Objects > Royal Irish Constabulary body armour


WWI military snipers armour breast and backplate

Date: 1919

Material: articulated steel, twill

Dimensions: 60 x 60 cm

Organisation: Royal Irish Constabulary, British Army

Source: Police Museum 198/89

British army articulated steel plates in khaki twill, used by snipers during World War I. Like an early flak jacket, these plates protected the wearer's chest from injury. In the early 1920s, these plates were issued to Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) barrack orderlies and worn when answering calls to the barrack doors.

After the Easter Rising, there was an increase in anti-British feeling In Ireland. The RIC were seen as a vulnerable arm of the British government and rural barracks proved a good source of weapons for activists. The inspector general reviewed security at barracks and ordered that doors be barred at night, telephones installed and a small number of barracks closed down. After an attack on a RIC barracks in 1918, a further review of station security called for the reinforcement of security doors and the application of heavy steel shuttering to ground floor windows. Sand bags were distributed to smaller barracks and doors were locked during the hours of darkness and only opened to passwords. There was a withdrawal of foot patrols from country areas and further closing of remote barracks which left large stretches of the countryside without police protection.

In January 1919, two RIC men were killed while on special patrol. Their deaths marked the beginning of the War of Independence and an increase in the number of attacks against policemen and barracks by the Irish Volunteers/Irish Republican Army (IRA). In some areas, normal policing work was suspended and police stationed in smaller isolated stations were forced to retreat to larger barracks. By June 1920, 450 evacuated barracks had been made unusable by the IRA.