Posts Tagged Irish Defence Forces

In the Service of Peace – Congo Veterans

In the Service of Peace – Congo Veterans

In the Service of Peace – Our Congo Veterans

Photos by John O’Byrne

It was great to spend the day recording the personal accounts of veterans from Ireland’s deployment to the Congo (1960 – 1964) with Opération des Nations Unies au Congo (ONUC). Seamus Ua Trodd, Thomas Gunn, Noel O’Neill, Shay Delaney, and Gregory Leech recalled their memories of service with the 1stInfantry Group, 34th 35th, and 39th Infantry Battalions. The memories of these men were remarkable. Wide and diverse recollections gave a full account of the Ireland’s service in the Congo and what the then young men or teenagers in some cases went through. The first time on a plane, long range patrols in a country the size of western Europe, the Siege of Jadotville, interaction and helping local people, movement controller for UN aircraft, and asking your comrades to write letters home for you.

To us these UN veterans are a national treasure and their accounts should be recorded for future generations

Thank you to the ONE Cathal Brugha for their support in this recording.

This project is supported by the Community Foundation for Ireland. 

You can support our projects by becoming a Patreon.

Posted in: Irish Army, Irish Defence Forces, Irish Veterans, Opération des Nations Unies au Congo, UN Peacekeeping, United Nations, United Nations Operation in the Congo, Veteran's Welfare

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Recording the Story of the 18pdr with Sgt Robert Delaney

Recording the Story of the 18pdr with Sgt Robert Delaney

Recording the Story of the 18pdr with Sgt Robert Delaney

Photos by John O’Byrne and Michael Coyne

Filming on location at the Curragh Military History Museum, Defence Forces Training Centre to record the story of the recently restored Ordnance QF 18-pounder; one of the very same that fired the opening shots of the Irish Civil War in 1922. The Ordnance 18-pdr served throughout the Great War, in the early years of the National Army, and with the Irish Defence Forces Artillery Corps up until the 1960s. This particular gun was sold off in the 1950s and disappeared across the Atlantic. As it turned out it stood guard outside a dinner in Virginia until historian Kenneth Smith-Christmas came across and recognised it as an Irish Army 18-pdr. From there he contacted Lar Joye in the National Museum of Ireland , not long after a team was on its way over to inspect the gun. Brought home to Ireland the ‘Ivy Patch Gun’ has now been fully restored to as it was in 1922 by the team at the Ordnance Corps in the Curragh Camp. You can red the full story of the Ivy Patch Gun prior to its restoration and its journey back to Ireland in Kenneth Smith-Christmas article by clicking here.


Photographs and full story to follow.
Big thank you to Sgt Robert Delaney Ordnance Corps and the team at the Curragh Military History Museum.

Supported by Kildare Decade of Commemorations

Posted in: Artillery, Heritage Site, Irish Army, Irish Defence Forces

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Company Sergeant Liam White (Rtd) – McKee Barracks Coy – UNFICYP – UNEF II

Company Sergeant Liam White (Rtd) – McKee Barracks Coy – UNFICYP – UNEF II

Company Sergeant Liam White (Rtd) McKee Barracks Coy

UNFICYP – UNEF II

Veterans are a key to any military story; they are the people who served, they are the people who were there. Recording their story helps preserve our past and can give us lessons for the future. There isn’t a community in Ireland where you will not meet an ex-service man or women. For our Kildare Veterans and In the Service of Peace project, we met up with retired Company Sergeant Liam White, who has lived in North Kildare with his family since 1986. Many people in Celbridge may remember Liam and his wife Patricia from when they ran the Order of Malta unit in Celbridge in the 1990s.

