An Cosantóir

An Cosantóir July-August 2021

An Cosantóir the official magazine of the Irish Defence Forces and Reserve Defence Forces.

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Page 17 of 63

18 COASTAL AND MARINE SERVICE THE FIRST IRISH NAVY - THE COASTAL AND MARINE SERVICE 1923 – 1924 Major General Joe Vize. General Officer Commanding the Coastal and Marine Services In the summer of 1923, as the new Irish Free State emerged from the trauma of the Civil War, the naval arm of the Defence Forces - the Coastal and Marine Service - deployed nineteen, armed sea-going vessels flying the Tricolour. With headquarters at Portobello Barracks (now Cathal Brugha) and operational stations at Dun Laoghaire, Cork, Galway and Killybegs, it was adequately resourced for its role. Ten months later, all those ships - with the exception of the Muirchu - had been sold off or laid up pending disposal. This is the story of the short-lived and forgotten first naval force of independent Ireland. In the spring of 1922, as the country appeared to be moving inexorably towards Civil War, Michael Collins was very aware of the potential of the sea as a route for the anti-treaty forces to obtain arms. He had been very much involved in the successful running of guns by Charlie McGuinness on the tugboat Frieda into Waterford Harbour on 10th November 1921. He also knew that McGuinness had run another cargo on the schooner Hannah into Helvick on 3rd April 1922. To add to his worries about the need to control the seas around Ireland, anti-treaty forces had commandeered the tugboat Warrior and had used it to pursue and capture the 700 ton cargo ship the Upnor off Ballycotton. The Upnor was under charter to the British government and was carrying arms and munitions to England as part of the British evacuation. The coup yielded a considerable haul – 500 rifles, 33 Lewis guns, 700 pistols and a half a million rounds of ammunition. It is no wonder that Collins decided to act but what about the Anglo-Irish Treaty? At first reading Article 6 of the Treaty precluded the establishment of an Irish navy. Article 6 stated: Until an arrangement has been made between the British and Irish governments whereby the Irish Free State undertakes her own coastal defence, the defence of Great Britain and Ireland shall be undertaken by His Majesty's Imperial Forces. However this shall not prevent the construction or maintenance by the Government of the Irish Free State of such vessels as are necessary for the protection of the Revenue or the Fisheries.' After the seizure of the Upnor, Collins spoke to Churchill and got agreement for the purchase of four ex-Admiralty 40 ton motor launches for coastal patrol. The sale was completed on 11th May. The launches were 110 ft long former American submarine chasers and were normally armed with depth charges, a 3" gun and a Lewis gun. The boats bought by the Irish Government were armed with the Lewis gun only. The total cost was £4,400 and the boats were designated M-L 1, M-L 2, M-L 3 and M-L 4. A Commander J.E. Blay was engaged to bring the ships to Kingstown (Dun Laoghaire). The delivery voyage was eventful and almost By Patrick McCarthy B.DC, PhD, MBA Photos provided by the Naval Service ELCO Motor Launch. Here is ML 285 a sister launch to the four purchased for Ireland. (ML 1, 2, 3 and 4.) Photograph:

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