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Throughout its history, the Irish Army has used a number of armoured fighting vehicles.

File:Irish Army Rolls-Royce Armoured Car Co. Cork 1941.jpg

Irish Rolls-Royce Armoured Car Co. Cork 1941

Rolls-Royce armoured car[edit | edit source]

Two of thirteen Rolls-Royce armoured cars used during the Civil War: The Fighting 2nd (ARR3) and The Big Fella (ARR8)

During the Irish Civil War thirteen Rolls-Royce armoured cars armed with Vickers .303 machine guns.[1] were handed over to the Irish National Army by the British government. All were in service with the Irish Defence Forces up until 1944 and withdrawn because the supply of tyres was exhausted. The Defence Forces has preserved one Rolls-Royce armoured car named 'Sliabh na mBan', as it's believed to be the actual Rolls-Royce that accompanied Michael Collins's convoy when he was killed.

Peerless Armoured Car[edit | edit source]

The Irish National Army received seven Peerless armoured cars during the Irish Civil War and these were used by the Irish Defence Forces up until 1932. The Peerless armoured cars were fitted with two turrets each both armed with a single Hotchkiss machine gun. In 1935, 4 Irish Peerless armoured hulls were mounted on modified Leyland Terrier 6x4 chassis. A year later their twin turrets were replaced by a single Landsverk L60 tank turret. This new vehicle was known as the Leyland Armoured Car and remained in Irish service until the early 1980s. The fourteen old Irish Peerless turrets and its Hotchkiss machine guns were fitted to Irish built vehicles in 1940 called the Ford Mk V Armoured Car.[2]

Lancia Armoured Car[edit | edit source]

The Lancia armoured cars were built by the Great Southern and Western Railway workshops, Dublin, in 1921 for the Royal Irish Constabulary. 111 Lancia's were received by the Irish National Army and all were disposed of by 1937. As many as fifty Lancia's were fitted with railway wheels and used by the Railway Protection, Repair and Maintenance Corps for railway patrols.[3]

Vickers Mk. D Tank[edit | edit source]

The Vickers Mk. D was a one-off design built for the Irish Free State and delivered in 1929. It was developed from the Vickers Medium Mark II tank but had a more powerful, water cooled, rear mounted, 6-cylinder Sunbeam Amazon petrol engine, developing 170 bhp at 2100 rpm and a 6 pdr gun was fitted. As many as four Vickers .303 machine guns could be fitted.[4] When the tank was scrapped in 1940 the 6 pounder gun was removed and used as an anti-tank weapon.[5]

Landsverk L60 Light Tank[edit | edit source]

The first Irish Landsverk L60 light tank was delivered in 1935 and joined Ireland's only other tank the Vickers Mk. D in the 2nd Armoured Squadron. The second Landsverk L60 arrived in 1936. They were both armed with a Madsen 20 mm cannon and a Madsen .303 Machine Guns. The Landsverk's were still in use up until the late 1960s. One L60 is preserved in running order by the Army and the other is in the National Museum of Ireland, Collins Barracks, Dublin.[6]

Leyland Armoured Car[edit | edit source]

File:Leyland Armoured Car.jpg

Leyland Armoured Car at Bovington Tank Museum

The Leyland Armoured Car was based on a 6x4 Leyland Terrier lorry chassis. The first chassis was purchased from Ashenhurst of Dublin in 1934 and an armoured hull from an obsolete Peerless armoured car was modified and fitted. The new vehicle was tested and it was recommended that the twin Peerless turrets be replaced with a single turret. In 1935 3 more Leyland Terrier chassis were bought and the Landsverk L60 tank turret was selected in 1936 to replace the twin Peerless turrets, however it was not until 1940 that all four Leyland armoured cars were finished. The armament of the Leylands was a Madsen 20mm cannon and a Madsen .303 machine gun. The Leylands entered service with the 1st Armoured Squadron alongside the Landsverk L180 and Irish build Dodge armoured cars. In the 1958 the Leylands front hull was modified and were re-engined with Ford V-8s and .30 Browning machine guns replaced the Madsens plus another Browning was fitted in the hull next to the driver.[7]

One of the Leyland's was scrapped in the 1960s. In 1972 the 1st Armoured Squadron re-equip with Panhard AML armoured cars and the three surviving Leylands joined the reserve FCA 5th Motor Squadron until they also re-equip with Panhard AMLs in the early 1980s.[7]

Landsverk L180 Armoured Car[edit | edit source]

