Military History Books
by Harold A. Skaarup   www.SilverHawkAuthor.com   
 
Artillery - Ireland, Tanks and AFVs

Tanks, Armoured Fighting Vehicles and Artillery preserved in Ireland

Data current to 1 March 2020.

The aim of this website is to locate, identify and document every historical piece of artillery preserved in Ireland.  Many contributors have assisted in the hunt for these guns to provide and update the data found on these web pages.  Photos are by the author unless otherwise credited.  Any errors found here are by the author, and any additions, corrections or amendments to this list of Guns and Artillery in Ireland would be most welcome and may be e-mailed to the author at hskaarup@rogers.com.

Irish Tanks

In 1929, Ireland acquired a small number of Vickers Mark D tanks.

 (The Thousand Eyes Photo)

The Landsverk L-60, two of which were operated in Ireland from 1934, were small and lightly armed two-man tanks armed with a 20-mm Madsen anti-tank gun and a 7.7-mm machine gun.  This one is on display at Collins Barracks in Dublin.

 (An Cosantoir Photo)

Churchill 1B ‘Bit Special’ scales an obstacle with 1D following.  Scaling steep inclines was one of the best qualities of the Tank.  Ireland acquired four Mk. VI Churchill tanks.  In 1948, following a brief period during which several Cavalry Corps officers trained in England, the Defence Forces of Ireland rented three Churchill Mk.VIs from the British War Office.  A fourth tank was delivered in 1949.  The tanks were bought out-right in 1954.

 (An Cosantoir Photo)

Churchill ‘1B’ of the 1st Cavalry Squadron.

 (The Curragh Photo)

Cavalry Officer trainees are taught about the Come by an instructing Lieutenant, early 1960s

In 1958, the Cavalry Corp (Irish: An Cór Marcra) began to receive a small number of A34 Comets, which, like the preceding Churchills, were purchased from the British War Office.  The Comet was the polar opposite of both vehicles, and was the most technically advanced tank then in service with the Irish cavalry.

  (Curragh Camp Museum Photo)

Comet of the Curragh Command, note the symbol on the side of the turret.  Comets served with the 1st Cavalry Squadron who were based at Curragh Camp in Kildare.  For their initial years in service, the Comets remained in the standard British green paint.  At some point in their history, the tanks were repainted in a light grey, similar to the L-60s.  The tanks were used extensively in training operations at the Curragh and at the Glen of Imaal (Irish: Gleann Uí Mháil), in the Wicklow Mountains. 5,948 acres of the Glen has been used as an artillery and gunnery range since 1900.  The vehicles also took part in a number of public and military parades.

Of the eight Comets used by the Cavalry Corps, six survive as two were destroyed after accidents (One of these became the ‘Headless Coachman’). Four of the tanks remain in Ireland.  These can be found at the Curragh . Two are used as gate guardians, one is on display alongside a surviving Churchill Mk. VI.  The fourth Comet still runs and is kept under cover, it is sometimes run in parades.
The remaining two found their way back to England. One of which one is at The Muckleburgh Military Collection in Norfolk. The museum received it in 1987 in exchange for a Peerless lorry.  B 2012, the Comet had been restored into a working condition.  The second Comet was first acquired by the long-closed Budge Collection, and was later sold to the Jacque Littlefield Collection in California. It is now presumably with the Collings Collection in Massachusetts.

 (IDF Photo, Getty)

Scorpion in training on the Glen of Imaal. It is an earlier example, signified by the .50 Caliber machine gun mounted on the roof.

In the late 1970s, the Irish Cavalry Cavalry Corps (Irish: An Cór Marcra) decided to retire their small fleet of Comet tanks purchased from Great Britain in 1958.  These Second World War tanks had served well with the Cavalry corps, but by this point were on their last legs with constant breakdowns and a lack of spare parts.  A replacement was required that shared the same qualities; mobility and firepower.  In the early 1980s, such a replacement was soon found in the shape of the compact, highly mobile and air-deployable light tank, the British FV101 Scorpion CVR (T).  The Scorpion would be the first tracked vehicles purchased by the Defence Forces of Ireland (IDF), (Fórsaí Cosanta, officially: Óglaigh na hÉireann) since those Comets some twenty years prior.  They became the last tracked vehicles in operation, and also the last vehicles to be bought from Great Britain.

The Scorpion’s small size, good speed, and a relatively potent gun made it an attractive vehicle for the Irish Defence Forces’ Cavalry Corps.  Subsequently, the Irish Military purchased a total of 14 of the tanks between March 1980 and December 1985.  The numbers were thus: 4 in 1980, 4 in 1981, 4 in 1982, 2 in 1985.

