Reserve Defence Force

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An Fórsa Cosanta Áitiúil

Reserves: Between 1927 and 1939 various classes of Reserves were experimented with. These may be summarised as follows:-

Class A Reserve: This Force was established in May 1927 and consisted of Regular NCOs and Men transferred to the Reserve. Though small in numbers (never exceeding 5,000 in total) were obviously the best trained of all the Reserves. Over 80% reported annually for training and in 1939 it provided a considerable number of experienced NC0' s and potential NC0' s in a period of rapid expansion, Class B Reserve: This Force was established in January 1928 with the object of building up on a voluntary basis, the Infantry arm of the Defence Forces. Its conditions of service were three months initial training followed by one month's annual training with liability for six years Reserve service. It was not a success, never exceeding 3,600 in strength, and it had practically ceased to exist by 1934. It was handicapped by the fact that it did not provide for the training of NC0 's. However it attained a satisfactory standard of basic training as an average 77% reported annually for training.

Volunteer Reserve: This Force was established in the Autumn of 1929. No initial training was required. Members attended parade once weekly, with four weekend camps per year along with fifteen days annual training. It was divided into three units, one Battalion in Dublin, an Artillery Battery in Cork and an Officer Training corps in third level colleges. A total of 1,229 enlisted in the Officer Training College (OTC) while 987 enlisted in the other two units. Apart from the fact that this class of Reserves produced a number of officers, it was organised on too small a scale to have any great effect. The units were disbanded in 1935. Volunteer Force: This Force was established in March 1934. Apart from basic military requirements there was a political consideration in the formation of this Force. Fianna Fail who had assumed power in 1932 were anxious that the army should be more representative of the different political persuasions in the country. Since 1924 the army had obviously been comprised of Pro-Treaty supporters. It was hoped that this new force would attract men who would be considered Anti-Treaty in outlook. To this end a number of men who had prominent Anti-Treaty records in the Civil War were commissioned at the initial stages as Administrative Officers.

Territorially the Force was divided into regimental areas taking their names from the ancient Irish kingdoms where they were raised:- Areas:

The Regiment of Oriel - Counties Louth, Meath and Monaghan. The Regiment of Leinster - Counties Kildare, West Wicklow, Wexford and Carlow.

The Regiment of Dublin - County and Borough of Dublin and East Wicklow. The Regiment of Ormond Renamed in 1935 - Ossory. Counties Kilkenny, Waterford and Tipperary.

The Regiment of Thomond - Counties Limerick and Clare. The Regiment of Connaught - Counties Galway, Mayo and Roscommon.

The Regiment of Breffni Counties Cavan, Longford, Leitrim and Sligo. The Regiment of Tirconnail - County Donegal.

The Regiment of Uisneach - Counties Laois, Offaly and Westmeath. The Regiment of Desmond - Counties Cork and Kerry.

Pearse Regiment: On the 6 November, 1935 the Regiment of Pearse (formerly the OTC) was added to this list. The Force consisted of three lines of Reserve with varying conditions of service. Those of the First Line had to undergo initial training along with a commitment to 30 days annual training. The First Line reached a maximum strength of 10,578 by April 1935. On 1 September 1939 the strength was 257 officers and 6,986 other ranks. The Second Line basically consisted of Personnel who had been trained in the First Line and had been transferred. The Third Line was intended to be a reserve of specialists in civilian life who would be of value to the army upon mobilisation. The Volunteer Force was unique in several respects. It was the first scheme to make provision for recruitment into all Arms of the Service. It also provided, not alone for the special training of Non-Commisioned Officers (NC0's) but also the further training of NC0 's for commissions. The inclusion of civilian committees (known as Sluaghs) to help recruiting and administration at a local level was another feature of the Force. After some initial enthusiasm, the Sluaghs gradually disappeared to be replaced by committees composed solely of Volunteers. The Volunteers also had a distinctive uniform, darker than the ordinary uniform, with black boots, leggings, belts, chromium buttons and badges and forage caps. Finally the Volunteer Force carried out its training without the help of cadres from the Regular army (which was by now too small to carry out this task anyway).

Unfortunately the standard of training of the Volunteer Force was not what it should have been. Between 1935 and 1938 the attendance at annual training averaged only 57%. Consequently they could not operate alone upon mobilisation. However Volunteer Force personnel were to make an essential and invaluable contribution to the Defence Forces when called out on active service in 1940. The Local Security Force (L.S.F.): This still not forgotten force was created on the 28 May 1940 as an auxiliary police service. Instituted under a Garda Act its activities were to be devoted to auxiliary police and internal security work. Recruiting forms were dispatched to Garda stations on the 31 May 1940 and by 16 June of the same year 44,870 members were enrolled. These figures give some idea of the speed and extent of the response to the "Call to Arms" in those days. On the 22nd June 1940 it was decided to divide the force into two groups:-

"A" Group - to be an auxiliary to the army

"B " Group - to continue as an auxiliary to the Police Force. By August 1940 the strength had risen to 148,306 and by October of the same year detailed organisations for each group were issued and District Staffs were formed. By the end of 1940 the army had more or less completed its expansion to a war-time footing and was then in a position to take over the control of "A" Group from the Gardai. On the 1st January 1941 it was handed over to the Command and control of the Army and was given the new title of "The Local Defence Force" (An Fórsa Cosanta Áitúil). The "B" Group continued as an auxiliary police force and retained its old name - "The Local Security Force" (L.S.F.). From the military point of view the L.D.F. was the equivalent of many additional battalions to the Defence Forces.

