Tuesday 16 October 2018

Time to remember

by Olivia Ryan Members of the 27th Battalion formed at Dundalks Aiken Barracks are set to mark the 30th anniversary with a special commemoration day on Wednesday next.

Hundreds of serving and retired members of the 27th will be in attendance to mark the formation of the Battalion on September 1st 1973, the first dedicated Border infantry battalion

The present Commanding Officer, Mick O’Sullivan, will lead the 30th anniversary celebrations which will begin with a commemorative Mass, remembrance of deceased members, and a Parade in the Barracks Square.

The 27th Battalion had in fact been originally created after the formation of the State in 1922, and existed until 1927 when it was amalgamated with the 15th Battalion.

According to Military Barracks - Dundalk “A Brief History” written by Joseph Gavin and Stephen O’Donnell, the 27th was re-formed in 1973 when personnel of the 1st Infantry Company Group, who were stationed in Dundalk Barracks and Castleblayney Military Post became members of the new border battalion.

The first Commanding Officer of new 27th Battalion was Lieutenant Colonel Louis Hogan, who became the Defence Forces Chief of Staff in the early 1980’s.

At the outset, the 27th Battalion also had responsibility for the two posts of Cavan and Cootehill, but in 1973, these would be part of the new 29th Battalion.

In the years following the creation of the 27th, substantial work was undertaken at the Barracks located off Barrack Street, including the construction of accommodation blocks, and a number of new buildings incorporating diningrooms, kitchen, boiler house etc, and new.

The busiest year of development at the Dundalk barracks was 1975 when the first of the new buildings completed, a two storey accommodation block was officially opened by the Minister of Defence

The Department of Defence also successfully obtained a section of adjacent grounds which had formerly been a shoe factory for many years, and the main entrance to the Barracks was opened at the Point Road.

During the most violent years of the Northern Ireland troubles, the Dundalk Barracks also found itself the centre of media focus, when journalists began looking to the local military to provide information on the border area.

Aside from the physical development of the new Battalion, members of the 27th, who were increasingly becoming more local as the years progressed, excelled in many sporting fields from football to shooting competitions, marathons, cycling and orienteering.

One of the more recent developments in the Barracks was the museum, officially opened in 1983 by Colonel Carl O’Sullivan. Numerous artefacts of was were placed in the Museum from old fire arms to ammunition and historical documents and records.

In 1986, the Barracks was named Aiken Barracks by the then Taoiseach Garret Fitzgerald, after former TD, Frank Aiken, who was a former Commander of the old IRA, and had many links with the area, being originally from South Armagh.

Over the last thirty years, Aiken Barracks has been constantly occupied by full time, making it the longest serving regular Army unit ever to occupy the Barracks.

The local Unit of the FCA (Now the RDF -Reserve Defence Forces) also have a long association with Aiken Barracks.

The 27th Battalion has also seen some unique developments in recent years, with the closure of the Castleblayney Military Post in 1998, some members transferred to Dundalk. The Army Barracks at Monaghan also came under the control of the 27th Battalion in the same year