Liam, who is originally from Dún Laoghaire, first joined the Irish Defence Forces/ Óglaigh na hÉireann in 1964 when he enlisted with B Company, 21st Infantry Battalion FCÁ. He has fond memories of marching in the annual 1916 commemorations during those early years. In 1967 Liam joined the Permanent Defence Force and was sent down to the Curragh Camp for recruit training. After passing out Liam was posted to McKee Barracks Company; the support unit for Defence Forces Headquarters. At this time the Army was only 7,500 strong. It was not long before Liam found himself on an NCO course and on 26 December 1968, he was promoted Corporal. With the outbreak of the Troubles the Defence Forces were put on high alert. Reservists were called up, and centres established to take in potential people fleeing the hostilities. When the border was established, Liam recalled periods when soldiers were meeting themselves coming off duties and patrols. The army had to expand due to the Troubles and initially there was no relief. Patrols, road blocks, and watching or hearing shootings along the border between Republicans and British Forces became the norm. On one occasion Liam collapsed after not sleeping for four days straight. One of the pictures Liam kept shows him having Christmas dinner while on the border.

In 1970 Liam was then assigned as a Cadre Training NCO with the 21st Infantry Battalion FCÁ which took him all over the battalion area of South Dublin and North Wicklow. His first deployment overseas was with the 20th Infantry Group, United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) in April 1971. During this period tensions were high between the two communities on the island; the mission brought new challenges for the young Corporal. Promoted Sergeant, Liam deployed overseas again in April 1974 with the 26th Infantry Group, United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF II) in the Sinai. Not a blade of grass could be found in the blistering hot desert. The Irish men found themselves once again in between two heavily armed factions and vast areas of unexploded ordnance and mines. The unit were only settling in when the Dublin and Monaghan bombings took place at home and the unit was rapidly brought home by the end of May 1974.

Liam served in various appointments in Defence Forces Headquarters including with An Cosantóir – the Defence Forces magazine and the Chief of Staff’s Branch. Liam retired from the Defence Forces in 1989 as a Company Sergeant. Thank you to Liam for telling his story and for his long service at home and overseas.

This recording is part of our Kildare Veterans series and In the Service of Peace – exploring Ireland’s contribution to world peace: a project in conjunction with The Organisation of National Ex-Service Personnel, The Irish United Nations Veterans Association and The Association of Retired Commissioned Officers. This production was made possible with support by Kildare Library Services, Kildare Creative Ireland and the Community Foundation.

Posted in: Irish Army, Irish Defence Forces, Irish Veteran, Irish Veterans, Óglaigh na hÉireann, United Nations, United Nations Mission in Cyprus

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Disbandment of Irish Regiments Remembered

Disbandment of Irish Regiments Remembered

Disbandment of Irish Regiments Remembered

Photos by Peter Molloy and John O’Byrne


Sunday 12 June marks the centenary of the disbandment of the Irish regiments of the British Army from the south of Ireland.
On 12 June 1922, King George V received the Colours of The Royal Irish Regiment, The Connaught Rangers, The Prince of Wales’s Leinster Regiment, The Royal Munster Fusiliers and The Royal Dublin Fusiliers for safekeeping at Windsor Castle where they remain to this day. The South Irish Horse disbanded on 31 July that year.
To mark the centenary the Combined Irish Regiments Association held a parade at the Cenotaph in London this morning, while in Dublin the regimental associations will held a service in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin.

The Combined Irish Regiments Association organised a wonderful parade to mark the occasion. Standards were paraded in to the music of The Pipes and Drums – London Irish Rifles Association. Members on parade included the Royal British Legion, the Leinster Regiment Association, Irish Guards, Royal Irish Regiment, and the Irish Defence Forces, along with veterans and family descendants of those who served.

At St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the beautiful service also remembered the disbandment of the South Irish Horse. The event was organised by the Royal Dublin Fusiliers Association on behalf of all the regimental associations including: the Royal Munster Fusiliers, Connaught Rangers, 18th Reg of Foot Royal Irish Regiment Association, and the Leinster Regiment association.
To the pipes of Anthony Byrne, the regimental standards marched through the cathedral to the ‘Last of the Great Whales’. A beautiful ceremony followed with regimental songs sung by the St. Patrick’s Cathedral choir.
In attendance was the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Cllr Alison Gilliland, Ambassadors, members of the Oireachtas, the Irish Defence Forces, the Royal Irish Regiment, and descendants and family of those who served in the regiments.
Lest we forget.

