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The Diggers and the IRA, by Kerry Casey

G’day. I am doing a Masters in English at the Australian defence force Academy but my subject is History – or perhaps I should say: historical. It is a story that has never been told. It is about a number of Australian soldiers in World War 1 who went on leave to Ireland and did not return – some not for some time, others never. Australian soldiers who, after fighting alongside the British in the Middle East and Europe, found themselves in Ireland fighting with the Irish Republican Army against Britain.

My original Proposal was to write a biography of my one of my grandfathers, Australian born of Irish parents, Cornelius Patrick Casey, AKA No 20 Corporal Patrick Cornelius Casey, Military Medal, 13th Battalion. His experience provided me with the template to read the 5,865 service records in NAA series B2455: Irish born men and women who enlisted in the AIF.

At the outbreak war, Australia is commonly described as more unified than at any time in our history as men clamoured to enlist for King and Country, to fight for freedom or just to get a gun and have a go. Yet 1 in 4 of those Australians was of Irish descent.

On 30 September 1914, just 12 days after Britain had promised Home Rule to Ireland once the war was over, Cornelius Patrick Casey enlisted at Randwick
Racecourse. On page two of the Attestation Papers every soldier signed on joining
the AIF there is the OATH TO BE TAKEN BY PERSONS BEING ENLISTED
I … swear that I will well and truly serve our Sovereign Lord the King in the Australian Imperial Force … and that I will resist His Majesty’s enemies and cause His Majesty’s peace to be kept and maintained;

Underneath, on Con’s, is the signature CP Casey but the “C” stands apart like an afterthought or a later addition in a different hand, a sign that Con may not have been so loyal to the King. There were 90 Irish born men who, for a variety of reasons, recanted their aliases. Con never did.

So why did a “native born” Australian invert his Christian names? An explanation might be inferred from an observation made by John Lucy of the 2nd Battalion Royal Irish Rifles, one of the first NCOs to be promoted to the officer class in the British Army, that in the officers’ mess “after dinner, the water was removed from the table, lest anyone pass his glass over it during the loyal toast, signifying that the toast was ‘to the king across the water.’” Also, when Ireland erupted into Civil War after the creation of the Free State in 1922, there were two main sticking points; one of which was signing the Oath of Loyalty to the King. Was Con’s alias the act of a subject person, a way of lying to maintain his honesty?

After enlistment, Con’s story is classic Digger. He landed at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915 where he was twice wounded, he refused the offer of repatriation and, under Lieutenant Harry Murray (who would became Australia’s most decorated soldier), was in the very last unit of the Evacuation. A Diehard.

Subsequent to his wounds on Gallipoli, Con retrained as a stretcher bearer and in the next year on the Western Front was twice Mentioned in Dispatches and twice nominated for the Distinguished Conduct Medal before being awarded the Military Medal for the Battle of Messines in June 1917. During that time, he saw action at Pozieres, Mouquet Farm, through the Somme Winter, at Stormy Trench and at Bullecourt. He had lost part of a finger and part of his eyesight, had toes amputated from trench foot, his lungs and heart damaged from gas and his back wrecked through carrying men through Somme mud. He had also been twice promoted so that by August 1917 he was a Corporal and head of the 4th Brigade stretcher bearers. Then, on 12 August 1917, Con went on leave to Ireland

There, according to Colonel John Williams, CO APC London, there were “no food, lighting, or drink restrictions, and a soldier could have a much better time than he could have in any town in England. (It was, [he added]) a perfect haven for absentees and deserters.” Con stayed mostly at the family farm in Glenanaar in East Limerick. His uncle Patrick, the head of the house, was a Sergeant in the Irish Volunteers and his aunts were active in the women’s paramilitary, known as the Cumann na mBan. Ireland at the time was recovering from the shock of Easter 1916 and the executions and mass deportations that followed it and fighting, as were Australians at home, against Conscription.

Con was not the only Digger overstaying his leave. In 1918, at the request of the British Army in Ireland, Colonel Williams travelled throughout the country conducting a study on the feasibility of setting up APC posts in Ireland. In his report of 18 April 1918, RE VISIT OF A.P.M., A.I.F DEPOTS IN U.K. TO IRELAND, Williams concluded that, although, as the British had insisted, there were many Diggers AWL in Ireland who were actively assisted by the local people and Sinn Fein, there was no way his men could have the cultural sensitivity to operate in such a volatile situation. Whilst he talked about what the Irish were doing for the Diggers, he at no time assayed what the Australians were doing for them – the assumption being, I suppose, that they were drifters, deserters, deadbeats and cowards.

Not all Irish Diggers returned to Australia. One, Tipperary born, 2417 James Gorman of the 55th Battalion AIF went AWL when discharged from Camberwell Hospital in England on 30th October 1917. He became Lieutenant in his home town, Hollyford Company of the South Tipperary Brigade of the IRA and was active up until the Truce training Volunteers, assisting in the Knocklong Rescue and taking leading parts in barracks attacks at Hollyford, Cappawhite and Rearcross and in the Thomastown Ambush. Soldier, publican, poet, adventurer, dancer and musician, Jim was described by both Ernie O’Malley and Dan Breen and in numerous Witness Statements collected in BMH Dublin as iconic Digger: sunbrowned, with lined and leathery skin, a laconic sense of humour, cool under pressure, full of initiative and a crack shot. In 1924, after the Civil War in which he did not participate, Jim emigrated to the USA where his 3 sons served in the Army in WW2, one paying the ultimate price.

Gorman was one 64 Irish born men discharged for DESERTION when the AIF was clearing the books on 1 April 1920 (is that date meaningful?). 168 others were Discharged when demobilised in England. A large number, like my grandfather, had extended periods AWL in Ireland but returned to Australia. Dublin born 818 Driver John O’Neill was discharged in Australia in December 1919 then returned to Ireland where, as his service record states, he was “killed in an ambush on 6 March 1921.” Tipperary born 22529 Gunner Michael McGrath 23 Howitzer Bde was a casualty of the Civil War. He was discharged in England and re-emerges as a Lieutenant in the Clonmel Company on the Republican side. He died in custody after capture by Free State Army in May1923.

