bookIrish Army Vehicles - Transport & Armour since 1922
by Karl Martin.
Privately published A4 size, hardback 152 pages.
ISBN 0-9543413-0-9.
Available from Barbarossa Books or the Tank Museum, Bovington.

Review by Peter Brown

The Irish Republic has a small army and a relatively short history, but that history has been rich in the variety of vehicles it has used. Its early vehicle fleets came mostly from British sources in 1922 and many of these remained in service for a long time. Later purchases often came from the UK, though some armour was bought from Sweden and France and softskin vehicles have come from many sources including as far away as Japan. As with many countries the number of vehicles and even the types was determined by budget matters as much as what was best, and several have been modified in order to keep them in service as long as possible.

This book has been produced by the author after many years of research, and the final result reflects that. Publishing himself has allowed him total control of the contents so he has not had to compromise on the number or variety of photos to fit someone else's format. Quality of printing is high so reproduction of photos is to a very high standard, which combined with a lack of other works on the subject makes this book all the better. It covers all types of vehicles but the spilt in terms of number of pages seems to be about half and half soft and armoured vehicles. They are covered in chronological order as each comes into service, which is a big help as one small drawback to the book is that it has neither a contents list nor an index so if you want to find something you will have to look.

What you will find is a wide range of types. When first formed the Irish Army had around a thousand softskin vehicles and 150 armoured ones, covering a range of types. The armour included Rolls-Royce and Peerless armoured cars and various armoured trucks, while the unarmoured types ranged from Ford T and Crossley cars to a range of heavier lorries. The first tank was bought from Vickers as early as 1929 and two Swedish L60 light tanks followed in 1935-36 and L-180 armoured cars were also supplied by the Swedes in the immediate pre-WW2 years. Design of locally-produced vehicles began in the mid 1930s with six-wheeled armoured cars using Leyland chassis and several more smaller designs produced in what was known in Eire as "The Emergency" along with various trucks and Universal Carriers.

Post-war, some Churchill and Comet tanks were acquired, and the stories of these show the conditions in which the Irish had to operate. New softskins were produced including a few Jeeps and later Land-Rovers. Increasingly there was a need for light armour to support peacekeeping operations, with French Panhard AML armoured cars and M3 armoured personnel carriers bought in various batches. The former have been extensively modernised and are still in service though the APCs have gone. Other designs were purchased from Sweden and several versions of locally-designed and built Timony APCs were used for some time. Several British Scorpion light tanks came into use in the early 1980s and these remain in use, along with a growing range of soft vehicles from various sources, many of them commercial types suitably modified. Latest type in service is the Mowag-designed Piranha III series which is being taken into service in troop carrier and specialist forms.

Each type is described, with data tables, numbers bought and even individual serial numbers, along with black and white photos and a few small-scale drawings. Alongside the facts, there are a number of individual accounts and some unusual and often unique vehicles are covered. An eight-page colour section shows several vehicles including half-page views of the new Piranhas. Detailed lists of vehicles and even artillery are included throughout, and details of vehicle colour schemes and paint mixes round off a detailed study.

This is a fine example of what one person can amass over time, and we are lucky that he has chosen to put his knowledge into book form and make it available to us all. While not a subject which will have immediate appeal, the overall quality of this book as well as the information it contains makes it both informative as well as being a very interesting read.

Page created 1 November 2002

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