Wheeled Armoured Vehicles

Rolls Royce Whippet

In August 1914, shortly after the outbreak of war, the RNAS (Royal Naval Air Service) began operating from airfields in Northern France and Belgium from which it conducted aerial reconnaissance patrols. However by the end of August they came under heavy attacks by the German army and were forced to evacuate their positions. The Eastchurch Squadron, commanded by Wing Commander Charles Rumney Samson, which was based at Ostend in Belgium was ordered to move to and defend a 100 mile radius of Dunkirk from German aerial attacks.

An early version of the Rolls Royce with wire-spoked wheels
RNAS souvenir postcard

Rumney Samson commandeered some local Mercedes cars for this purpose but after coming under fire from German soldiers they were quickly withdrawn. He then came up with the idea of putting steel plates all around the cars to protect the crews and commenced experiments on one Mercedes car. This however, proved too heavy for the Mercedes engine . Not to be outdone he had the armour plating removed and fitted to a Rolls Royce Silver Ghost car that was in use at the base and it proved so successful that he wrote to the War Office recommending the purchase of more Rolls Royce cars and fitting them out in England for service in France. The War Office went one step further and requisitioned/commandeered all available Rolls Royce Silver Ghosts available in the country and had them converted to armoured cars.

The Rolls Royce armoured cars were sent to France where they immediately went into action, later being sent to Galipoli, North Africa and Palistine. After the war a number of the cars were sent to Ireland where they took part in the Irish War of Independence.

A series of modifications were made to the cars, in 1920 and 1924, and these became known as the 1920 Pattern and the 1924 Pattern. In 1922 the Irish Free State was formed after a treaty was signed between the British Government and the Provisional Government. The Rolls Royce cars handed over to the Irish army were 1920 Pattern and were fitted with a manually operated turret with a Vickers .303 machine gun.

These cars gave great service during the Irish Civil War, 1922 - 1923, and The Emergency, 1939 - 1945, but had to be withdrawn from service in 1944 due to a scarcity of spare parts.

All but one of the Rolls Royce armoured cars were eventually sold off or scrapped in the 1960's. The one car that was retained by the army is believed to be the car that accompanied Michael Collins on the day he was fatally wounded in an ambush at Beal ne Blaith in his home county of Cork. This car has been immaculately restored and is in complete working order, bearing the Registration number ARR 2 and the nickname "Sliabh na mBan".

Lancia Armoured Car

Irish War of Independence

The Lancias had a very interesting history during their service life. These cars were produced by the Great Southern and Western Railway company at their Inchicore Works in Dublin for the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) but contemporary pictures show them being used by the British army and RIC in joint operations. During the Irish War of Independence, 1919 - 1921, a number of the Lancias were brought back to the GSWR Works and fitted with steel flanged wheels and converted for use as railway armoured cars. In this roll, the Lancias patrolled the railways and travelled in front of and behind troop carrying trains to counter IRA ambushes. Amongst other modifications was the fitting of a cage over the passenger compartment to protect the occupants against hand grenades and other flying objects such a stones and bottles.

Lancia in Dublin
Location: possibly Dame Street looking towards Trinity College

Anglo-Irish Treaty and Civil War
After the Treaty in 1922, the handover of military barracks, stores, weapons, equipment and vehicles commenced in earnest as the British army began to evacuate the country. In the handover, 111 Lancia's were received by the Irish National Army and it wasn't long before they were put to the test. In June 1922, the Civil War began with an artillery bombardment of the Four Courts by the National Army, the guns being towed into place with Lancias which also protected the gunners from small arms fire.

Lancias used as gun tractors in the Civil War
Location: Junction of Henry Street and O'Connell Street

During the Civil War, the Irregulars (Anti-Treaty forces or IRA) started a campaign of destroying railway bridges, track, station houses, signal cabins and locomotives to hinder the movement of Free State troops around the country. To counter this, the National Army established the Railway Protection, Repair and Maintenance Corps (RPR&MC) with it's HQ at Wellington Barracks, South Circular Road, Dublin (later known as Griffith Barracks, now Griffith College) and with units station all around the country at major railway stations. This unit recruited mainly from the railway companies so they would have staff experienced in track laying and repair along with engine drivers for breakdown trains with cranes and to assist with the removal of damaged or crashed locomotives and rolling stock.

Recruiting Poster for the RPR&MC
The above poster is for the protection branch of the RPR&MC which provided static guards for bridges, stations, junctions and signal cabins etc. They also provided protection for repair gangs in relaying tracks that were torn up by the IRA. The RPR&MC operated around the country with their main workshops at the Inchicore Works of the GSWR. As many as fifty Lancia's were fitted with railway wheels and used by the Railway Protection, Repair and Maintenance Corps for railway patrols. At least 2 Lancias had the turrets from the Peerless cars fitted as an experiment.

Lancia fitted with train wheels for work on the railways. This is one of the 2 cars fitted with a turret from the Peerless armoured cars. Location; Inchicore Railway Works Dublin

At the end of the Civil War, the RPR&MC was disbanded and all of the Lancias were returned to Inchicore to have their steel wheels removed and returned to their original role as road vehicles.

The Lancias gave good service but due to lack of spare parts, all were disposed of by 1937.

Peerless Armoured Car

The Irish National Army received seven Peerless armoured cars during the Irish Civil War and 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.

Leyland Armoured Car

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.

Leyland armoured car at the Curragh camp

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.
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.

Landsverk L180 Armoured Car

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.

Picture of original Landsverk L180 as supplied from Sweden

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.

Morris Mk IV Armoured Car

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.

Ford GSR Mk IV Armoured Car

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.

Ford Thompson Mk V Armoured Car

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.

Ford Thompson Mk VI Armoured Car

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

Dodge Armoured Car

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.

Beaverette Armoured Car

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.

Humber Pig (Cyprus) APC

Daimler/Alvis Ferret Armoured car

Scania KP-bil M41 APC

Scania SK-bil APC preserved in running order by the Irish army 
Location: Plunkett Barracks, Curragh Camp

Panhard AML 60 Armoured Scout Car

Panhard AML 20 Armoured Scout Car

Panhard AML 127 Armoured Scout Car

Pamhard VTT M3 APC

Landsverk Unimog Scout Car

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.

Sisu Pasi XA180 6x6 APC

Timoney APC

Mowag Piranha APC

BAE Systems RG32 Scout Car

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