The Crossbarry Ambush on March 19, 1921 in the village of Crossbarry, twenty kilometres south-west of Cork city was one of the largest engagements during the Irish War of Independence between the Irish Republican Army and the British Crown Forces. An IRA column, 100 strong, under Tom Barry and Liam Deasy escaped from an encircling manoeuvre by 1,200 British troops, killing between 10 and 30 of them.

Background

The increasing success of the West Cork Brigade of the Irish Republican Army led to a spate of arrests and interrogations of suspected IRA volunteers in West Cork in an effort to ascertain the identities and headquarters of those engaging in guerrilla warfare against the British forces. On February 15 1921, the IRA mounted an abortive ambush of a troop train at Upton, in which six civilians and three IRA men died. Several other volunteers were captured. The British succeeded in breaking an IRA volunteer under interrogation and discovering that the West Cork Brigade had its headquarters in Ballymurphy. In addition, the British learned that Barry’s column had recently returned to this area after several days waiting for an ambush on the Kinsale to Bandon road. The British commanders, as a result planned a major operation to capture the IRA column, mobilising about 1,200 troops, to converge on the area from several different directions. According to Tom Barry, 400 British troops came from Cork, 200 from Ballincollig, 300 from Kinsale and 350 from Bandon. Later in the day about 120 Auxiliaries also left Macroom. The sweep was mounted early in the morning of the 19th. At Crossbarry, some of the troops descended from their lorries to proceed on foot or by bicycle to catch the IRA unaware.

Combat

One early victim of the action was Charlie Hurley, the IRA Officer Commanding of the Cork Number Three Brigade. Hurley was trapped in a house and killed at about 6:30am. Tom Barry, only becoming aware of the danger at the last minute, resolved that his men, about 100 strong, would have to fight their way out of the encirclement. Barry’s calculation was that his men, who had only 40 rounds per man, could not sustain an all day fight, which they could expect if they retired before the British. Moreover, the likelihood was that the small column would be trapped if it took this course of action. However, Barry observed that one of the British columns advancing towards Crossbarry was well ahead of the other British units. If his men could break through this British force, roughly the same strength as his own force, then they could break out of the British encirclement.

Barry laid out an ambush for the British at Crossbarry cross roads – his men being in position by 5:30 am. When the first British lorries, about 12 vehicles according to Barry’s account, reached Crossbarry, they were caught by surprise and hit by a crossfire at very close range (5-10 yards or c. 5 metres). They took significant casualties and many of them fled the scene. Barry’s men collected the British arms and ammunition before setting fire to the lorries. At this point, they were attacked again by another British column of about 200, coming from the southwest, but they too retired after a stiff fire fight. Two more British units converging on the area from the southeast tried to dislodge the IRA from their ambush position, but again without success and they too retired in disorder. Taking the chance offered by his quick victory to get away, Barry then marched his men to safety in the Gurranereigh area, while the British were still disorientated by the ambush. There was another brief exchange of fire at long range as the IRA column got away. The action had lasted for under an hour. Major Percival of The Essex Regiment on realising what had happened rushed to the scene with his troops, but was only able to open a long range fire on the fleeing IRA men. He later blamed the action on the Auxiliary column which had gone to the wrong rendevous point and had therefore left a gap in the encirclement. There were some further combats along the IRA column’s line of retreat at Crowhill and Rearour but with no further casualties on either side.

Barry reported that three of his men were killed in the fight and another three wounded. British accounts claimed that six IRA men had died. The IRA claimed that over thirty British soldiers were killed in the action. The British admitted just ten killed and three wounded. The RIC memorial records that one RIC constable and six soldiers were killed.

Participants

The following is a list of the republican soldiers who took part in the ambush at Crossbarry Co. Cork on Saturday 19th of March 1921.