Just as the reputation for larrikinism and indiscipline out of the line is entrenched as a defining part of the Digger myth, so was it a characteristic of the Irish born Digger but perhaps even moreso suggesting that the red tabbed staff officers may have been just a little too British for them. There are countless incidences of AWL and insubordination. A couple of anecdotes:
• 3761 Pte Philip Bolger 29 Battalion was court martialled for “Using disloyal words regarding the soverign”
• 3409 Patrick Joseph Golden 9/31 Bn was Court Martialled for insubordinate language & threatening violence upon 2nd Lieut Strachan “You are only a Scotch bastard and require fucking, and I will do it (for you).”
• 34 Private William RYAN of the 8 Bde MGCo at COI 6/11/16 On October 5th 1916 had to explain an injury he received while on leave at the family home in Waterford. “One day I was talking to my father, I believe it was the 8th of October 1916, about the Sinn Fein movement and was excited. It was just after dinner and we were still sitting at table. I had a knife in my hand. To emphasise what I was saying, I brought my hand holding the knife down with a bang on the table and in so doing, struck my other hand which was resting on the table with the knife, cutting it severely.

At his Court Martial at AIF Headquarters in Horseferry Road, London 11 November 1919, Con did not speak in his defence. There were two Statements of Mitigation. One, from his Battalion CO now OIC Repatriation, Major General J.M.A Durrant, stated
… during his service with the unit his conduct was exemplary. He was distinguished for courage and his fearless example; a splendid leader and one of the bravest men I have seen in action.
The other after detailing his record of service added that
… suffering from a grievance which he does not choose to disclose, he went AWL and thus spoiled one of the finest records of any soldier who ever left Australia.

Con was held prisoner at Lewes Detention Barracks, reduced to the rank of Private and his sentence was twice reduced – from 12 months to 6 then till date of embarkation.

Con’s silence at his Court martial is emblematic of the silence that has enshrouded this issue for almost a century. The Irish in their recounts of the War of Independence were careful not to name anyone who returned to England or any of the Commonwealth countries for fear of the reach of the tentacles of Empire. For those, like my grandfather, who returned to Australia, it meant living a double life and never telling the story of their days in Ireland and this was easily masked under the common reticence to talk about the war. It was a confirmation of another duality: their identities as both Australian and Irish. A duality that would not be celebrated till after their deaths when Australia would finally acknowledge what it had always tried, in wilful ignorance of human nature, to suppress, that human beings can not be forced to forget who they are, that ours is a multicultural society and our cultural richness lies in our diversity and in the diversity of stories that flow from this.

In this Introduction to the magnificent history of Australia in WW1, the official historian Charles Bean, while trying to explain the extraordinary response to the outbreak of war, states that
few Australians … were fully acquainted with the philosophy underlying the Prussian attitude. But its visible results were well known to them all.… they had read of the unconscionable principles of the military bureaucracy of Prussia, and their instinct for freedom revolted against its pompous hectoring, its cynical intrigue, its tyrannous oppressions in time of peace, its ugly menace in times of war. They therefore exalted the struggle into one which should “save the world for democracy,” establish the sanctity of treaties, and, if possible, inaugurate a reign of justice and rid the world of the whole system of war .
Substitute “few” with “Irish” and “Prussia” with British and the attitude underlying the decision of those Australian soldiers of Irish descent who felt it more important to fight for the freedom of their ancestral homeland than to continue with the British Army show how central was their action to the belief systems developing in the antipodes. These men have been forgotten by history. How many of them there were and from which of the allied countries they came is still unknown. Now that they are dead, their stories can at last be told.

Seán Treacy

Seán Treacy (Irish: Seán Ó Treasaigh; 14 February 1895 – 14 October 1920) was one of the leaders of the Third Tipperary Brigade of the Irish Republican Army during the Irish War of Independence. He helped to start the conflict in 1919 and was killed in a shootout with British troops in Talbot Street, Dublin during an aborted British Secret Service surveillance operation in October 1920. Although sometimes spelled as ‘Tracy’ or ‘Tracey’ as inscribed on the commemorative plaque in Talbot Street, his surname is more often spelled as ‘Treacy’.

Sean Treacy

Treacy came from a small-farming background in west County Tipperary. He left school aged 14 and worked as farmer, also developing deep Irish nationalist convictions. He was a member of the Gaelic League, the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) since 1911 and the Irish Volunteers since 1913. He was arrested in the aftermath of the Easter Rising in 1916 and spent much of the following two years in prison, where he went on hunger strike on several occasions. From Dundalk jail in 1918 he wrote to his comrades in Tipperary, “Deport all in favour of the enemy out of the country. Deal sternly with those who try to resist. Maintain the strictest discipline, there must be no running to kiss mothers goodbye”  In 1918 he was appointed Vice Officer-Commanding of the Third Tipperary Brigade of the Volunteers (which became the Irish Republican Army in 1919). He was impatient for action and was disappointed that the IRB leadership forbade attacks on the police in 1917.
The Soloheadbeg ambush
On 21 January 1919 Treacy and Dan Breen, together with Seán Hogan, Séamus Robinson and five other volunteers, helped to ignite the conflict that was to become the Irish War of Independence. They ambushed and shot dead two members of the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) — Constables Patrick MacDonnell and James O’Connell — near their homes at Soloheadbeg in County Tipperary. The RIC men were transporting gelignite explosives; when they allegedly refused to surrender and offered resistance, the Volunteers shot them dead. Robinson was the organiser of the action, while Treacy was the logistics expert.
Breen later recalled: “…we took the action deliberately, having thought over the matter and talked it over between us. Treacy had stated to me that the only way of starting a war was to kill someone, and we wanted to start a war, so we intended to kill some of the police whom we looked upon as the foremost and most important branch of the enemy forces … The only regret that we had following the ambush was that there were only two policemen in it, instead of the six we had expected…”
Breen’s later comment suggests that the aim of the attack was to capture or kill as many policemen as possible, for political and military effect
[edit]The Knocklong train rescue
As a result of the action, South Tipperary was placed under martial law and declared a Special Military Area under the Defence of the Realm Act. After another member of the Soloheadbeg ambush party, Seán Hogan, was arrested on 12 May 1919, the three others (Treacy, Breen and Séamus Robinson) were joined by five men from the IRA’s East Limerick Brigade in order to organise Hogan’s rescue. Hogan was being transported by train from Thurles to Cork city on 13 May 1919, and the men, led by Treacy, boarded the train in Knocklong. A vicious close-range struggle, involving man-to-man combat, ensued on the train. Treacy and Breen were seriously wounded in the gunfight. Two policemen died, but Hogan was rescued. He was brought by his rescuers to the nearby village of Knocklong where his handcuffs were removed using a cleaver in the local butcher’s shop.
Clandestine Life
A thorough search for Treacy and others was mounted afterwards. Treacy had to leave Tipperary for Dublin in order to avoid capture. In Dublin, Michael Collins employed Treacy on assassination operations with “the Squad”. He was involved in the attempted killing of British general Sir John French in December 1919. In the summer of 1920, he returned to Tipperary and organised several attacks on RIC barracks, notably at Ballagh, Clerihan and Drangan before again seeking refuge in Dublin.