Ireland ordered its first 2 Landsverk L180s in 1937 and where delivered the following year. 6 more were then ordered and they were delivered in 1939. A further 5 were ordered but could not be delivered because of the outbreak of the world war. These 5 were used instead by the Swedish army under the designation Pbil m/41. Irish Landsverk L180s where armed with a Madsen 20mm Cannon and 2 Madsen .303 Machine Guns. The Madsen machine guns where replaced with .30 Browning machine guns in the 1950s and the 20mm cannon was replaced in the 1970s with Hispano-Suiza 20mm cannons take from former Irish Air Corps De Havilland Vampire jets. In the 1950s the Landsverks engines were replaced with 5,195cc Ford V8 type 317 petrol developing 155 hp at 3,200rpm. All Irish Landsverks belonged to the 1st Armoured Squadron and used alongside the Irish built Leyland and Dodge Armoured Cars until they re-equip with Panhard AML armoured cars in 1972. The Landsverks were then transferred to the reserve FCA units, five going to the 11th Motor Squadron and three to the 3rd Motor Squadron until they were all retired in the 1980s.[8]

GSR Morris Mk IV Armoured Car[edit | edit source]

In 1940 a Defence Forces committee decided to build 8 improvised armoured cars on lorry chassis for the protection of aerodromes. The Army purchased eight second-hand Morris Commercial lorries and one was delivered to Great Southern Railways (GSR) workshops for them to build and fit an armoured body. The GSR Morris Mk IV armoured car had no turret instead the machine gun crew had to fire through loopholes. After the building of the first Morris armoured car it was decided change the role of the planned new vehicles from aerodrome defence to the same role as a regular armoured car. For this role a better chassis and engine was needed than that of Morris Commercial lorries so the seven remaining improvised armoured cars were built on Ford chassis and were known as the GSR Ford Mk IV, they were transferred to the army's Supply and Transport Corps. The Morris Mk IV was disposed of in 1946.[9]

GSR Ford Mk IV Armoured Car[edit | edit source]

The seven GSR Ford Mk IV armoured cars were also built by Great Southern Railways (GSR) and were similar to the Morris Mk IV but a turret with Hotchkiss machine gun also built by GSR was fitted. All the Ford Mk IVs were built and delivered in 1940. The army sold all 7 Ford Mk IVs in 1954.[10]

Ford Mk V Armoured Car[edit | edit source]

Thompson & Son, Carlow built the 14 Ford Mk V armoured cars. The Ford Mk V was cheaper and had better performance than the GSR Ford Mk IV armoured cars. The old Peerless armoured car turrets and their Hotchkiss machine guns were fitted. All Ford Mk Vs were sold in 1954.[11]

Ford Mk VI Armoured Car[edit | edit source]

In 1941 Thompson & Son, Carlow built twenty eight more Ford armoured cars. Twenty one of the armoured cars were built on new chassis and the other seven built on Ford lorries withdrawn from service. These 28 armoured cars were similar to the Ford Mk V but had a Thompsons built turret and the new vehicle was named the Ford Mk VI armoured car. The turret was armed with a Vickers .303 machinegun.[12]

The first major overseas deployment of Irish troops was to the Congo in 1960 as part of the UN force ONUC. In 1961 an Armoured Car Group with eight Ford Mk VI armoured cars was flown to the Congo. Three more Ford Mk VIs were sent out later that year to the Congo, 2 of which had their turrets removed and a pintle mounted Bren light machine gun fitted in its place. The Brens on the two Ford Mk VIs were replaced in the Congo with Browning .30 machine gun. In 1962 the UN provided the Irish with twelve new Ferret armoured cars to replace the Ford Mk VIs. In 1964 six of the Ford Mk VIs were handed over to the Congolese Army.[12]

The 17 Ford Mk VIs in Ireland were retired in the early 1970s.[12]


Bren carrier[edit | edit source]

26 Universal Carriers Mk I were purchased in 1940. 100 Universal Carriers Mk II were delivered in 1943 and another 100 Mk IIs in 1945. The vehicles were referred to 'Bren Carriers' by Irish troops. The first 26 Bren Carriers were grouped together to form the Carrier Squadron of the Cavalry Corps. The Carrier Squadron was disbanded in 1943 and its carriers distributed amongst the army's infantry battalions. All 200 of the Bren Carriers Mk IIs were used by the infantry battalions mainly for transporting its 3-inch and Brandt 81mm mortars, ammo and crew. Later 2 Mk IIs were fitted with flame throwers for use by the Corps of Engineers. A number were used in the late 1940s to tow 6 pdr anti-tank guns and 4 were used by the Cavalry School. The Bren Carriers were retired from service in the early 1960s.[13][14] With 113,000 Universal Carriers being built worldwide it was the most numerous armoured fighting vehicle in history and with 226 in Irish service it is the most numerous armoured vehicle ever used by the Irish Army.

