Early Garda Recruit

With the Irish Free State secured volunteers turned their attention to filling the ranks of the new Irish police force

Early Garda Recruit - Patrick Campbell (Garda Reg. No. 480)

With the Irish Free State secured after the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty in December 1921, many Irish Republican Army (IRA) Volunteers turned their attention to filling the ranks of the new Irish police force that was being mooted. In February 1922, a band of Volunteers from the IRA’s Western Division were assembled and informed their next duty would be the taking over of Military and RIC Barracks. Among the grouping was twenty year old Volunteer Patrick Campbell from County Galway. After the successful handover of barracks in Limerick city and Oranmore, Campbell and some comrades informed their ‘very receptive’ Commanding Officer that they would like to sit the qualifying examination to enable them join the new Civic Guard.

Campbell and the new recruits were to report to the Ballsbridge Training Centre where haphazard training and rudimentary accommodation were supplied. There were teething problems in the first months of the Civic Guard’s establishment. Recruits were forced to wear their own clothing as the distribution of uniforms had not commenced. In May 1922, over 1,000 recruits of the newly established Civic Guard broke ranks during Morning Parade at Kildare Barracks. While Campbell was not involved in what became known as the Kildare Mutiny, the mutiny resulted in Civic Guard members receiving no pay for a time, which made for a trying and unpleasant period for new members. While posted in Newbridge and Kildare, the plight of Campbell and the new Civic Guards would have been much worse were it not for trusting traders who gave them credit.

In August 1922, Campbell and his colleagues were moved from Newbridge to Dublin and marched to Dame Street where they occupied Dublin Castle after the last units of British Army and RIC were withdrawn. Despite the new police force numbering several thousand, Campbell commented that at this time ‘the state of law and order could scarcely be worse with bank robberies, train robberies, etc.’. With the Civic Guard posted in cities and larger towns, transfers began to rural Ireland.

Seven members of the Civic Guard (including one sergeant and Guard Campbell) made their way by train and road to Carrigallen, County Leitrim. In what must have been a surreal spectacle for the village’s residents, the new police unit were left standing on the street in their civilian clothing until approached by the local school teacher who on hearing they had no accommodation organised, procured a house for them to rent.

Initial occasional patrols were cautious as newspapers carried accounts of police stations and Guards being fired on. The makeshift Carrigallen barracks was targeted shortly after their arrival. Armed men lined up the Guards, stole belongings and warned them to clear out of the area. Campbell and his colleagues ignored the warning and were soon raided again: this time they escaped from the barracks under fire. Pressure from armed anti-Treaty Irregulars was incessant. During a third raid on the barracks, the Irregulars smashed in the roof and broke the windows. The Guards were kidnaped and held overnight.

Patrick Campbell went on to serve in several counties, mainly in Leinster. He was promoted to sergeant in 1934 and retired in 1956 after 34 years of exemplary service.

Full transcript of a 1977 interview with Patrick Campbell is available here:

Garda Patrick Campbell Interview - 1977  (0.11 MB, Adobe PDF)