Sean Treacy & Dan Breen

By the spring of 1920 the political police of both the Crimes Special Branch of the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) and G-Division (Special Branch) of the Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP) had been effectively neutalized by IRA counterintelligence operatives working for Michael Collins. The British thoroughly reorganized their administration at Dublin Castle, including the appointment of Army Colonel Ormande de l’Eppe Winter as Chief of a new Combined Intelligence Service (CIS) for Ireland. Working closely with Sir Basil Thomson, Director of Civil Intelligence in the Home Office, with Colonel Hill Dillon, Chief of British Military Intelligence in Ireland, and with the local British Secret Service Head of Station Count Sevigné at Dublin Castle, Ormonde Winter began to import dozens of professional Secret Service agents from all parts of the British Empire into Ireland to track down IRA operatives and Sinn Féin leaders.
Treacy and Dan Breen were relocated to Dublin where they were directed to operate with Michael Collins’ infamous assassination unit, “The Squad”. The Squad’s mission was to surveil and assassinate British secret agents, political policemen and their informants, and to carry out other special missions for General Headquarters (GHQ) as directed by Collins. With help from police inspectors brought up to Dublin from Tipperary, Ormonde Winter’s CIS effectively spotted Treacy and Breen shortly after their arrival in Dublin and placed them under surveillance.
Death
On the 11th of October 1920, Treacy and Breen were holed up in a safehouse – Fernside – at Drumcondra, in north Dublin when it was raided by a police unit. In the ensuing shootout, two senior British officers were wounded and died the next day, Major Smyth and Captain White, while Breen was seriously wounded and the homeowner, Dr. Carolan, was killed. Treacy and Breen managed to escape through a window and shot their way through the police cordon. The injured Breen was spirited away to Dublin’s Mater hospital where he was admitted in alias persona. Treacy had been wounded but not seriously.
The British search for the two was intense and Collins ordered the Squad to guard them while plans were laid for Treacy to be exfiltrated from the Dublin metro area. Treacy hoped to return to Tipperary; realizing that the major thoroughfares would be under surveillance, he purchased a bicycle with the intent of cycling to Tipperary via the backroads. When Collins learned that a public funeral for the two officers killed at Fernside was to take place on October 14, he ordered the Squad to set up along the procession route and to take out further senior members of the RIC and the DMP.
Four or five members of the Squad assembled at a Dublin safehouse early on October 14 in preparation for this operation. Treacy was to join them for his own protection, but arrived late, to discover that Collins had cancelled the attack. While the others quietly dispersed, Treacy lingered behind in the safehouse. But a British Secret Service surveillance team working under Winter’s direction and led by Major Carew and Lt. Gilbert Price had followed Treacy in the hope that he would lead them to Collins or to other high-value IRA targets. Seeing Treacy enter the premises, they set up a stake-out of the building. A decision was made to apprehend Treacy as soon as he emerged from the safehouse.
When Treacy eventually stepped out, Price drew his pistol and closed in on Treacy. Treacy drew his parabellum automatic pistol and shot Price and another British agent before he was hit in the head, dying instantly. Rushing to the scene, Colonel Winter was horrified to see the bodies of Treacy and his own agents lying dead in Talbot Street. The entire confrontation had been witnessed by a Dublin newspaper reporter who captured a photo of Price the instant he had been hit. Making a statement to the reporter, Ormonde Winter called the event “a tragedy.”
Legacy
Treacy’s death sent alarm bells through the upper echelons of the IRA leadership and it appears to have been a factor in the decision by Richard Mulcahy (IRA chief of staff) and Cathal Brugha (Minister of Defence) to approve Michael Collins’ (Director of intelligence) plan to assassinate en masse some two dozen British Secret Service agents, Special Branch agents and British informers a month later.[citation needed] These assassinations were carried out on Sunday, November 21, 1920—a date that has been called “Bloody Sunday.
Some historians of the period consider that Seán Treacy may have been the most feared IRA operative in Ireland. A hardened killer with the sensibilities and manners of a monk, Treacy was one of the few IRA soldiers to stand up to Michael Collins. Collins had a bullying, no-nonsense management style that intimidated most subordinates. Most feared the wrath of the blustering Collins more than their British enemy.Treacy, on the other hand, had no such fear of the IRA Chief. In one memorable incident, Treacy escorted a young lady friend to a speech by Collins to a group of Sinn Féin supporters. As Collins got wound up in his remarks, he increasingly salted his speech with profanity. Suddenly the Vice Commander of the Third Tipperary Brigade stood up and held up his hand, silencing Collins. Treacy then indignantly rebuked Collins for using such language in the presence of mixed company and demanded that Collins apologize to his girl friend. A very nonplussed and embarrassed Michael Collins stared at Treacy awhile before regaining his composure and then apologized for his dirty talk. Treacy retook his seat, and the meeting proceeded.
A commemorative plaque above the door commemorates the spot where Treacy died. His coffin arrived by train at Limerick Junction station and was accompanied to St. Nicholas Church, Solohead by an immense crowd of Tipperary people. He was buried at Kilfeacle graveyard, where despite a large presence of British military personnel, a volley of shots was fired over the grave. Seán Treacy’s death is remembered each year on the anniversary of his death at a commemoration ceremony in Kilfeacle. At noon on the morning of All-Ireland Senior Hurling Finals in which Tipperary participate, a ceremony of remembrance is also held at the spot in Talbot Street where he died, attended mainly by people from West Tipperary and Dublin people of Tipperary extraction. The last such ceremony was held at midday on Sunday, 5 September, 2010 and attracted a large attendance, most of whom were en route to Croke Park.
In Thurles, Co.Tipperary there is an avenue named after him – Seán Treacy Avenue. The town of Tipperary is also home to the Seán Treacy Memorial Swimming Pool which contains many relics of the Easter Rising and IRA, as well as a copy of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic.
The song “Seán Treacy”, also called Tipperary so Far Away is about Treacy’s death and is still sung with pride in West Tipperary

Michael Collins Painting

We have been contacted by Tadgh Creed form West Cork and has has sent us a lovely painting he completed on Michael Collins,. It is a fine painting. Well done tadgh and maybe you will do more?

