Skip to main content

Trinity College Dublin, The University of Dublin

Menu Search

‘Necessity is the Mother of Invention’: Armoured Personnel Carriers in 1916

The Easter Rising of 1916 took the British army by surprise. The troops already in Ireland consisted mostly of reserve forces, and although they were mobilised immediately, much of their military hardware was then deployed in the War in Europe. As a result, improvised armoured personnel carriers were hastily constructed to afford troops protection during attempts to storm rebel-occupied buildings.

TCD MS 2074 f.51v
TCD MS 2074 f.51v

One design, recorded in three images from the M&ARL collection (two photographs TCD MS 11438, TCD MS 2074 f. 51v and one magazine clipping TCD MS 2074 f. 55v), was apparently the brainchild of a Colonel Portal of the Curragh Camp.  The chassis were made from Daimler flat-back lorries willingly supplied by, or forcibly requisitioned from (depending on whom you believe) the Guinness Brewery, while the armoured steel bodywork was applied at the Inchicore workshop of the Great Southern and Western Railway.

TCD MS 2074 f. 55v
TCD MS 2074 f.55v

The cab roof was recycled from a locomotive cab, and the body was also constructed from three locomotive smoke-boxes welded together, with the smoke-box door retained on the rearmost unit. Dummy rifle slits were also added to confuse snipers. The armoured vehicles were used to storm occupied houses that controlled key strategic points in Dublin. In order to deliver its occupants safely, the vehicle would reverse up to the door of an occupied house, whereupon the smoke-box door was opened and the troops clambered directly into the property.

TCD MS 11438
TCD MS 11438 Front Square Trinity College Dublin

There were at least two of these vehicles, that were almost identical, and at least one other that had box-shaped armour built around the same time. Other photographs show smaller armoured cars, and even tanks, which were employed at a later stage of the Rising. These vehicles were precursors to the Lancia and Rolls Royce armoured cars deployed during the later War of Independence and Civil War.

Estelle Gittins
Manuscripts & Archives Research Library

With many thanks to David Fletcher of the Tank Museum, Bovington, UK. For further information see Timothy Walls in ‘History Ireland’ Mar/Apr 2005

TCD MS 2074, Elsie Mahaffy’s account of the Rising has been digitised in its entirety and is available on the Library’s Digital Collections site