In the first years of World War II, the numbers of personnel in the army multiplied by between six and seven. The army began by calling up on permanent service part-time soldiers, ie, reserve and volunteer units. By early summer 1940, numbers had to double again. These new recruits had to be trained and this put a major strain on army resources.
In a broadcast on June 1, 1940, Taoiseach Éamon De Valera said that in addition to the army, the country needed a local security force of men prepared to give their time to observation, patrol, and intelligence work in their own locality, stating that every man could help in this national effort and every man would count. They did. They flocked to Garda stations to be enrolled and to make a solemn declaration to be faithful to the Constitution and to assist the Garda Síochána in the maintenance of peace and security. And yet, after 500 armed and uniformed men paraded through the town on December 15, 1940, Pat Margetts, O/C of the Galway District Staff, addressed them saying he was not satisfied with the numbers of men in the force; he expected a much bigger number from a town with a population of 20,000.
Leaflets were printed and distributed urging people to join this new Local Security Force. It was stressed that the work would be entirely of a civil character, purely local, and would become operative only in case of emergency. One could get the amount of training necessary at a cost of about one and a half hours each week of one’s time.
Members of the Gardai were appointed as liaison officers and Sergeant Michael Walsh was put in charge of the Galway area. He arranged instruction in squad drill, police and patrol duties, duty at fires, traffic control, aerial observation, weapon training, air raid precautions (ARP ), first aid, etc. Lectures were given in UCG and in the Ex-Servicemen’s Hall in Father Griffin Road. Their uniform was blue. The ARP services provided for Galway were the casualty service, the auxiliary fire-fighting force, the rescue service, and the decontamination service, all under the control of the county manager. If a siren sounded an air raid warning, the LSF would take up the warning by blowing whistles.
Boys between 14 and 17 years were required for dispatch duty in the city in an emergency. Membership of the juvenile section of the LSF would not interfere with school work as their meetings were only held on Saturday afternoons.
Our photograph shows a church parade of the Galway LSF crossing the Salmon Weir Bridge. The men in front were the local staff officers led by Tom Henry followed by, left to right, Jack Curran, Paddy Melia, Michael Delaney, and Frank Pilkington. The main body of men are led by group leader Larry Hynes, seen in the black coat.