The Curragh
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CAVALRY CORPS
80th ANNIVERSARY

 

 

 

The 'Armoured Car Corps' was established on the 14 Sep 1922 (in latter years known as 'Orgainsation Day') under the command of Comdt Joe Hyland. At a time when the horse was regarded as the true cavalry, this fledgling corps was mechanised from the outset. Immediately following the War of Independence, the British Army handed over a variety of armoured cars to Irish Forces.  These included Rolls Royce, Peerless and Lancia vehicles which were sent to various centres around the country.  As there was no centrallised control of these cars, they became known as 'Free Lances' and the establishment of the Corps was to mark the end of this period.  Famously, one of the Rolls Royce cars, ARR2 'Sliabh na mBan' , was escorting General Michael Collins when he was killed.  This car is retained in Cavalry Museum Vehicle Collection in DFTC and is the last of the Rolls Royce series that was handed over by the British Army.  

The Corps was organised with a HQ in Portobello Bks and armoured detachments throughout the Army.  At each Command HQ an Armoured Car Corps (ACC) Officer was appointed to command the companies located there.  In 1924 the Corps moved to the Curragh and the Corps Workshops at Tintown was established.  The rest of the decade was spent mostly on training but in 1928, Major A.T. Lawlor took command and began the process of revitalising the Corps.  An intensive training programme was initiated and the first tracked vehicle, a Vickers MKD 10, was purchased.

The role of the Cavalry was the subject of much discussion which addressed wheather Cavlry should be wheeled, tracked, motorised or on horses.  A Horse Sqn was considered and Cyclists sqns were formed but, significantly, in 1934preparations began for the home production of armoured vehicles.  The Corps title was changed to the more all-encompassing 'Cavalry Corps', the Corps badge was redesigned and the distinctive Glengarry was adopted as the Corps headdress.

In 1936, as Europe was heading towards war, 8 Landsverk Armoured cars and 2 Landsverk light tanks arrived from Sweden.  WW2 led to the establishment of Motor Squadrons as the reconnaissance unit of the Bde.  Extra Armoured Sqns equipped with Leyland, Landsverk, Rolls Royce, Dodge and Ford Armoured Cars were formed and there was even a Carrier Squadron of Bren-Gun Carriers from 1941-43.  It is also noteworthy that during exercises in 1942 there was a short-lived attempt to organise units into a cavalry regiment.

After WW2 a tank cadre was set up in the Curragh with the purchase of 4 Churchill tanks. This was the foundation for the establishment in 1959 of the 1st Tank Sqn equipped with Comet Tanks.  This existed for 14 years until its disbandment in 1973.

Cavalry personnel have served with distinction overseas with United Nations Peacekeping Forces, chiefly in the Congo, Cyprus and Lebanon. Ireland was first called on by the United Nations to furnish troops for the Congo in 1960. An armoured car group was formed from all cavalry units, making up, in addition to the infantry, some 54 cavalry man in four sections of Ford armoured cars. The Ford cars were later modified in the Congo by adding hood louvers, internal cooling fans and new engines.  

Ireland again supplied troops to the UN in 1964, this time for Cyprus.  The old amrmoured cars were completely unsuitable so eight new French Panhard AML 60 were purchased with eight more obtained six months later for use by the home based squadrons.

In 1978 the Cavalry Corps again answered the overseas call sending cavalry troops to Labanon.  The Recce Coy of the Battalion and later, the Battalion Mobile Reserve (BMR) had an armoured recce section of AML 90s and SISU APCs.  A smaller cavalry detachment served with the multi-national Force Mobile Reserve whose function it was to provide support to any UN position deemed to be in danger from any source.  Following in their predecessors' footsteps in the Congo and Cyprus, personnel of the Cavalry Corps were involved in all major incidents in UNIFIL, further enhancing their reputations as professional and dedicated soldiers.

The Cavalry Corps has been reduced considerably as a result of the new re-organisation.  The Depot Cavalry has been disestablished, the Cavalry School has become part of the Combat Support College and the 1 Tank Squadron and 1 Armoured Car Squadron have merged to become the 1 Armoured Cavalry Squadron.  |This new unit maintains the tracked skills in the Corps with the Scorpion Combat Reconnaissance Vehicle Tracked (CVR(T)).

The CVR (T)  is currently undergoing tests to appraise its suitability for a Life Extension Programme.  Pending the successful outcome of these tests the Scorpion CVR (T) may be upgraded to Peace Support Operations (PSO) standard.

Both the AML 60 and AML 90 have recently successfully completed life extension programmes.  The 60mm mortar was replaced with a 20mm gun.  Both types of vehicles are dieselised, have been fitted with laser finders and have night vision capability.

The Cavalry Corps has broadened its horizons with the advent of the PSO battalion.  The added roles of light recce and close armoured recce in addition to its normal role of medium recce adds a new challenge to the Corps.  With these additional skills Cavalry Corps personnel may in the future be serving in PSO as an armoured recce group.  This challenge will be welcomed by all in the Cavalry School and the Cavalry Squadrons.

The 80th Anniversary celebrations were concluded with a drive past of armoured vehicles Old and New. Some which I managed to capture on film and others that I missed including a Comet tank driven by Joe O Neill which rumbled up the camp to the joy of all watching.

 

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ROLL OF HONOUR

CAVALRY CORPS MEMBERS WHO LOST THEIR LIVES ON OVERSEAS MISSIONS

United   Nations
NAME LOCATION DATE
 

CONGO

 
Sgt Hugh Gaynor Niemba 8 Nov 1960
Tpr Anthony Browne Niemba 8 Nov 1960
Tpr Thomas Fennell Niemba 8 Nov 1960
Tpr Edward Gaffney Elizabethville 13 Sept 1961
Tpr Patrick Mullins Elizabethville 15 Sept 1961
Cpl Michael Nolan Elizabethville 15 Sept 1961
 

CYPRUS

 
Sgt John Hamill Kitima 4 Apr 1965
Cpl William Hetherington Famagusta 19 July 1965
Cpl James Fagan Panozodhia 10 June 1968
Tpr. Michael Kennedy Famagusta 1 July 1969
 

LEBANON

 
Sgt T Yeates Brashit 31 May 1980
Tpr P Fogarty Hill 880 20 July 1986
Tpr J Cambell Beirut 15 Sep 1999

REST

IN

PEACE

Cavalry Day 2009