Jump to content
Great War Forum

Remembered Today:

Gormanston Camp

Recommended Posts

Once recruiting for the regular R.I.C. started in Britain early in 1920, any recruits who joined after that date fall under the nickname of Black and Tans. Many but not all were ex- servicemen and their initial training for police work was carried out at Gormanston Camp in Co. Meath, after which they were allocated to various R.I.C. Barracks around Ireland. After initial training was carried out, suitable recruits were channeled into two new groups, the R.I.C. Transport Division and the R.I.C. Veterans Division, both of which were permanently based at Gormanston Camp. Does anyone out there have any details of Gormanston Camp during the time it was used by the R.I.C. as to size or layout and details of the two seldom mentioned Divisions as to numbers and organization. An interesting point is that some Auxiliaries were transferred to both Divisions to serve as officers, later in 1920 and 1921.


Link to post
Share on other sites


The War Office acquired 230 acres for the camp on 1 November 1917.


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you Dave and Brendan, ever bit of information is important, I know that Gormanston was used by the RFC and the RAF as a base mostly for training, I am looking for a date when the R.I.C. moved in and took over.


Link to post
Share on other sites

Don't know if it answers your question fully, but according to the 89th Annual Report of the Commissioners for Public Works in Ireland:

'The Irish Government in September, 1920, took over, for the purpose of a Depot and Centre for Motor Transport for the Royal Irish Constabulary, Auxilliary to the permanent Depot located in Phoenix Park, the Aerodrome at Gormanstown, County Meath, erected during the war.'


Link to post
Share on other sites

Dez I would concur with what Aled has said. The earliest reference to the camp at Gormanstown from the newspapers is Sept 22 1920. Although the article was in reference to an atrocity in Balbriggan so it may have been opened a short time previous to this.



Link to post
Share on other sites

This article from The Freemans Journal will also verify September 1920 timeframe and give som some small insight into the camp although keep in mind the Freemans Journal was an out and out nationalist newspaper. Although the figures at the end of the article would suggest there were issues in the camp.

Freeman's Journal Monday, October 04, 1920, Page: 4

Castle Statement

Our revelations of the "Black and Tans" activities are heavily emphasised by the following which has appeared in the London Star:

Some astonishing facts about the life in Ireland of the "Black and Tans" were given by Alfred Smith of 6 Columbia Road Hackney who has resigned from that body.

He was stationed at the Gormanstown Camp and gave it as his opinion that within a month the camp would be empty. "You cannot imagine the appalling state of discipline that exists unless you have experienced it. They go on no parades unless they choose.

The sergeant Major pops his head in the tent or hovel in the morning and ask "any of you fellows going on parade today?" and a volley of oaths is his answer. Punishment is unknown.

"We rarely saw the officers and when we did run up against them they joked and treated us as equals, laughed at the 'reprisals' we had recently undertaken and seemed to regard our whole life as one of irresponsible murder.

A wire was received that a crime had been committed. The bugle went and we fell in fully equipped. Every man had his rifle 21 rounds of ammunition and a pair of handcuffs.


"From the moment the bugle sounded the camp was a hell of dancing devils. Half the men were invariably drunk. They fired their rifles when they choose and often our men were wounded by these lunatics even before we started.

"As we proceeded along the road there were more shots, the men firing at anyone they saw, or anything that attracted their attention.

"The first thing we did on arrival was to find the pub. Here the drunken men get worse. and the sober get drunk. Then we spilled out petrol over everything, exploded a bomb in it, and went on to the next houses.

"These we had pointed out to us generally by an R.I.C. officer who had a chart showing where Sinn Feiners lived. And we went methodically through them, giving people five minutes in which to clear out.

"On this work I say nothing, the men did not object to it.


Chief Secretary's Office 02-10-20

To the editor:

The attention of His Majesties government in Ireland has been called to statements published in certain newspapers and attributed to Alferd Flint of London, an ex member of the R.I.C.. he is represented as having declared that he resigned the force as an outcome of the Balbriggan affair and that the force was not police but bandits. Also that 137 members of his police depot had resigned on like grounds.

The facts of the case are that the resignations from this depot since the Balbriggan incident mentioned by Mr Alferd Flint number 25 and the dismissals six, of which Mr Flint's case was one. He tendered his resignation after Balbriggan, it is true, but only after having been detected in a crime. His resignation was refused and Mr Flint was dismissed after the offence had been proved against him, the offence being that he stole and sold to a civilian a pair of trousers belonging to a comrade.


