A blazing fire destroyed a strip of Ireland’s coast this week to reveal a message from the past. A large sign made of rocks, spelling out the word ‘Eire.’ Once the Air Corp put out the blaze, firefighters noticed the marker spelling out the Irish name for Ireland. At least 85 of the markers were built during World War II, to let allied forces and bombers know which territory they were flying over. Many of the signs are near coastal watch stations.
The markers let the pilots know that they were in ‘Eire,’ not Great Britain or another country. Ireland was neutral during World War II, and the country didn’t want Allied or German pilots to bomb it by mistake. In 1939, Ireland set up a coastal watch to protect its citizens from invasions.
The watch posts were initially set in tents, but later housed in pill boxes. Each site had its own specific number. Some time later, the number of the specific Look Out Post (LOP) was added to each ‘Eire’ sign. Ireland gave the numbers and locations of the identifying markers to the pilots. This helped them to navigate the area, and know exactly where they were.
Recently, volunteers worked together to find 15 of the signs on the western coast by using satellite imagery. Eight signs are visible in Donegal, where people flying overhead may still see the markers today. Three are in various areas around the Inishowan Peninsula. However, several of the signs are deteriorating.
In 2015, a community organization restored the ‘Eire,’ marker at LOP number 80. Built in 1944, the well-known sign is located in Malin Head, where many tourists visit it yearly. Social media users are intensively sharing photographs of the restored marker. The photographer, Peter Homer, used a drone in capturing the pictures. As a researcher, Homer is enthusiastic about the historical significance of the markers along the coastal areas.