Irish Naval Service?

Published in Issue 1 (January/February 2014), Letters, Volume 22

Above: Three motor torpedo boats—increased to six in 1942—could do very little to defend Irish waters during the Emergency. (Military Archives)

Above: Three motor torpedo boats—increased to six in 1942—could do very little to defend Irish waters during the Emergency. (Military Archives)

Sir,—May I make a small comment on Michael Kennedy’s article, ‘Neutrality: “the very essence of Irish independence”?’ (HI 21.5, Sept./Oct. 2013)? He mentions the Irish Naval Service defending Irish waters during World War II. This arm of the Defence Forces did not come into existence until 1946. Its forerunner was the Marine Service, an ad hoc formation, which came into existence officially with the enactment of the Defence Forces (Temporary Provisions) (No. 2) Act, 1940. A Coast Watching Service had been established the previous August, and on the outbreak of war and the declaration of neutrality the name had been changed to the ‘Marine and Coast Watching Service’. Marine personnel were recruited and vessels acquired and manned, and even though naval uniforms and rank markings were used, these were unofficial until the act of June 1940. The Marine Service was divorced from the Coast Watching Service in 1942.

The caption to one of the accompanying photographs [right] says that ‘neutral Ireland actively defended its territory (and waters) during wartime’. Casting no reflection on the determination and commitment of the officers and men of the Marine Service, three motor torpedo boats (MTBs) could do very little to defend Irish waters; the two ex-fishery patrol vessels had little military capability. The MTBs, increased to six in 1942, were, latterly, confined largely to the defence of Cork Harbour. In 1945 the Marine Service was largely demobilised. By the beginning of 1946 its strength was reduced to 166 officers and ratings. At this stage the decision was made to incorporate a naval arm as part of the permanent Defence Forces and the necessary legislation enacted forming the ‘Naval Service’.—Yours etc.,

DAIRE BRUNICARDI

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