Irish Volunteer Uniform 1914-16

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Irish Volunteer Uniform 1914-16

Postby bannerman on Thu Mar 26, 2009 8:26 pm

Re-enactors have been asking me for some time about Irish Volunteers / I.R.A. uniforms and what is and is not accurate. This is a very big issue to cover as the uniform, appearance, personnel, weaponry targets and tactics of the Irish Volunteers / I.R.A. changed hugely between 1913 and 1923. (Basically we should look at the period as three different conflicts 1916 - The War of Independence - Civil War) Few republicans in the period ever owned a formal republican uniform ie, hat tunic belt etc. Usually they wore civilian clothing with a lapel button or badge, a uniform hat and a uniform belt with military equipment.Coupled with this is the fact that rebel armies rarely if ever manage to get any sense of uniformity in their uniforms. However uniforms were important in the period for propaganda reasons to those who saw themselves as being the legitimate army of Ireland - having a uniform gave them an extra sense of legitimacy. Most estimates place the number of uniformed republicans who took part in the 1916 rising as between 1/4 to 1/3 or the whole rebel forces.
I must stress that for the purposes of re-enacting the period it is far more important to have a good set of civilian clothes for the 1913 -1923 period and a licensed blank firing period weapon i.e. Lee Enfield or Ross Rifle re bored to 8-10 shotgun. 10 men with perfect nice green Irish Volunteers uniforms will be accurate for battle in 1916 - however no unit of the I.R.A. was that well uniformed in the War Of Independence - by then most republicans were far more comcerned with getting guns and ammunition not uniforms. So anyone re-enacting the period should start by getting the kit which is shown in Picture 1.

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This is by far the cheapest way to put an impression together as chords, tweed jackets, waistcoats and so on can be bought for practicly nothing in any charity shop. And if dosent take your fancy then every one has an old suit at home for weddings etc once its a dark colour, black, brown, grey, navy or pinstripe. However for those of you who are insistant about the Irish Volunteer uniform here it goes.

This is just the first article I intend to descride the uniform in a series of articles as follows.

1 The Official Irish Volunteer Uniform (Ordinary Ranks) 1914 - 1916
2 Officers Uniforms 1914 - 1916
3 War of Independence - I.R.A. Volunteers Uniforms
4 Badges, belt buckles and regional variations in uniform
5 Weapons and Equipment
Or something like the above any way. I will not be attempting to give the history of the organiseation in any detail.

1 - The official Irish Volunteer Uniform (Ordinary Ranks) 1914 -1916

"The Volunteer Uniform. Report By Uniform Sub-Committee, 12th August 1914.
Report;-Summary of work done.
Uniform Cloth; Having made exhaustive enquiries the sub-committee found that it was necessary to start ab initio. They found that no suitable uniform cloth was made in Ireland. They therefore obtained samples of a high class uniform serge from a well known English mill. From these they selected a grey green cloth of a very suitable colour for field work in Ireland. They then inquired from several Irish mills wether they could match this sample. The buisness was not keenly sought after as the mills were full of orders and the extent of the Volunteers requirements was somewhat uncertain. Finally Messers Morrough Bros. of Douglas Mills, Cork got special looms working and matched the sample. The sample they produced was submitted to experts and pronounced excellent. It was therefor decided to give the first order to the Morrough Brothers.

Design of Uniform; After having several samples submitted the sub committee decided upon the cut of the uniform. This was fixed as standard for all Irish Volunteers. The only variation to be permitted to the different regiments was in the manner of facings which were to be left to the discretion of the regimental committes or county boards. The uniform consists of tunic, two buttoned knickers and putees.

Headdress; The headdress was decided upon for the Dublin regiment but was left undecided for the other regiments. A considerable body of opinion favoured soft hats but it was found impossible to get a suitable hat of Irish manufacture.

Putees: The Putee presented a difficulty as the well known spiral putee is protected by patents. A semi spiral was decided upon and a special light Irish Serge made to match the uniform. The caps are made of Putee cloth.

Buttons and badges; A design of Button and cap badge was decided upon and dies struck, and buttons made. The button design as submitted by your subcommittee was altered byyou and consequent on this change your sub committee find it will be impossible to protect the design. A Report on this subject will be laid before you. The badge will be protected."
From Bulmer Hobson Papers N.L.I. MS. 13174 (1)

A photograph of this uniform (Picture 2) also dated 12th August 1914 appeared in the Irish Sword in an article by F. Glenn Thompson. Material - the cap, tunic and breeches were of a grey green serge.