Irish Republican Army :

Staff Officers

Surname First name Rank
Deasy Liam Brigade Adjutant
Barry  Tom Column Commandant
Begley Flor Assistant Brigade Adjutant
Lucey Dr. Con Brgade M.O.
Sullivan Tadhg Column Quartermaster
Crowley Mick Brigade Engineer (Section Commander)


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First Battalion

Surname First name Address Rank Company
Hales Sean Knocknacurra Section Commander Ballinadee
Hales William Knocknacurra Volunteer  Ballinadee
Hales Bob Knocknacurra Volunteer Ballinadee
O’Donoghue Con Rathrout Volunteer Ballinadee
O’Donoghue Jack Rathrout Volunteer Ballinadee
O’Donoghue Denny Rathrout Volunteer Ballinadee
Crowley Jim Kilanetig Volunteer (Wounded) Ballinadee
Crowley Tim Horsehill Volunteer Ballinadee
Healy Matt Rathrout Volunteer Ballinadee
Corkerry Jack Cloghane Volunteer Ballinadee
O’Leary Johnny Howes Strand Volunteer Kilbrittain
Lordan Denis Maryboro Section Commander Kilbrittain
Monahan Peter Volunteer (Killed) Kilbrittain
Roche Jack Kilbrittain Volunteer Kilbrittain
O’Brien Denny Clounboig Volunteer Kilbrittain
O’Sullivan Paddy Glanduff Volunteer Kilbrittain
Lehane Con Timoleague Volunteer Timoleague
Murphy Con Carhue Volunteer Timoleague
Hodnett  Jimmy Carhue Volunteer Timoleague
Deasy Mick Volunteer Timoleague
Keohane  Tim Volunteer Timoleague
O’Driscoll John Timoleague Volunteer Timoleague
Minnihane Dan Timoleague Volunteer Timoleague
McCarthy Bill Volunteer Barryroe
Holland Dan Volunteer Ballyroe
Coleman Michael Volunteer Ballyroe
O’Brien Denis Butlerstown Volunteer Ballyroe
O’Sullivan Denis Volunteer  Ballyroe
Callanan Con  Volunteer Ballyroe
O’Donovan Dan Burrane South Volunteer Clogagh
Daly Con Ballinascarthy Volunteer (Killed) Clogagh
Dempsey Paddy Volunteer Clogagh
O’Donovan Mick Volunteer Clogagh
O’Donovan Dan Clogagh Volunteer Clogagh
Mehigan Denis Dangan Volunteer Bandon
Kearney Mick Bandon Volunteer Bandon
Buckley Bill Bandon Volunteer Bandon
McCarthy Con Bandon Volunteer Bandon
Hurley Frank Laragh, Bandon Volunteer Mount Plesant
O’Brien Con Laragh, Bandon Volunteer Mount Plesant
O’Brien Jerh Tullyglass Volunteer Mount Plesant
Lordan John Coolinagh Section Commander Mount Plesant
Lordan Jim Coolinagh Volunteer Mount Plesant
Desmond Bill Volunteer Mount Plesant
Canty Dan Farnalough Volunteer Mount Plesant
Staunton Stephen Volunteer Mount Plesant
Desmond Jer Volunteer Mount Plesant
O’Callaghan Denis Lauravoulta Volunteer Mount Plesant
O’Callaghan John Lauravoulta Volunteer Mount Plesant
O’Brien Denny Tullyglass Volunteer Mount Plesant
Corcoran Dan Bengour Volunteer (Wounded) Mount Plesant
Doyle Jim Kilmore Volunteer Kilpatrick
Doyle Jer Kilmore Volunteer Kilpatrick
Crowley John Volunteer Kilpatrick
Kelleher Tom Crow Hill, Upton Section Commander Crosspound

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Second Battalion

Surname First name Address Rank Company
Murphy Jim Clonakilty Section Commander Clonakilty
Nugent Dan Clonakilty Volunteer Clonakilty
Barry Jack Clonakilty Volunteer Clonakilty
O’Leary Con Brownstown Volunteer Ardfield
O’Sullivan Dan Cahir Volunteer Ardfield
McSweeney  Eugene Castlefreke Volunteer Kilkernmore
McSweeney Jack Castlefreke Volunteer Kilkernmore

