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Gormanston Camp is a military camp in Ireland and consists of approximately 260 acres. The camp is currently home to Gormanston Camp Company and B Company 27 Infantry Battalion.[citation needed] The Camp is used for air-ground and air-defence training. It is located between Balbriggan and Drogheda along the east coastline of Ireland in County Meath in close proximity to the M1 Motorway and Gormanstown railway station.

Early years[edit | edit source]

The camp started life as a Royal Flying Corps training depot during the First World War in 1917. On 1 April 1918 the RFC was amalgamated with the Royal Naval Air Service to form the Royal Air Force. After the end of the War the aerodrome there started to be wound down, so by the end of January, 1920, the remaining aircraft were transferred to Baldonnel Aerodrome and all that were left were a care and maintenance team of 37 men.[1]

War of Independence[edit | edit source]

The Irish War of Independence did not have any effect on the winding down of Gormanstown, as aircraft were not deemed to be of any use to the guerrilla type of war that was taking place. From August 1920 to August 1922 Gormanstown was used by the Royal Irish Constabulary Black and Tans as a sub-depot for the training of new recruits, and as well as a despatch centre to send Black and Tans all over the country. The camp was also used at this time as an internment camp for Republican prisoners. After the Treaty of 14 January 1922, Gormanstown became the main demobilisation centre for the Black and Tans. The evacuation of the force was meant to be completed by 31 March 1922, but due to delays it was August before the last Black and Tans left Gormanstown and the camp was handed over to the Irish National Army. This was during the Irish Civil War which started on 28 June 1922. Gormanstown then became the Headquarters of the Transport Section of the National Army. The ceremonial opening of Gormanstown was on October 8, 1922.[1]

Internment Camp[edit | edit source]

An Internment camp was then built in Gormanston to house the vast numbers of Republican prisoners that were captured by the Free State. The Internment camp was under the command of Commandant Morken. The first prisoners to be interned in the camp arrived on September 9, 1922 and there were about 1,000 Republican prisoners interned there, the internees included Oscar Traynor who was made O/C by the prisoners, and famous names like Tom Barry who escaped on 28 September 1922, Sean T O'Kelly, Connie McNamara and author Frank O'Connor. Although the Civil War ended on May 24, 1923, the Free State continued to hold over 12,000 Republican prisoners as hostages throughout Ireland to ensure hostilities did not break out again. A hunger strike was organised by Republican commandant Oscar Traynor in October 1923 to protest at conditions in the camp as well as continued internment. It was in December 1923 when the last prisoners left the camp.[2]

World War II[edit | edit source]

During World War II (known colloquially in Ireland as "The Emergency"), the camp was used as accommodation for up to 2,000 men who were billeted in forty Nissen huts and the camp was used for a time as an internment camp for the detention of up to 40 RAF aircrews who had crashed landed or made emergency landing in the state. The RAF prisoners were repatriated in two groups one in 1943 and the remainder in May 1944. The airfield had been used on an annual basis since 1935, it was not until 1945 that the Air Corps occupied the camp on a permanent basis. No 1 Fighter Squadron was stationed there in 1944 and were equipped with Hawker Hurricanes.[3]

Post-war Years[edit | edit source]

After the war the Hurricanes were replaced with Spitfires in 1947, and in 1956 the Fighter Squadron was transferred to Baldonnel Aerodrome, whilst an Air Corps training faculty remained at the base.

Due to the escalation in civil strife in Northern Ireland in the summer of 1969, Gormanstown was designated as a refugee centre in August 1969. Large numbers of people mainly from Belfast moved Southwards to escape the violence and were housed in the refugee camp. By the end of October 1971 up to 12,000 persons had passed through the camp.[1]

The airfield was closed officially from 2002 but it is still used extensively used for Air to Ground Firing and local army activities. Both runways at the airfield are unserviceable (originally three runways), however it is believed since Gormanstown tower and approach is still active, the tarmac runway of 810m X 10m is still in a good enough condition to be used in an emergency.

The airfield is often used by model aircraft flyers, although not officially open to the public or civilian activities. Today the AAIU (Air Accident Investigation Unit - Ireland) is based in the original Air Corps hangars on field - the RFC hangars no longer exist.

Sources[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Lt Col. M. O'Malley. Gormanston Camp 1917–1986. 
  2. Jim Corbett. Not While I Have Ammo. 
  3. "Irish Department of Defence speeches 2001". 

Coordinates: 53°38′39″N 6°14′06″W / 53.6441°N 6.2350°W / 53.6441; -6.2350

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