Irish Marine Service 1939-45


Being an island, one would have expected that of all arms of its defence forces, Ireland's maritime force would be somewhat significant.  With that in mind, it is interesting to learn that on 3rd September 1939 Ireland's Naval Service did not even exist!  Strange though this was, it was stranger again when one considers that the government had only just taken control of the defences of some of the countries most important ports and that the island was now on the front line of what was to become the battle of the Atlantic! 

The beginnings of the Emergency period Naval Service began on 29 August 1939.  On that day a coastwatching Service was set up following a decision taken back in January of that year.  The force was to be manned by volunteers from the defence forces territorial reserve forces who lived in coastal areas.  With this in mind, a depot was set up in Portobello barracks in March and recruiting began in August.  The members were to be stationed in look out posts on vantage points all around the coast of Ireland. 

By September 1st, 34 men had been recruited and eight Look Out Posts(LOPs) set up along the coast from Wexford to Kerry. Eventually there would be 88 such posts ,under the control of 9 coastal districts which in turn reported to the relevant Army Command area.

The watchers were initially housed in tents but soon concrete block houses were constructed and it was from posts like these that for 5 long years, a vigil was kept on the cold Atlantic for aerial and naval vessels. The men who manned these stations were people who knew the coast well and because of their function, were allowed to live at home. Because they were unarmed, received lower pay than the rest of the armed forces and got minimal military training they became a focus of jokes. It was for this reason that they were jokingly named, "Saygulls". Despite this jibe at their lives, these men, like Seagulls were knowledgeable of the local area and indeed were virtually the front line against any force that moved against Ireland.
Their main functions included;