All this organisation was at the disposal of the leaders for handling the arms brought in the hold of the Mountjoy II. The perfection of the arrangements for the immediate distribution of the rifles and ammunition among the loyalist population, and the almost miraculous precision with which they were carried out on that memorable Friday night, extorted the admiration even of the most inveterate political enemies of Ulster. The smoothness with which the machinery of organisation worked was only possible on account of the hearty willingness of all the workers, combined with the discipline to which they gladly submitted themselves.
The whole U.V.F. was warned for a trial mobilisation on the evening of the 24th of April, and the owners of all motor-cars and lorries were requested to co-operate. Very few either of the Volunteers or the motor owners knew that anything more than manoeuvres by night for practice purposes was to take place. All motors from certain specified districts were ordered to be at Larne by 8 o’clock in the evening; from other districts the vehicles were to assemble at Bangor and Donaghadee respectively, at a later hour. All the roads leading to these ports were patrolled by volunteers, and at every cross-roads over the greater part of nine counties men of the local battalions were stationed to give directions to motor-drivers who might not be familiar with the roads. At certain points these men were provided with reserve supplies of petrol, and with repairing tools that might be needed in case of breakdown. It is a remarkable testimony to the zeal of these men for the cause that, although none of them knew he was taking part in an exciting adventure, not one, so far as is known, left his post throughout a cold and wet night, having received orders not to go home till daybreak. And these were men, it must be remembered, who before putting on the felt hats, puttees, and bandoliers which constituted their uniform, had already done a full day’s work, and were not to receive a sixpence for their night’s job.
At the three ports of discharge large forces of volunteers were concentrated. Sir George Richardson, G.O.C. in C., remained in Belfast through the night, being kept fully and constantly informed of the progress of events by signal and motor-cyclist despatch-riders. Captain James Craig was in charge of the operations at Bangor; at Larne General Sir William Adair was in command, with Captain Spender as Staff officer.
The attention of the Customs authorities in Belfast was diverted by a clever stratagem. A tramp steamer was brought up the Musgrave Channel after dark, her conduct being as furtive and suspicious as it was possible to make it appear. At the same time a large wagon was brought to the docks as if awaiting a load. The skipper of the tramp took an unconscionable time, by skilful blundering, in bringing his craft to her moorings. The suspicions of the authorities were successfully aroused; but every possible hindrance