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German-born Northern Eire Bus Supervisor Who Confirmed Immense Bravery At the Top Of

The most “interesting” a part of his job, as the man who ran Northern
Ireland’s bus companies on the peak of the Troubles, was his hair-elevating
habit of personally carrying suspected bombs off them. This follow, which
clearly went beyond and above the call of responsibility of the managing director of a
transport firm, meant that he grew to become a determine of fascination in Belfast,
his adopted metropolis.

Born in Germany, he got here to identify 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 action. Lots of 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 most important highway, was each bodily
effective and an unmistakeable symbol of the facility of these with guns or
even just petrol bombs. “They burn beautifully” it was stated of

There was a wry previous Belfast joke about someone being employed as a rear-gunner
on a bus. However in reality the automobiles, going as they did via the most
dangerous of districts at probably the most hazardous of occasions, had been completely
defenceless in opposition to armed men. Constant assaults have been most upsetting for
drivers considered one of whom was hijacked a dozen times so Heubeck’s acts of
bravado have been morale-boosting for a largely unsung group of men.

Some of them were expected to drive repeatedly up and down the Falls or
Shankill Roads, half-a-dozen times a day, in the period of fierce gun-battles
and bombings. At particularly tense instances, for example when a route reopened
after heavy violence, Heubeck would himself drive the primary bus of the
resumed service. He was also known for privately offering counselling for
his drivers.

Some employees had been really killed, either on or off responsibility. In 1972, for example,
a driver was referred to as to present evidence in a case by which males were charged
with ordering him off his bus at gunpoint and setting fireplace to the vehicle.
Gunmen arrived at his home on the night earlier than the listening to and shot him
useless on his doorstep.

The early years of Heubeck’s life additionally contained a lot conflict. 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 year old to serve as
a soldier and engineer within 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 hitch Rommel’s Afrika
Korps. An air attack on stone island shadow project duffle the transport ships pitched Heubeck into the sea,
four-and-a-half miles from the African coast; nonetheless, he not only swam to
the coast at Tunisia’s Cape Bon, but additionally helped to rescue a few of his
colleagues. Only 60 of the unique 550 survived.

Captured quickly afterwards, he was taken to the US on a prisoner-of-conflict convoy
in 1943, to spend the rest of the struggle in a work camp in Louisiana. His
information 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 assist his family rebuild their
home in Nuremberg, and to provide for a total of nine people, including a
homeless elderly couple billeted within the household residence. Official rations
offering less than 1,000 calories per day had to be augmented with black
market provides.

After a interval working for the American army, organising transport of armoured
autos back to the US, he secured work as a translator and proof-reader at
the warfare crimes trials which had been performed in his dwelling metropolis. It was there he
met his wife, Monica, who came from South Wales and was additionally employed as an
interpreter. She had studied German before the conflict, 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. Transferring to Aberdeen, he went
into the paper business and turned a mill supervisor. He had no earlier associations with either Northern Eire or
with buses, but, he insisted, “The only qualification price a rattling is
expertise.” He carried out a serious restructuring programme which
included the introduction of 1-man buses, a move which he defended at
often hostile mass conferences of staff.

Four years after his arrival in Belfast, violence erupted, reworking
tranquility into a warfare zone. It additionally remodeled his position as bus manager,
for now his every day worries included, above all, the safety of workers. Then
there was the daily query of what number of buses might not return to their
depots, instead becoming burning barricades, belching flames and smoke from
their petrol and tyres.

As a whole lot of automobiles have been set alight and thousands extra had been damaged, he
bought in second-hand again-up autos which he referred to as his “strategic
reserve”. Even these were not immune from the civil commotion, since in
many circumstances complete depots had been burnt out. On a minimum of one occasion he and
other workers rescued automobiles from a depot while other buses, set on fire by
incendiaries, burned around them.

Above all, Heubeck was famend for his willingness to board buses, when
others were running for cowl, and to act as an amateur bomb disposal
skilled. His actions were not as foolhardy as they may sound, since he came
to know lots of the tricks of the bombing commerce, and could typically predict
which have been faux and which were real. A majority of cases involved hoaxes,
but a few of these he carried off have been real and positively able to killing

He as soon as stated that he did not know what number of buses had been destroyed: “It’s
tutorial actually,” he explained. “It’s a warfare state of affairs you don’t
rely how many fighter planes you’ve lost, you simply calculate whether or not you’ve
got enough to do what has to be done.” Of his bomb disposal efforts he
shrugged: “Why do I do these items Properly, it’s not heroism. Having
buses immobilised with suspected bombs on board means our effectivity is lower

“We just began coping with these items 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 outstanding particular person, a man for his
time who rose to the occasion during very stone island shadow project duffle troublesome instances. There are various
cases of him removing bombs off buses. He was a brave man.”

After his retirement in 1988 he remained highly active in a wide number of
craft hobbies including copper beating and stone carving. He lived first in
Co Antrim after which in Shetland, the place considered one 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 12 months of his
retirement. When he left his publish, staff 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 most cancers, which was diagnosed thirty years ago. He’s survived by his three
sons, Julian, Martin and Peter.

David McKittrick
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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