Thanks Tadgh!.

If any reader has more paintings or drawings or indeed photos please e mail them to us , we would be glad to publish them. E mail us at  info@theirishwar.com

or visit our web site at  http://theirishwar.com/

Tomás Mac Curtain Lord Mayor of Cork

Tomás Mac Curtain (20 March 1884 – 20 March 1920) was a Sinn Fein Lord Mayor of cork city,Ireland.. He was elected in January 1920.

He was born at Ballyknockane in the Parish of Mourne abbey in March 1884. He attended Burnfort National School. In 1897 the family moved to Blackpool on the northside of Cork city (corcaigh) where he attended The North Monastery school.. Mac Curtain became active in numerous cultural and political movements from the turn of the nineteenth century when he joined the Blackpool, Cork branch of Conradh na Gaeilge(the Gaelic League), becoming its secretary in 1902. He had diverse interests in music, poetry, history, archaeology and Irish history. He worked in his early career as a clerk and in his free time taught Irish to those who wished to learn. In 1911 he joined the Fianna Eireann  and was a founding member of the Irish Volunteers .

IRISH VOLUNTEERS AT SHEARES STREET CORK CITY

BACK: P. Cotter, Sean Nolan, Dathi Cotter, Sean Scanlan, Fred Murray. CENTER: Tom O’Sullivan & Diarmuid O’Shea (with rifles), Tom Barry, Pat Corkery, Donal Barrett, Donal Og O’Callaghan, Tadg Barry, Diarmud Lynch, Con Twomey (with rifle) FRONT: Sean Murphy, Tomas MacCurtain, Sean McDermot, Herbert Moore Pim, Sean O’Sullivan, Sean O’Murthille.

He met Eilish Walsh (Eibhlís Breathnach) at a Gaelic League meeting and they married in 1908. They had six children, five of whom survived into adulthood. The family lived over number 40 Thomas Davis Street where Tomás had a small clothing and rainwear factory.

In April 1916 at the outset of the Easter Rising Mac Curtain commanded a force of up to 1,000 men of the Irish Volunteers who assembled at various locationsaround County Cork. From the volunteers headquarters at Sheare’s Street in the city, Mac Curtain and his officers awaited orders from the volunteer leadership in Dublin but conflicting instructions and confusion prevailed and as a result the Cork volunteers never entered the fray. A tense stand-off developed when British forces surrounded the volunteer hall and continued for a week until a negotiated agreement led to the surrender of the volunteers’ arms to the then Lord Mayor of Cork Thomas Butterfield on the understanding that they would be returned at a later date. This did not happen however and Mac Curtain was jailed in the former Frongoch Prisoner of War camp in Wales. After the general amnesty of participants in the Rising 18 months later Mac Curtain returned to active duty as a Commandant of what was now the Irish republican Army .

He was elected in the January 1920 council elections as the Sinn Féin councillor for NW Ward No. 3 of Cork, and was chosen by his fellow councillors to be the Lord Mayor. He began a process of political reform within the city, making changes to the way in which the council operated and was run.

Death

In January 1919 the Anglo-Irish war started and Mac Curtain became an officer in the IRA . On 20 March 1920, his 36th birthday, Mac Curtain was shot dead in front of his wife and son by a group of men with blackened faces, who were found to be members of the Royal Irish constabulary (RIC) by the official inquest into the event. In the wake of the killing which was in revenge for the shooting of a policeman, Mac Curtain’s house in the city’s Blackpool area, was ransacked.

THE LOCATION WHERE Tomás Mac Curtain WAS ASSASSINATED, THERE IS A PLAQUE TO COMMEMORATE  Tomás Mac Curtain ON THE UPPER STORY.

The killing caused widespread public outrage. The coroner’s inquest passed a verdict of wilful murder against British Prime Minister Lloyd George and against certain members of the RIC. The IRA later killed the man who ordered the attack, District Inspector Oswald Swanzy, in Lisburn, County Antrim ,on 22 August 1920 using Mac Curtain’s personal handgun, sparking a pogrom of Catholics in the town. Mac Curtain is buried in St. Finbarrs Cemetery, Cork.

His successor to the position of Lord Mayor, Terence MacSwiney, died while on hunger strike  in Brixton prison, London.

Tomás Óg Mac Curtain

Mac Curtain’s son, Tomás Óg (junior) (1915–1994) later became a leading republican and member of the IRA Executive (whose main purpose was to elect the Chief of staff of the IRA . In January 1940, he was sentenced to death by the De Valera government for mortally wounding Garda John Roche at the end of St. Patrick Street Cork  city centre on 3 January 1940. Detective Garda Roche, from Union Quay Barracks, had shadowed him for weeks and following a confrontation, he was shot. However Tomas was granted clemency due to the fact that his father had been killed by the British Army. He was released after seven years. He later served on the IRA executive during the Border Campaign.

I.R.A. Rineen Ambush 22 September 1920

MANY THANKS TO PADRAIG O ‘ RUAIRC FOR CONTRIBUTING THE RINEEN AMBUSH ARTICLE.

PADRAIG IS A WELL KNOWN AUTHOR ON THE IRISH WAR OF INDEPENDENCE PERIOD AND WE RECOMMEND  HIS TWO BOOKS,  “BLOOD ON THE BANNER”  AND  ” THE  BATTLE FOR LIMERICK CITY”.

In the early autumn of 1920 Anthony Malone and the other officers of the 4th Battalion had been ordered by the Brigade council of the Mid Clare Brigade I.R.A. to prepare an ambush for British motor patrols in the Milltown Malbay and Ennistymon areas. I.R.A. intelligence reported that a patrol of regular R.I.C. men and Black and Tans travelled in a Crossly Tender lorry from Ennistymon to Milltown Malbay at half past ten each Wednesday morning.   The Brigade Council decided to attack the R.I.C. and Black and Tans the next Wednesday the 22nd of September.

The countryside along the R.I.C.‘s weekly route was examined an ambush site was selected at Rineen about two miles from Milltown Malbay on the Ennistymon road. The site was a low cliff where the West Clare Railway rose sharply above the road commanding a good view of Lahinch and the surrounding coastline to the West. A curve in the road would force vehicles travelling from Ennistymon to Milltown to slowdown as they reached the ambush site.

