German-born Northern Ireland Bus Manager Who Confirmed Immense Bravery On the Top Of
Probably the most “interesting” a part of his job, because the man who ran Northern
Ireland’s bus providers on the top of the Troubles, was his hair-raising
habit of personally carrying suspected bombs off them. This practice, which
clearly went beyond and above the call of duty of the managing director of a
transport firm, meant that he turned a determine of fascination in Belfast,
his adopted metropolis.
Born in Germany, he got here to establish a lot with public service throughout these
days of 1970s chaos that he repeatedly risked his life to maintain the roads
open and to maintain his fleet in motion. Lots of of buses have been burnt out or
blown up by teams such as the IRA and by gangs of youths. The sight of a
blazing double-decker, slung throughout a main street, was each bodily
efficient and an unmistakeable image of the facility of these with guns or
even simply petrol bombs. “They burn beautifully” it was said of
There was a wry previous Belfast joke about someone being employed as a rear-gunner
on a bus. But in reality the autos, going as they did by way of essentially the most
harmful of districts at probably the most hazardous of occasions, have been totally
defenceless towards armed males. Fixed assaults have been most upsetting for
drivers one 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 have been anticipated to drive repeatedly up and down the Falls or
Shankill Roads, half-a-dozen occasions a day, within the period of fierce gun-battles
and bombings. At particularly tense times, for example when a route reopened
after heavy violence, Heubeck would himself drive the first bus of the
resumed service. He was also recognized for privately offering counselling for
Some workers have been truly killed, both on or off responsibility. In 1972, for example,
a driver was called to give evidence in a case in which men were charged
with ordering him off his bus at gunpoint and setting hearth to the car.
Gunmen arrived at his home on the night time earlier than the listening to and shot him
useless on his doorstep.
The early years of Heubeck’s life also contained much conflict. Born in
Nuremberg in 1923, the son of an engineer, he had achieved no formal
qualifications when in 1942 he was conscripted as a 19 yr previous to function
a soldier and engineer within the Hermann Goering division of the German Air
Pressure. He initially served on anti-invasion guard duties in western France,
then was posted to Italy before being despatched to join Rommel’s Afrika
Korps. An air attack on the transport ships pitched Heubeck into the sea,
four-and-a-half miles from the African coast; nonetheless, he not solely swam to
the coast at Tunisia’s Cape Bon, but in addition helped to rescue a few of his
colleagues. Solely 60 of the unique 550 survived.
Captured quickly afterwards, he was taken to the US on a prisoner-of-war convoy
in 1943, to spend the rest of the war in a work camp in Louisiana. His
information of and competence within 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 family rebuild their
home in Nuremberg, and to provide for a complete of nine individuals, including a
homeless elderly couple billeted in the household house. Official rations
offering lower than 1,000 calories per day needed to be augmented with black
After a interval working for the American army, organising transport of armoured
vehicles back to the US, he secured work as a translator and proof-reader at
the war crimes trials which have been performed in his residence metropolis. It was there he
met his spouse, Monica, who got here from South Wales and was additionally employed as an
interpreter. She had studied German earlier than the war, 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 labored first as a labourer in a nylon plant in
Pontypool, then progressed to technical officer. Transferring to Aberdeen, he went
into the paper trade and became a mill manager. He had no previous associations with either Northern Ireland or
with buses, but, he insisted, “The only qualification worth a rattling is
expertise.” He carried out a significant restructuring programme which
included the introduction of 1-man buses, a transfer which he defended at
usually hostile mass meetings of staff.
Four years after his arrival in Belfast, violence erupted, transforming
tranquility into a battle zone. It also reworked his position as bus supervisor,
for now his every day worries included, above all, the security of workers. Then
there was the every day question of how many buses might not return to their
depots, instead becoming burning barricades, belching flames and smoke from
their petrol and tyres.
As lots of of autos have been set alight and hundreds extra have been broken, he
purchased in second-hand back-up vehicles which he called his “strategic
reserve”. Even these were not immune from the civil commotion, since in
many cases whole depots have been burnt out. On at least one occasion he and
different staff rescued vehicles from a depot while other buses, set on fire by
incendiaries, burned around them.
Above all, Heubeck was renowned for his willingness to board buses, when
others were running for cowl, and to act as an novice bomb disposal
skilled. His actions were not as foolhardy as they might sound, since he came
to know many of the tricks of the bombing trade, and could often predict
which were fake and which were real. A majority of instances concerned hoaxes,
but some of those he carried off were actual and positively able to killing
He once said that he did not know how many buses had been destroyed: “It’s
academic really,” he explained. “It’s a war situation you don’t
count what number of fighter planes you’ve misplaced, you simply calculate whether you’ve
got sufficient to do what has to be done.” Of his bomb disposal efforts he
shrugged: “Why do I do these things Well, it’s not heroism. Having
buses immobilised with suspected bombs on board means our efficiency is cut
“We simply began coping with this Stone Island T-Shirts stuff ourselves. A minimum of my drivers
know that the boss isn’t sitting on his backside doing nothing.”
A colleague stated of him: “He was a remarkable particular person, a man for his
time who rose to the occasion during very troublesome occasions. There are various
cases of him removing bombs off buses. He was a brave man.”
After his retirement in 1988 he stone island store manchester remained highly energetic in a wide variety of
craft hobbies together with copper beating and stone carving. He lived first in
Co Antrim and then in Shetland, where one in every of his three sons worked 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 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 12 months. He himself died
of cancer, which was diagnosed thirty years ago. He is survived by his three
sons, Julian, Martin and Peter.
Werner Wolfgang Heubeck, transport executive: born Nuremberg, Germany 24
October 1923; married 1949 Monica (died September 2009, three sons); died
Shetland Islands 19 October 2009.
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