This article is sourced from the archives of the Inishowen Maritime Museum, Greencastle, Co. Donegal

In January 1939, the Irish government recognised that it had to have some form of coast watching service, if only to comply with its obligations under the “Hague Convention, 1907”, on the rights and duties of a neutral country in times of war.

In February 1939, the government decided to form a Marine & Coast Watching Service to monitor Irish coastal waters and a new headquarters for the Coast Watching Service was established in Portobello Barracks, in August. An Army officer from Moville, Captain John Farren, was appointed Staff Officer, Marine and Coast Watching Service.

The new service had 5 main responsibilities:

  • The Patrol Service- responsible for the naval vessels patrolling our territorial sea.
  • The Coastwatching Service – watching over our coastline and inshore waters.
  • The Port Examination Service – monitoring shipping entering and leaving Irish ports.
  • The Mining Service – mining and mine countermeasures in harbours.
  • The Maritime Inscription – protection of ports and harbours.

Inishowen men served on board the ships of the Patrol Service, in the Port Control and Examination Service and in the Coast Watching Service.

No mines were laid in any Donegal harbours.

In spite of Donegal being on the border of a belligerent state and right at the beginning, or end, of trans-Atlantic convoy routes, there was no Maritime Inscription organisation in the county.

The “Marine and Coast Watching Service” was established on 05 September 1939 and the Army started to man the existing lookout posts on the South coast and to establish a series of 83 new posts at about 10 miles apart all around the coast.

On 15 May 1945, all emergency powers were revoked, and the Marine Service was run down. On 01 June 1945, the Port Control and Examination Service was the first to go as shipping inspection and port entry formalities were no longer required when the restrictions were lifted.

The Marine and Coast Watching Service divisions were quickly disbanded, or drastically reduced. The much reduced Maritime Inscription became An Slua Mhuire, a naval reserve force. The Patrol Service was reduced but remained to become the Irish Naval Service of today.

On 09 October 1945, the Coast Watching Service was disbanded.