The ambush at Rineen was to be the first major attack on the British forces in the area and the officers of the Mid Clare Brigade decided to use a large force of I.R.A. Volunteers from eight companies in the 4th Battalion area to take part in the attack.  The morning of the attack each of these I.R.A. companies were to supply seven Volunteers to form the attacking party or to act as scouts and messengers. On the 21st of September John Joe Neylon was detailed to select seven men from the Ennistymon Company of the I.R.A. to take part in the ambush: “On the night previous to the attack, I paraded the Ennistymon Company and called for Volunteers to take part in it without disclosing any details of what was about to come off. Nearly every man present and there was a parade of about seventy strong the same night – volunteered. I had to select only seven and that was a difficult job indeed. When I had made my selection I instructed these men to report to Lehanes at Lahinch that night and went off myself on a bike to see Ignatious O Neill with whom I had some other business to discuss.”

Ignatius O Neill  was still recovering from the wounds he had received at the Crowe’s Bridge ambush and was staying at safe house at Lisdoonvarna. The officers of the Mid Clare Brigade had decided  not to include O Neill in the attack because he was still recovering from his wounds and had kept all information regarding the planned attack at Rineen from him. When John Joe Neylon met him that night, O Neill had heard of the preparations for the attack and was furious: “O Neill met me with a violent reception. He was raging mad because he had heard from some source that we had decided to bring off the ambush without asking him taking part. He described the battalion officers as ‘a shower of bastards’, and accused me of being a ‘double crosser’. In order to placate him I said ‘All right the ambush is coming off and you’ll have to take charge.’ Although he did not want to be in charge I Insisted that he should and outlined to him what our plans were and told him of the arrangements which had been made. As far as I remember he made no change in them. We arrived in Lahinch about three or four o clock in the morning. And there found between sixty and sixty five men assembled. All the companies had supplied the seven men they were asked to do and, in addition, there were the officers of the battalion staff.”

At four o clock in the morning O Neill and Neylon led the I.R.A. Volunteers towards Carrig at Ballyvaskin where the Moy company of the I.R.A. scouted the route to Rineen while the members of the attacking party followed on foot. Thomas Mc Donough drove a number of  I.R.A. Volunteers from Ennistymon to meet the main I.R.A. force at the final assembly point about a mile from the ambush site at Rinneen.  By six that morning fifty members of the I.R.A. had assembled for the ambush. O Neill posted sentries guarding the roads to Milltown Malbay and Lahinch while the main force of the I.R.A. settled down for a brief rest along the boreen leading from the railway line down to the roadway. O Neill and Neylon reviewed the ground with the different company captains and discussed the advantages and possible problems posed by their chosen position. Both the R.I.C. and British Army had a habit of suddenly changing the formation and strength of their transport patrols, if the strength of the R.I.C.‘s patrol was increased to more than one lorry, the attacking formation would have to be changed quickly. A number of signallers were posted along the hilltops near Rinneen and Thomas Moroney was placed in charge of the scouts posted on the roads leading to the ambush site; whose job was to watch for the approach of the R.I.C. patrol and to give advanced warning of a change its strength or the arrival of British re-enforcements. As daylight approached O Neill assembled the remaining forty I.R.A. Volunteers and with the help of John Joe Neylon and Patrick Lehane divided them into three different attacking parties. O Neill repeatedly explained to them in detail the plan of the operation until he was satisfied that each individual I.R.A. volunteer and section leader knew what their task was.

To the north and west of the I.R.A.’s position at Rineen, open ground and fields swept towards the sea. To the south and east of the railway line small fields gave way to open bog land leading towards Milltown Malbay. Ignatius O Neill made an inspection of the I.R.A.’s arms and rejected a number of old shotguns.  The remaining arms included the six Lee Enfield rifles, three Carbine rifles, a large number of shotguns a few revolvers.   Anthony Malone and Patrick Kerins were given rifles ordered to take up  position in the behind a low fence twenty yards directly to the north of the road,  two other riflemen Stephen Gallagher and Sean Bourke were stationed about two hundred yards further west towards Milltown Malbay. These four had orders to prevent the R.I.C. and Black and Tans leaving from the lorry and taking cover in the fields, or from attempting to retreat towards the sea and back to Lahinch.

O Neill gave the remaining rifles to John Joe Neylon, David Kennelly, Dan Lehane and Michael O Dwyer. Peter Vaughan an experienced ex-American soldier who had served on the Western front during the First World War was equipped with two hand grenades. These five men were to form the main attacking force and were stationed at the north western end of a small by-road which connected to the Lahinch road. The main body of I.R.A. volunteers were stationed about fifty yards further up this by-road  where it crossed the railway line. This group commanded a good view of the ambush site being were in a raised position about forty feet above the level of the road at a distance of thirty yards. They were mostly armed with shotguns and were to act as a secondary attacking force with orders to cover the position of O Neill’s group. A number of large furze bushes had been cut to provide camouflage for the these men. At O Neill’s command, a single rifle shot from John Joe Neylon was to be the signal to open the attack.  The riflemen in the first attacking group had orders to shoot the driver of the lorry to prevent it breaking out of the ambush position. Peter Vaughan was to throw his two grenades into the back of the R.I.C. lorry. If the I.R.A. came into difficulties they were to fall back to the railway line crossing the hill at Rineen  and use it as a secondary line of defence while they retreated. It was now past seven o clock and the republicans settled down to a long wait before the expected arrival of the R.I.C. patrol.

That morning eleven miles from Rineen, the 2nd Battallion of the I.R.A.’s West Clare Brigade were also waiting in ambush. Captain Alan Lendrum an ex-British Army officer from Tyrone had been appointed Acting Resident Magistrate at Kilkee by the British authorities. Captain Lendrum occasionally travelled to and from court in an R.I.C. Crossly Tender with a number of Black and Tans for security, but more often he travelled alone in his ford car. The 4th battalion of the West Clare Brigade watched his movements for several weeks, and decided to hold up Lendrum at gunpoint and commandeer his car.  On the morning the 22nd of September while the I.R.A. lay in ambush at Rineen another group of I.R.A. Volunteers waited for Captain Lendrum at a level railway crossing at Caherfeenick two miles north of Doonbeg. As Lendrum drove towards the level crossing the gates were closed by  two I.R.A. Volunteers and he was ordered at gunpoint to surrender his car.  Captain Lendrum drew his automatic pistol but was shot dead before he had a chance to fire.  This action was to have serious consequences for the I.R.A. ambushers at Rineen later that morning.

