Early Irish Free State Naval Activity

Eddie Bourke

Dainty

The early years of the Irish Free State from January 1922 were a time of turmoil after the war of Independence ceased with the Truce in July 1921. The British army commenced their withdrawal and the Free State Army developed from the Volunteers of the IRA. The seizure of the Four Courts in summer 1922 marked the commencement of the Civil war and a huge military build up by the new government. This was aided by the transfer of equipment from the British alarmed at the possibility of renewed hostilities by Republicans especially in the Six Counties. The craft acquired were disposed rapidly in 1923 after the defeat of the Irregulars in the Civil War when it became clear that the new state could not afford to maintain a significant army and navy it was disestablished after 11 months in March 1924. It is hardly realised that this short lived force was the most extensive naval fleet ever operated by the state.

Acquisition of armed trawlers

Major General Vize established a force in May 1923 at Killybegs, Dun Laoghaire, Haulbowline and Galway with HQ at Portobello Barracks. The fleet was:

Name type tonnage Armament
Dainty Deep sea tug 469 12 pdr Ex admiralty
Muirchu Patrol Vessel 323 12 pdr Ex Fisheries
John Dunn Mersey class trawler 250 12 pdr
William honner Mersey class trawler 250 12 pdr
Christopher Dixon Mersey class trawler 250 12 pdr
Robert Murray Mersey class trawler 250 12 pdr
Thomas Thresher Mersey class trawler 250 12 pdr
Mersey class trawler 250 12 pdr
TR 24 Canadian class trawler 200 12 pdr
TR 25 Canadian Castle class trawler 200 12 pdr
Tr27 Canadian class trawler 200 12 pdr
Tr29 Canadian class trawler 200 12 pdr
Tr 30 Canadian class trawler 200 12 pdr
Tr 31 Canadian class trawler 200 12 pdr
Inisherer Drifter 36 Mg Congested Districts board
John S Somers Drifter 36 Mg
ML 1 80 foot Described USA but probably Canadian
ML 3 80 foot ditto
Ml 4 80 foot ditto
unnnamed River patrol in Shannon
Unnamed River patrol in Shannon
Unnamed River Patrol Waterford
Unnamed River Patrol Lee
Unnamed reserve
190 Steam Launch Naval Pinnance Mg
199 Steam Launch Naval Pinnance Mg

 

Blockships Gorilla and dredger Owencurra

Blockships Gorilla and dredger Owencurra

The civil war troop landings

patrol boat

Canadian built patrol boat used on lough Corrib as a pleasure craft by A.E Guinness thought to be purchased from Southampton but possibly one of those acquired for Irish State.

Passage West

Blockships Gorilla and dredger Owencurra sunk in the Lee to obstruct landings at Cork in 1922

 

Union Hall

On 7-8-1922 the Arvonia and the Lady Wicklow commandeered steam packets from the LNWR and B&I landed troops from Dublin at Passage west. An armoured car was landed at Passage west.

 

Kenmare

On 11-8-1922 the Margaret and Mermaid carried troops from Limerick to Coogmar pier in the Kenmare River.

 

Union Hall

The Irish Lights tender Alexandria landed troops at Union Hall on 12-8-22.

 

Kinsale

On 25-8-1922 troops were landed from the Helga at Kinsale.

 

Sligo

The Tartar was used on 21-7-1922 to engage Irregulars in the Rosses point area and Sligo.

 

Westport

On 22-7-1922 the Minerva carried 400 troops and artillery from Dublin to Westport.

 

Fenit

The Lady Wicklow landed troops at Fenit pier on 7-8-1922

 

Cork

The Slieevnamon, St Senan and Mayfield were chartered from the Cargo steamship company of Dublin on 11-11-1922 as transport vessels and to patrol the Cork coast. They were equipped with searchlights and sometimes used to transport prisoners.

The Slievenamon ran aground at Ballycotton during her service and was assisted by the Dainty and the lifeboat before being salvaged by Ensors.

 

River crossings

The Guinness barge Shannon, tug Corona, motor yacht Lady Ada, steamers St Nicholas, Mermaid, Countess, Erin and Margaret were used for river crossings in the Shannon and Waterford.

 

References

  • The Irish Navy by Tom McGinty, Kerryman, 1995
  • Ireland’s Civil war by Calton Younger
  • The Seahound by Daire Bruncardi
  • A history of the Irish Naval service by Aiden McIvor
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