The history of Irelands lookout posts (LOPs) of the Irish Defence Force's Coast Watching Service.

In the uncertain early days of the World War Two the Irish government sought to take action to protect the neutrality it had declared in September 1939. It was decided that a series of lookout posts would be build at strategic points around the Irish coast to monitor belligerent activity at the sea. These posts were manned by soldiers and the institution they formed was called the Coast Watching Service.
Ultimately, 83 posts were built or reconditioned between 1939 and 1942. Huts were built on site to an identical design from 137 pre-cast blocks. It was a considerable logistics exercise to establish these posts around the coast. Their construction was one of the most widely spread engineering exercises undertaken by the Irish DefenceForces during the Second World War. It involved planning and constructing positions at strategic locations five to fifteen miles apart along a 1.970 mile coastline from Ballagan point in Louth to Inishowen Head in Donegal.
Coastwatchers worked around the clock 24 hours in groups of two on eight or twelve hour shifts in these posts. One man remained inside the post operating the phone, the other patrolled outside. They had to report every military activity the observed in the sea and air in the vicinity of their LOP. Teams of 8 to 21 coast watchers worked on each Lookout Post.

After the War the posts were shut down. Today most are in different conditions of ruination, falling down as their structures give way to the unrelenting elements or to human destruction. Some have simply vanished into the surrounding landscape. 51 LOPs of the Irish Defence Force's Coast Watching Service are still standing today. A few have been rebuilt and have functions relating to marine communications and as aids to direction and navigation.

Recommended Literature
Guarding Neutral Ireland
The Coast Watching Service and military intelligence, 1939–1945
Michael Kennedy

Ireland’s Second World War frontline troops were the men of the Coast Watching Service. From 1939-45 they maintained a continuous watch along the Irish shoreline, reporting all incidents in the seas and skies to Military Intelligence (G2). They had a vital influence on the development of Ireland’s pro-Allied neutrality and on the defence of Ireland during ‘The Emergency’,as through their reports G2 assessed the direction of the Battle of the Atlantic off Ireland and reported belligerent threats to the state upwards to the Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces, to the Cabinet and Taoiseach and Minister for External Affairs Eamon de Valera. Using unique Irish military sources and newly available British and American material, the history of thecoastwatchers and G2 combines to tell the history of the Second World War as it happened locally along the coast of Ireland and at national and international levels in Dublin, London, Berlin and Washington.Of particular importance, the study reveals in the greatest detail yet available the secret relationship between Irish military and diplomats and British Admiralty Intelligence, showing how coast watching service reports were passed on to the RAF and Royal Navy Britain in the hunt for German u-boats and aircraft in the Atlantic.


Michael Kennedy is the Executive Editor of the Royal Irish Academy’s Documents on Irish Foreign Policy Series, an adjunct Associate Professor of History at UCD and a member of the Irish Manuscripts Commission.

 

Historical photographs and a blueprint of the LOP buildings.

From left to right: LOP 3 Clogher Head, LOP 54 Auchrus Point, LOP 2 Dunany Point                                                                                  © Courtesy of the National Archives of Ireland

 


© Courtesy of the National Archives of Ireland