Dodge Armoured Car[edit | edit source]

The first Dodge Armoured Car was built in 1942, four more were completed by 1943 and remained in service until 1962. The Dodges were built on a Dodge TF-37 shortened truck chassis. All five trucks were withdrawn from the army's Supply and Transport Corps. Two of the armoured cars were each armed with a Madsen 20mm Cannon that were formerly used on Irish Marine Service Motor Torpedo Boats and a Madsen .303 Machine Gun. The other three armoured cars were armed with a Vickers .5 Machine Gun and Vickers .303 Machine Gun each. The Madsen armed Dodges were the called the Mark VII Armoured Car and the Vickers armed Dodges the Mark VIII Armoured Car. The Dodges were used alongside the Landsverk L180 and Irish built Leyland armoured cars in the 1st Armoured Squadron until they were all disposed of in 1962.[15]

Beaverette Armoured Car[edit | edit source]

The army acquired several Beaverette Armoured Cars at the time of The Emergency (World War II). In the 1950s the army converted several Beaverettes into open scout cars – with one such conversion preserved at the Curragh Camp in County Kildare.[16]

Churchill Tank[edit | edit source]

The Irish Army took delivery of three Churchill Mk VI tanks in 1948 and a fourth in 1949. They were rented from the British War Office until 1954, when they were purchased outright. This purchase was despite the fact that the supply and transport corps workshops, who maintained them, had reported that spares had all but run out. Experiments were carried out involving replacing the existing Bedford engine with a Rolls Royce Merlin engine salvaged from an Irish Air Corps Seafire aircraft. The experiment was not a success, although the reasons are not recorded. By 1967 only one Churchill remained serviceable, and by 1969 all were retired. The Churchill Mk VI was armed with an Ordnance QF 75 mm gun and 2 Besa 7.92mm machine guns.[17]

Comet Tank[edit | edit source]

Four ex British Army Comet tanks were delivered to the Irish Army in 1959 and a further four in 1960. The Comet was armed with a 77 mm HV gun and 2 Besa 7.92mm machine guns. Severe budget cutbacks were to severely harm the service lives of the Comets, as not enough spares were purchased. The Comet appealed to the Irish Army as it was cheap to buy and run, had low ground pressure, and good anti-tank capability. In retrospect, it was an excellent buy, and would have stood the army in good stead had vital spares been supplied initially. However, faulty fuses meant the withdrawal of the HE ammunition, limiting the tank's role to an anti-tank vehicle. With stocks of 77 mm ammunition dwindling in 1969, the army began an experiment to prolong the life of the vehicle. It involved replacing the turret with an open mounting with a 90 mm Bofors Pv-1110 recoilless rifle. Lack of funds saw a cancellation of the project. The last 77 mm Comet shoot occurred in 1973 and the tanks were withdrawn soon afterwards. one is preserved in the Curragh Camp in running condition,two more are on static display also in the Curragh and one in Athlone barracks.[18]

Panhard AML Armoured Car[edit | edit source]

Irish Panhard AML 20 on parade in 2006

In 1964 the first 2 Panhard AML 60-7 CS armoured cars were delivered to Ireland. These 2 Panhards were then shipped to the Irish battalion that was part of the UN force UNFICYP in Cyprus. 6 more Panhard AML 60-7 CS armoured cars were shipped direct from France to the Irish troops in Cyprus. Later in the same year another 8 Panhard AML 60-7 CS armoured cars were delivered. The army ordered in 1970 20 AML 90 and 16 Panhard AML 60-7 HB armoured cars all of which were delivered by 1975.[19]

