On what would have been the 98th birthday of Lt Col Robert ‘Paddy’ Blair Mayne, Movilla High School presented a very special war diary to Newtownards Library.
The school began a scheme to raise funds to purchase a copy of the ‘SAS War Diary’, and on 11 January 2013, presented this important historical record to the local library. The majority of the £1000 needed to buy the diary was made possible by pupils at Movilla by selling wristbands, with the rest of the money being donated by organisations and individuals.
The scheme was the brainchild of Movilla’s Head of Careers, Mr Forbes, who outlined how any money raised over the £1000 required to buy the book, is to be donated in equal shares to the Royal British Legion’s Poppy Appeal and the charity Combat Stress.
‘The SAS war Diary’ is described by the publishers, Extraordinary Editions, as ‘one of the most astonishing manuscripts to come out of the Second World War’.
The background story to the diary begins in 1946; the Special Air Service (SAS) had been disbanded, and at the time there were no plans to resurrect the regiment. According to Extraordinary Editions, a former SAS soldier decided to preserve any documentation relating to the Regiment and its service in the war ‘before the SAS was forgotten and its story lost forever’. Subsequently, the soldier collated his work in a massive war diary, bound in leather ‘liberated’ from Nazi Germany. It is strongly rumoured that the soldier concerned was Lt Col Robert Blair Mayne of 1 SAS.
The connection Newtownards has to the SAS, with the town being the birthplace and home of ‘Colonel Paddy’, was, Mr Forbes outlined, part of the reasoning behind Movilla wishing to purchase a copy of the diary. While Blair Mayne was a former pupil of Regent House, Mr Forbes noted, currently at Movilla there are pupils who are great-grandchildren of Billy Hull, one of Blair Mayne’s men; one of the pupils had helped with the fundraising.
The presentation of the diary took place following a full school assembly where Mr Forbes gave pupils an insight into the man who was Robert ‘Paddy’ Blair Mayne, DSO 3 Bar. The pupils showed immense interest and pride in the knowledge that he was ‘Ards born and bred’.
The following are thanked for their contributions in making the purchase of ‘The SAS War Diary’ possible: The Friends, Pupils and Staff of Movilla High School; The Newtownards Royal British Legion Club; the Forbes and Anderson Clans; the Blair Mayne Research Society; the Newtownards Royal Air Forces Association; Ards Rugby Club (via Mr Aston); FARL (Friends of Ards Rugby Lunch); the Royal Irish Rangers RUR Association; the Royal Scots Association (NI); the Ulster Unionist Party; Newtownards and District Masonic; William Strain and William Lightbody Memorial Flute Band and Strangford MP Jim Shannon.