Volume 3 1926~1932

Doc No.

No. 81 NAI DFA 205/122

Extract from minutes of a meeting of the Informal Conference at Admiralty on Irish Free State Coastal Defence (Secret) (Copy No. 1)

London, 26 April 1927

Informal Conference at Admiralty on 26th April, 1927, to consider Technical and Financial aspects of Coast Defence.

I.      Present on behalf of British Government:-
   Rear Admiral A.D.P.R. Pound, C.B.  Assistant Chief of the Naval Staff.
   Mr. A. Flint, C.B.  Principal Assistant Secretary (Staff).
   Captain W.A. Egerton, C.M.G., R.N.  Director of Plans Division.
   Captain P. Macnamara, R.N.  Assistant Director of Plans Division.
   Commander N.M.F. Corbett, R.N.  Plans Division.
   Commander C.H.J. Harcourt, R.N.  Operations Division.
   Major R.B. Pargiter, R.A.  Directorate of Operations and Intelligence, War Office.
   Squadron Leader N.H. Bottomly, A.P.C.  Directorate of Intelligence, Air Ministry.
   Mr. N.E. Archer  Dominions Office.
   Major G.N. Macready, D.S.O.  Assistant Secretary to Committee of Imperial Defence.

II.     On behalf of Saorstát:-                                                                                                                  
   Mr. Diarmuid O'Hegarty,  Secretary, Executive Council.
   Mr. J.J. McElligott,  Assistant Secretary, Dept. of Finance.
   Lt. General Peadar MacMahon  Secretary, Department of Defence.
   Lt. General D. Hogan  Chief of Staff.
   Colonel S. O'Higgins  Chief Staff Officer.
   Commdt. D. Bryan  General Staff.

III.   Rear Admiral Pound opened the Conference by saying that the meeting was arranged for and arose out of the Convention provided for under Article VI of the Treaty. After some other preliminary remarks he indicated that he expected the Saorstát Delegation to open the discussion by giving some indication of the lines on which the Saorstát Government proposed to proceed by way of taking a share in the Coastal Defence of the Saorstát.

   Mr. O'Hegarty replied that our Government's proposal was that they were prepared to take over and maintain the existing defences at Lough Swilly, Berehaven and Cobh. He further stated that, of course, the taking over of these Forts would involve the consideration of the means of providing the necessary trained personnel, and other important details, and would take some time.

IV.   Rear Admiral Pound then stated that such a proposal would lead to a discussion of Article VII, and not Article VI of the Treaty, and further that any discussion of the position of the Reserved Forts involved the consideration of Imperial and not Local Defences, and that in addition he had no authority to discuss questions involving the consideration of Article VII as distinct from Article VI of the Treaty.


Pound then went on to explain that what was really expected was that we would consider the question of providing a mine sweeping service for the approaches to Dublin Port and possibly for the coast from Dublin to Rosslare, or even if we could spend more money, on the scheme from Dublin to Cobh. He also referred to an Anti-Submarine Service, but explained that it was expensive, highly technical and difficult, and, therefore, not recommended as a Service to start with. He also stated that an Intelligence Scheme was a definite and very necessary part of Coast Defence, and went on to explain that what he referred to was a Coast Watching or Coast Guard Service, and pointed out how such a Service could be built up in connection with a Customs, Commercial Coast Watching and Life Saving Service. While Pound was explaining the various Services mentioned and their connection with and importance as a part of a Coastal Defence Scheme, he also made some vague reference to the question of whether we had not considered the fortifying of any ports other than those reserved under the Treaty, but made no attempt to further explain or develop the discussion of this particular proposition.


Mr. O'Hegarty then stated that it was understood that a discussion of the position of the Reserved Forts involved consideration of Article VII as well as Article VI of the Treaty, but went on to explain that to really consider the question of Coast Defence, it was necessary to consider the two Articles together and the question of Coast Defence could not be considered in full without considering the relation of the Forts at Cobh, Berehaven and Lough Swilly to it.

   Mr. O'Hegarty also explained in answer to Rear Admiral Pound's suggestions as to a Coast Watching Service that a Customs Watching and a Coast Life Saving Service already existed.

   Pound then replied to the first portion of Mr. O'Hegarty's statement by stating that his instructions not only did not empower him to discuss this question, but actually prohibited him dealing with it.

VII.    Further discussion then took place between Mr. O'Hegarty and Rear Admiral Pound and during it Pound made it quite plain in answer to a proposal by Mr. O'Hegarty that he would not even discuss the technical and financial details of the taking over by the Saorstát of the existing Forts on the understanding that such a discussion did not prejudice the consideration of the larger questions of whether the taking over of these Forts was one of the matters that might be discussed at the real Conference when it met. He stated that he would, of course, explain the position created by Mr. O'Hegarty's proposals to his superiors and await their instructions.

VIII. In the course of the discussion of our proposals to take over the Forts, Pound explained that the British Government had, of course, assessed scales of possible attack for the Dominions, and would be pleased to do the same for us. He further explained that this was very necessary, otherwise defences considerably in excess of what was needed might be provided at some points and possibly insufficient defences at other points. He again explained that the Admiralty Scheme was one dealing with approaches to Dublin Harbour and the route from it to Rosslare or an alternative and more ambitious one embracing the route from Dublin to Cork, and went on to state that Anti-submarine and mine-sweeping work were not inter-related. He also further stressed the highly technical aspect and other difficulties of the anti-submarine work and stated that to train a service for such duties a submarine would be necessary.

IX.   In the course of further discussion, Mr. O'Hegarty agreed that the details of the Admiralty's proposals might be examined without prejudice to our previous proposal to take over the Forts. Rear Admiral Pound agreed to this proposition, and Mr. O'Hegarty suggested that the examination might be more suitably conducted by a sub-committee of the larger meeting. This proposal was agreed to by Rear Admiral Pound and Mr. O'Hegarty proposed that Colonel O'Higgins and Mr. McElligott (as a Finance representative) would do the examination on behalf of the Saorstát. On Colonel O'Higgins requesting that Comdt. Bryan should also attend the further meeting it was agreed that he could. The proceedings of this sub-committee are embodied in a separate report.1

X.    When the meeting was terminated, Captain Egerton, the director of the Plans division, in the course of conversation described our proposals as something in the nature of a bomb thrown into the meeting, and also went on to state that what we really required was a person with Naval experience attached to the Ministry of Defence as an adviser in Naval matters.

1 Not printed.