The Curragh's
"Armoured Steeds"
by Bob Webster 

The history of the tank in service with the Defence Forces goes back to the late 1920s when the government of the day agreed to the purchase of a Vickers Medium tank. Designated ‘Mk.D’, this tank was a development of the ‘Mk.2’, which had been produced from the mid 1920s onward, 150 of which were supplied to the British army up to the mid 1930s. Vickers-Armstrong Limited were probably the foremost tank building company in the world in the inter-war years and many of their designs and products were exported throughout the globe.  
The Army’s ~Mk.D’ was completed in 1929, with Lt. Sean Collins-Powell, nephew of the late General Michael Collins and a future GOC, Curragh, being sent to England to carry out driving trials and to take delivery. A small tank cadre was formed at the Curragh to look after the Vickers and to demonstrate its potential to other army units.  
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The Vickers ~Mk.D’ was joined in 1935-36 by two Landsverk L-60 tanks. Developed and built in Sweden by a company very much involved in commercial armoured vehicle production, the L-60 was regarded as very advanced for its time. Clearly, the army was impressed as it continued to purchase further Landsverk products other than tanks up to the outbreak of World War Two.  
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Attached to the Cavalry School, the three tanks continued to be used for demonstrations and training purposes at the Curragh up to 1939-40. Unfortunately, at this stage, the Vickers was ~fata11y’ damaged but the L-60s continued in use. A special Landsverk self-steering trailer had been delivered earlier for ‘long-distance’ transport purposes and this was presumably used when a decision was taken to take a tank to each army unit throughout the country in order to assist with anti-tank training. The L-60s were subsequently retained by the Cavalry Corps into the 1950s, although little used in later years.  
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In 1948-49, following an earlier successful training stint in England by several Cavalry Corps officers, four Churchill infantry tanks were leased from the British War Office and delivered to the Curragh. The Churchill had been designed by Vauxhall Motors Limited in the early years of World War Two, using an earlier somewhat unsatisfactory design for reference purposes and was powered by a new ‘flat 12’ engine with two horizontally opposed banks of six cylinders. The original tank had been constantly revised and improved during the course of the war.  
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Initially, the Churchills were driven to the Glen of Imaal twice a year for gunnery training and demonstration, but complaints from Kildare and Wicklow County Councils about the damage being done to the public roads led to the purchase of a World War Two ~Diamond T’ tank transporter in 1950. American in origin, this truck trailer combination was regarded as the best available through the 1940s and 1 950s and some even continue to work today throughout Europe as recovery vehicles. The Churchill’s were purchased outright after five years and continued in service up to the late 1960s having been joined some years previously by a further World War Two type, the Comet.  
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The Comet which first appeared in 1944 was designed as a ‘cruiser~ type tank, unlike the Churchill, but again was developed from an earlier design. It was powered by a version of the famous 12 cylinder Rolls-Royce ‘Merlin’ aero engine, as used in the Spitfire, and was capable of reaching circa 30 m.p.h. Four Tanks were purchased in late 1958 and a further four arrived in early 1960. Again these vehicles, like the Churchill’s, were used for training and demonstration purposes both in the Curragh and the Glen of Imaal through the 1960s and early 1970s. 
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One incident (memorable for the wrong reasons), took place in 1961 when the faithful ‘Diamond T’ with a Comet loaded on its modified trailer left the road in the Gormanstown area between Kilcullen and Dunlavin and overturned, necessitating a week-long recovery operation by Base Workshop personnel.  
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* Finally, a decision was taken in the late I 970s to replace the now unserviceable Churchill’s and Comets with the Scorpion CVR(T) reconnaissance’ tank. Designed and built in England by Alvis Limited, the Scorpion is one of a family of military vehicles placed in service with the British army in the 1970s and subsequently exported to many other countries. Twelve such vehicles were purchased by the Irish authorities in the early I 980s and continue in service today. Of the older vehicles, the 6-pounder gun of the Vickers is retained at the Curragh, having been specially ‘mounted’ some years ago. 
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The two Landsverk tanks have survived, (one is in full working order), as has the special self-steering trailer. One Churchill remains on display at Plunkett Barracks whilst another was recently recovered from the Glen of Imaal, where it had been buried some 20 years ago, and presented to the British authorities as a gesture of goodwill. It will eventually go on display in Northern Ireland.  One of the Comets has been the gate guardian at Longford Barracks for many years, whilst at least two more are retained in Plunkett Barracks, one in full working order, as those of us who were present at ‘Cavalry Day, 2002’ were delighted to discover. Two others have, in recent years, gone into private ownership in England having been swapped for the Bren Gun carrier and the Peerless truck currently held as part of the Cavalry Corps unique historic vehicle collection. This collection sadly is not readily accessible by the general public at present. Hopefully, this position will change in the not too distant future.