No. 192 NAI DFA Secretary's Files S77

Letter from John W. Dulanty to Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin) with copies of the minutes of the British-Irish meetings regarding the transfer of Treaty Ports (Confidential)

London, 1 June 1938

I have to-day received from the British War Office and send herewith twenty copies of the Minutes of Meetings held on the 25th, 27th and 28th May at this office, regarding the transfer of the Ports. In a note transmitting these copies Captain Jones, who compiled the Minutes, states that he and his colleagues are actively engaged in trying to get a clear definition from the War Office point of view of what vessels, training guns etc. form part of the fixed defences and also the British responsibility for making good deficiencies in stores etc.

[signed] J.W. Dulanty
High Commissioner


Minutes of Meetings held on May 25th, 27th and 28th 1938 at the Office of the High Commissioner for Éire between representatives of the Government of Éire and the Government of the United Kingdom to discuss details regarding the transfer of the harbour defences of Lough Swilly, Cobh and Berehaven to Éire.

Mr. J.W. Dulanty
(in the Chair)
High Commissioner for Éire

Representing the Government of Éire
Mr. Sean Murphy Assistant Secretary, Department of External Affairs.
Major P. Maher Director of Artillery.
Commandant Kinneen Acting Director of Military Engineering
Mr. J.B. O'Connell Finance Officer.
Mr. C.J. O'Donovan Secretary to the Office of the High Commissioner.

Representing the Government of the United Kingdom
Brigadier R.B. PargiterRepresenting Director of Military Operations and Intelligence, War Office.
Brigadier J.S. WilkinsonRepresenting Director of Movements and Quartering, War Office.
Captain C.I.V. JonesGeneral Staff, War Office.
Mr. F. WhittleAssistant Secretary, War Office.
Colonel F.G. Drew General Staff, Western Command
Lieutenant-Colonel R.H.A.D. LoveCommanding South Irish Coast Defences.
Mr. J.E. Stephenson Assistant Secretary, Dominions Office

  1. Date of evacuation
    It was originally proposed that Cobh should be evacuated by June 29th. The War Office representatives, however, pointed out that there were considerable difficulties in disposing of personnel by that date and after discussion it was finally agreed that the date of evacuation of Cobh should be July 11th.
  2. Stores left behind by War Office and Admiralty
    The War Office representatives pointed out that in the short time available little more than personal and unit equipment could be shipped to England and that it would be necessary to leave behind many tons of other stores. It was agreed that the War Office and Admiralty should reserve the right to withdraw these stores after the date of the evacuation but that meanwhile they should be stored as far as possible in buildings to be selected by representatives of the War Office and the Department of Defence and that they should be taken care of by personnel employed by the War Office.
  3. Fixed armament
    It was agreed that the fixed armament at the Ports which should be transferred under the terms of the Agreement included the following:
    Fort Templebreedy two 9.2" guns
    Fort Westmoreland two 6" guns
    Fort Carlisle two 6" guns
    Mounted in reserve one 9.2" gun
    one 6" gun
    Bere Haven
    Two 6" guns
    Two 12 pdr. guns
    Lough Swilly
    Two 9.2" guns
    Two 6" guns

    The War Office representatives pointed out that at Fort Templebreedy one 9.2" gun has a cracked 'A' tube and that they had been trying to replace this gun for a long time and that the other 9.2" gun had steel choke.

    They explained that it was impossible to exchange the former by the date of evacuation but that they would replace it by a fully serviceable 9.2" gun before December 31st 1938. They would endeavour to lap out the other gun by July 11th 1938 but if that were not possible, before December 31st 1938.

    In both cases the cost would be borne by the Government of the United Kingdom. The War Office representatives explained that in view of Article 2 of the Agreement which provided for the transfer of armament etc., 'at present at the said ports' they would be unable to accept a similar obligation in the case of any other deficiencies, though they did not believe that any such deficiencies existed. The Irish representatives were unable to accept the view expressed in the last sentence because their interpretation of Article 2 was that the transfer of the harbour defences necessarily meant the transfer of effective services and complete equipment. In their view the War Office interpretation implied that the Irish Department of Defence might be called upon to make good deficiencies which were not apparent at the date of transfer.