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The cap is made in an almost russian or cossack style with a high stiff crown and very small peak. The peack and chinstrap were both in black leather. The buttons for the chinstrap were small with a flat syrface covered in black cloth. (Original Uniform Cap Picture 3)

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The Tunic. The main body of the tunic was made of the grey green serge. However the tunic had very dark green shoulder straps/epaluttes and cointed cuffs. The tunic has a high collar like a modern shirt. On the front of the tunic were five large brass buttons with a harp decoration and the letters I and V on either side of it. (Picture 4 is an origional I.V. button - note how wide/fat the harp is. Ive checked the manufacturers markings on the back and they are the same as those on uniforms in Kilmainham Jail Museum)

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There were two brest pocket seach with a box pleat and two lower large pockets on the hips. The buttons on the pockets and shoulder straps were of the same harp &IV design but smaller in size than those on the uniform front. Each shoulder of the tunic was reinforced by a patch, just Like WW1 British Army uniforms. The back of the tunic was plain.

Trousers; The trousers in the picture are straight and not in the bow legged jodhpurs style. Again they were made of grey-green serge.

Boots: Though not shown they were presumably brown or black

Equipment. The volunteer in the photo has a five pouch brown leather bandolier. A white canvas knapsack on a sling. The brown leather belt with brass buckle had a harp in the centre surrounded by the inscruiption Oglaign Na h-Eireann was the official pattern (More on this and pics in a later article). The rifle shown is a 303 Lee Metford Mk II with a leather sling which would have taken an 1888 Mark I pattern sword bayonet, worn in a scabbard and frog on the same side as the knapsack

So this was the official Dublin Head Quarters approved uniform for ordinary volunteers. Very few volunteers would have had the financial resources and been in the position to buy from an approved supplier. Therefore many Volunteers would have gotten their sisters or wives to make their uniform resulting in a wide variation of cuts, colours and cloths all trying to copy and approximate the approved design. Though the standard and style of uniform varied greatly this was the uniform and equipment that most Volunteers aspired to have. And re-enactors should bear this in mind when ordering / making up their own uniform tunic.

Picture 5 shows a well equipped section of Irish Volunteers from the 4th Battalion Dublin Brigade taken in September 1915 when they were commanded by Eamonn Ceannt. Most of they all appear to be wearing the offical pattern uniform except that some have the darker green shoulder straps and pointed cuffs on their tunics whilst others thetunic, shoulder strapps and cuffs are all the one colour. They all seen to have bought the same type of rifle and equipment. However even in this well turned out group there is variation. The first volunteer back row standing on the left weard a Dublin Brigade FF-Drong Atha Cliath cap badge. The man standing beside him simply wears a uniform button in place of a badge on his cap and five of the men have no cap badge at all

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Picture 6 is an illustration of an uniformed volunteer from an advert in "The Irish Volunteer" newspaper December 1915. While the tunic, belt, cap and equipment are the same as Picture 2 the approved design - the trousers are of the jodhpurs / riding breeches style.

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Picture 7 Shows Irish Volunteer Gerald Keogh shot dead outside trinity college during Easter Week 1916. Again he is wearing the approved uniform and cap.

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Picture 8 shows a close up of a group of Irish Volunteers on parade. Note how no two are dressed exactly the same and there is a mixture of full uniforms and civilian clothes. Also note both Boer War and WW1 bandoliers were in use. They appear to be armed with Italian Varetti rifles.

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Picture 9 shows a Dublin member of the Irish Volunteers. The only piece of official uniform he is wearing is the cap. Its also interesting that he wears knee high socks over his trousers in place of putees or leggings.

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In 1915 the uniform regulations were changed. These ordered that the shiny black leather peaks on the uniform caps be dulled or covered with cloth, and that the brass buttons be oxidised brown or replaced with leather buttons. The theory behind this is that the shinier parts of the uniform would attract a snipers attention on the battlefield.

Uniform regulations and styles changed rapidly again over the following years based on the availability and practicality of wearing uniforms in the years 1917-1921. I will cover this in later articles
Last edited by bannerman on Fri Mar 27, 2009 5:41 pm, edited 14 times in total.
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Re: Irish Volunteer Uniform 1914-16

Postby tommyargue on Thu Mar 26, 2009 10:36 pm

Hiya Padraig.

