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German-born Northern Eire Bus Supervisor Who Showed Immense Bravery At the Height Of

Essentially the most “interesting” part of his job, as the man who ran Northern
Ireland’s bus services at the peak of the Troubles, was his hair-raising
habit of personally carrying suspected bombs off them. This follow, which
clearly went beyond and above the decision of duty of the managing director of a
transport company, meant that he grew to become a figure of fascination in Belfast,
his adopted city.

Born in Germany, he came to determine so much with public service throughout these
days of 1970s chaos that he repeatedly risked his life to keep the roads
open and to maintain his fleet in action. A whole bunch of buses had been burnt out or
blown up by groups such as the IRA and by gangs of youths. The sight of a
blazing double-decker, slung across a most important highway, was each physically
efficient and an unmistakeable symbol of the ability of those with guns or
even just petrol bombs. “They burn beautifully” it was mentioned of

There was a wry old Belfast joke about someone being employed as a rear-gunner
on a bus. However in fact the automobiles, going as they did by way of essentially the most
dangerous of districts at essentially the most hazardous of times, were completely
defenceless against armed men. Constant attacks were most upsetting for
drivers one in every of whom was hijacked a dozen occasions so Heubeck’s acts of
bravado have been morale-boosting for a largely unsung group of males.

A few of them had been anticipated to drive repeatedly up and down the Falls or
Shankill Roads, half-a-dozen instances a day, within the era of fierce gun-battles
and bombings. At significantly tense occasions, 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 providing counselling for
his drivers.

Some employees had been really killed, both on or off obligation. In 1972, for instance,
a driver was referred to as to provide proof in a case through which males have been charged
with ordering him off his bus at gunpoint and setting fireplace to the automobile.
Gunmen arrived at his home on the evening earlier than the hearing and shot him
lifeless on his doorstep.

The early years of Heubeck’s life additionally contained a lot 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 outdated to serve as
a soldier and engineer in the Hermann Goering division of the German Air
Drive. He initially served on anti-invasion guard duties in western France,
then was posted to Italy earlier than being despatched to affix Rommel’s Afrika
Korps. An air assault on the transport ships pitched Heubeck into the sea,
4-and-a-half miles from the African coast; nevertheless, he not only swam to
the coast at Tunisia’s Cape Bon, but additionally helped to rescue a few of his
colleagues. Solely 60 of the original 550 survived.

Captured quickly afterwards, he was taken to the US on a prisoner-of-struggle convoy
in 1943, to spend the remainder of the struggle in a work camp in Louisiana. His
data of and competence in the English language improved rapidly when
his fellow prisoners nominated him as their spokesman and interpreter.

Repatriated in 1946, he returned to Germany to help his household rebuild their
residence in Nuremberg, and to supply for a complete of 9 folks, together with a
homeless elderly couple billeted within the household dwelling. Official rations
providing lower than 1,000 calories per day needed to be augmented with black
market provides.

After a interval working for the American military, organising transport of armoured
autos again to the US, he secured work as a translator and proof-reader at
the struggle crimes trials which had been carried out in his house metropolis. It was there he
met his wife, Monica, who got here from South Wales and was additionally employed as an
interpreter. She had studied German earlier than the struggle, and had been concerned in
intelligence exercise with the codebreakers primarily based 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. Moving to Aberdeen, he went
into the paper industry and grew to become a mill supervisor. He had no earlier associations with both Northern Eire or
with buses, however, he insisted, “The solely qualification price a damn is
experience.” He carried out a major restructuring programme which
included the introduction of one-man buses, a move which he defended at
often hostile mass conferences of employees.

4 years after his arrival in Belfast, violence erupted, reworking
tranquility right into a conflict zone. It additionally remodeled his function as bus manager,
for now his day by day worries included, above all, the safety of employees. Then
there was the day by day query of what number of buses may not return to their
depots, as an alternative changing into burning barricades, belching flames and smoke from
their petrol and tyres.

As a whole lot of vehicles had been set alight and 1000’s extra had been damaged, he
bought in second-hand back-up automobiles which he known as his “strategic
reserve”. Even these were not immune from the civil commotion, since in
many cases entire depots have been burnt out. On at least one occasion he and
different workers rescued vehicles from a depot whereas different buses, set on fireplace by
incendiaries, burned round them.

Above all, Heubeck was famend for his willingness to board buses, when
others had been working for cowl, and to act as an amateur bomb disposal
expert. His actions were not as foolhardy as they might sound, since he got here
to know lots of the tips of the bombing commerce, and will typically predict
which had been pretend and which have been actual. A majority of cases involved hoaxes,
but some of those he carried off were actual and positively able to killing

He as soon as stated that he didn’t know what number of buses had been destroyed: “It’s
tutorial actually,” he defined. “It’s a warfare situation you don’t
count how many fighter planes you’ve lost, you simply calculate whether you’ve
got sufficient to do what must be executed.” Of his bomb disposal efforts he
shrugged: “Why do I do this stuff Properly, it’s not heroism. Having
buses immobilised with suspected bombs on board means our efficiency is cut

“We simply began coping with these things ourselves. No less than my drivers
know that the boss isn’t sitting on his backside doing nothing.”

A colleague stated of him: “He was a outstanding individual, a man for his
time who rose to the occasion throughout very troublesome times. There are many
cases of him eradicating bombs off buses. He was a brave man.”

After his retirement in 1988 he remained extremely energetic in a large number of
craft hobbies including copper beating and Stone stone carving. He lived first in
Co Antrim and then in Shetland, the place one among his three sons labored as a
skilled ornithologist. From his workshops he turned out quite a few
handcrafted artefacts and furnishings.

He was awarded the OBE in 1977 and the CBE in 1988, the year of his
retirement. When he left his submit, workers displayed a big banner
proclaiming: “Auf wiedersehen Mr Heubeck”.

Monica, his spouse of 60 years, died in September of this yr. He himself died
of most cancers, which was diagnosed thirty years in the past. He’s survived by his three
sons, Julian, Martin and stone island coat navy Peter.

David McKittrick

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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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