"Ireland's Military Story", issue 4. Winter 2016

Malcolm Redfellow

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This is little more than a "heads-up" for anyone interested.

Two useful pieces:
  • Pages 22ff: The Motor Torpedo Boats
Dáire Brunicardi looks at the Irish Marine Service during the Emergency period and the Motor Torpedo Boat flotilla.
  • Pages 43ff: Emergency Over Irish Skies
Like its Army and Marine Service counterparts the Irish Air Corps in 1939, was ill prepared for war. In the rst part of a series, AP ‘Tony’ Kearns, outlines the defence of Irish skies during the Emergency.
Together these give an appreciation of just what the Irish sea- and air-capabilities amounted to, in 1939-45.

In both cases, the answer has to be — as of 1939:
almost completely defenceless. The army had been progressively starved of realistic equipment and reduced in size since 1922. Most seriously there was no form of seagoing defence, and it was suddenly realised that a neutral coastal state was required to be able to defend its waters under International Law and The Hague Convention.
I guess we all appreciate that; but the marine defence was pitiful:
The ‘Treaty Ports’, the defended harbours of Cork Harbour and Berehaven in Cork, and Lough Swilly in Co. Donegal, had been handed over to the Irish State in 1938. They had been maintained as British naval bases for use in time of war under the terms of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, since 1922, and as such a Royal Navy presence was retained in Irish waters. This was in the form of two destroyers, which had moorings in Cork Harbour. When the ports and the defending forts and batteries were handed over to the Irish authorities, the Royal Navy withdrew with the British garrisons. There was now no naval or seaward defence force in Irish waters.
As of that moment, Ireland's entire naval "force" amounted to two fishery patrol vessels, the antique Muirchú (better known as the former armed-yacht Helga)


and the more recent steam trawler Fort Rannoch.


To that were added — eventually — six Thorneycroft MTBs. Brunicardi takes a dim view of this addition — and my Dear Old Dad (who served on MTBs up the Aegean in the Second Unpleasantness) would have concurred.

For me, the other point of interest in that essay was learning:
An MTB was also stationed in the Shannon estuary to protect the international flying boat station at Foynes, until a battery of 6” guns was established at Ardmore Point became operational in 1943.
Now, now! Cui bono? Would that be another not-quite-neutral act by the Irish government during the Emergency? And where did a couple of six-inch guns come from? I know of the two 6-inch guns (parts missing) at Bere Island, and I'm told there are two more at Spike Island.

The second piece, by Kearns, on the air service, is useful. It gives a complete listing of the air resource as of 1939. I found it quite remarkable, considering it came at the end of the Economic War and difficulties of the 1930s:
... in the Summer of 1939, the Air Corps had one main base at Baldonnel in Co. Dublin. It had a total of 43 aircraft consisting of three operational squadrons, with a total of 512 all ranks.
In truth, Ireland was then defended by three Gloster Gladiators (though there ought to be a fourth, somewhere).
 


Armchair Activist

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I'll comment so I can track the thread.
 

McTell

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No
...

In truth, Ireland was then defended by three Gloster Gladiators (though there ought to be a fourth, somewhere).

Malc, why didn't they split germany into 100 small states in 1945?
 

Malcolm Redfellow

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Malc, why didn't they split germany into 100 small states in 1945?
Somewhat off-topic, Friend McTell.

Essentially, because
  • "they" split it just four ways; and
  • each of the Four Powers, at least this side of Smolenskaya Square, recognised Balkanisation would not have worked to anyone's benefit.
Sometime, some thread, we'd have to engage seriously on how and why the Morgenthau Plan evolved into something that could and has worked.

Morgenthau gets the discredit; but Harry Dexter White of his Treasury Department seems to be the main proponent. From there, through the various Joint Chiefs of Staff Directives. Then, General Lucius Clay (now he's someone who deserves his gold star in the history books) recognised realities, and leant on Secretary of State James Byrnes, and greased the training-wheels of the Marshall Plan.

Obviously, thanks to Irving and his slime-merchants, such a discussion would flush out — yet again — the usual low-lifes on this site.

On the other hand, we might have the chance to reflect on, and even applaud the Sir Humphreys of the British Foreign Office (and their legal eagles). They, after all, briefed Ernie Bevin (and prepped the likes of Dennis Healey in the Labour Party Research Department) to conceive a foreign policy which recognised the threat from Moscow. Thus the German Basic Law.
 