Thomas Mc Donough had just arrived back at Ennistymon after driving some I.R.A. Volunteers from the town to the ambush site at Rineen, and reported for work at Roughan’s Garage when he saw the patrol of R.I.C. and Black and Tans preparing to travel to Milltown Malbay: “I was standing at the garage door and watched a lorry of police move off from the barracks across the road. It was driven by a Black and Tan named Hardiman  and manned by I think six R.I.C. men including Seargent Hynes and constables Kelly, Harte and Hodnett all of whom I knew well.” As the Crossly tender roared out of Ennistymon towards Milltown Malbay a young I.R.A. Volunteer watched the R.I.C. and Black and Tans disappear in a cloud of dust from his work at Roughans shop and was overheard saying to himself, ‘They are going now but, will they ever come back?’

After eleven o clock the I.R.A. ambushers hidden at Rineen heard the sound of  a train coming from the south and hid from view behind ditches until the train had passed. As the I.R.A. Volunteers scrambled back into position, the scouts watching the road from Lahinch signalled the approach of the R.I.C. John Joe Neylon could hear the sounds of the R.I.C patrol approaching when the I.R.A.’s scouts reached him and O Neill  with reports that the enemy force was much larger than expected: “About noon, word was received from the scouts that the three lorries were coming from the Ennistymon side. O Neill had a quick consultation with myself and a few of the officers beside him. He had expected only one lorry and the plans had been made accordingly. His force was mainly composed of raw material and the ground did not lend itself to quick deployment. In the circumstances he decided, in view of the scouts message, to withhold fire. When only one lorry passed he realised a mistake had been made by one of the scouts.”  The message ‘Police lorry coming.’ had been misinterpreted by one of the I.R.A.’s scouts as ‘Three lorries coming.’ The result was that the R.I.C.’s Crossly Tender was allowed to pass through the ambush without a shot being fired.

Realising the mistake, O Neill dispatched Jack Clune, an I.R.A. Volunteer from Inagh, to cycle to Milltown Malbay and report on the activities of the R.I.C. patrol and to report back immediately if it appeared that the R.I.C. and Black and Tans had seen the I.R.A. Volunteers waiting in ambush and were calling for re-enforcements. O Neill moved the riflemen in the first attacking party into a more suitable position to attack the Crossley tender on its return from Milltown Malbay and made a few other changes to the I.R.A.’s other positions while he waited for Clune to return with news about the R.I.C. patrol. Clune returned from Milltown Malbay two hours later and reported that the R.I.C. patrol had not detected the ambush and their lorry was parked outside the R.I.C. barracks in the town facing the direction of Rineen. Clune’s information was confirmed when of the republican scouts signalled the return of the police lorry and the I.R.A heard the sound of the R.I.C. crossly tender approaching. A few minutes later the Crossley Tender re-appeared. It passed about ten yards beyond the laneway to O Gorman’s house on the northern side of the road when O Neill gave the order to Neylon to fire the opening shot. Peter Vaughan stood up and threw his first grenade at the police lorry, his second grenade missed and landed on the northern edge of the roadway  exploding harmlessly. Already the I.R.A. Volunteers in the first and second attacking parties had opened fire blasting the R.I.C. and Black and Tans in the back of the vehicle with rifle and shotgun fire.

Within seconds of John Joe Neylon firing the opening shot the attack had ended: “immediately all the party opened up. The attack was over in a matter of seconds. There was no reply from the lorry and our fellows rushed towards it to find five dead police men lying inside. One of the police managed to get off the lorry and had gone about three hundred yards towards Milltown when he was seen and shot by Donal Lehane of Lahinch in a field near O Connors house” A short distance away on the northern side of the road Anthony Malone had joined the first attacking section in taking aim at the driver: “The pre arranged signal shot was fired. There was an immediate volley from the different positions. I fired three or four  rounds at the men sitting in the cab and next I saw the driver slump over the wheel as blood pumped from a wound in his neck. He seemed to be staring directly at Kerins and myself. The men on the other side of the road poured several rounds into the tender and, in a matter of minutes the attack was over.”  As soon as the firing stopped O Neill gave the order to cease fire and search the vehicles. The I.R.A. searched the Crossly Tender and recovered a six Lee Enfield and  Carbine rifles, six .45 Webbly and Scott revolvers, a number of Mill’s bomb hand grenades and almost three thousand rounds of .303 ammunition. After the weapons and ammunition were recovered the lorry was set on fire. Patrick Kerin rushed onto the roadside with Anthony Malone and began to search the bodies of the dead R.I.C. men and Black and Tans for intelligence papers and official documents: “When the firing stopped Malone and myself rushed over to the tender. I searched one of the dead men and, from correspondence which he had received from lady admirers in London, I learned that his name was Reggie Hardman, obviously a Black and Tan.” Reginald Hardman was the first Black and Tan killed in Clare, he was twenty one years old and came from East Finchley in London. He had served in the Royal Artillery Regiment before joining the R.I.C. The other five members of the patrol were all regular R.I.C. men; Constable Michael Harte from Sligo, Constable John Hodnett from Cork, Constable Michael Kelly from Roscommon and Constable John Mc Guire from Mayo. Sergeant Michael Hynes from Roscommon was fatally wounded in the ambush and died two days later.

While the Crossly Tender and the bodies of the dead R.I. C. men were being searched,  I.R.A. Volunteers sat on the roadside smoking and talking until Dan Kennelly, who had served in both the British Army and R.I.C., urged the men to get back up the hillside to safety quickly. The I.R.A. shared out quantities of the captured .303 ammunition and began moving back up towards the railway line crossing the hill. Seamus Hennessy heard the sound of lorries approaching from Lahinch and shouted to Stephen Gallagher, who had gone to collect the rifle and ammunition from the dead R.I.C. man who had tried to escape from the ambush, to hurry back towards the hill. Next Hennessey shouted a warning to a group of I.R.A. Volunteers who had halted below the first hill and indicated in the direction of the noise. A few minutes later a British Army lorry came around the bend in the road below the railway. The driver stopped when he saw the blazing R.I.C. Crossly Tender and the soldiers jumped out and rushed up the hillside towards the railway line. Moments later a second British lorry halted a short distance behind the first and more British soldiers poured out to pursue the I.R.A.

