The EIRE Signs of World War 2

Travel

The recent heat wave in the UK has revealed more than ancient henges.

Over at Bray Head, on the Irish coast, a short distance away from Dublin, a wildfire stoked by the hot weather has revealed a World War Two-era landmark that had disappeared under thick undergrowth for many years. It’s an aerial sign made by arranging rocks and boulders to spell out the word “EIRE”, which means Ireland in the Irish language.

More than eighty such signs dotted across Ireland’s coast during the Second World War as navigational messages to inform both Allied and German pilots that they were flying over a neutral country.

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The sign at Bray Head exposed after the fire had scorched the earth. Photo credit: Irish Air Corps

When war broke out in Europe and everybody took sides, Ireland decided to stay neutral. At the same time, to guard against an invasion of Ireland the Irish Defence Forces established a Coast Watching Service to monitor the Irish coastline for belligerent activity at sea. Between 1939 and 1942, over eighty Lookout Posts, or LOPs, were constructed along the coastline at intervals between 5 and 15 miles, and manned by local volunteers who worked around the clock in pairs on eight- to twelve-hour shifts. While one operated the telephone inside the LOP, the other patrolled outside.

Not long after the network of lookout posts were constructed, at the behest of the Americans, it was decided to add large signs marking the coast as EIRE. This was needed because from up in the air, many pilots had difficulty recognizing landmarks and lost their bearings.

A number of the signs still exist in varying states of repair, mostly along the west of the country. Some have been renovated by the locals.

The recent reveal at Bray Head would provide opportunity for the Office of Public Works to take over the sign and restore it to its original state.

A map of Ireland’s Lookout Posts during the Second World War. Courtesy: Coastmonkey.ie

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The sign at Bray Head exposed after the fire had scorched the earth. Photo credit: Irish Air Corps

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Another EIRE sign at Malin Head. This sign was later restored.

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