Kilkenny FCA were ready for action

They could not be described as war veterans. But the young men who joined the Local Security Force in the early 'forties were prepared to give their lives for their country. Kilkenyman Dick Broderick recalls the days when the reserve army was on stand-by in case of an invasion.

There are no monuments to them, no commemorative plaques but a proud Kilkennyman speaks with warmth and admiration about colleagues he describes as forgotten men.

Retired city painting contractor Dick Broderick has fond memories of the years he spent in the Local Security Force, later the local Defence Force today the FCA, Fórsa Cosanta Aitiúil.

He was in the engineering platoon of No. 1 Company of the LSF. He remembers his old comrades, many of whom have passed to their eternal reward but he would love to meet any of his mates who are still alive.

At 86, Dick is in good fettle. He lived to tell the tale after a tough battle with serious illness and he lost his wife after a long fight with sickness.

His living quarters are at New Building Lane, Kilkenny, just a brief march from what was once Broderick’s Painting Contractors, a highly regarded city firm which had a reputation for giving apprentices the best training with the bucket and brush.

He was an award-winning marksman in the LSF, but he had many strings to his bow.
He was a master fisherman, he played handball and boxed, he was president of the now defunct Workman’s Club and he followed all sports.

But his happiest memories are perhaps of the days he spent in uniform, a decade or so when he and some 40,000 like him around Ireland were prepared to face any enemy that might invade the shores of their beloved Ireland.

He recalls marching and drilling with Professor Darcy, Tom Treacy of Treacy’s Garage, Irishtown, Kilkenny, CBS teacher Alfie Cullen and he speaks highly of county comrades such as Nixie Boran of Castlecomer, Johnny Quigley of Kells and Jimmy Breen of Gowran.

No. 1 Company had four platoons. Captain was local man Tom Deloughry. Each platoon had a lieutenant and a sergeant and there were ten men in each of four sections. Each section had a corporal.

On their first marches in the Market Yard, Kilkenny, now the home of Dunne’s Stores, in 1939, the volunteers had no rifles.

They were called to arms in 1941/42 when President Eamon de Valera visited Waterford to review a parade.

A cache of Springfield 300 rifles came from the United States and for the first time the volunteers took part in an armed parade.

They truly were a defence force now. Then they had to learn how to use the guns.
There were weekly visits to Ballydaniel Rifle Range in Threecastles where Army Sergeant Jim Moran was the instructor, along with Army Quartermaster Joe Merrins, who also issued uniforms and boots from the stock at Kilkenny Military Baracks.

Co-incidentally both men were to become Fatima Place, Kilkenny neighbours. Members of the late Mr Merrin’s family still live in Kilkenny while the late Jim Moran’s son, Gerry is a columnist with the Kilkenny People.

Other instructors were Batt O’Connor, Ambrose McKenna and Peter Graham.
Rifle training was intense, three evenings a week, plus all day Sunday.
Top marksman were one Dick Broderick and the late Seamus Dunlop of Kennyswell.
“We had bow and arrow badges on the sleeve of our uniform to prove our skills”.
Dick Broderick smiled. “And we won many army titles with our marksmanship.”

The No. 1 Company had an engineering platoon and there were also sections for combat, signals, intelligence and observation.

After intensive training, it was down to the nitty gritty of war, well not exactly war but preparing for the eventuality of war.

“In the engineers our job was explosives. The general idea was that if there was an invasion the regular army would take on the enemy before retreating.

“Our job was to join the volunteers from Ballycallan in knocking trees and blowing up bridges, anything that would hamper the enemy.

Dick Broderick and Geoff Leahy, an employee at DeLoughry’s Foundry in the city, would be the key men in any explosives strategy.

They would lead their men into the country, knock a tree and drill holes which they filled with gelignite.
The men would be shown a safe way of knocking a tree, setting explosives, and wiring up a detonator and safety fuse.

The bridge which crosses the River Nore at Greensbridge was wired for blasting.
In an emergency the fuse would be lit and the bridge would drop into the river.
John’s Bridge in the city was much sturdier. Despite many suggestions and consultations with army expert Colonel Bellew no plan could be devised to blow up what was at the time one of the longest single span bridges in Europe.

At the time, the bridge was bomb-proof. “Even an enemy bomb from above would have done no damage,” claimed Dick Broderick.

The years rolled on and there was no sign of an invading enemy.
But the volunteers, now members of the FCA, remained resolute.

Springfield Rifles were recalled by the Government and the men were issued with Enfield Rifles which used 303 ammunition. They now carried the same arms as regular soldiers.
Training now was at Kilkenny Military Barracks. Headquarters was the FCA Hall in Parliament Street, a former RIC Barracks, a former technical school, home to the St Vincent de Paul Society and Connradh na Gaeilge and now the offices of the Agricultural Credit Corporation.

Dick Broderick continued to serve until 1950 when he retired.
In some respects he never really left the FCA. He believes that the FCA is a fine body of men which continues to do the country proud.

He speaks with respect of the LSF, the LDF and the FCA, a body which had several names, but which for Dick Broderick had achieved one marvellous aim.

“In the forties it united the young men of Ireland. Men of different persuasions marched and drilled together respecting each other’s views but never trying to preach the gospel of Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil.

“It was wonderful to see men of different views putting any differences aside for the sake of
their country.”

Today Dick Broderick spends much of his time reading newspapers and western novels.
He is happy to be among his children and loves his own home, sweet home, a stone’s throw from a city centre where he plied his painting trade for a lifetime.

He watches sport on television and keeps in touch with current affairs but never far from his reach are photographic reminders of the days when he gave his time, energy and expertise to his country.
He salutes his colleagues and longs for the day when surviving volunteers will come together for what he believes would be a very special veteran’s day.

Courtesy of Jim Rhatigan and the Kilkenny People
December 2004