Ten lorries of British soldiers had left Ennistymon to search for Captain Lendrum who had been killed by the West Clare Brigade of the I.R.A. at Caherfeenick near Doonbeg earlier that morning. Captain Lendrum’s wife regularly phoned the military and R.I.C whenever he was due to make a journey and when he failed to arrive at Ennistymon the British military had set out to look for him. As they approached Rineen they heard the distant gunfire from the ambush and saw the smoke rising from the burning crossly tender and members of the I.R.A. crossing the hillside. When the British soldiers appeared in view advancing toward the I.R.A. the republican scouts let out a warning cry of ‘Military!’ and O Neill gave the orders to retreat across the railway line back towards Ballyvaskin. A small group, including Ned Lynch, Michael O Keefe and the Bourke brothers, who had been separated from the main force of the I.R.A. and made off towards the sea shore in the opposite direction without being noticed by the British soldiers.

As the British soldiers closed ground on the main force of the I.R.A. scrambling over the hilltop O Neill and John Joe Neylon stood their ground along the railway line to cover the others escape: “Those who  had already been making their way towards the top of the hill, as well as the party who were starting to do so all came under heavy fire, rifle and machine gun from the newly arrived troops. … As the big majority of our men had only shotguns, they were of no use in meeting the British forces who, in a short time had reached the hilltop a quarter of a mile or so east of the scene of the ambush. There was only one course open to us and that was to use the riflemen to fight a rearguard action while the others with the shotguns were making their way to cover and safety on the Ballyvaskin side. Unfortunately only a few of the riflemen were available for this purpose. They included O Neill himself, Michael Dwyer, Patrick Lehane and myself. The other men with rifles had gone off in different ways and it was not possible to collect them. The four of us took up positions in a field adjacent to Honan’s house and engaged the military who were using a machine gun behind a stone wall at the corner of a field about three hundred yards almost due east.” Their opening volley felled the leading British soldier advancing towards them, and his comrades took cover in the heather. The four riflemen spread out and commenced rapid fire returning the captured British .303 ammunition to its previous owners at a generous rate. This gave the British soldiers the impression that they were facing a much larger group of riflemen. Seamus Hennesy was headed towards a gap in a bank when Patrick Vaughan shouted a warning to them ‘Don’t go out that gap, for they’re like to set the gun on it. Roll over the bank when I shout.’ When Vaughan gave the word the shotgun men tumbled over the bank while the British soldiers on the hill raked the gap of the bank and its edges with machine gun fire.

While O Neill and Neylon’s group began firing on the British soldiers in an effort to halt their advance Patrick Kerin and the other I.R.A. Volunteers continued their retreat towards Ballyvaskin across open  ground: “We went in extended formation and had gone a hundred yards or so when we came under heavy machine gun fire from the north-east. The military had reached the top of Dromin hill and placed a machine gun in position four hundred yards away from us. Our party at this stage were in the middle of a ten acre field through which ran a stream in the direction of Ballyvaskin. Pat Frawley and myself made for the stream. On the way I was stunned by a bullet which passed between my ear and head.  Recovering after a few seconds, I got into a shallow drain where I remained for ten minutes or so, and then dashed twenty or thirty yards further on to a cock of hay. There I found Pat Mc Gough, O/C of the Inagh Company. With him I got as far as a low stone wall. The firing was still fierce and was coming mostly from a machine gunner. Here we began to time the machine gun burst and reckoned that a pan was being changed. We dashed across another fifty or sixty yards of open ground behind another stone fence where we met two more of our crowd, Dave Kenelly and John Crawford. Kenelly who had a rifle was in an exhausted state and enquired if any of us were in a condition to return the fire. Crawford had a carbine which he captured from the tender, but the ‘cut off’ had jammed. This I put right by forcing it with my teeth, and we both opened fire. I exhausted all the ammunition I had, a total of fifty two rounds. Our fire enabled the men in our vicinity to retreat in more safety and, when my ammunition was finished, we went after them.”

On the side of Dromin Hill, John Joe Neylon’s group were coming under increasing pressure as the rest of the I.R.A. Volunteers reached Ballyvaskin. They had concentrated their rifle fire on the machine gun grew and thought they had wounded one of them because the fire halted for a short period but longer than a normal stoppage. When the machine gun resumed firing a second volley  from the four riflemen silenced it again, Neylon and his comrades used this opportunity to retreat. As they scrambled town the hillside the British soldiers fire was so close to them that Neylon had his leg grazed by a bullet which passed through the leg of his trousers: “O Neill was wounded in the thigh early at this stage of the fighting and as we retreated he had to be removed. This was done by Michael Dwyer who carried him on his back. Gradually we made our way towards Ballyvaskin taking advantage of whatever bit of cover was available … ultimately the whole party got into the Ballyvaskin country and dispersed”
With the British soldiers in hot pursuit the republicans had no time for an ordered retreat and broke up into a number of smaller groups which would be harder for the British forces to pursue. Local farm labourers who had been making trams of hay near the edge of the bog when the running battle started helped carry the two wounded I.R.A. Volunteers to safety and sent for doctors to Milltown and Lahinch. The wounded were then placed on stretchers and carried across country to Moy. Patrick Kerin and Michael Curtain expected British forces to arrive in the area at any time and hid their rifles and the papers they had taken from the R.I.C. men’s bodies in a stone wall near Molohan’s house. It was now after four o clock and the British military had sent for reinforcements as soon as they had arrived at the ambush site at Rineen two hours earlier. O Neill and Curtin were the only I.R.A. members were wounded in the withdrawal though neither was wounded seriously. However the British forces suffered much heavier losses, in addition to the six dead members of the R.I.C. a  number of British soldiers had been wounded including a Royal Army Service Corps driver.

General Tudor

Many thanks to Gerard Burrows for the following article and pics,,its a very interesting collection of photos  and information relating to General Tudor.

