UNIQUE ‘SCHOOL’ IN NAAS MILITARY BARRACKS

by ehistoryadmin on August 8, 2014

LEINSTER LEADER 27 OCTOBER 1956

    Unique ‘School’ in Naas Military Barrack

     As they walked  through  the  gates of  Naas  Military  Barracks  fifty-five  boys,  whose  ages  range  from  about  fifteen  to seventeen,  entered  one  of  Ireland’s  most  unusual  schools.  They  were  arriving  at  the  Irish  National  Army’s  latest  establishment,  set  up  to  equip  them  for  an  important  job.  On  the  completion  of  their  training – three years of  which will be spent in Naas—these boys will  be Army technicians .

       To the person who is not familiar with the “make-up”  of a defence force  the  term  technician  may  have  but  a vague  meaning.  But  the  technician  is  one  of  the  most  important  parts  of  the  force’s  “machinery.”   He  has  a  special  place  in  the  organisation  and  is  trained  for  important  duties.

     It  is  he   who  repairs  broken  woodworks and fittings, makes and repairs mechanical vehicles, attends to broken and damaged guns, and ensures a supply of electrical power to the troops at all times.  Where would  an  army  be  without  an ample  quota  of  such  men?  It would  soon  be   in  a  state of  chaos.

     There  would  be  no  one  with  sufficient  knowledge  or experience to maintain the army’s equipment,  consequently,  it  could not function efficiently.  An ordinary trooper is all right when it comes to fighting but put  a spanner in his hand and tell him to replace a tank track, and more than likely,  he is lost.

     This is where the technician  steps  in.  He is not trained to fight, but primarily  to  maintain  and service equipment, and it is for this purpose that these boys have been brought to Naas from all parts of the country.

     Many of them probably did not realise the importance of the position they are intended to occupy, but their training will give them a complete knowledge of the various trades necessary  for an  army  technician.

              CONDITIONS OF ENTRY

     Before  they  were  accepted  for the course  each of the boys had to undergo  a stiff  medical  test  and interview,  and each  of  them  had  already spent at least a year in a technical school.

     In  the  Naas  school  they  will  undergo  a three-year  course, which will cover apprentice  training  in  one  of  the  following trades:  Carpenter,  fitter,  body-builder, joiner, armourer, electrician.  On the completion  of  the  course  the  lads will  then  be  divided  up  amongst  the  various  corps  where  they  are  required.  They  will  spend  the  remainder of their nine-year enlistment in  the  regular  army,  and  when  finished may re-enlist  or  go on  the  reserve  for  three  years.

     But during their sojourn  in  Naas Military  Barracks  the  boys  will  also  undergo military and physical training,  and  educational  training in Irish,  English,  history,  mathematics,  mechanical   drawing  and  religious  knowledge.   Fully  qualified  teachers and  instructors have been engaged, and  one  of  the  local  curates  will  give  lectures in religious knowledge.

     The  main  idea  behind  the  schools – the  first  of  its  type  to  be  established  by   the   army  is  “to provide  training  in  certain   basic trades  with  a  view  to  the  maintenance   of   a  supply   of  skilled  personnel  for  the  defence   forces.” The  system  of  training  will  be   up  to  first-class  civilian  standards,  and the trade  union  organisations  have  agreed  that  men trained and qualified  under  the  system  can  be  admitted as members of the appropriate unions.

     So, on their return  to  civilian life,  if they so choose, they will  be qualified  tradesmen,   entitled  to occupy union jobs.

           RECRETIONAL FACILITIES

     Due  to  the  fact  that  they  will only  be  allowed  outside  the  barracks  on  week-ends  the  boys  will  want   plenty  to  do  during  their  spare  time,  and the  authorities have “laid-on”   excellent   recreational facilities  for  them.

     Physical   training actually comprises part of the curriculum, but the boys will also be encouraged to spend a great deal out of their leisure hours playing outdoor games, such as hurling and football. Boots, togs, balls, etc., are supplied to them and practising will present no difficulty, as there is a fine field behind the barracks.

Next year they intend entering teams in the county juvenile and minor grades, and they hope to emulate the feat of the Cadets by winning the championship on the first go.

Besides outdoor activities the boys will be able to participate in various indoor pastimes. They will have the benefit of a fully equipped gymnasium and basketball court, and if they don’t feel too energetic they can play darts, rings, draughts, table tennis, etc., in their own recreation hall, where a wireless set has been installed. But one of the boys told a Leinster Leader reporter, there is a drawback. He sounded a bit disappointed as he said he would not be able to listen to “Top Twenty,” due to “lights out” being at 11 p.m.

                       BETTER THAN HOME

     During a  tour  of  the  school  our  reporter  was  introduced  to  several  of  the  boys,  picked  at  random  as  he  looked  around. Four of them,  room-mates,  composed  a  very  interesting  quartet. All  of  them  come  from  Dublin  and  seem to  have  a  similar  liking  for  the pursuit  of  hobbies  and  games. Of  the  four,  three  are  footballers  and  the  other  a  hurler.

     Looking  very  comfortable  in  their  billet,   which   they   share   with   a senior boy,  they  related  how  well they  liked  their  new  jobs.  Except for  the  first  couple  of  days  they  have  not  kissed home, and are now perfectly happy  and  settled.   One lad,  who  seemed  most  enthusiastic  about  his  new  station  in  life,  said  it  was  “much  better  than  home — home  was  never  like  this.”  (His name   is   withheld   for   security reasons — his  security).

     Each of  the  boys  has  his  own  particular  hobby.  The  smallest  of  the  four  appears  to  be  something of  an  expert  on  radio  mechanics. Out  of  bits   and   scraps  he  has  manufactured  a  radio  set  capable  of  picking  up   programmes  from  the  Irish  station.  Asked  to  explain  its  workings,   he  said   it  was  a crystal   set,   and   from   there   he  embarked  into   its   technicalities, which sounded  very  impressive.

     Another boy makes model aeroplanes,  and  a  third  model  ships.  He produced a sample of his work, which looked extremely well. The  fourth member of the group was  a  straightforward  youth,  admitting  that  he  “could make anything” out  of  timber or metal. 

     In  the  course  of  his  look  around  our reporter was impressed by the happiness  of  all  the  boys,   who certainly do not seem at a loss for home.  They are taking all the new regulations in their stride and like the idea of being paid schoolboys.

                  SCHOOL’S STAFF

     The   officer   commanding   the school is   Lieut-Colonel   J.   McDonald, and  Commdt.  J.  Kilcullen is chief   instructor.   Possibly  the  best  known members of the  staff  are  Sergt-Major  Bill  Jackson,  a  former prominent  Roscommon footballer,  and  Sergt.  McBennett, one of the  army’s  leading  physical training instructors.

     The school will not reach its full complement for another two years, when the entire garrison, including 165 trainees, will number about 200.  

Re-typed by Hannah Mustapha

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