The Scorpions were delivered in their standard British configuration armed with the 76-mm L23A1 and equipped with wading gear that was soon removed.  The 76-mm gun proved to be somewhat of a problem as there was no fume extractor.  When the gun was fired the turret compartment would fill with smoke and fumes.  Should the gun be fired with turret closed down, the effect was even worse. One way the British and other armies dealt with this was by removing the 76-mm turret and replacing it with the turret of the FV107 Scimitar armed with the 30-mm Rarden Cannon.  The Irish Military, on the other hand, wanted to keep the larger caliber 76-mm.  As such, they developed their own fume extraction system (FES) which kept the tank safe to operate.

The Scorpions stayed in service for 37 years, only being stood down in 2017. The role of the tank has largely been taken over by Ireland’s main armored vehicle, the wheeled 8×8 MOWAG Piranha IIIH, 80 of which have been in service since 2001.

Artillery in service with Irish expatriate soldiers known as the Wild Geese

As part of the Treaty of Limerick in 1691, the Irish forces of Patrick Sarsfield, who had fought the army of William of Orange to a standstill, were given the option of sailing to France to join the Stuart King, James II, in exile.  Shortly after Sarsfield signed the Treaty of Limerick a French fleet arrived with reinforcements and many urged Sarsfield to tear up the Treaty and fight on.  This he would not do; having given his word of honour, he kept it.  Believing they had negotiated a treaty that guaranteed the rights of their people, perhaps as many as twenty thousand Irish soldiers sailed with Sarsfield to France.  The treaty that Sarsfield had honoured was not honoured by the British.  In a vindictive twist, they tore up the treaty and replaced it with severel Penal Laws which stripped Irish Catholics of their land, persecuted them for their religion and removed all rights of citizenship.  These grievances led to the exodus of Irish recruits who joined various foreign armies in the hope of one day restoring their land and rights.  These Irish soldiers are known to this day as "The Wild Geese".

For the next hundred years the French Army included an Irish Brigade in its Order of Battle, beginning with the men of Justine MacCarthy (Lord Mountcashel), followed by the influx of Sarsfield's 20,000 soldiers.  A steady stream of young men from Ireland followed.  "Cuimnidh ar Luimneach agus ar Feall na Sasanach!" (Remember Limerick and the Saxon Faith (i.e., English betrayal)), became a battle cry of the Irish Brigade in the service of France.

Although many of these young Irishmen may have joined foreign armies looking for adventure and others just to make a living, many were looking to fight the ancient enemy, England.  It has been estimated that as many as half a million or more Irishmen died fighting for France in the century after Limerick.  The majority of the recruits came from the counties of Clare, Limerick, Cork, Kerry and Galway.  French ships which arrived on the west coast smuggling in brandy and wine would depart with recruits for the Irish Brigade.  In the paper work required for the ship's manifests, the recruits were be listed as "Wild Geese", thus the origin of the name.  In 1745, after France's Irish Brigade was instrumental in the famous victory over the British at Fontenoy, England's King George II would express a sentiment many British soldiers would have reason to second over the years: "Cursed be the laws which deprive me of such subjects."

Though the term "Wild Geese" is usually used for the men of the Irish Brigade in France, France was not the only destination of these "Wild Geese".  Many went to Spain, where Irishmen had actually been serving for many years in great numbers, forming a number of regiments in the Spanish army.  Irishmen served in the Armies of Austria, Russia, Poland and the various German Kingdoms.

Many of the "Wild Geese" rose to prominence in the Armies of Europe.  George Brown of the Austrian Army, was made a Field Marshal by Emperor Charles IV and eleven different men named Walsh became Field Marshals or Generals there.  Francis Maurice Lacy, was a Field Marshall in the Austrian and Russian Armies and many reached high commands in France and Spain.  An Irishman named McMahon became Minister of War and President of France. The "Wild Geese" fought in battles all over Europe and the world through the years.

In South America Bernardo O'Higgins became the Liberator of Chile and Admiral William Brown, from Mayo, became the Father of the Argentine Navy.  Members of the Irish Brigade of France served as Marines with the American Continental Navy under John Paul Jones on the "Bonhomme Richard" and others were at the Battle of Yorktown with Rochambeau.  The Hibernia regiment of Spain fought the English at Pensacola, Florida in 1781. Many thousands of Irishmen were already living in America, and 17 of them rose to be generals in the Revolutionary army.  They are as much "Wild Geese" as their irish brothers in arms in other armies, fighting in great numbers to do in America what they and their fathers could not do in Ireland: Throw off the iron arm of England.

