Why didn't Ireland develop a larger Navy during WW2?

Dec 2014
1,082
Europe
According to the Irish Naval Service's history webpage (History | Naval Service | Defence Forces) between 1939-45 Ireland only had six MTBs and 4 "assorted vessels", with a total of about 300 personnel for it's Marine and Coastwatching Service (the closest thing it had then to a Navy).

This seems like a tiny amount for an island nation within a short sail of at least two powers with the capacity to invade. We know now that both Britain and the Nazis considered bringing the war to Ireland, though I don't know if any of that leaked through to Irish intelligence at the time. Regardless, I'm just wondering why didn't Ireland do more during WW2 to defend it's neutrality and it's maritime territory by investing in a decent sized Navy? Was it just down to lack of funds, or something else?
 

notgivenaway

Ad Honorem
Jun 2015
5,767
UK
there's only so much a country with far less resources and population can do to stop either the UK or Germany invading. I doubt the UK would have invaded anyhow, considering memories of the War of Independence were fresh, and this would have pushed Ireland into the Axis.
 
Dec 2014
1,082
Europe
Lack of funds, just about covers it.
I thought that too, but the Naval Service website does say that just a year or two after the war they purchased 3 Corvettes. So unless Ireland hit a cash windfall ca. 1946, I'm just wondering why they didn't try to make those kind of purchases when there was still a threat of war.

there's only so much a country with far less resources and population can do to stop either the UK or Germany invading. I doubt the UK would have invaded anyhow, considering memories of the War of Independence were fresh, and this would have pushed Ireland into the Axis.
True, but even buying a few vessels like the ones above would help somewhat with patrol and fishery protection duties. I don't know what "assorted vessels" were, but six mtbs and only 300 total personnel seems barely efficient for a country with the sea space of Ireland.

As to Britain invading or not, regardless the threat was there from one side or the other. Irish merchant shipping also suffered heavily from losses due to things like Uboat strikes. Rather than sailing alone with the tricolour or near allied convoys, why didn't Ireland invest in some good blue water vessels for trans Atlantic escort duties?
 

notgivenaway

Ad Honorem
Jun 2015
5,767
UK
I'm not sure they would have joined the Allies either, as there were still a lot of anti-UK sentiment. Possibly it would have been less with the Americans or other Commonwealth such as Canada, or Irish Republicans would have thought "enemy of my enemy is my friend".
 
Dec 2014
1,082
Europe
Well even as neutrals their freight ships were still being sunk by Uboats. As I said, I'm curious why Ireland didn't give more attention to building some kind of navy what with all the threats it was facing at the time.
 

Ancientgeezer

Ad Honorem
Nov 2011
8,898
The Dustbin, formerly, Garden of England
According to the Irish Naval Service's history webpage (History | Naval Service | Defence Forces) between 1939-45 Ireland only had six MTBs and 4 "assorted vessels", with a total of about 300 personnel for it's Marine and Coastwatching Service (the closest thing it had then to a Navy).

This seems like a tiny amount for an island nation within a short sail of at least two powers with the capacity to invade. We know now that both Britain and the Nazis considered bringing the war to Ireland, though I don't know if any of that leaked through to Irish intelligence at the time. Regardless, I'm just wondering why didn't Ireland do more during WW2 to defend it's neutrality and it's maritime territory by investing in a decent sized Navy? Was it just down to lack of funds, or something else?
Where would an agricultural backwater like the Irish Free State conjure up shipbuilding facilities in the middle of war? In any case Britain retained the responsibility for Irish maritime defence under the 1922 Treaty until 1938, which is why the Irish government bought its small number of coastal patrol craft when they did. There were only a small number of countries capable of building warships in the 1930s and 1940s and their dockyards were fully occupied. Besides, Ireland was skint.
 
Dec 2014
1,082
Europe
Where would an agricultural backwater like the Irish Free State conjure up shipbuilding facilities in the middle of war? In any case Britain retained the responsibility for Irish maritime defence under the 1922 Treaty until 1938, which is why the Irish government bought its small number of coastal patrol craft when they did. There were only a small number of countries capable of building warships in the 1930s and 1940s and their dockyards were fully occupied. Besides, Ireland was skint.
Obviously I'm asking about post 1938. They purchased civilian vessels from places like America when it was still neutral, and just a year after the war they somehow had the cash to buy three corvettes from Britain. So why didn't they make that kind of purchase a few years earlier from a friendly or neutral nation, like pre Pearl Harbour America?
 

Naomasa298

Forum Staff
Apr 2010
35,354
T'Republic of Yorkshire
According to the Irish Naval Service's history webpage (History | Naval Service | Defence Forces) between 1939-45 Ireland only had six MTBs and 4 "assorted vessels", with a total of about 300 personnel for it's Marine and Coastwatching Service (the closest thing it had then to a Navy).

This seems like a tiny amount for an island nation within a short sail of at least two powers with the capacity to invade. We know now that both Britain and the Nazis considered bringing the war to Ireland, though I don't know if any of that leaked through to Irish intelligence at the time. Regardless, I'm just wondering why didn't Ireland do more during WW2 to defend it's neutrality and it's maritime territory by investing in a decent sized Navy? Was it just down to lack of funds, or something else?
Surely defending one's neutrality rather defeats the point of neutrality - because it automatically puts you at war with the first belligerent? If either Germany or Britain invaded, that would by default push the Irish into siding with the other side.