Posted in: British Army, Irish Regiments, Remembrance, The Great War, Uncategorized

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Centenary Ceremony Held at Baldonnel Aerodrome

Centenary Ceremony Held at Baldonnel Aerodrome

Centenary Ceremony Held at Baldonnel Aerodrome

Photos courtesy of Defence Froces Press Office

Earlier today a centenary ceremony to mark the handover from the Royal Air Force (RAF) in 1922, was held at the home of the Irish Air Corps, Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel, Dublin. The Defence Forces Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Seán Clancy, the General Officer Commanding Air Corps, Brigadier General Rory O’Connor and over 1,000 serving and former members of the Air Corps attended the ceremony.

The ceremony involved a representative body of Air Corps personnel symbolically marching through the original main gate at 12.00pm. A wreath was laid to commemorate all those who died in service throughout the century followed by the raising of the National Colours and a ceremonial flypast.

Speaking at the event General Officer Commanding Air Corps, Brigadier General Rory O’Connor remembered those who came before “Irish forces marched in and took over the Camp on 3 May 1922 and since that day, Baldonnel has been the home of the Air Corps. The dedication of Air Corps personnel, the missions completed, and the lives saved, have come about through the people who have walked through these gates and gave their years’ of service, most of which can be counted in decades.”
He Continued “Looking back to what Baldonnel was like 100yrs ago, I have no doubt that those early members of the Air Corps would be very proud of the organisation that the Air Corps has become, and of all that it has achieved over the course of its first 100 years”.

Posted in: Anglo Irish War, Aviation Heritage, Irish Air Corps, Irish Defence Forces, Óglaigh na hÉireann

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ONE Launches Veterans Leadership Initiative

ONE Launches Veterans Leadership Initiative

ONE Launches Veterans’ Leadership Initiative

There are approximately 150,000 former members of the Irish Defence Forces, permanent and reserve. The majority still live in Ireland, an unknown number live abroad. Ex-service personnel go on to live very fulfilling lives and take on challenging new careers. A new initiative by the Organisation of National Ex-Service Personnel (ONE) sets out to explore and promote the leadership and resilience skills of former Defence Forces personnel in Irish society. On 6 April 2022, ONE will host its first ‘I Am A Veteran’ Seminar on Resilience and Leadership.

There are a wide profile of Defence Forces veterans across ages, branches, time served, and backgrounds. As part of the “I Am A Veteran” Campaign, ONE are seeking to reconnect with many former comrades to attract them into the organisation and to bring about a new way of engaging with the veterans’ community. The Seminar series initially aims to attract veterans with a career or business interest and to establish a new veteran business network.; a network of this type would bring value to the community and give a new way of engaging with ONE.

By establishing the business network, ONE seeks to identify veterans who could also serve as career mentors to some younger veterans (18-35) who have left service without much in the way of career support and guidance. The hope and aim is that if a veteran requests support, ONE will be in a position to connect them with a panel of mentors to source advice and guidance. 

Topic 1 – Walking the Walk – Reflections on Leadership

Moderated by Declan Power, Adjunct Lecturer at the NATO School and author of the film adapted book, Siege of Jadotville, Cathal Berry TD, a former officer/operator in the Army Ranger Wing, Eoin Rochford, Private Wealth Advisor at Goldman Sachs and Anita Hogan Organisational Psychologist, and Series Psychologist on RTÉ’s Ultimate Hellweekgive an account of what lessons in leadership they have taken from their Defence Forces experience and how it shapes their views of leadership as senior leaders within politics and business today.

