The restoration of ARR2 – Sliabh namBan took place recently and I have a number of photographs showing the restoration as it happened. I hope you enjoy this piece of Irish Military History.
Speech by the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny T.D., at Cavalry Corps Day, Defence Forces Training Centre, Curragh Camp on Saturday, 3 September 2011 at 10.45am
On the final day of his life, as he emerged from the Eldon Hotel in Skibbereen, Michael Collins was approached by the writer Edith Somerville, who admonished him... "keep your armoured cars away from my haven, I can't bear to see my little island destroyed with those monstrosities" As the only Armoured car in Collins' convoy that day, it was the Sliabh na mBan, now standing before us resplendent 89 years later, which was the target of Somerville's ire.
A Aire Cosanta;
Ceann Foirne Óglaigh na hÉireann;
ONC agus Trúipéir ón gCór Marcra,
pearsanra míleata scortha;
a dhaoine uaisle: Tá áthas orm a bheith i bhur dteannta inniu chun an carr armúrtha athchóirithe Sliabh na mBan a sheoladh.
It is my great pleasure to be present here on Cavalry Day to celebrate our country's proud military tradition, which is so comprehensively recalled in the beautifully restored armoured Rolls Royce car, Sliabh na mBan.
It is just under a fortnight since the 89th Anniversary of the death of General Michael Collins at Béal na mBláth, on the 22nd of August 1922. At that time, while the country was being torn apart by a bitter civil war, Michael Collins, as Commander in Chief of the National Army, was visiting his troops in West Cork - and Sliabh na mBan formed an integral part of his 4-vehicle convoy. Michael Collins, who famously cycled around Dublin in plain view of the British administration when Director of Intelligence, was shot in the open at Béal na mBláth while returning fire, showing his characteristic courage and disregard for his own safety. It is a matter of tragic irony that Collins, who refused to take shelter in the Sliabh na mBan, was evacuated from the ambush site in this very car, having been mortally wounded moments earlier. And thus, in the loss of one of our greatest patriots and leaders, Sliabh na mBan was a silent witness.
Sliabh na mBan, therefore, takes us right back to the turbulent foundations of our Nation and reminds us, in no small way, of the price that was paid for that Independence. It stands as a tribute to the proud heritage of our Defence Forces, Óglaigh na hÉireann, who fought for "the right of the Irish people to be masters in our own country, to decide for ourselves the way in which we wish to live and the system by which we wish to be governed".
The tradition of selfless service to the State established by the very first Commander- in-Chief, lives on in the ranks of Óglaigh na hÉireann today. The conduct and bearing of our Defence Forces earlier this year, on the occasion of the visits of Queen Elizabeth II and President Obama, brought home to every citizen of this country how professional, capable and disciplined our Defence Force is. I was struck by the dignity of the various ceremonial occasions and the pride with which the Army, Naval Service and Air Corps have maintained their military heritage. Indeed it was my great pleasure to acknowledge the outstanding performance of our Defence Forces during those important visits by awarding Gradam An Taoisigh to the men and women of Óglaigh na hÉireann.
When I look out and compare the state-of-the-art Mowags we have here today with our earliest armoured car, I am reminded that Óglaigh na hÉireann has come a long way in its almost 100-year history.
We truly have a world class Defence Force which makes a vital contribution to the daily lives of our citizens at home, and brings great honour and influence to the State through its contribution to International Peace and Security on overseas missions. Nevertheless, our Defence Force has never lost sight of its origins in the Irish Volunteers and the fundamental role the organisation played in the self determination of the Irish people. Each member of Óglaigh na hÉireann to this day proudly bears the cap badge originally designed for the Volunteers in 1913, while other aspects of the uniform preserve the link between military tradition and loyal service to the State. My predecessor and a man sorely missed from Irish life, the late Dr. Garret Fitzgerald, addressed the Junior Command and Staff course at the Military College earlier this year. In his speech to those future military commanders, Dr. Fitzgerald remarked that despite the fact that so many of the traditional pillars of Irish society had weakened in recent years, the Defence Forces remained loyal to the core values of honour, loyalty and Service to the State - a Service that can be traced back through every major crisis on this island since the birth of our Nation.
Sliabh na mBan is the most historic and evocative vehicle in the State today. It speaks to us through the ages and tells us where we are and how we got here. It has the unique distinction of having served in three wars and with three separate armies: Firstly, with the British Army from 1920 against the Irish Republican Army in the War of Independence. Secondly, with the National Army, later the Defence Forces, until after the Emergency in 1946, and in between times with the Anti-Treaty forces for a brief period during the Civil War.
Those many soldiers of every hue, who enjoyed the protection of this historic vehicle, would have echoed Polonius,
Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel.
Those hoops of steel are the very fabric and substance of Sliabh na mBan
Originally destined for service with the British in Mesopotamia, the first 1920 pattern armoured Rolls Royce cars - or ARRs - including Sliabh na mBan, were diverted for service in Ireland with the British Army. After Independence in 1922, thirteen of the Rolls Royce cars were purchased by the Free State and helped provide the National Army with the means to bring the Civil War to an end.
It is a testament to the dedication and ingenuity of the Cavalry Corps that Sliabh na mBan and the other ARRs were maintained in working order through the lean years of the 1930s and the 1940s, serving in one of the three armoured car squadrons during the Emergency, when this country faced the possibility of invasion. Following the War, the cars had become largely obsolete and were in danger of being scrapped in those frugal times. Once again, the dedicated military and civilian personnel at the cavalry Workshops, including notably the Lynch family, ensured the survival of Sliabh na mBan, often through the resourceful interchanging of parts that had by then become impossible to procure. The Government had the foresight to preserve this car when the other ARRs were auctioned in 1954 and it has been a feature of State occasions, military ceremonies and heritage displays ever since. I want to thank in particular the staff of the Combined Vehicle Base Workshops, as well as Mr. James Black and his team of craftsmen who have so faithfully restored Sliabh na mBan to its present magnificent condition.
I would like to thank the Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General McCann for his kind invitation to me to join you here on this important occasion, and to wish the Cavalry Corps and the wider Defence Forces continued success in your vital work on behalf of the State, at home and overseas.
As I look at the Sliabh na mBan before us here today, restored to its immaculate best, it may be an inanimate object, yet it speaks - it shouts: resistance, endurance, integrity, struggle, victory.
I have no doubt that Edith Somerville would approve.
Go raibh míle maith agaibh.
Quite a thorough disassembly job. What reference materials were used, do you know, or did they simply take lots of photographs before removing any particular part?
A as total aside, when it is driven, is the driver in modern or in period uniform?
Priceless piece of history there.
This image of engineering drawings is contained in the slide show Manic