The AML 60-7 CS variant was armed with a DTAT Cloche Special (CS) 60mm mortar and twin AA-52 7.62mm machine guns. The AML 60-7 HB was armed with a Hotchkiss-Brandt (HB) 60mm mortar and twin FN MAG 7.62mm machine guns. The AML 90 was fitted with a H-90 turret armed with a D 921 F1 90mm gun and co-axial FN MAG 7.62mm machine gun. In the late 1970s the mortars fitted to all 16 AML 60-7 CS armoured cars could not be fired due to a fault and as a result its twin 7.62mm machine guns became its main armament. In 1989 the 16 AML 60-7 CS armoured cars twin 7.62mm machine guns were replaced with a single M2 Browning .5 machine gun each. In 1999 the 16 AML 60-7 CS armoured cars turrets were rearmed with a G12 20mm cannon and a co-axial FN MAG 7.62mm machine gun. It was known as the AML 20[19][20]

The AML 60s were used on peacekeeping missions in Cyprus, the AML 90s in Lebanon and both the AML 20s and AML 90s in Liberia. The AML fleet was retired from service in 2013.[21]

Landsverk Unimog Scout Car[edit | edit source]

The Landsverk Unimog Scout Car was based on the Unimog S404 truck and built were in the late 1950s. The Irish Army purchased 15 of the vehicles at a bargain price in 1971 which were originally intended for the police force in the Belgian Congo. They were intended as a stop-gap vehicle for use until the first Panhard M3 APCs entered service in 1972. The Cavalry Workshops modified the Unimog scout cars by fitting a shield that could mount a FN MAG 7.62mm machine gun to it on the roof opening. The type had excellent off-road capability but poor on-road handling due to a high centre of gravity and several accidents occurred as a result. Equipped with a four-man dismountable squad arrangement was carried, but space was cramped, and in any case a four-man detachment was far too small for any sort of realistic military purpose. Other criticisms were that the FN MAG gunner's position was too exposed. By mid-1978 all had been transferred to the Reserve FCA Motor Squadrons. As the FCA did not us the FN MAG it armed its Unimog scout cars with Browning .30 or Bren .303 machine guns. All Unimog scout cars were withdrawn by 1984.[22]

Panhard Armoured Personnel Carrier[edit | edit source]

Production of the Panhard M3 VTT armoured personnel carrier started in 1971 and the Irish Army ordered 60. The first 17 were of the Panhard M3 APCs were delivered in 1972. The Panhard M3 APC used 95% of the components of the Panhard AML armoured cars. A Creusot-Loire TL.21.80 turret was fittet to all 60 Irish Panhard APCs armed with twin FN MAG 7.62mm machine guns. 14 Panhard APCs were sent to Lebanon in 1978 with the Irish battalion serving with UNIFIL. At home the Panhard APCs were distributed among the army's 9 infantry battalions and 4 cavalry squadrons. The UN supplied the Irish troops in Lebanon in 1989 with 10 SISU XA-180 6x6 APCs to replace the its Panhard APCs and the 14 Panhards were sent back to Ireland and later scrapped.[23]

Timoney Armoured Personnel Carrier[edit | edit source]

Timoney a Co Meath based company designed and built 3 one off prototype 4x4 wheeled APCs designated Marks I, II, III for tests by the Irish army between 1972-1974. In 1977 the army ordered 5 APCs based on the Mk III design known as the Timoney Mk IV APC. All 5 Timoney Mk IV APCs were delivered in 1978 fitted with a Timoney built turret armed with twin FN MAG 7.62mm machine guns. The vehicles suffered from a number of mechanical problems and all 5 were out of service by the late 1980s. In 1981 the army ordered 5 improved Timoney Mk VI APCs and all 5 were delivered in 1983 fitted with a Creusot-Loire TLi 127 turret armed with a M2 Browning .5 machine gun and a FN MAG 7.62mm machine guns each. The Timoney Mk VI APCs were used by the army until 1999.[24]

File:Irish Scorpion Tank.JPG

Irish Army Scorpion during the 2006 Easter Parade in Dublin

Scorpion Armoured Reconnaissance Vehicle[edit | edit source]

Originally designed for the British Army, the Scorpion Armoured Reconnaissance Vehicle began production in the early 1970s, and has been in use with the Irish Army since 1980. The army bought 4 Scorpions each year from 1980-1982 plus 2 more in 1985 bringing the total in Irish service to 14. The Scorpion possesses three crew members and a maximum speed of 70 kilometres per hour, and is armed with a 76mm rifled gun and a 7.62mm coaxial mounted machine gun.[25][26]

SISU Armoured Personnel Carrier[edit | edit source]