Boy M5

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You found it remarkable Ireland was then defended by 3 Gloster Gladiators?
So in terms of air defence Air Corps was better prepared then than now.
 

danger here

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Reading a very interesting book on this at the moment. We didn't even invest in basic air defense or air raid sirens. We were still using the WW1 armoured cars the Brits left behind from the war of independence. One thing I didn't know on a political level is that Dev tried to turn the Sudetenland crisis is his favour by pressuring the Brits over the North, while at the same time saying Hitler was sorta right in what he was doing. In fairness though, he absolutely duped Chamberlain over the Treaty Ports, that was a serious triumph.

I'm a bit tired now but I'll have a good look through it tomorrow.

In all Eire there were only two serviceable tanks - both were Swedish Landsverk L-60 light tanks attached to the Calvary School
 

Malcolm Redfellow

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Reading a very interesting book on this at the moment. We didn't even invest in basic air defense or air raid sirens [1]. We were still using the WW1 armoured cars the Brits left behind from the war of independence [2]. One thing I didn't know on a political level is that Dev tried to turn the Sudetenland crisis is his favour by pressuring the Brits over the North, while at the same time saying Hitler was sorta right in what he was doing [3]. In fairness though, he absolutely duped Chamberlain over the Treaty Ports, that was a serious triumph [4].
[1] Nor did most other nations. During the 1930s the general public became acutely aware of the threat of aerial attack — not surprising with the news of what was happening in Manchuria (1931-2), in Ethiopia (1935-6) and climatically at Guernica (26th April 1937). The key name here is the South African journalist, George Steer, who made the British aware of both the Italian atrocities in Ethiopia and of Guernica. Two basic assumptions persisted: that the main danger was not high-explosive attacks, but gas; and, as Stanley Baldwin put it in November 1932:
... it is well also for the man in the street to realise that there is no power on earth that can protect him from being bombed. Whatever people may tell him, the bomber will always get through, The only defence is in offence, which means that you have to kill more women and children more quickly than the enemy if you want to save yourselves...
Although the British government had a Committee on Air Raid Precautions in May 1924 (chair: Sir John Anderson, later of shelter fame), the unstated belief was any "precautions" would be gestures and palliatives. Even then the assumption was, in any future war, the distinction between combatants and non-combatants would largely disappear.

Only in the mid-1930s did the topic rise up the political agenda: the German Air Protection Law (Luftschutzgesetz) was probably a prototype; and the British Air Raid Precautions laws date only from December 1937. Ireland was hardly a unique laggard — and the Stormont régime lived in a dream-world that they were beyond the reach of bombers, so diverted finance from Westminster to other ends.

[2] The same issue of Ireland's Military Story has (pages 33ff) an account of the Inchicore Railway workshops producing an Irish Designed, Irish Built, Ford Armoured Car from a V8 truck chassis and 3/8th inch steel plates recycled from RIC barracks. Later versions were in use at Jadotville during the Congo operation.

[3] De Valera's ambivalences to and in the League of Nations are a much bigger topic.

[4] The Treaty Ports were just one item in a near-wholesale (that is, leaving aside the partition business) settlement between Ireland and Britain. Even the British Chiefs of Staff — calculating the cost of a British division and AA-defences at each of the ports — agreed that:
it would be preferable to waive insistence on a formal undertaking which might be impracticable for Mr de Valera to give, and which would not necessarily have any value in the event, if by doing so we could secure a satisfactory agreement with Ireland.

(see Coogan, page 518, citing Sir Samuel Hoare)
Again, far too big an issue to ruffle off here. However, as I've made clear on previous threads, I seriously doubt the British lost much by vacating the ports, and certainly gained a great deal by the "friendly" pseudo-neutrality of The Emergency. I'd just add, I'd see the Treaty Ports only becoming an issue because of Churchill's loud intransigence.
 

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No

Malcolm Redfellow

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No because while we're on the subject of numbers of bits of metal, we may as well cut to the chase and discuss the number that really matters after 1945, the number of germanies.

Above 20 would have been a safe minimum. McCloy didn't want that - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_J._McCloy
If you want a thread to debate the Morgenthau Plan, its successor JCS 1067, and the rest, please propose one, and lay out your wares. It could be interesting.

I'd do my best to respond, and invoke Kennan, Clay, Bevin, Marshall and Truman. Of course, the main reason why a fragmented Germany didn't and couldn't happen lay with Stalin (with his seminal diktats to Pieck, Ulbricht and the KPD on 4th June 1945).
 


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