The Irish Army’s Three Tanks

Published in 20th-century / Contemporary History, Book Reviews, Issue 2 (Summer 2001), Letters, Volume 9

Sir,—Myattention was drawn to the photograph on page five of the last issue(HI vol.9, no.1, Spring 2001), which accompanied the short article ‘TheBritish Offer to End Partition, June 1940’. As noted in the caption, itwas one of three tanks used by the defence forces during the Emergency.
The vehicle is a Swedish-built Landsverk L-60 light tank, a modelwhich was found to meet the requirements established in 1933 by a boardof inquiry composed of the director of the Armoured Car Corps, Maj.A.T. Lawlor, and the OC of the Cavalry Workshops, Comdt. J.V. Lawless.Their choice reflected sound judgement, given that the L-60 was one ofthe most advanced designs of the 1930s, displaying features that wouldbecome standard for the tank designs of the Second World War, such aswelded construction, angled armoured plates to increase protection, andtorsion bar suspension. The first of two L-60s arrived at the NorthWall, Dublin, on 22 November 1934, and was driven to the Curragh, whereit became part of the 2nd Armoured Squadron. This unit contained thedefence forces’ first tank, a single Vickers medium tank Mark ‘D’(often erroneously referred to as a Mark ‘C’) which had been purchasedfrom Britain in 1929, so that altogether they made up the three tanksused by the defence forces during the war years.
However, on 1August 1941, this number was reduced to two when, during an exercise totest anti-tank obstacles constructed by the Corps of Engineers, theVickers Mark ‘D’ was damaged beyond repair—an encouraging outcome forthe engineers at any rate! Indeed, during the Emergency the defenceforces’ tanks were used primarily to aid the infantry in anti-tanktraining, as related by one of the participating officers:

Wespent a whole month on the road—we were like Duffy’s Circus, ‘one nightand one night only’. We went to all those places and we demonstrated tothe Infantry boys that if they dug slit trenches properly, a tank couldrun over them and they’d be quite safe.

The L-60 light tankswere retired sometime in the mid-1950s and, so far as I know, remain atPlunkett Barracks awaiting restoration.

—Yours etc.,
PAUL V. WALSH
Pennsylvania

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