Michael Collins's army list goes online


The full list of personnel in the Free State Army led by Michael Collins is being published online for the first time this morning.

The contents of Ireland’s first – and only – military census have been digitised and launched on the website of the Defence Forces’ Military Archives. The documents list the names of all those serving in the National Army during the Civil War, and was compiled just weeks after Collins was killed in 1922.

The National Army came into being following the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921 and consisted of units of the IRA who had fought for independence from Britain. The commander-in-chief was Collins, who was also chairman of the new provisional government of the Irish Free State which was scheduled to come into being in December 1922.

The troops were busy taking over barracks from departing British forces but the transition to independence was disrupted by the Civil War which began in June 1922. The new army – like the country – split between those who supported and those who opposed the Treaty. The anti-Treaty soldiers became known as the “irregulars”. Following Collins’s death in an ambush by anti-Treaty forces in Cork in August 1922, he was replaced as head of the provisional government by WT Cosgrave.

Logistics challenge

He faced grave administrative challenges in trying to organise the army and to manage the logistics of paying and supplying the troops in 296 locations spread throughout the 26 counties.

In October 1922, the Army Council decided to organise a census of the National Forces at midnight on the 12th/13th November. Its purpose was “to ascertain the exact strength of the National Forces by location for administrative, logistical and operational purposes”. A sample page lists men in the Borrisoleigh, Co Tipperary barracks,among them Joseph Murphy (28) of Rathdowney, Co Laois; Pte George Ramsbottom (18) from Maganey, Co Kildare; and Henry Traynor (20) of 4 Ushers Island, Dublin.

Comdt Padraic Kennedy of the Military Archives said the online publication of the census would “provide an invaluable research tool for local history research, military history and genealogy”. It is available at militaryarchives.ie