Armour in Ireland: Tanks

Tanks preserved in Ireland

The aim of this website is to locate, identify and document every historical piece of artillery preserved in Ireland.  Many contributors have assisted in the hunt for these guns to provide and update the data found on these web pages.  Photos are by the author unless otherwise credited.  Any errors found here are by the author, and any additions, corrections or amendments to this list of Guns and Artillery in Ireland would be most welcome and may be e-mailed to the author at

Irish Tanks

In 1929, Ireland acquired a small number of Vickers Mark D tanks.

(The Thousand Eyes Photo)

The Landsverk L-60, two of which were operated in Ireland from 1934, were small and lightly armed two-man tanks armed with a 20-mm Madsen anti-tank gun and a 7.7-mm machine gun.  This one is on display at Collins Barracks in Dublin.

(An Cosantoir Photo)

Churchill 1B ‘Bit Special’ scales an obstacle with 1D following.  Scaling steep inclines was one of the best qualities of the Tank. Ireland acquired four Mk. VI Churchill tanks.  In 1948, following a brief period during which several Cavalry Corps officers trained in England, the Defence Forces of Ireland rented three Churchill Mk.VIs from the British War Office.  A fourth tank was delivered in 1949.  The tanks were bought out-right in 1954.

(An Cosantoir Photo)

Churchill ‘1B’ of the 1st Cavalry Squadron.

(The Curragh Photo)

Cavalry Officer trainees are taught about the Come by an instructing Lieutenant, early 1960s

In 1958, the Cavalry Corp (Irish: An Cór Marcra) began to receive a small number of A34 Comets, which, like the preceding Churchills, were purchased from the British War Office.  The Comet was the polar opposite of both vehicles, and was the most technically advanced tank then in service with the Irish cavalry.

(Curragh Camp Museum Photo)

Comet of the Curragh Command, note the symbol on the side of the turret.  Comets served with the 1st Cavalry Squadron who were based at Curragh Camp in Kildare.  For their initial years in service, the Comets remained in the standard British green paint.  At some point in their history, the tanks were repainted in a light grey, similar to the L-60s.  The tanks were used extensively in training operations at the Curragh and at the Glen of Imaal (Irish: Gleann Uí Mháil), in the Wicklow Mountains. 5,948 acres of the Glen has been used as an artillery and gunnery range since 1900.  The vehicles also took part in a number of public and military parades.

Of the eight Comets used by the Cavalry Corps, six survive as two were destroyed after accidents (One of these became the ‘Headless Coachman’). Four of the tanks remain in Ireland.  These can be found at the Curragh . Two are used as gate guardians, one is on display alongside a surviving Churchill Mk. VI.  The fourth Comet still runs and is kept under cover, it is sometimes run in parades.
The remaining two found their way back to England. One of which one is at The Muckleburgh Military Collection in Norfolk. The museum received it in 1987 in exchange for a Peerless lorry.  B 2012, the Comet had been restored into a working condition.  The second Comet was first acquired by the long-closed Budge Collection, and was later sold to the Jacque Littlefield Collection in California. It is now presumably with the Collings Collection in Massachusetts.

(IDF Photo, Getty)

Scorpion in training on the Glen of Imaal. It is an earlier example, signified by the .50 Caliber machine gun mounted on the roof.

In the late 1970s, the Irish Cavalry Cavalry Corps (Irish: An Cór Marcra) decided to retire their small fleet of Comet tanks purchased from Great Britain in 1958.  These Second World War tanks had served well with the Cavalry corps, but by this point were on their last legs with constant breakdowns and a lack of spare parts.  A replacement was required that shared the same qualities; mobility and firepower.  In the early 1980s, such a replacement was soon found in the shape of the compact, highly mobile and air-deployable light tank, the British FV101 Scorpion CVR (T).  The Scorpion would be the first tracked vehicles purchased by the Defence Forces of Ireland (IDF), (Fórsaí Cosanta, officially: Óglaigh na hÉireann) since those Comets some twenty years prior.  They became the last tracked vehicles in operation, and also the last vehicles to be bought from Great Britain.

The Scorpion’s small size, good speed, and a relatively potent gun made it an attractive vehicle for the Irish Defence Forces’ Cavalry Corps.  Subsequently, the Irish Military purchased a total of 14 of the tanks between March 1980 and December 1985.  The numbers were thus: 4 in 1980, 4 in 1981, 4 in 1982, 2 in 1985.

The Scorpions were delivered in their standard British configuration armed with the 76-mm L23A1 and equipped with wading gear that was soon removed.  The 76-mm gun proved to be somewhat of a problem as there was no fume extractor.  When the gun was fired the turret compartment would fill with smoke and fumes.  Should the gun be fired with turret closed down, the effect was even worse. One way the British and other armies dealt with this was by removing the 76-mm turret and replacing it with the turret of the FV107 Scimitar armed with the 30-mm Rarden Cannon.  The Irish Military, on the other hand, wanted to keep the larger caliber 76-mm.  As such, they developed their own fume extraction system (FES) which kept the tank safe to operate.

The Scorpions stayed in service for 37 years, only being stood down in 2017. The role of the tank has largely been taken over by Ireland’s main armored vehicle, the wheeled 8×8 MOWAG Piranha IIIH, 80 of which have been in service since 2001.

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