They are the remnants of a 5,000 strong garrison maintained up to that point in Dublin, commanded by Nevil Macready.
Last British troops leave the twenty-six counties of the Irish Free State. It appears to have been a friendly farewell, even while Ireland was embroiled in its own Civil War. The Union Jack was lowered at the hospital and Macready went to review the final contingent of troops as they left the Royal (later Collins) barracks. He then motored to Kingstown (Dún Laoghaire) where he received a 17-gun salute and joined Admiral Cecil Fox, the Sligo born naval commander in the area, on board a cruiser HMS Dragon to sail home to England and retirement.
Meanwhile, the troops, 3,500 men mostly from the Leicester, Worchester and Border regiments, marched to the port. At Beresford Place they were greeted by 500 members of the Legion of Irish Ex-Servicemen, in civilian clothes but wearing their decorations. Thousands of other people lined the quays and the armoured cars and the DMP stood by, but there was no trouble. Embarkation on to six ships began around 1.15pm. At 3.10pm, the last one to leave, the steamer Arvonia chartered from the London and North Western Railway, weighed anchor while a band on deck played God Save the King and a crowd broke into the North Wall Extension to wave a final farewell as it entered Alexandra Basin.
Then, the armoured cars drove north to Ulster and the evacuation of the Irish Free State (apart from the Treaty ports) was over. General Richard Mulcahy, who took over the Royal barracks that day, claimed “the incubus of occupation that has lain as a heavy hand on the country for years has been removed”.
In his memoirs, Macready expressed annoyance that a photograph of Fox and himself published on 18th December (in The Irish Times) had the caption ‘two gallant Irishmen’. Although he had an Irish grandfather, he cordially loathed Ireland.
The British left fully outfitted barracks to the Irish Army and artifacts including a large card in the Headquarters in Parkgate Street printed with the admonition: LOVE ONE ANOTHER.
‘Remarkable scenes marked the completion of the evacuation of Dublin and the transfer of the remaining barracks and posts. Dense cheering crowds lined the streets when the last four British regiments, numbering; between 3000 and 4000 men, marched past General Macready. The British troops were literally buried beneath an avalanche of tender farewells, hundreds of girls rushing out and kissing the soldiers. Out of the crowd waved miniature Union Jack flags, while many shouted ‘Come back again.’ The Irish Free State Commander-in Chief, General Mulcahy, attended the transfer, and reviewed the Free State garrison. The last trooper sailed to the strains of ‘Auld Lang Syne’ and ‘Let Erin Remember’.
Photo: British soldiers marching down the North Wall, leaving Dublin after Ireland being declared a free state 1922