    The War Office would hand over with the fixed armament the stores equipment and shops at present at the ports necessary for fighting and servicing the fixed armament and for essential training including the engineering equipment shown in the list handed to the military representatives of Éire on the 27th May 1938.

    The representatives of Éire claimed that all 12 pdr. equipments in the Ports not shown above were part of the fixed defences and therefore should be transferred free. The War Office representatives reserved their opinion on this question.

  4. War Department Fleet
    The War Department Fleet on the South Irish Defences at present included the following vessels:
    1. 'John Adams' -- Diesel Engine Barge - shallow draught - sea-going
    2. 'Wyndham' -- Target Towing with winding gear.
    3. 'General McHardy -- do
    4. 'Haldane' -- do
    5. 'Swift' -- Speed Launch
    6. 'Rover' -- Patrol Picquet Boat
    7. 'Raven' -- do
    8. 'Jackdaw' -- do.) one condemned
    9. 'Magpie' -- do.)
    The representatives of Éire claimed that the War Department vessels should be regarded as part of the fixed defences and therefore transferred free. The War Office pointed out that two vessels the 'Haldane' and the 'Swift' were only attached and not based permanently at Cobh or Berehaven; that while the target towing vessels might perhaps be regarded as part of the fixed defences, the remainder could not be so regarded. The representatives of Éire still contended that all the vessels except perhaps the 'Haldane' and the 'Swift' must be regarded as part of the fixed defences and the War Office agreed to reconsider the matter. The War Office undertook to ascertain whether there were any War Department vessels based on Lough Swilly.
  5. Movable armament
    The representatives of Éire agreed that they did not want to take over the 18 pdr. guns, Vickers guns and Lewis guns at any of the Ports and they had no objection to their removal as soon as convenient. They wished, however, to consider taking over on payment the 4.5" Howitzers at Berehaven and Lough Swilly and it was agreed that these should not be withdrawn, at present.
  6. Courses
    The War Office representatives said that it would be possible to take 12 officers on a Coast Artillery Course beginning on June 19th and lasting three weeks. Two or three of these officers could remain a further two weeks or could remain if they wished until the end of September. The two weeks which the majority of the officers would miss would deal only with counter-bombardment work (9.2") and the fortress system of rangefinding.

    They also said that the vacancy now allotted to Éire on the Gunnery Staff Course would be allotted for the Field Artillery branch but that it was possible to allot Éire a further vacancy on the Coast Artillery and Antiaircraft branch at the Gunnery Staff Course beginning in October. Attendance of the officers on these courses would be on the usual financial terms applying to Dominions officers.

  7. Detail of personnel
    Details of artillery, engineer and civilian personnel now employed in Cobh were handed by the War Office to the Éire representatives together with full details of the electric light, pumping etc. plant installed in Cobh.
  8. Training cadre
    It was agreed that the War Office should leave behind after July 11th a training cadre consisting of:
    R.A. personnel
    Officers 2
    N.C.Os. 9
    Master Gunners 3
    R.E. personnel
    Officers 1
    Mechanists 1
    Foreman of Works 1
    N.C.Os. 3
    Royal Corps of Signals personnel
    Sergeants 1
    Other ranks 6
    The loan of personnel would be on the usual financial terms for the loan of personnel to the Dominions.

    The War Office emphasised that personnel could not be ordered to remain in Cobh or any other Port after evacuation had taken place, that these men must be volunteers and that Éire would have to offer some financial inducement to them. The question of what this inducement should be would be taken up by the War Office. These men would remain in Cobh for a minimum of four months and Éire should have the option to extend their stay up to a further two months.

  9. Lands
    It was agreed that the War Department would collect rents and discharge outgoings up to June 24th 1938, that Éire would collect rents and any arrears of rent after that date and that arrears of rent so collected would accrue to Éire.