During the American Civil War, six grandsons of George McCook, a United Irishman, were Union Generals and another six were field officers.  Irish-born Meagher, Corcoran and Shields were Union Generals and for the Confederacy, Corkman Patrick Cleburne was one of their finest commanders.  More that 150,000 Irishmen served in the US army, most notably with the Irish Brigade, and some 50,000 more wore the grey uniform of the Confederacy. Fifty-three percent of the 600 Nuns who served as nurses during the American Civil War were born in Ireland, and no doubt many more were Irish-American.  All deserve to be included in the list of exiles of the Gael with the proud name of "Wild Geese."  The history of Ireland includes the history of the many millions of people driven from their land by famine and oppression, that led to the existence of all the "Wild Geese."  (Internet: The Wild Geese Today, http://www.thewildgeese.com/)

Artillery Corps (Ireland)

The Artillery Corps are the artillery section of the Irish Army.  Founded in 1924, the Corps provides fire support to other sections of the Army.  From the early 20th century, the Artillery Corps was organised into separate Coastal Defence, Field Artillery and Air Defence Regiments.  In the late 20th century, the Coastal Defence component was dissolved and integrated with the Field Artillery component.  In 2013 the Air Defence regiment also ceased to operate as a separate component, and the Field Artillery regiments, known as Brigade Artillery Regiments, took over the Air Defence role. Today the Artillery Corps comprises the Artillery School, located in the Defence Forces Training Center (DFTC) in the Curragh Camp, and two Brigade Artillery Regiments (one for each of the two Brigades of the army). They are located in Collins Barracks, Cork (1 BAR) and Custume Barracks, Athlone (2 BAR).  Each regiment comprises one headquarters battery, one Surveillance and Target Acquisition (STA) battery, one Air Defence battery and three gun batteries. 

Irish Field Artillery elements are equipped with L118 and L119 105-mm howitzers (main artillery support weapons), Brandt mle 27/31 (3.2-inch, 81-mm) mortars, and Ruag 120-mm heavy mortars.  An Ordnance QF 25-pounder field gun is retained for use as a ceremonial gun.  Air Defence elements are equipped with the RBS-70 Surface to Air Missile system.  Bofors EL-70 40-mm air defence guns previously in use have been in storage since 2013.  The Browning .50 calibre HMG on a cobra mount also serves.

 (William Murphy Photo)

 (Irish Defence Forces Photo)

105-mm L118 Field Gun.

The 31st Reserve Field Artillery Regiment was a field artillery unit of the Southern Brigade Irish Reserve Defence Forces tasked with the defence of part of County Tipperary and also with providing support to the 1st FAR, a unit of the Irish Army. 

The Corps of Artillery of the Irish Army was founded in 1924, and based in Connolly Barracks in the Curragh Camp.  The Patron saint of the corps is Saint Barbara, and she appears on the corps insignia sitting astride a cannon.  The 31st FAR came into being on 1 October 2005, and was made up of units from the former reserve structure, the FCÁ.  The units which were disbanded in order to form the new 31st FAR were the 8th FAR (Cork), 3rd FAR (Tipperary) and part of the 14th Infantry Battalion also from Tipperary.

The 8th FAR was originally formed in Ballincollig in 1979.  It was made up of the reserve batteries which had once formed part of the 1st FAR. The regiment consisted of two batteries: 2nd Battery (25 Pounder field guns) and 21st Heavy Mortar Battery (120 mm Mortars).  The unit moved to Collins Barracks in Cork City following the closure of Ballincollig Barracks.  2nd Battery and 21st Battery merged to become 1st Battery of the 31st FAR on 1 October 2005.

Glossary

Demi-culverin: A bore averaging 4 inches (11.4-cm) and firing a shot of 9–12 lb (4.1–5.4kg).   A medium gun similar to but slightly larger than a saker and smaller than a regular culverin, developed in the late 16th century.

Saker: A bore averaging 3 inches (8.9-cm) and firing a shot of 5–6 lb (2.3–2.7kg). Used both to loosen stonework and as an anti-personnel weapon.  16th century, slightly smaller than a culverin.

Minion: A bore averaging 3 inches (8.3-cm) and firing a shot of around 4 lb (1.8kg). Primarily an anti-personnel weapon for use in the field.  A small gun used during the Tudor period and into the late 17th century. 

Falcon: A bore of 2 inches (7-cm) and firing a shot of 2–3 lb (1.1–1.4kg).  Like the falconet, it is a field piece used as an anti-personnel weapon.

Falconet: A bore averaging 2 inches (5.7-cm) and firing a shot of around one lb (0.7kg).  15th century light gun.