However, it seems that this military reluctance is not a new phenomenon. Kevin Myers, writing in today's Irish Independent, draws attention to the situation around the time of the Second World War:
"There is a delightful quote in the recently published 'Behind the Green Curtain' (Gill and Macmillan), T Ryle Dwyer's excellent and probably definitive account of Irish neutrality during the Second World War.
It came from Sir Charles Wickham, Inspector General of the RUC. The possibility of conscription in the North, he said, was "a political ramp" by unionist politicians.
"They wanted to appear as great loyalists, but in actual fact hoped that their suggestion would not be acceptable to the home (London) government. Had it been accepted, they intended to conscript the Catholics, and leave the Orangemen in their factories."
And this from the head of the RUC!"
Bad enough, but worse was yet to come.
"Moreover, there were three main parties in the old Stormont in 1971. One was the Ulster Unionists, led by Brian Faulkner, a unionist old enough to have served in the Second World War, but didn't. There was the Democratic Unionist Party, led by Ian Paisley, a unionist old enough to have served in the Second World War, but didn't. And there was the Social Democratic and Labour Party, led by Gerry Fitt, a nationalist old enough to have served in the Second World War, and who did."
So why didn't Faulkner or Paisley 'serve their king? Faulkner, of course, cannot answer any more, but Wikipedia claims that:
"Faulkner entered the Queen's University of Belfast in 1939 to study law, but, with the advent of war, he quit his studies to work full time in the family shirt-making business."
That seems like a valuable thing for a healthy 18 year old 'loyal ulsterman' to do when his country is engaged in a fight to the death with fascism!
Paisley, of course is still with us – surely someone over the years has been brave enough to ask him why, when he reached the age of 18 on 6 April 1944 – just before the Normandy landings, and at a time when 'his king' needed all the manpower he could muster – he stayed at home!
Normandy, Burma, Arnhem, the Ardennes, the liberation of France, the crossing of the Rhine – all the hard-won battles of 1944 and 1945 – all were fought without the participation of young Faulkner and Paisley.
When unionists bluster about their 'pride' in 'their troops', and obsessively over-commemorate dates and events largely forgotten by those who actually participated – just remember that key unionist leaders who could have 'done their bit' … didn't.