THE F.C.A. (Foras Cosanta Aituil) 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
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
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 /
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.
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 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
now and then Spring/Summer 1997.
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