    The War Office agreed that Éire would be given the original title deeds etc. of lands as early as possible.

    It might be necessary to ask the Government of Éire for an indemnity against possible action by lessors in the case of leases under which the Secretary of State for War has covenanted to hand back the property of the lessors when no longer required by him.

  10. Ceremonial
    It was agreed that some ceremonial was desirable at the final handover in the nature of an exchange of salutes between two guards and the lowering of one flag and the hoisting of the other. It was agreed that details of this ceremonial should be settled locally and should be discussed at an administrative conference which was to be held on June 8th.
  11. Evacuation of Lough Swilly and Berehaven
    The War Office asked that they should be given at least three months notice of the taking over of Lough Swilly and Berehaven1 and it was finally agreed that although no definite time could be given, Éire would give the War Office as much notice as possible.
  12. Visits to the Ports
    It was agreed that an early visit by the Éire representatives to the Ports was desirable and that to start with details for a visit to Cobh should be arranged direct between the Defence Department in Dublin and the Officer Commanding South Irish Coast Defences.
  13. Stores
    It was agreed that the War Office should supply the Department of Defence as soon as possible with a schedule showing the types and quantities of stores held at the various Ports. The Department of Defence would then indicate the amount of serviceable stores (if any) which they might consider purchasing. Any stores so indicated would after inspection and approval be valued by the War Office and would be taken over at the evacuation provided that agreement as to price had been reached by the two Departments.
  14. Embarkation
    It was agreed that Cobh and not Cork should be used for the embarkation of British troops on evacuation.
  15. Movable armament ammunition
    It was agreed that at present all 18 pdr. and 4.5 howitzer ammunition should be left at the Ports until Éire had decided if they wished to take any of it over on the terms indicated at paragraph 13 above.
  16. Small arms ammunition
    It was agreed that Éire did not wish to take over any small arms ammunition and that this could be removed by the War Office as convenient.
  17. Sea planes
    It was agreed that the Government of the United Kingdom could land seaplanes as required in Cobh harbour without special permission being sought until the evacuation was complete.
  18. Civilian employees
    It was agreed that Éire could accept no responsibility for these but their representatives agreed to consider and to notify the War Office before the date of evacuation how far the services of such civilian employees could be retained.
  19. Evacuation of stores not required
    It was agreed that the War Office could begin the removal forthwith of any stores which the representatives of Éire have indicated they do not wish to take over or which are definitely personal or unit stores.
  20. Private and regimental property
    It was agreed that Éire would consider the question of taking over at evaluation, private and regimental property such as squash courts etc. as soon as the War Office has indicated the expenditure on such property out of private and regimental funds.
  21. Administrative conference
    It was agreed that an administrative conference should be held in Cobh on June 8th attended by representatives of Éire, Western Command and a representative from Northern Ireland District in order that experience could be obtained for the handing over of Lough Swilly.
  22. Defence schemes
    The representatives of Éire indicated that they wished to have the defence schemes and other relevant plans and documents of the Ports and the War Office promised to make these available.
  23. Press notice
    It was agreed that it was desirable to issue a notice to the Press which should be issued simultaneously in the United Kingdom and in Éire giving the date on which Cobh was to be evacuated.

A draft notice was approved (copy attached).


The meetings at the Irish High Commissioner's Office between officials of Éire and the United Kingdom were concluded on Saturday morning. As a result of the discussions arrangements have been agreed upon for the formal transfer of the defences of Cork Harbour on the 11th July 1938. An Administrative Conference will be held in Cobh on the 8th June at which discussions will take place to consider the disposal of certain stores and private or regimental properties not forming part of the Port defences proper.

The fixing of the date of the transfer of the Harbour defences at Berehaven and Lough Swilly which under the terms of Article 3 of the Agreement of the 25th April 1938 are to be handed over not later than the 31st December 1938 was deferred for later decision.

1 Berehaven and Lough Swilly were transferred to Irish control respectively on 29 September 1938 and 3 October 1938.

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