Topic 2 – Carrying on Regardless – Instilling resilience in professional life

Led by moderator Wesley Bourke, a former journalist with An Cosantóir Magazine now the Creative Director and co-founder of The Irish Military Heritage Foundation CLG, Ray Goggins, Director at Coreskill Training & Chief Instructor of RTE’s Hell Week, Sinead Wearen, now a Behavioural Therapist with the Health Service Executive and James McCann, MD of ClearStory International, discuss the importance of resilience in their everyday professional lives and how their experiences in the Defence Forces instilled the ‘right stuff’ to carry on regardless of when it mattered.

Topic 3 – The Art of Team Building – Insights of how to build a winning team 

Moderated by Phillip Quinlan, Senior Manager, Technology at Ernst & Young, Jim Gavin, Director of People and operations, Irish Aviation Authority, Aviation Regulator, and former Dublin GAA Manager, Amy O’Connor, MD of AOC Consulting and John O’Brien, Operations Director with Manguard Plus outline their experiences in team building and what aspects are needed, from the individual to mindset, to building a winning and maintain a winning team.

Topic 4 – Does the Defence Forces create entrepreneurs? 

Moderated by Deirdre Carbery, Board Member of ONE and Rapid Response Manager at Google, Gabriel D’Arcy, Chairperson, EnergyCloud, Morgan Mangan, Partner at AMROP and Shane Henry, CEO of Reconnaissance Group discuss business building and the key lessons they took following their experience in the Defence Forces on their own entrepreneurial journey. 

Please register your interest to attend here:

https://clearstoryinternational.formstack.com/forms/i_am_a_veteran_seminar_sign_up

Posted in: Irish Defence Forces, Irish Veterans, Óglaigh na hÉireann, Organisation of National Ex-Servicemen and Women, Veteran's Welfare

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Corporal Tony Maher, Maynooth Platoon, C Company, 7th Infantry Battalion FCÁ

Corporal Tony Maher, Maynooth Platoon, C Company,  7th Infantry Battalion FCÁ

Corporal Tony Maher, Maynooth Platoon, C Company, 7th Infantry Battalion FCÁ

Cover image: Members of Maynooth Platoon, C Company, 7th Infantry Battalion FCÁ, at Gormanstown Military Camp.

Kildare has a long military history and to this day people from the county continue to serve or have served all over the world. Due to the Curragh Camp and Defence Forces Headquarters, Kildare has a large number of serving and former members of the Defence Forces/Óglaigh na hÉireann. Prior to the pandemic we began an oral history project aimed at capturing the testimonies of military veterans and ex-service personnel from County Kildare. Each of these recordings is a window into Kildare’s past. Memories of a Curagh Camp tell of a military base that resembled a small town with its own cinema, while others recollect the artillery barracks in Kildare town and the Apprentice School in Naas now closed over two decades. Thousands from the county have served around the world on United Nations peacekeeping missions; from the early deployments to the Congo to as recently as Mali. Many of those who serve go on to join the charities The Organisation of National Ex-Service Personnel and The Irish United Nations Veterans Association; both of whom have reached out across their membership and network to find those willing to tell their story.

Often overlooked are the memories of the part-time volunteers who served locally as members of the Local Defence Force during the Emergency, or in later Cold War decades in An Fórsa Cosanta Áitiúil (FCÁ), the Red Cross or Civil Defence. During these uncertain periods every town, village and area in Ireland had such units with locally trained members. Their story is as important as their full-time counterparts. It is part of our local and national heritage. Many of these stories have been lost over time, but there are still many out there who remember the old units, the buildings they trained in and the exercises they took part in. In this recording Tony Maher reflects on his time as a reserve Corporal with Maynooth Platoon, C Company, 7th Infantry Battalion FCÁ, Irish Defence Forces/Óglaigh na hÉireann.

