Spoon bashing

SpoonsThe game of spoon bashing was brought back to 21Bn by Gerry Paley who first saw it on rugby trips to Edinburgh.

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.

Spoons copySo 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.

I predict a riot!

Words and pictures by Des Fitzgerald

On the day of the Christmas party in the late 1980’s (I think it might have been 1987) we got to do riot training in ‘The Brugha’ before we headed off to the Hotel Pierre (as it then was) for the customary meal and feed of drink.

It was one of the better ‘Christmas events’ we enjoyed in the 1980’s; up there with the fund raising gun pull (tow) from Dalkey to Cathal Brugha in aid of the Children’s hospital in Crumlin.

The 2nd Battalion lent the equipment, while we provided our own rioters most of whom were recruits who relished the opportunity to legitimately throw things at us.  The Barracks provided a suitable battleground in the form of a street like location in the laneway behind our stores and an ample supply of turf as ammunition for the mob to use.

I recall Noel Lyster and Sammy Campbell instructed us in the drills.  Advancing; strategically repositioning to the rear; and opening the front rank for a snatch squad to charge out and come back with the prisoners.  I remember somebody querying a statement that “…you drive everybody off the street”, with a question “..and what about innocent bystanders”?  “Son”, came the reply, “by the time you get on the streets there will be no innocent bystanders”.

That set the mood for the afternoon.



Admin edit: The author of this memoir is Dermot Bradley, who is sadly no longer with us. Dermot went on to be a highly respected historian and decorated civilian in Germany. His honours included the Verdienstkreuz 1st Class of the Federal Republic of Germany, Bundeswehr Cross of Honour in Gold (1993) and Honorary President of the Association of Defence and Security Policy in Nordrhein-Westfalen.



It was a great day for our “army”, having used tank operations of the German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel and Colonel General Heinz Guderian. After 24 hours of “fighting” we had won the day. This was in September 1959. The eldest of our “soldiers” was just under 16 years of age. We were well (-self) trained soldiers, having read everything available about the First and Second World Wars and Ireland’s policy of neutrality. We were the born soldiers, divided into two groups. All the local boys played our War Games. It was clear that we decided things so that our “German” group should win more frequently than the “Allied” group.

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Where are they now?

A coy 21st

A post which has it all – a photo, a story and “where are they now?”. The photo is from Cpl Duggan P 1044876, who is now active in US politics!
Paul takes up the story: This photo was taken early 80s Rock-brae House . Its been a long journey from Rock Brae house to the political state house. I suppose its been the indelible memories of many great NCOs, Officers and Men that made monumental impressions on me in my early and mid twenties. From my old classmates Cpl Walsh at Kilmacud national school to Alan Kavanagh who sat in front of me in Oatlands college. My first induction by Capt Rochford in 1971 in B Coy and my second coming in 1979/80 in A Coy in Rockbrae house The Doyle brothers, Lt Bigley, so many names to mention and my dear old friend JG Doyle RIP ( who always had a smile and a story to tell) . You need a sense of humor when getting involved with US politics. To cut a long story short I landed the position of Deputy Chief of QC at V CORPS US Army Transportation in the mid 80s and moved Gen Colin Powell to Washington DC the rest of the story you can track on my background on one of the political web sites  www.pauldugganfornjsenate.com

When I came to the USA the first thing I did after getting my permits was to get myself a #4 .303 enfield so I could clean it myself without anyone yelling at me. I graduated then to the BAP and the FN to my collection and I try to keep my marksmanship skills up to TOET levels LOL

Paul is third from the right in the back row.

Glen of Imaal – luxury!

Glen1 Glen2

The pictures above show the huts in the Glen in the 1970s and today. I expect that some of the older soldiers on this site will find the photo on the right un-recognisable.

Previous posts have commented on the pot-bellied stoves and attempts to get them to glow red. Turf had to be collected in old blankets and as often as not would be damp. The room would fill with smoke and the rain would drip down through the chimney opening. Look at the “now” photo on the right and on the left side a radiator is clearly visible and on the wall we can see a thermostat! Of course getting the place warm was only one challenge – keeping it so was even more difficult. David Flood recalls how pillows were often employed to block the windows where the missing glass would let in the elements.

If there is one thing the Glen is not short of, it’s sheep. In the early days, before there were female members of An Forsa, guys could be seen each evening washing, shaving and applying after shave – well you wouldn’t want to get an ugly one, would you! The sheep would also come into the camp and shelter under the huts. One day a recruit was passing the sergeant’s hut and asked Johnny Byrne what the sheep was doing lying there. “That’s where I throw them when I’m finished with them”, he explained, the callous cad.

There was lots of choice for going out when on camp in the Glen. There was both Fenton’s AND the Glen Inn. I seem to recall that one of the greatest physical challenges on camp was not climbing Keadeen or fording the Slaney, but climbing the south face of the jacks in Fenton’s after a few pints. On one camp I over-heard a fellow talking to his mates about the night-life – “There’s no action around here at all”, says he, “Tonight I’m off to DONARD”! I still cannot imagine Donard as the Sin City of County Wicklow.

Officers’ course 1985

Mick O'Toole, Sam Irwin and Timmy Doyle

Mick O’Toole, Sam Irwin and Timmy Doyle

After many happy years as an “enlisted man” I agreed to go on an officer’s course in 1985. Some people have asked me why I waited so long, as I had been asked on a number of previous occasions. The answer is that while at work, I was making what I felt were big decisions, like marketing budgets, and whether to give a person a dealership, or even hiring and firing. On camp most decisions were made for me! “Stand over there”, “Lights out at 11:59”, “Today you are eating stew”. It was great! I know in real life an NCO makes life and death decisions, but not on camp.

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Recollections by Kevin Browne

Recollections by Capt Kevin Browne, Bn Adjutant 21 Inf Bn

Like many before and after me my first formal introduction to the FCA was a visit by two recruiting personnel to my School. It was October 1968 and I had just completed my Intermediate Certificate and moved into 5th Year in St Michael’s CBS, Eblana Avenue, Dun Laoghaire. While I had seen people in Uniforms before at Corpus Christi processions etc I had never thought about the FCA or anything to do with the Army.

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Military Vocabulary

I recently dug out my “Musketry” manual and although it has a pretty old-fashioned name it contained vocabulary, searching ground and fire control orders. The copy I have is dated 1946 and is stamped “Forsa Cosanta Aituil 30 Jan 1952, Carlow” in the old Irish script, the Clo Gaelach.

Read on for a discussion of military vocabulary and some of the phrases that drove us mad as privates and I am sure we used as we rose through the ranks!

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Car Stories

In 1972 no one of my age had a car, and very few had access to one. The days of the two car family were still far off and even if not, the chance of your mother letting you have her car to go to camp would have been very slim. After a few years though we began to have access to our own transport and life became much freer.


I will motor through a few stories after the break.

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1975 – First camp as corporal

1975 and Waterford again. My first camp as a corporal and I got a great section. Again I was pretty busy and only took a few photos, I think it was also Conor’s POTS course and I got some pictures of that class. Both my section and the POTS class included guys who are still active in the 62nd – see if you can spot them!

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