men from the 16th/5th Queen’s Royal Lancers regiment, all a bit nervous.  Day starts to dawn.  Things become more visible as daylight appears.

Trooper:

Er, Corporal, I think we’ve accidentally crossed into the Irish Republic.

Corporal (somewhat bemused):

What makes you say that, Trooper …?

Trooper:

Because that postbox next to you is painted green.

Corporal:

Ah, don’t worry about that.  The locals do that all the time to stick to fingers up at the Brits.

Trooper:

Sure, but this one has ‘SE’ on it.

Corporal:

Whaaaaaaaaaaaaat?  Oh dear [or words to that effect], quick, head north now!  Run!

Trooper:

Oh, and there’s also a Garda Siochana van 100 metres away from us, and they are shaking their fists at us!

Vocabulary notes for those of you who do not speak Irish Gaelic:

  • Saorstáit Eireann: Irish Free State, the name given the Republic of Ireland on independence in 1922
  • Garda Siochana: (literally) Civil Guard, ie the police force of the Republic of Ireland
This is a Royal Mail box, to be found all over the United Kingdom, including Northern Ireland.

This is a Royal Mail box, to be found all over the United Kingdom, including Northern Ireland.

This is an Irish post box, found only in the Republic of Ireland

This is an Irish post box, found only in the Republic of Ireland

Have a well-travelled day, won’t you!

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