Artillery in Ireland: The Irish Artillery Corps

Artillery Corps (Ireland)

The Artillery Corps is the artillery element of the Irish Army.  Founded in 1924, the Corps provides fire support to other sections of the Army.  From the early 20th century, the Artillery Corps was organised into separate Coastal Defence, Field Artillery and Air Defence Regiments.  In the late 20th century, the Coastal Defence component was dissolved and integrated with the Field Artillery component.  In 2013 the Air Defence regiment also ceased to operate as a separate component, and the Field Artillery regiments, known as Brigade Artillery Regiments, took over the Air Defence role. Today the Artillery Corps comprises the Artillery School, located in the Defence Forces Training Center (DFTC) in the Curragh Camp, and two Brigade Artillery Regiments (one for each of the two Brigades of the army). They are located in Collins Barracks, Cork (1 BAR) and Custume Barracks, Athlone (2 BAR).  Each regiment comprises one headquarters battery, one Surveillance and Target Acquisition (STA) battery, one Air Defence battery and three gun batteries.

Irish Field Artillery elements are equipped with L118 and L119 105-mm howitzers (main artillery support weapons), Brandt mle 27/31 (3.2-inch, 81-mm) mortars, and Ruag 120-mm heavy mortars.  An Ordnance QF 25-pounder field gun is retained for use as a ceremonial gun.  Air Defence elements are equipped with the RBS-70 Surface to Air Missile system.  Bofors EL-70 40-mm air defence guns previously in use have been in storage since 2013.  The Browning .50 calibre HMG on a cobra mount also serves.

(William Murphy Photo)

(Irish Defence Forces Photo)

105-mm L118 Field Gun.

The 31st Reserve Field Artillery Regiment was a field artillery unit of the Southern Brigade Irish Reserve Defence Forces tasked with the defence of part of County Tipperary and also with providing support to the 1st FAR, a unit of the Irish Army.

The Corps of Artillery of the Irish Army was founded in 1924, and based in Connolly Barracks in the Curragh Camp.  The Patron saint of the corps is Saint Barbara, and she appears on the corps insignia sitting astride a cannon.  The 31st FAR came into being on 1 October 2005, and was made up of units from the former reserve structure, the FCÁ.  The units which were disbanded in order to form the new 31st FAR were the 8th FAR (Cork), 3rd FAR (Tipperary) and part of the 14th Infantry Battalion also from Tipperary.

The 8th FAR was originally formed in Ballincollig in 1979.  It was made up of the reserve batteries which had once formed part of the 1st FAR. The regiment consisted of two batteries: 2nd Battery (25 Pounder field guns) and 21st Heavy Mortar Battery (120 mm Mortars).  The unit moved to Collins Barracks in Cork City following the closure of Ballincollig Barracks.  2nd Battery and 21st Battery merged to become 1st Battery of the 31st FAR on 1 October 2005.

Artillery in service with Irish expatriate soldiers known as the Wild Geese

As part of the Treaty of Limerick in 1691, the Irish forces of Patrick Sarsfield, who had fought the army of William of Orange to a standstill, were given the option of sailing to France to join the Stuart King, James II, in exile.  Shortly after Sarsfield signed the Treaty of Limerick a French fleet arrived with reinforcements and many urged Sarsfield to tear up the Treaty and fight on.  This he would not do; having given his word of honour, he kept it.  Believing they had negotiated a treaty that guaranteed the rights of their people, perhaps as many as twenty thousand Irish soldiers sailed with Sarsfield to France.  The treaty that Sarsfield had honoured was not honoured by the British.  In a vindictive twist, they tore up the treaty and replaced it with several Penal Laws which stripped Irish Catholics of their land, persecuted them for their religion and removed all rights of citizenship.  These grievances led to the exodus of Irish recruits who joined various foreign armies in the hope of one day restoring their land and rights.  These Irish soldiers are known to this day as "The Wild Geese".

For the next hundred years the French Army included an Irish Brigade in its Order of Battle, beginning with the men of Justine MacCarthy (Lord Mountcashel), followed by the influx of Sarsfield's 20,000 soldiers.  A steady stream of young men from Ireland followed.  "Cuimnidh ar Luimneach agus ar Feall na Sasanach!" (Remember Limerick and the Saxon Faith (i.e., English betrayal)), became a battle cry of the Irish Brigade in the service of France.