The UN supplied the Irish troops serving with UNIFIL in Lebannon in 1989 with 10 SISU XA-180 6x6 APCs to replace its 14 Panhard APCs. The Irish Army purchased 2 SISU APCs in 1990 as training vehicles for soldiers preparing for service with UNIFIL. The 2 Irish SISU APCs were sent to Somalia in 1993 for use by Irish troops serving with UNOSOM II and returned to Ireland in 1994. Both Irish SISUs and the 10 UN SISUs in Irish use were fitted with the same Creusot-Loire TL.21.80 turret with twin FN MAG 7.62mm machine guns as the Panhard APC.[27]

MOWAG Armoured Personnel Carrier[edit | edit source]

Irish Army Mowag APC, Easter Military Parade in Dublin, 2006

The Mowag Piranha IIIH 8x8 armoured personnel carrier (APC) has been used by the Irish Army since 2001. There are 80 Mowags in service with the army, in 6 different variant types. Fifty-four are armoured personnel carriers, eight are command vehicles, two are armoured ambulances, one is a recovery vehicle, nine are Cavalry Recce Vehicles (CRV) and six are Medium Recce Vehicles (MRV).[28]

The APC variant of the Mowag has a crew of two and can carrier a nine-man infantry section. It has a maximum speed of 100 kilometres per hour, and is fiited with a one man turret armed with one .5 (12.7mm) Browning HMG, one 7.62mm FN MAG machine gun and eight 66mm smoke grenade launchers.[28] The nine Mowag CRVs are fitted with a Kongsberg Remote Weapon Station (RWS) and can be armed with either a 12.7mm/.5 Browning HMG or a Heckler & Koch 40mm automatic grenade launcher. The six MRVs are fitted with a 2-man turret armed with an Oto Melara 30mm cannon and 7.62mm coaxial machine gun.[29]

The Irish Mowags have been used on peacekeeping missions in Liberia, Kosovo, Lebanon and Chad.

RG-32 Light Tactical Vehicle (RG Outrider)[edit | edit source]

The Irish Army has ordered 27 RG Outrider Light Tactical Vehicles from BAE Systems with the first 2 delivered in April 2010. One of the first two delivered is armed with a FN MAG 7.62mm machine gun fitted to the roof opening and the other is fitted with a Kongsberg Remote Weapon Station (RWS) armed with a Heckler & Koch 40mm automatic grenade launcher.[30]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Martin, p 9-13
  2. Martin, p 13-15
  3. Martin, p 5-8
  4. Martin, p 20-21
  5. English, p 54
  6. Martin, p 22-23
  7. 7.0 7.1 Martin, p 25-27
  8. Martin, p 28-32
  9. Martin, p 33
  10. Martin, p 33-34
  11. Martin, p 35
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 Martin, p 36-42
  13. Martin, p 51
  14. Fletcher, p. 42
  15. Martin, p 52
  16. Official Defence Forces Website - Curragh Camp museum
  17. Martin, p 56-59
  18. Martin, p 81-83
  19. 19.0 19.1 Martin, p 86-92
  20. Armoire Militaire Logistique (AML)20
  21. DON LAVERY – 1 May 2013 (1 May 2013). "Veteran armoured car fleet retired". Independent.ie. http://www.independent.ie/irish-news/veteran-armoured-car-fleet-retired-29235903.html. Retrieved 8 May 2013. 
  22. Martin, p 96-97
  23. Martin, p 93-94
  24. Martin, p 104-107
  25. "Defence Forces – Army Scorpion Armoured Reconnaissance Vehicle". Irish Defence Force. http://www.military.ie/army/equipment/vehicles/cav/scorpion/index.htm. Retrieved 7 July 2010. 
  26. Martin, p 108-111
  27. Martin, p 136-137
  28. 28.0 28.1 "Defence Forces – Army MOWAG APC". Irish Defence Force. http://www.military.ie/army/equipment/vehicles/cav/scorpion/index.htm. Retrieved 7 July 2010. 
  29. Ireland orders further PIRANHA IIIH 8x8 in new variants
  30. BAE Systems Displays Latest Armoured Vehicles Development BAE Systems

Bibliography[edit | edit source]

  • Fletcher, David; Bryan, Tony (2005). Universal Carrier 1936-48: The 'Bren Gun Carrier' Story. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84176-813-7. 
  • Martin, Karl (2002). Irish Army Vehicles, transport and armour since 1922. Karl Martin. ISBN 0-9543413-0-9. 
  • English, Adrian J (2005). Irish Army Orders of Battle, 1923-2004. Tiger Lily Publications. ISBN 0-9720296-7-2. 

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