The Press associations Dublin correspondence states that since the establishment of the Gormanstown Depot about three weeks ago there have been 61 resignations and six dismissals of "Black and Tans" at the depot. And during the same period seven resignations and no dismissals at the Pheonix Park Depot.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you Carmania and isadore, now that the date for the R.I.C. taking over Gormanston has been established as September 1920, we have to assume that between March and that date, Black and Tan recruits for the R.I.C. were trained at Phoenix Park Depot in Dublin.


Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 10 years later...

Let me resurrect this thread to see if anything new has come to light. Originally it was said


After initial training was carried out, suitable recruits were channeled into two new groups, the R.I.C. Transport Division and the R.I.C. Veterans Division, both of which were permanently based at Gormanston Camp.


I am struggling with the RIC Register at the moment to see what was happening with Recruits When a man arrived he was allocated to either


a. Regular RIC Constable

b. Temporary Constable


Then temporary constables would be allocated, I think, to

a. ADRIC companies where they acted as Drivers, Cooks, etc

b. Gormanston Transport

c. RIC Vets division. I have no idea what they did. They well may have been the same as "a" above with individual ADRIC companies


Gormanston was a vast complex. I cannot find a history of it at this time - does one exist?





Link to post
Share on other sites


There seems to have been a book written. Gormanstown camp. I don’t know how accessible it is or if it goes into the detail you require. 

Just as an aside, there was a military camp at Mosney throughout the war and possibly pre-war (I think). I would be amazed if the Mosney camp and the Gormanstown camp were not one in the same place. 


Link to post
Share on other sites


From the records I've seen there was a large-scale demobilisation of WRAF in Sept 1919. Notionally these were supporting No. 117 Squadron but some would appear to have enrolled as members of the WRAF back in its No. 22 TDS days. (There were a mix of local 'immobiles' and 'mobile' members who'd ended up there). Leaving aside the WRAF, the RAF were in Gormanston for a further year; the re-jigging of 117, 141 squadrons plus 105 and 106 squadrons etc into the No. 2 and No. 100 Squadrons took place in Jan/Feb 1920.


From what I gather, when the Free State forces took over the camp it was used primarily as an army camp, notwithstanding some infrequent air firing exercises in the 1930s. The sheds were left fall into disrepair, and although some collapsed in the 1930s and 1940s the last one was actually dismantled in the 1970s. It was post-WWII era when the Irish Air Corps stationed its army cooperation units there. 


If you check with the Air Corps' history chaps I'm fairly sure they'd have the specifications of what the Irish forces inherited in the early 1920s (or what was still standing when they used it occasionally in the 1930s). However, the Irish Defence Forces history chaps would perhaps be a better bet for the actual detail of barracks, sheds, etc.  


Lt Col Michael O'Malley also wrote a history of military aviation in the 1921-1940s period. I don't recall there being specific detail on Gormanston other than there being some issues with neglect and with there being questions over legal title. (In that regard it'd appear that some of the lands had been leased whilst others had been acquired).


EDIT. Have dug out O'Malley's book. Numerous references to Gormanston. To start with, p.4-5 refers to a 218 acre site, comprising parts of the townlands of Irishtown and Richardstown, and straddling the public road from Gormanston village to Mosney and Laytown. Some tenants of the Pepper estate were displaced, but the acquisition of farmers' interests in certain lands (for £11,410) by the Air Council still left them with a yearly rent payable to the landlord. The site works entailed the removal of hedgerows, ditches and boundaries etc, consolidating 26 small fields into a large grass aerodrome. A temporary narrow-gauge railway was laid from a siding at Gormanston station, in a general north-westerly direction, then from the southern part of the aerodrome site right through to the sand and gravel pits at Rynking Wood. In all 3,000 yards of temporary railway track were laid.


If some of the foregoing isn't appearing in the usual Royal Engineers records, it's probably on account of the construction contract being awarded to the Dublin branch of McLaughlin and Harvey Ltd. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

"There seems to have been a book written. Gormanstown camp."


Thanks for that reference, I have not come across that book and will check it out



Link to post
Share on other sites
11 minutes ago, Airshipped said:

Have dug out O'Malley's book. Numerous references to Gormanston.


Thanks for taking a look. In a way it is surprising that not more has been written about it in the period between the RAF leaving and the Irish Government taking over. There seem to have been very large numbers of "Crown Forces" stationed there. They were involved in anything from fixing British transport vehicles to the sack of Balbriggan

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...