Corporal Tony Maher, Maynooth Platoon, C Company, 7th Infantry Battalion FCÁ

Today, Tony lives in Celbridge, County Kildare. He is well known for his community work in the area and anyone involved in the sprot of canoeing would know him very well, during the 1960s Tony was a member of Maynooth Platoon, C Company, 7th Infantry Battalion FCÁ. During the Emergency period (1939 – 1946) and the Cold War (1947 – 1991) Ireland remained neutral, however, the threat was still real. During these two periods the reserve elements of the Irish Defence Forces were greatly expanded. Nearly every village in the country had a platoon size or more of reservists stationed there. North Kildare was no different. During the Emergency the North Dublin Battalion of the Local Defence Forces had a Company in North Kildare, with a platoon in Celbridge, Maynooth, and Kilcock. Following the Emergency and the establishment of Fórsa Cosanta Áitiúil (FCÁ), this transitioned to the North Dublin Battalion FCÁ and in 1959, C Company 7th Infantry Battalion FCÁ.

At the time Tony lived in Lexlip and recollects some amazing stories of Lexlip and the surrounding areas in the 1950s and 1960s. Tony grew up not far from where Sergeant Hugh Gaynor lived and had very fond memories of him. Sadly, Sergeant Gaynor was one of the nine Irish peacekeepers killed in the Niamba ambush in the Belgium Congo on 8 November 1960. It was Sergeant Gaynor and the service of Irish peacekeepers that inspired Tony to enlist. The reservists met several evenings during the week and at the weekends. The headquarters for the C Company platoons were as follows: the Methodist Church (now Cunninghams Funeral Directors), Celbridge; the town hall in Maynooth; and the old church off the centre in Kilcock. Life in the reserve infantry back then was defined by marching and the .303″ Lee-Enfield rifle, which Tony remembers like it was yesterday. He proudly still has his rifle competition trophies. Drill, local exercises, training in Gormanstown and the Glen of Imaal, St. Patrick’s Day Parades, and 1916 commemorations were the annual routine.

Tony Maher in German uniform while filming the Blue Max.

Thankfully Tony was an avid photographer and he has kept a remarkable collection of the reservists in North Kildare. It wasn’t all drill and more drill. During this time the FCÁ got called upon to provide extras for the movie the Blue Max; directed by John Guillermin and starring George Peppard, James Mason, Ursula Andress, and Jeremy Kemp. During 1965 Tony found himself in a German World War I uniform and charging across no-man’s land in the Wicklow mountains. Tony managed to smuggle his camera on set.

The history of many of these reserve units has been lost. We are trying to build up the history of the reserve in Kildare and would like to talk to former members. Please get in contact if you would like your story recorded.

This project is supported by Kildare County Council and Creative Ireland.

Posted in: County Kildare, FCÁ, Fórsa Cosanta Áitiúil, Fórsa Cosanta Áitiúil, Irish Army, Irish Defence Forces, Irish Veteran, Irish Veterans, Reserve Defence Forces

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3rd Infantry Battalion Commemorates Handover

3rd Infantry Battalion Commemorates Handover

3rd Infantry Battalion Commemorates Centenary Handover of Kilkenny Barracks

Photos by John O’Byrne

 100 years ago on 7 February 1922, an enthusiastic crowd watched Commandant G. O’Dwyer lead a detachment of Irish Republican Army, accompanied by a band, from St. James’s Park to the military barracks in Kilkenny. The remaining Royal Artillery unit had left the barracks quietly the previous morning. The barracks is today home to the 3rd Infantry Battalion, Irish Defence Forces, and is named after James Stephens. On Sunday a company of 3rd Infantry Battalion, accompanied by the Band of No. 1 Brigade, marched from Kilkenny Castle to James Stephens Barracks in the footsteps of those 100 years ago.  

As part of the centenary, Officer Commanding 3rd Infantry Battalion, Lieutenant Colonel Declan Crummey invited members of the public to an open day in the barracks yesterday, which included live music from St. Patrick’s Brass Band (whose members played for the handover ceremony a century ago), a weapons and vehicles display, and military heritage stalls which included the Lord Edward’s Own Living history group. The Lord Mayor of Kilkenny, Cllr Andrew McGuinness and Cathaoirleach Cllr Fidelis Doherty were also in attendance in honour of Mayor Peter De Loughry, who delivered the oration a century ago.

