Here is a photo I took of A Coy. participating in the 1967 Easter Parade
by Comdt. Pat Rochford
With the ending of the Emergency the Local Defence Force (L.D.F.) was stood down on the 31st. March 1946. A new part-time volunteer reserve called An Forsa Cosanta Aitiuil (F.C.A.) was established under Defence Force Regulation R.5 with effect from April, 1946
The new force was organized on territorial lines and became the Second Line Reserve of the Army. The area formerly covered by Dun Laoghaire and Rathfarnham Districts L.D.F. was allocated to the newlyformed South County Dublin Battalion (F.C.A.).Training centers were established in Dun Laoghaire, Dundrum, Rathfarnham, Blackrock, and Stillorgan. The South County Battalion was grouped with the North and South Wicklow Battalions to form the Wicklow Area. Area headquarters were located in Rockbrae House, Bray. The structure of the F.C.A. battalions was similar to that of the regular army with minor adjustments. Battalions were commanded by F.C.A. officers with the rank of Captain. The area commander was a regular officer of Commandant Rank. He had the assistance of a regular cadre consisting of an administrative officer and a number of other ranks. A regular C.Q.M.S. and store/driver were posted to each battalion. There was a staff officer in Eastern Command Headquarters to supervise the operation of the areas and a Colonel in G.H.Q. with the title of Director of the F.C.A. He was responsible to the General Staff for the direction of the force.
Captain Tom Egan was appointed to command the South County Dublin Battalion and he was the ideal role model for all who had the honour to serve under him. Lieutenant Stan Forster was second in command and Lieutenants John Nolan and Paddy Ryan were the original Company Commanders. The posts of Adjutant and Quartermaster were filled by Lieutenants Jack Burke and Jim Doyle respectively. The Platoon Commanders were Lieutenants Mick Delahunty, Gerry Fitzgerald and Brendan White. Lieutenant White joined the battalion transferring from the 44th. Battalion. Lieutenants Nolan and Doyle were veterans of the War of Independence.
All the founding officers of the battalion served in the L.D.F. during the Emergency. As the strength of the battalion increased, there was a need for further officers and a number of senior N.C.O.’s were recommended for promotion. Having successfully completed the required training course, medical examination and interview, the following were commissioned as Second Lieutenants: – Seamus Taite, Pat Rochford, Jack Haughton and Frank Gallagher. Bill Ivers was commissioned, having qualified as a medical doctor, he transferred to the 11 Field Medical Company. At a later stage, David Golding, Eddie Doyle, Niell Coughlan and Des Walsh were promoted to fill vacancies within the commissioned ranks. Lieutenants Doody and Henry joined the battalion for a short period on transfer from other units.
Non-commissioned officers, particularly at senior level, are the backbone of any unit, and the South County Battalion was very well served by such men as Tom Byrne, Pat Reynolds, Joe Kinch, Mick Reade, Peter Campbell, Tony Grimes, Dick Haughton and Pat Whelan to name but a few. Johnny McLoughlin, our P.D.F. C.Q.M.S. was a father figure to all ranks and Oliver Seery was a popular regular soldier who was attached to the battalion for a considerable period.
In 1946 the live firing tables applicable to the disbanded L.D.F. were expanded to include rapid and snap shooting practices at 300 yards. This was the result of the provision of a greater supply of ammunition and the availability of transport to bring to the ranges in Kilbride, Gormanston and Kilpedder. The new range table’s required qualifying standard and more attention to training in rifle marksmanship became necessary. In addition, battalion had to provide teams to compete in various shooting competitions.
The issue of the Energa, Gustaf and Bren meant courses to qualify N.C.O.’s to act as instructors in the new weapons, and the subsequent exercising of trained personnel on the firing range. The F.C.A. and their P.D.F. colleagues can pride themselves on the feet, despite a busy training schedule, accidents, involving serious injury, rarely occurred. This was due to constant vigilance and a strict adherence to the prescribed safety precautions. It is surprising to learn that approximately 700 members of the British Home Guard died as a result of training mishaps during World War 11.
An annual platoon competition was initiated in 1949 and each battalion was obliged to enter a platoon. The competition for the Eastern Command was held in Gormanston during annual training in August of each year. The test subjects were drill, rifle marksmanship, musketry and grenade throwing. March discipline was added after a few years. Training for the competition had a mixed effect on the overall standard and the experiment was abandoned in 1957.
