Commanders of the British Forces in Ireland, 1796–1922

Tony Gaynor

Hardback €54.00
Catalogue Price: €60.00
ISBN: 978-1-80151-037-0
October 2022. 400pp. Illustrated. Hardback

"In the period covered by this book, 1796-1922, thirty-six men held the post of Commander of the Forces in Ireland. The core of this book is a description of the roles of the commander and an analysis of how the various holders of the office discharged these roles. This is covered in a series of thematic chapters which gives an excellent structure to the book and the discussion of each theme is both thorough and illustrated by reference to the individual commanders. This book is an original and important contribution to the study of Irish military history and is highly recommended to all interested in the subject and in particular to anybody who wishes to see the story from 'the other side', the problems, challenges and opportunities for the British Army. It is detailed, illustrated, well researched and very readable, and on the centenary of the final departure of General Macready, a fitting testimony to him and all his predecessors." Patrick McCarthy, The Irish Sword, vol. 34, no. 135. 


"Tony Gaynor, [...] in his meticulously researched book [...] focuses with a gimlet analysis on the role of these commanders of the British army in Ireland who were at the nexus of the Anglo-Irish relationship throughout a series of crises that marked the era. Where Gaynor's work particularly excels is in describing the often-fractious relationship between the army and the civil authority in in Ireland and as to how Government policy was to be implemented." Dr Rory Finnegan  (Comdt. Retd.) An Cosantóir, Mar/Apr 2023.

"The title of this book undersells it. [...] This book takes a thematic approach to the commanders' tenures in Ireland, with chapters examining their diverse range of experiences during war, rebellion and revolution and their influences on society , culture, trade and religion. The result is a book that hits that sweet spot between being rigorously researched and being accessible, interesting and entertaining.[...] The lives described in this book are rich, complex, humorous at times and very human. Importantly, Tony Gaynor achieves this without compromising or apologising for the often-violent colonial legacy embodied by his subjects. [...] In this book Gaynor addresses the contribution of these men to Irish history, a contribution that has thus far been overlooked.[...] Gaynor's research, whether deliberately or incidentally, has captured aspects of military life and in-house detail that could be directly transposed onto the profession of arms as it stands today. [...] Whether you're a 'modern soldier', historian or general reader, Gaynor offers something to interest you in this well-researched, accessible examination of a previously under-examined character from Irish history." Commandant Daniel Ayiotis, History Ireland, May/June 2023.


“On the afternoon of Monday 16th January 1922, the Irish Provisional Government took over power from the British administration at Dublin Castle.  It was an event rich in history … It was also the beginning of the gradual withdrawal of the British army garrison in Ireland … Tony Gaynor in his meticulously researched book, “Commanders of the British Forces in Ireland: 1796-1922,” focuses with a gimlet analysis on the role of these commanders of the British army in Ireland who were at the nexus of the Anglo-Irish relationship throughout a series of crisis that marked the era ... Where Gaynor’s work particularly excels is in describing the often-fractious relationship between the army and the civil authority in Ireland as to how Government policy was to be implemented.” Rory Finnegan, An Cosantóir (Jan/Feb 2023)

“Many of the names of the thirty six commanders of the British Forces in Ireland, such as FMs Lord Garnet Wolseley and Frederick Roberts, the Duke of Connaught and Nevil Macready, were well known but as a consequence of their service in Europe, India, Africa, the Crimea and other far flung war torn parts of the world. As a consequence of major wars, rebellions, famine, nationalism and militant republicanism, senior command in Ireland was challenging to say the least yet few Commanders gained further laurels as a result of their time in Ireland. Their tours of duty were mostly for what many found a long three to five years with the notable exception of General Edward Blakeney who completed a staggering 19 years in the post from 1836 to 1855. Tony Gaynor gives long overdue attention to these distinguished men who played a pivotal role in Ireland’s troubled history and skilfully weaves their individual biographies through a series of thematic chapters which focus on relations with the civil power, military training, religion, discipline, crime and punishment, health and welfare, society, culture and trade, war, rebellion, revolution and, finally, the challenging process of withdrawal in 1922 as a consequence of the end of British rule and creation of the Irish Free State. This is a very sensible approach which most clearly highlights the recurring issues and challenges faced by the Commanders whilst avoiding the repetition which would be inherent in a purely chronological narrative. These distinguished officers made a huge impact on the lives of those who served in Ireland and especially on the discipline and welfare of the troops, on internal and external security of the Country and in many aspects of the social, cultural, economic and artistic lives of the Irish. This account is exceptionally well written and readable; once started this reviewer found it difficult to put down. Highly recommended for all serious students of history who wish to fully understand the troubled and challenging path of Irish history from 1796 to the end of British rule and the part played in it by a small group of the most senior and distinguished British military commanders. Highly recommended.” Clive Elderton, The Military Historical Society Bulletin, November 2022

"Tony Gaynor has produced a much needed study of the commanders of the British Forces in Ireland, from the establishment of that role in the eighteenth century up to the foundation of the new Irish state ... Gaynor’s book could easily just have been a biographical listing of every commander of the British Forces in Ireland from 1796. Instead, he has examined the commanders as a means of illustrating the complexities of the role. There is discussion of all of the various appointment holders during this period, with the added context of discussion of Irish history and society between the years 1796 to 1922. This period saw seminal events in Irish history including the United Irishmen’s Rebellion in 1798, the rise of the Fenians, the 1916 Rising, and the War of Independence. The book also deals with Ireland’s response, as part of the United Kingdom, to international events such as the Napoleonic Wars, Crimean War, and the First World War.  This is, therefore, an  account that places the role of Commander of the British Forces in Ireland within the wider Irish context and does not just concentrate on purely military affairs … While chapters such as war, rebellion, and revolution will be familiar to many students of Irish history, some of the most interesting chapters are those that contained new perspectives such as military training, religion and crime and punishment. The development of military training for the British army in Ireland was illuminating ... By bringing together within one volume an examination of the role of Commander of British Forces in Ireland and the men who occupied this important military, and indeed social, position in Ireland Gaynor provides a unique opportunity to understand the nexus between the individuals themselves, the office and the events occurring in Ireland at such pivotal moments in Irish history. Gaynor also gives us an insight into the personalities of the various commanders, providing a contrasting perspective as to their public views on important areas … Gaynor has accessed a broad range of sources, and this is clearly evidenced in the minutiae of the details provided in each chapter ... The book provides a greater understanding of the men who held this appointment, their personalities, and their influence on the course of Irish political, military, and social history. The book will prove a valuable resource for any student of Irish history of the period.” James Deery, Journal of Military History and Defence Studies (JMHDS), March 2023