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.