Growth and Work of the L.S.F.: The L.S.F. was organised in groups around each Garda Station. After the "A" Group was taken over by the Army. "B" Group continued to recruit and in a short while had recruited an additional 10,000 men and throughout the Emergency kept itself up to strength. It was organised into sections and squads and specialised in the following types of duties:

Traffic Control Communications A.R.P. Protective duties Transport. First Aid While other elements of the Defence Forces devoted most of their time to training, the L.S.F., while training was important, were required to devote much of their time to actual work. Police duties, patrolling and observation were important aspects of their activities. Unlike the soldier who was trained to act as part of a team the L.S.F. member acted more like a policeman and therefore more emphasis was placed on training to enable him to act alone. Duties of L.S.F: In the cities and large towns their systems of patrols and beats were designed to coincide with times of local crime peaks. A survey of 200 commendations issued to members include the detection of such crimes as housebreaking, larceny, dangerous driving, saving of life from burning buildings, assistance to Gardaí under assault and many more. They also assisted the Gardaí in searches for alleged parachutists, missing persons, crashed aircraft and kept a watch for floating mines and provided cordons when required. They also assisted at two General Elections. Assistance to other Government Departments was also provided. Some of these tasks are listed as follows:

Distribution to households of tea rationing forms and ration books (March 1941). Census of turf cutting (July 1941).

Survey of accommodation available for refugees. Provision of patrols to enforce the Regulations governing the movement of cattle on outbreak of foot and mouth disease.

The L.S.F. discharged their duties with a discipline and willingness hard to match. Without a supplementary organisation such as this, it is easy to see how the P.D.F. could be dissipated and taken away from its primary role of defence in forward areas. By freeing the active army from the important and essential tasks outlined they made a most valuable contribution to our security.

The Local Defence Force (L.D.F.): As pointed out above this was the "A" Group of the L.S.F. transferred to the army on lst January, 1941, given its new title with military status and responsibility and integrated into the combat organisation of the country under full military discipline. Their main weapons were the rifle, bayonet and grenade. The organisation was mostly one of rifle companies and platoons. Some of the strengths shown for this force are interesting:- 1942 - 98,429 1943 - 103,530 1944 - 96,152

These strengths were regarded as being 90% effective and reflect a rise and fall as the European battle front approached or receded from our shores. Post War Developments: A post war establishment of 12,500 all ranks saw a rapid demobilisation and reorganisation within a small period. The Regular Army was now composed of three Brigades, one in each of the Commands. In the Southern Command 1 Brigade had the 4, 12 and 13 Infantry Battalions; in the Eastern Command, 2 Brigade had the 2, 5 and 7 Inf Bn; while the Western Command 4 Brigade had the 1, 3 (though this remained stationed in the Curragh Training Camp) and the 6 Inf Bn. Each of the Corps had a field unit in every Brigade.

In 1947 all reserve forces were dis-established and in their place were created the First Line Reserve and The Army Reserve which was classed as Second Line. The basic principles underlying this establishment were that:-

The three brigades at about half strength could, with their reserves be quickly mobilised to full strength. Provide normal garrison and training establishments.

Provide cadres for the Reserves. This organisation remained until 1959 when "Integration" was introduced by which the Army Reserve was integrated with the Regular Army. Six Brigades of mixed Regular and Army Reserve units, each with only one Regular Battalion were established with the intention that the remaining units would be filled by Army Reserve personnel upon mobilisation.

In 1979 there was a change in the structure and role of the Army Reserve which had been in existence since the 1959 integration. The six integrated Infantry Brigades were reduced to four PDF Brigades and the Eastern Command Infantry Force (ECIF). A new Command structure was set up for the Army Reserve with a Directorate of Reserve Forces The role of the Army Reserve units changed: they were now tasked with local defence and security, reinforcement of PDF units with trained manpower, and the replacement of PDF units in Barracks should the need arise. (Confirmed by the Minister in the Dail on the 15 May 91)

Females were inducted into selected units of the Army Reserve in 1990 and from 1992 all units were permitted to recruit females. In 1997 a Steering Group was convened by the Chief of Staff to conduct a special study on the Restructuring of the Reserve Defence Forces. The Report was completed in May 1999.