If you can find a copy of "óglaig na hÉ�reann" by James Hogan. He lists and diagrams all the uniforms of all the different combatant groups involved in the Easter Rising through to the War of independence, the emergency right upto to today.
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Re: Irish Volunteer Uniform 1914-16

Postby bannerman on Thu Mar 26, 2009 11:59 pm

Thanks Jude,
I have a copy of Hogans book "Uniforms and Insignia of The Irish Defence Forces" and I would thoroughly recommend it to others (Sadly its long out of print.) I would make some criticisims of its usefullness from the point of view of putting re-enactment kit together. The information it gives before the Free State Army deals solely with 1916 also Hogans book focuses on cap badges and insignia of the 1916 period and does not describe, uniforms, weaponry, equipment or civilian clothing worn by the I.R.A. in lieu of uniforms. Hogan was setting out to do a badges and insignia guide for militaria collectors and museum curators - taken as that its great but its not very usefull for doing living history / re-enactment.
As Ive repeated often enough here; there are so many photos, documents and resources of the 1913 - 23 period that everyone interested in re-enacting the period should know whats what. But unfortunately many still dont and keep asking me. Ive decided that since I spend so much time harping on about poor kit my energy would be better spent researching and sharing the information on kit that should look 100% instead of giving out.

More Information - Less Castigation!
Viva la muerte!
Padraig
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"Is doigh linn gur mor iad na daoine mora mar atamuid fein ar ar nglunaibh. - Eirimis!!!"
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Re: Irish Volunteer Uniform 1914-16

Postby tommyargue on Fri Mar 27, 2009 8:02 am

I suppose the reason for that would be finding a period uniform even if it's not original might actually be easier than finding original period civvy clothing. I find it hard to pass by any charity shop, just in case there some hidden gem in it but they're getting harder to find.
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Re: Irish Volunteer Uniform 1914-16

Postby Billy on Fri Mar 27, 2009 9:35 am

Would it make sense to compile this very informative thread into a single document, and place it in the downloads section for future reference?
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Re: Irish Volunteer Uniform 1914-16

Postby bannerman on Fri Mar 27, 2009 10:43 am

Yes it would. Ill tie all five posts together as one Irish Volunteers / IRA kit guide for 1913 - 1921 when I have it finished. Im the meantime someone is going to have to show this troglodite where the downloads section is.
http://www.warofindependence.net/

"Is doigh linn gur mor iad na daoine mora mar atamuid fein ar ar nglunaibh. - Eirimis!!!"
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Re: Irish Volunteer Uniform 1914-16

Postby Dave Mooney on Fri Mar 27, 2009 11:37 am

When you log-in to portal.php it's on the bottom left under 'Links'. How you up-load to it is a mystery I've not fully investigated though.
However, we gave a tutorial site set-up for this stuff.
John can you post details on how people access that again? I'd have to search e-mails to find it again.

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Re: Irish Volunteer Uniform 1914-16

Postby bannerman on Fri Mar 27, 2009 5:43 pm

Now fianly its got the pictures imbedded. Thanks for all the help Dave. Im going to try getting cracking on the rest of the sections I have listed above. Anyone who has suitable pics can e-mail them to me at padraigoruairc@gmail.com

Padraig
http://www.warofindependence.net/

"Is doigh linn gur mor iad na daoine mora mar atamuid fein ar ar nglunaibh. - Eirimis!!!"
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Re: Irish Volunteer Uniform 1914-16

Postby the_power on Fri Mar 27, 2009 9:37 pm

Padraig, if you have anything you would like to put up on http://tutorials.livinghistory.ie let me know, and I can stick it up there. It's intended to be where we put summary documents, kit guides and the like. All documents should really have an associated 'forum post' where people can put comments/requests for clarification/suggestions for future versions. I can give you access so you can work out how to edit it later.

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Re: Irish Volunteer Uniform 1914-16

Postby bannerman on Fri Mar 27, 2009 10:03 pm

Thanks John,
In future should I post all kit lists there instead of here?
http://www.warofindependence.net/

"Is doigh linn gur mor iad na daoine mora mar atamuid fein ar ar nglunaibh. - Eirimis!!!"
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