During the 1950’s the F.C.A. were frequently required to participate in important religious and civic events by providing colour parties, guards of honour and marching contingents. There was an annual Easter military parade in Dublin and the Wicklow Area was required to supply a quota of company strength to augment the South Dublin Area.
A radical reorganization of the Defence forces, involving the integration of the P.D.F. and the F.C.A. was proposed with effect from the 1st. of October 1959. With this organizational change, the South County Dublin Battalion passed into history and was replaced by “B”. Company, 21st. Infantry Battalion, F.C. A.
There will be a function for ex-members on April 9th, 2016 at 20:00 in the Eblana Club, Dun Laoghaire.
We are also asking for any memorabilia you may have (whether acquired legally or not!) to be part of a future display marking the history of the Battalion in Dun Laoghaire. Amnesties and confession will be available on the night if required.
More information will follow closer to the date.
I remember we were on camp in the Glen and it was arranged that trucks would take us into Dublin to welcome the team back. Some of the regular cadre even made green white and orange dickey bows to sell to us, such was their dedication.
We parked the trucks in Trinity College, probably courtesy of Pat Holohan, and set off to find the boys in green. As we set off we looked up Dawson Street and saw a crowd gathered at the Mansion House and went up there expecting to see the team. They weren’t there, but Nelson Mandela was there, getting the freedom of the city.
Nelson must have been overcome to see such a large crowd gathered waving Irish flags. He may not have understood the chant that went up though – “Oooh, Aaah, Paul McGrath’s Da”!
Much later the team bus arrived and I watched from half-way up a lamp post on College Green before we headed back. Happy days…
We set up in the men’s mess and offered a prize to anyone who could beat the reigning champion – Sgt Paley.
The 2 protagonists would set up opposite each other, straddling a bench. In order to avoid anyone cheating they had to hold each other’s hands, and with a dessert spoon held between their teeth they would take turns to bash each other on the head. The guy being hit had to put his head down to allow his opponent to strike, but this also meant he could not see what was going on while he was being struck.
In the spirit of fair play (!) the challenger would be allowed go first and so Paley would lower his head, and the guy would try and hit him as hard as he could. It was then that the challenger realised that no one can get enough leverage with a spoon held between your teeth to hurt your opponent. Much to the challenger’s surprise when he lifted his head he would see Paley rubbing his crown and gritting his teeth as though he had been seriously injured.
The challenger then lowered his head in turn, and Gerry’s assistant (Mick O’Toole), who had retrieved a soup ladle from the kitchen, would give him a fair sized “BOP” on the head. Your man at this stage would look very bemused and when Gerry lowered his head in turn the challenger would try all his might to inflict a telling blow – but knew in his heart that the spoon just moved in his mouth and no injury was inflicted. When he had received a second “Whack” from the ladle our man would cop on that there was a fix and get very upset much to the amusement of the gathered multitude who, of course, could see what was going on all the time.
So one night after the Paley challenge a second match took place which is the one pictured above. In this photo we can see my hand with the ladle coming in from the left to “bop” the guy on the head. This fellow however was not for giving up and took quite a few heavy blows before we took pity on him and declared him the winner.
The next morning I was the orderly sergeant when I spotted a soldier with no cap on. “Where is your beret, soldier!”, I roared to be told that it no longer fitted his head such was the size of the lump that had come up from the bashing he took the night before. We had to excuse him from the parade and hide him during morning inspection. I think the swelling had gone down enough by the next day for him to parade as normal and I don’t know if, or when, he ever found out that he was victim of a set up.
While going through various photos I have collected during recent years I found these ones of Christmas parties. Generally the drill for B Company was a field day for Christmas competitions and then back to the Hotel Pierre or the Elphin for food and drink. In later years we would sometimes repair to the Coastguard Station where, following the tradition of Roman Saturnalia, the officers would serve the men. As everybody in the FCA had once been a G1 – there being no cadet school, Sandhurst or West Point – this was no big deal!
During one of Rossa’s(?) more inspired recruiting drives, a sandbag emplacement was constructed on the top floor of Dun Laoghaire Shopping Centre. It was located just about where Santa’s Grotto used to be set up. It was probably best that any potential recruits did not have to sit on the CO’s knee during the process though.
The photos from the occasions show a visiting mairnéalach as well as Deccy in his alternate Shopping Centre security uniform. Things are so bad in Dun Laoghaire now that the security staff are dragging people INTO the centre!