Although many of these young Irishmen may have joined foreign armies looking for adventure and others just to make a living, many were looking to fight the ancient enemy, England.  It has been estimated that as many as half a million or more Irishmen died fighting for France in the century after Limerick.  The majority of the recruits came from the counties of Clare, Limerick, Cork, Kerry and Galway.  French ships which arrived on the west coast smuggling in brandy and wine would depart with recruits for the Irish Brigade.  In the paper work required for the ship's manifests, the recruits were be listed as "Wild Geese", thus the origin of the name.  In 1745, after France's Irish Brigade was instrumental in the famous victory over the British at Fontenoy, England's King George II would express a sentiment many British soldiers would have reason to second over the years: "Cursed be the laws which deprive me of such subjects."

Though the term "Wild Geese" is usually used for the men of the Irish Brigade in France, France was not the only destination of these "Wild Geese".  Many went to Spain, where Irishmen had actually been serving for many years in great numbers, forming a number of regiments in the Spanish army.  Irishmen served in the Armies of Austria, Russia, Poland and the various German Kingdoms.

Many of the "Wild Geese" rose to prominence in the Armies of Europe.  George Brown of the Austrian Army, was made a Field Marshal by Emperor Charles IV and eleven different men named Walsh became Field Marshals or Generals there.  Francis Maurice Lacy, was a Field Marshall in the Austrian and Russian Armies and many reached high commands in France and Spain.  An Irishman named McMahon became Minister of War and President of France. The "Wild Geese" fought in battles all over Europe and the world through the years.

In South America Bernardo O'Higgins became the Liberator of Chile and Admiral William Brown, from Mayo, became the Father of the Argentine Navy.  Members of the Irish Brigade of France served as Marines with the American Continental Navy under John Paul Jones on the "Bonhomme Richard" and others were at the Battle of Yorktown with Rochambeau.  The Hibernia regiment of Spain fought the English at Pensacola, Florida in 1781. Many thousands of Irishmen were already living in America, and 17 of them rose to be generals in the Revolutionary army.  They are as much "Wild Geese" as their irish brothers in arms in other armies, fighting in great numbers to do in America what they and their fathers could not do in Ireland: Throw off the iron arm of England.

During the American Civil War, six grandsons of George McCook, a United Irishman, were Union Generals and another six were field officers.  Irish-born Meagher, Corcoran and Shields were Union Generals and for the Confederacy, Corkman Patrick Cleburne was one of their finest commanders.  More that 150,000 Irishmen served in the US army, most notably with the Irish Brigade, and some 50,000 more wore the grey uniform of the Confederacy. Fifty-three percent of the 600 Nuns who served as nurses during the American Civil War were born in Ireland, and no doubt many more were Irish-American.  All deserve to be included in the list of exiles of the Gael with the proud name of "Wild Geese."  The history of Ireland includes the history of the many millions of people driven from their land by famine and oppression, that led to the existence of all the "Wild Geese."  (Internet: The Wild Geese Today,


Demi-culverin: A bore averaging 4 inches (11.4-cm) and firing a shot of 9–12 lb (4.1–5.4kg).   A medium gun similar to but slightly larger than a saker and smaller than a regular culverin, developed in the late 16th century.

Saker: A bore averaging 3 inches (8.9-cm) and firing a shot of 5–6 lb (2.3–2.7kg). Used both to loosen stonework and as an anti-personnel weapon.  16th century, slightly smaller than a culverin.

Minion: A bore averaging 3 inches (8.3-cm) and firing a shot of around 4 lb (1.8kg). Primarily an anti-personnel weapon for use in the field.  A small gun used during the Tudor period and into the late 17th century.

Falcon: A bore of 2 inches (7-cm) and firing a shot of 2–3 lb (1.1–1.4kg).  Like the falconet, it is a field piece used as an anti-personnel weapon.

Falconet: A bore averaging 2 inches (5.7-cm) and firing a shot of around one lb (0.7kg).  15th century light gun.

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