The memorable visit of the United States President John F Kennedy to Ireland took place 50 years ago this year from 26th June until 29th June 1963.  This visit was described by the Irish President De Valera as a visit of special pride and one that connected the American President to the Irish public.  It was also a visit that was to have a special effect on the American President who spoke of returning to Ireland in the spring, a visit he was not able to fulfil following his assassination in Nov 1963.

The visit of the President was also to place the Irish Defence Forces centre stage when the 36th Cadet Class under Lt Frank Colclough provided a Guard of Honour at Arbour hill.  Following the Guard of Honour, the President remarked to Colclough that it was the best Honour Guard he had seen. To listen to the reminiscences of Frank Colclough, recalling that moment in an exclusive interview recorded by Military Archives in June 2013, please see below.

The President's compliment was reinforced when the President made a special request for a video of the Cadets drill that day in Arbour hill.  The Cadets had perfected their drill for the visit of the President and had followed on from a previous ceremonial occasion when the same Cadets attended the laying of a wreath on the tomb of Theobald Wolfe Tone at Bodenstown. Unfortunately, the video of the event was understandably focused on the Presidents attendance and lacked in any great detail the Cadets drill which had touched the President so deeply.  The video was reshot using members of the 37th Cadet Class due to the commissioning of the previous 36th Class.  

The visit of the President to Ireland involved a significant administrative and logistical operation to ensure the visit was conducted professionally and without any issues. This is evident from the Ceremonial Order which can be downloaded here.  The visit in June 1963 saw President Kennedy arrive into Dublin Airport where he was received by An tUachtarán and An Taoiseach including the Defence Forces Chief of Staff, a Captain's Guard of Honour, a Military Band and a Gun Saluting Battery.  On arrival, President Kennedy was greeted by an tUachtarán trumpeters and drummers where honours were presented followed by a 21 gun salute.  The President then travelled with a ceremonial escort with troops lining part of the route to Áras an Uachtáran.  To view images of the welcoming party at Dublin Airport, please the below image.

The Military Archives is pleased to make the link on this occasion and with the permission of British Pathé©, to KENNEDY IN IRELAND www.britishpathe.com/video/kennedy-in-ireland

On Thursday 27th June 1963, President Kennedy travelled to Wexford in order to lay a wreath on the memorial of Commodore Barry.  The President was received by the Officer Commanding the Naval Service and a Lieutenant’s Guard of Honour comprising 107 personnel. The Presidential procession was escorted by an escort of honour then travelled to Áras an Uachtáran and Iveagh House.

Friday 28th June involved the memorable visit of the President to Arbour Hill to lay a wreath at the graves of the 1916 leaders.  The President also paid visits to An tOireachtas and Dublin Castle. The Guard of Honour provided by the 36th Cadet Class under the charge of Lieutenant Frank Colclough in Arbour Hill was to have an effect on the President which remained with him following his visit to Ireland. 

The ADC during the visit of the President was Major General Maxwell who was to be the Head of Protocol for the funeral of the John F Kennedy in Washington the following November. To view images of the Presidential party attending ceremonies at Arbour Hill, please the below image.

Saturday 29th June 1963 was the final day of the visit which saw the President depart from Shannon Airport.  The departure of President Kennedy was marked by a Captains Guard of Honour and a Gun salute similar to the one he received on his arrival.

During the visit which lasted from 26th June until 29th June 1963, the Defence Forces provided 4 Captains Guard of Honours (including a Guard of Honour under the command of a Naval Service Officer), 2 x 21 Artillery Gun Salutes, 1 x Cadet Guard of Honour, Presidential Escorts, Military bands and troops for route lining. Behind the scenes and in view of the logistics involved, extra administrative duties were carried out and security was detailed, in order to successfully operate a visit of this size, importance and significance. 

Brigadier General Colclough's Officer in Charge of the Arbour Hill Guard of Honour for President John F Kennedy's Visit from Military Archives on Vimeo.