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Carlow County - Ireland Genealogical Projects (IGP TM)

Carlow F.C.A.

F.C.A. - 50 YEARS 1946 - 1996

By Comdt. John P. Hynes F.C.A. (Retired) 

THE F.C.A. (Foras Cosanta Aituil) or (Local Defence Force)., started life as a component of the Defence Forces in March 1946. In the initial stages and for a number of years afterwards it was confused in the public mind with the L.D.F. of the Emergency years (1939-1945). This confusion was understandable. Both forces wore similar uniforms, both trained for the most part in their local areas, and many personnel transferred from the L.D.F. to the F.C.A.

Summer Camp Curragh 1988

The new Force differed from the L.D.F. in a number of respects (1) It was established as an integral part of the Defence Forces - administered subject to Defence Force regulations. (2) Its units and rank structures correspond with those current in the Permanent Defence Force. (3) Members take the military oath of service. (4) Officers are conferred with the President's commission. (5) Pay and allowances for personnel on full time service are the same as for the P.D.F.

The F.C.A.'s place in the military establishment is covered by Defence Force regulations R5 - (D.F.R. R5). This regulation covers terms of enlistment, conditions of service, Unit Funding and any other matters which might arise from the part-time nature of the force.


In the initial years and include up until the 1970's both the Permanent Defence Force and An Forsa wore different tunics. The P.D.F. had a long jacket type tunic while their F.C.A. counterparts wore a short - unlined blouse type tunic. Both tunics and slacks were composed of a rough bulls wool type material. Both sported brass buttons with the (I.V.) (Irish Volunteers) letters embossed on them. Cap badges and Corps badges were the same. Both P.D.F. and F.C.A. wore brown hob-nail boots complete with short brown leggings into which the slacks were placed.

In the 1970's the brown boots and leggings were replaced by a long black combat boot and the rough material of the uniform gave way to a finer super fine cloth complimented by a Khaki shirt and tie (heretofore all tunics buttoned up to the neck). There are some slight differences between the uniforms worn by the two branches of the Forces, principal of which is the P.D.F wear black berets with the F.C.A. wearing light green. Wool pullovers and combat uniforms are common to both.

Brenn Gun Training at Coolnapish, 1967

The Standard Infantry weapon of the P.D.F. is the Austrian Steyr rifle with the F.C.A. using the self-loading Belgian Fabrique Nationale (F.N.) weapon.

Carlow Battalion F.C.A.

The original name of the Infantry Unit based in the Carlow area was the Carlow Battalion F.C.A. Its original Headquarters was in the old Garda barracks in Tullow Street. This situation was unsuitable for both the Garda and the F.C.A. In the early 1950's the Office of Public Works (O.P.W) erected a wooden pre-fab hut beside the Barrack field on the Green Road which is use up to the present day.

P.D.F and F.C.A.

In 1959 a re-organisation of the Defence Forces took place when new Brigades composed of P.D.F. and F.C.A. Units were formed. Carlow Battalion became part of a new Infantry Battalion covering the Counties of Carlow and Wexford. The new designation was "D" Company 10th Infantry Battalion F.C.A. Battalion headquarters were located in Wexford town with "A" Company of the Unit drawn from that area. "B" Company has its H.Q. in New Ross, "C" Company's H.Q in Carnew. "D" Company's H.Q. is Carlow with "E" Company being located in Muinebeag. The Battalion is commanded by a regular officer holding the rank of Commandant. Each Company Commander is an F.C.A. officer - generally a Commandant.

The Head Quarters of "D" Company as mentioned previously is situated in Carlow Town's Green Road. The rural units of the Company can be found in Tullow, Rathvilly, Hacketstown and Levitstown. The Head Quarter staff consists of a P.D.F. Cadre consisting of a Company Quartermaster sergeant (C.Q.M.S) a training Non -Commissioned Officer (N.C.O.) and a storeman / driver.

Commanding Officers of Carlow Battalion "D" Company over the years were Capt T. O'Morain, Comdt J. McManamy, Comdt J.P. Hynes, Comdt J. Moran and Comdt A. Dermody. Senior N.C.O.'s over the years were acting Sgt Major H. Kenny (Rathvilly), Company Sgt (later Sgt Major) I Comerford, Company sergeant J. Byrne and Company Sgt S. Byrne.

Permanent Defence Force Quartermasters Sergeants remembered by many hundred of F.C.A. soldiers were C.Q.M.S. James Doyle, C.Q.M.S. John Timony, C.Q.M.S. Sean Price, C.Q.M.S. Billy Ronan and C.Q.M.S. Joe Doyle. The bonds formed between these men and F.C.A. soldiers will exist for a long time.

Female Soldiers

I wonder what the earlier Quartermasters would make of the development in the early 1990's when the Force opened its ranks to enlist Female soldiers. The initial reaction was one of surprise that the fair sex were able to compete with their male counterparts in all aspects of military training - so much so that the first Female Corporal arrived in "D" Company in 1996. There are hopes that the first Female officer will be commissioned in the not too distant future.

In 1995, "D" Company under the guidance of Lieut. John Murphy (Tullow) started a military museum. The museum is located at Company Headquarters in Green Road and contains many mementoes bequeathed by soldiers of various armies who are living or who lived in Carlow in the past. Of particular interest are uniforms and insignia presented by the family of the late C.W.2. Donal Cunningham U.S. Army, a veteran of Desert Storm who served with "D" Company prior to joining the American Forces.

The Company held an open day in December 1996 to commemorate the first anniversary of the opening of the military museum - various V.I.P.'s including local politicians were present. The unit put forward a very strong request for a more permanent structure for the Company Headquarters which would include a home for the museum.

Annual camps which consist of seven days full time training (reduced from an already inadequate 14 days in 1987 and never restored) are conducted in various military posts - Curragh camp, Glen of Immal, Clonmel and Gormanston, Co. Meath. At that time, Personnel from recruit, through to trained soldier, N.C.O. and Officers hone the skills learned at weekly parade nights (two hours), Field days (all day) and week-end camps throughout the year.

The future direction of the F.C.A. has been the subject of study by the Price Waterhouse Commission in recent times. The result of their findings will be published in the near future. It is expected that a further more integrated P.D.F. and F.C.A. force will be advocated and that the F.C.A. personnel will be permitted to undertake overseas duties in the near future. (This has been the situation with the very many European Armies already). This, if implemented, would be a considerable boost to the Men and Women of the F.C.A. and would be a marvellous incentement to future recruitment.


F.C.A. = Foras Cosanta Aituil.
P.D.F = Permanent Defence Force
L.D.F. = Local Defence Force

Source: CARLOW now and then Spring/Summer 1997. Page 14 & 15

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2001 Ireland Genealogy Projects, IGP TM