 

Third Battalion

Surname First name Address Rank Company
O’Donovan John Aultagh Volunteer Aultagh
Kearney Peter Lettergorman Section Commander Clubhouse
O’Connell Patsy Edencurra Dunmanway Volunteer Clubhouse
O’Donovan Pat Nedinagh Volunteer Clubhouse
Hurley Mick Gortnamuckly Dunmanway Volunteer Bredagh
O’Leary Denis Drimoleague Volunteer Knockbue

 

 

Fourth Battalion

Surname First name Address Rank Company
O’Leary  Jerh Corran, Leap Volunteer (Killed) Corran
Dempsey  Jack Dromindy Volunteer Drinagh
McCarthy Tim J. Lissane, Drimoleague Volunteer Bredagh
O’Neill Sean Baltimore Volunteer Baltimore

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fifth Battalion

Surname First name Address Rank Company
O’Driscoll Michael Snave, Bantry Volunteer Coomhola
Lucey Daniel Cooryleary, Bantry Volunteer Coomhola
O’Connor Jack Kealkil, Bantry Volunteer Kealkil
O’Sullivan Patrick Milleney, Bantry Volunteer Bantry
Keohane Patrick Parsons Bridge, Bantry Volunteer Parsons Bridge
Norris Willie Caheragh Volunteer Caheragh
O’Driscoll Denis Caheragh Volunteer Caheragh

 

 

 

 

 

Sixth Battalion

Surname First name Address Rank Company
O’Sullivan Michael Inchintaglan, Adrigole Volunteer Adrigole
O’Sullivan Matt Lackavane, Adrigole Volunteer Adrigole
McCarthy John Castletownbere Volunteer Castletown
Spencer Dick Rossmacowen Volunteer (Wounded) Rossmacowen
O’Shea Tim Droumard, Ardgroom Volunteer Ardgroom
Sheehan John Barrakilla, Ardgroom Volunteer (Wounded) Ardgroom
O’Connell Christy Eyeries Section Commander Eyeries Kilcatherine, Inches
O’Driscoll Sean Eyeries Volunteer Eyeries Kilcatherine, Inches
O’Dwyer Tim Eyeries, Caileroe Volunteer Eyeries Kilcatherine, Inches
O’Sullivan Pat Eyeries Volunteer Eyeries Kilcatherine, Inches
McCarthy Murt Inches Volunteer Eyeries Kilcatherine, Inches
McAuliffe Jerry Croumlane Volunteer Eyeries Kilcatherine, Inches
O’Sullivan Dan Gorth Volunteer Eyeries Kilcatherine, Inches
O’Sullivan John Kilcatherine Volunteer Eyeries Kilcatherine, Inches

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Seventh Battalion

Surname First name Address Rank Company
Allen Tim Ballydehob Volunteer Ballydehob
McCarthy Tom Schull Volunteer Schull

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Outside of Battalion Area

Surname  First name Address Rank Company
McCarthy Jerh Dreeney, Skibbereen Volunteer U.C.C.

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Scouts

Surname  Firstname Address Rank
Finn Ted Crossbarry Scout
Collins J. Crossbarry Scout
Twomey Tadhg Crossbarry Scout
Cronin Paddy Crossbarry Scout
Doolin Denny Crossbarry Scout
Begley Neilus Killeens Scout
Hartnett Bill Killeens Scout
Buckley Danny Inagh Scout
Buckley Miah Inagh Scout
O’Leary Paddy Ballyhandle Scout
Falvey Jack Ballymurphy Scout
Delaney Denny Belrose Scout
O’Mahony Jerome Belrose Scout
Lordan Jim Dunkerreen Scout
McCarthy Pake Upton Scout
Cronin Battie Clashinimud Scout