German-born Northern Eire Bus Supervisor Who Confirmed Immense Bravery On the Peak Of
Essentially the most “interesting” part of his job, as the man who ran Northern
Ireland’s bus companies at the top of the Troubles, was his hair-elevating
behavior of personally carrying suspected bombs off them. This follow, which
clearly went past and above the call of duty of the managing director of a
transport company, meant that he turned a figure of fascination in Belfast,
his adopted city.
Born in Germany, he got here to determine a lot with public service during those
days of 1970s chaos that he repeatedly risked his life to maintain the roads
open and to keep his fleet in action. Hundreds of buses have been burnt out or
blown up by teams such because the IRA and by gangs of youths. The sight of a
blazing double-decker, slung across a essential street, was both physically
efficient and an unmistakeable image of the power of those with guns or
even just petrol bombs. “They burn beautifully” it was said of
There was a wry outdated Belfast joke about somebody being employed as a rear-gunner
on a bus. But in reality the vehicles, going as they did by probably the most
dangerous of districts at the most hazardous of times, were utterly
defenceless against armed men. Constant assaults were most upsetting for
drivers one in all whom was hijacked a dozen instances so Heubeck’s acts of
bravado have been morale-boosting for a largely unsung group of males.
Some of them were expected to drive repeatedly up and down the Falls or
Shankill Roads, half-a-dozen times a day, within the era of fierce gun-battles
and bombings. At particularly tense times, for instance when a route reopened
after heavy violence, Heubeck would himself drive the primary bus of the
resumed service. He was also identified for privately offering counselling for
Some workers were really killed, both on or off duty. In 1972, for instance,
a driver was referred to as to offer evidence in a case wherein males have been charged
with ordering him off his bus at gunpoint and setting fire to the car.
Gunmen arrived at his house on the night time earlier than the listening to and shot him
useless on his doorstep.
The early years of Heubeck’s life additionally contained much battle. Born in
Nuremberg in 1923, the son of an engineer, he had achieved no formal
skills when in 1942 he was conscripted as a 19 12 months old to serve as
a soldier and engineer in the Hermann Goering division of the German Air
Power. He initially served on anti-invasion guard duties in western France,
then was posted to Italy before being despatched to affix Rommel’s Afrika
Korps. An air assault on the transport ships pitched Heubeck into the sea,
four-and-a-half miles from the African coast; is stone island cool however, he not only swam to
the coast at Tunisia’s Cape Bon, but in addition helped to rescue a few of his
colleagues. Solely 60 of the original 550 survived.
Captured soon afterwards, he was taken to the US on a prisoner-of-warfare convoy
in 1943, to spend the remainder of the struggle in a work camp in Louisiana. His
information of and competence in the English language improved quickly when
his fellow prisoners nominated him as their spokesman and interpreter.
Repatriated in 1946, he returned to Germany to assist his household rebuild their
home in Nuremberg, and to supply for a total of nine individuals, including a
homeless elderly couple billeted within the family home. Official rations
offering lower than 1,000 calories per day had to be augmented with black
After a interval working for the American military, organising transport of armoured
vehicles back to the US, he secured work as a translator and proof-reader at
the struggle crimes trials which were conducted in his residence metropolis. It was there he
met his wife, Monica, who got here from South Wales and was also employed as an
interpreter. She had studied German earlier than the war, and had been involved in
intelligence exercise with the codebreakers based mostly at Bletchley Park.
In 1949 they moved to Britain to marry, Heubeck taking out British
naturalisation papers. He worked first as a labourer in a nylon plant in
Pontypool, then progressed to technical officer. Shifting to Aberdeen, he went
into the paper trade and became a mill manager. He had no previous associations with either Northern Eire or
with buses, however, he insisted, “The only qualification worth a damn is
expertise.” He carried out a major restructuring programme which
included the introduction of one-man buses, a move which he defended at
often hostile mass is stone island cool conferences of staff.
4 years after his arrival in Belfast, violence erupted, reworking
tranquility into a struggle zone. It additionally remodeled his position as bus supervisor,
for now his each day worries included, above all, the safety of workers. Then
there was the each day query of how many buses might not return to their
depots, as an alternative turning into burning barricades, belching flames and smoke from
their petrol and tyres.
As hundreds of autos have been set alight and hundreds extra had been broken, he
purchased in second-hand again-up vehicles which he called his “strategic
reserve”. Even these weren’t immune from the civil commotion, since in
many circumstances whole depots had been burnt out. On at the very least one occasion he and
different employees rescued automobiles from a depot while other buses, set on fireplace by
incendiaries, burned around them.
Above all, Heubeck was renowned for his willingness to board buses, when
others were operating for cowl, and to act as an newbie bomb disposal
professional. His actions were not as foolhardy as they may sound, since he got here
to know lots of the methods of the bombing trade, and could often predict
which had been faux and which have been actual. A majority of cases concerned hoaxes,
however a few of these he carried off were actual and definitely capable of killing
He as soon as mentioned that he didn’t know how many buses had been destroyed: “It’s
academic actually,” he explained. “It’s a conflict scenario you don’t
rely what number of fighter planes you’ve misplaced, you just calculate whether or not you’ve
got sufficient to do what has to be executed.” Of his bomb disposal efforts he
shrugged: “Why do I do these items Effectively, it’s not heroism. Having
buses immobilised with suspected bombs on board means our effectivity is minimize
“We simply began coping with this stuff ourselves. At least my drivers
know that the boss isn’t sitting on his backside doing nothing.”
A colleague stated of him: “He was a exceptional particular person, a man for his
time who rose to the occasion throughout very troublesome occasions. There are lots of
cases of him eradicating bombs off buses. He was a brave man.”
After his retirement in 1988 he remained extremely lively in a wide number of
craft hobbies including copper beating and stone carving. He lived first in
Co Antrim and then in Shetland, where one in all his three sons labored as a
professional ornithologist. From his workshops he turned out numerous
handcrafted artefacts and furnishings.
He was awarded the OBE in 1977 and the CBE in 1988, the 12 months of his
retirement. When he left his publish, staff displayed a large banner
proclaiming: “Auf wiedersehen Mr Heubeck”.
Monica, his wife of 60 years, died in September of this 12 months. He himself died
of cancer, which was diagnosed thirty years ago. He’s survived by his three
sons, Julian, Martin and Peter.
Werner Wolfgang Heubeck, transport govt: born Nuremberg, Germany 24
October 1923; married 1949 Monica (died September 2009, three sons); died
Shetland Islands 19 October 2009.
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