The Irish Independent on 7 February 1922, reported that: ‘Three special trains from Kilkenny brought the 11th and 146th Batteries of R.F.A. [Royal Field Artillery], which left the North Wall for Catterick and numbered 216 officers and men. They took 6 18-pounder guns and 0 4.5 howitzers with them.

During the same week in 1922, Royal Irish Constabulary continued their withdrawal around the county along with British military units. These included: The Cheshire Regiment vacated its Headquarters at Wicklow Jail, the Dublin Fusiliers from Naas, the 1s Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers from Carlow, the 2nd Battalion King’s Royal Rifle Corps vacated Clones Workhouse, while in Waterford the 1st Devon Regiment, stationed at Waterford military barracks, boarded the SS Great Southern for Devonport. The 2nd Battalion Cameron Highlanders, stationed at Belmont Huts, Cobh, Co. Cork, left for Aldershot. Their quarters were temporarily occupied by thy North Stafford Regiment from Nenagh, Co. Tipperary, while Royal Air Force detachments also left Baldonnel.

Posted in: Irish Defence Forces, Irish Provisional Government, Free State and National Army, Óglaigh na hÉireann

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Defence Forces Mark Centenary of the Handover of Beggar’s Bush Barracks

Defence Forces Mark Centenary of the Handover of Beggar’s Bush Barracks

Defence Forces Mark Centenary of the Handover of Beggar’s Bush Barracks

Photos by John O’Byrne

 Yesterday a ceremonial event was held by the Defence Forces to mark the centenary of the handover of Beggar’s Bush Barracks from the British authorities to the Irish Provisional Government on 31 January and 1 February 1922. In the footsteps of the Provisional Government troops, members of the 7th Infantry Battalion marched through the gates of Beggar’s Bush at 15:00 from Haddington Rd. and paraded on the barrack square. General Officer Commanding 2nd Brigade, Brigadier General Tony Cudmore presided over the ceremony. 

Following the handover in 1922, the barracks became the first headquarters of the new army. It was vacated by the military in 1929. Today the barracks is home to the Irish Labour History Society Museum which is based in the former central garrison headquarters and the National Print Museum, which is based in the former Garrison Chapel.

At the end of the ceremony the 7th Infantry Battalion recreated the famous image of the Fianna Pipe Band and Dublin Guard.

Photos by John O’Byrne

Posted in: Irish Army, Irish Defence Forces, Irish Provisional Government, Free State and National Army, Irish Republican Army, Irish War of Independence

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Cathal Berry TD, Commandant Rtd, Irish Army 1995–2019

Cathal Berry TD, Commandant Rtd, Irish Army 1995–2019

Cathal Berry TD, Commandant Rtd, Irish Army 1995–2019

Taking part in our Kildare’s Veterans’ and Ex-Service Personnel oral history project is Óglaigh na hÉireann / Irish Defence Forces veteran Dr Cathal Berry T.D. in Newbridge, Co. Kildare. Cathal is an Independent TD for the constituency of Kildare South. Cathal is a father, husband, doctor, veteran and is a resident of Portarlington, Co. Laois. He is married to Orla and is the proud father of their young children Tom and Katie.

Prior to becoming a TD, Cathal spent 23 years in the Irish Defence Forces. He entered military service with the Cadet School, Military College, Curragh Camp in 1995. After a tough 21 months training he was commissioned into the Infantry Corps. During his time in the Defence Forces, he spent six years in the Army Ranger Wing (ARW) and served overseas in the Balkans, Africa and the Middle East. In 2008, Cathal led an ARW unit in Chad. He later took a self-funded career break to qualify as a medical doctor in Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland He subsequently worked in the HSE Ireland hospital emergency departments all over the country and then returned to the Defence Forces where he was appointed head of the Military Medical School in the Curragh, Co. Kildare. He retired from service at the rank of Commandant.

This project is supported by Kildare County Council Heritage Office and Creative Ireland.

Posted in: County Kildare, Irish Defence Forces, Irish Veteran, Irish Veterans

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