I read with interest your references to Tudors Toughs ie the Tan, Auxies etc. As you know Tudor was the only man ever to hold the title Chief of Police in Irish Police history. I own the complete uniform of Major Gen Tudor which can be seen on some photos of the period and also archived News reels of him and Gen French inspecting Auxies in Dublin. My Grandfather was head constable in the RIC (22 yrs) and was based in Killorglin at the time of the Castlemaine Ambush which Dan Keating took part in. My mother relatedthe story of this ambush many a time when I was young, she told us that her father was told by the mother of one of the ambushers that this ambush was to take place. My grandfather had pleaded with the DI not to send the men to Tralee to collect their wages that day but he was over ruled by the DI with the result that 8 were killed my mother said there was as many as 11 killed as she was in the station when the bodies were brought back,she also said that my grandfather had to draw his gun to prevent other police going on reprisals. Later my grandfather was sent to West Cork until the truce in 1922. He survived one other ambush at Dunmanway,thanks to his house keeper telling him her son was leading a band of men to kill him. After the Truce he went to England with his family under an assumed name but later returned to live in Belfast on the Falls Road where his youngest son joined the IRA under old Wish Fox. Later my grandfather exiled him to England and he didnt return home until his father died. My grandfather was from Tralee,a catholic and an Irish speaker, just thought you might be interested in this wee story.
Slan go Foil
Gerry

Hi Garry no problem at all publishing the story of my grand father Micheal Blake and I will send you photos of my Gen Tudor collection which includes items of his full dress uniform from the Boer War period, also I have his uniforms from his command in Palestine and I found correspondance from Churchill regarding members of the Police Force in Ireland to be offered posts in Palestine. I have a copy of a letter from Gen Tudor to Churchill in which he refers to the Black and Tans doing a great job there. I have spent about 4 yrs now researching documents and writing to various people in Newfoundland who knew General Tudor including a doctor who was with him when he died. One lady in particular whose father was a friend of Tudor when she was a young girl , this lady by the way is English speaks Irish and is a reknowned Harp player and is in her 80,s !!! she send me a photo of a privately produced book by Gen Tudor entitled “The Fog of War” signed “To Carla with love Hugh” also she sent me a picture of his brass knuckle duster!!!! this item he always carried while meeting the boats coming in with their catches as most of the crews were Irish. A friend of mine has Gen Tudors palm pistol which he keeps promising to let me have!!! nothing as yet, it is residing in Florida at the minute. Tudor is difficult to write about as according to Carla Emerson he was declared Persona Non Grata by the establishment in Britain, she speaks of the Scotsman been involved, Ramsey Mc Donald??although his foreign secretary who led the Labour Party commission to Ireland at the time may have caused his departure, I have checked letters and diaries of these people and found that the Diary of the Foreign secretery  had all its pages removed from 1920-25, rather interesting??Anyway to finish my book on Gen Tudor I need to know who sent him to Newfoundland and why there?? as it has a big Irish community, infact Gen Tudors House Keeper/nurse was Irish Monica Mc Carthy whose family were from Cork. So from Britains best General to fish salesman and according to Micheal Collins himself during a conversation with Captain William Darling who was one of Tudors Officers in Dublin Castle after Collins had a car accident and was offered a lift to Dublin by Darling who was unaware of who he was helping out until Collins personally introduced himself enroute to Dublin where the pair ended up drinking in the Vaughan Hotel, Collins referred to Tudor as one of Britains best Generals sent to fight him and his men, he also mentioned that the IRA always knew when they encountered Auxies as they tended to put out a good fight!!! his words. This man Darling is the great uncle of Alister Darling the ex British Labour minister. During my searches through British records I found on marked “secret” along with many others!!! but this was one was very interesting as it mentioned a Royal Navy ship was on its way to Ireland with a supply of Gas Grenades for  the “Free State Army” for use against the anti treaty forces, apparently they suddenly discovered that they had signed a treaty prohibiting the use of gas and they were to be disposed of in Dublin Bay!!!! wonderful what you find when you are researching things. Anyway I will send you some pics of the collection and sorry about the spelling I always get timed out when I go to check it.!!!!

Slan go Foil
Gerry                                                                     GENERAL TUDORS UNIFORM

GERRY WITH THE UNIFORM

Irish Volunteers Cap Cork connection

A friend and collector has supplied us with photographs of a Cork Volunteers cap,very nice quality and condition. Many thanks to Daniel Hulin.


IRA Dromkeen ambush 1921

The Dromkeen Ambush took place on 3 February 1921, during the Irish War of Independence at Dromkeen in County Limerick. The Irish Republican Army ambushed a Royal Irish Constabulary patrol, killing 11 policemen.

The ambush was carried out by the flying columns of the East and Mid Limerick Brigades IRA, some 45 riflemen, under the command of Donnocha O’Hannigan commander of East Limerick Brigade Flying Column. Some time earlier the police had discovered the arms dump of the Mid-Limerick Brigade. Only one IRA man—Liam Hayes—was wounded.

Only two of the police got away. Nine were killed in action and another two were executed after being taken prisoner. Three of the dead RIC men were Irish and the remainder were British Black and Tans. In reprisal, British forces burned ten homes and farms in the area.

In February 2009, up to 2,000 people turned up for the unveiling of a memorial to the ambush.

Have a look at the following videos, they are quite interesting.

Dromkeen ambush videos

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

Irish Volunteer Uniforms

An article posted by Irish author and historian Padraig O Ruairc. Thanks Padraig.

Re-enactors have been asking me for some time about Irish Volunteers / I.R.A. uniforms and what is and is not accurate. This is a very big issue to cover as the uniform, appearance, personnel, weaponry targets and tactics of the Irish Volunteers / I.R.A. changed hugely between 1913 and 1923. (Basically we should look at the period as three different conflicts 1916 – The War of Independence – Civil War) Few republicans in the period ever owned a formal republican uniform ie, hat tunic belt etc. Usually they wore civilian clothing with a lapel button or badge, a uniform hat and a uniform belt with military equipment. Coupled with this is the fact that rebel armies rarely if ever manage to get any sense of uniformity in their uniforms. However uniforms were important in the period for propaganda reasons to those who saw themselves as being the legitimate army of Ireland – having a uniform gave them an extra sense of legitimacy. Most estimates place the number of uniformed republicans who took part in the 1916 rising as between 1/4 to 1/3 or the whole rebel forces.

I must stress that for the purposes of re-enacting the period it is far more important to have a good set of civilian clothes for the 1913 -1923 period and a licensed blank firing period weapon i.e. Lee Enfield or Ross Rifle re bored to 8-10 shotgun. 10 men with perfect nice green Irish Volunteers uniforms will be accurate for battle in 1916 – however no unit of the I.R.A. was that well uniformed in the War Of Independence – by then most republicans were far more comcerned with getting guns and ammunition not uniforms. So anyone re-enacting the period should start by getting the kit which is shown in Picture 1.

Irish Volunteers

Picture 1

This is by far the cheapest way to put an impression together as chords, tweed jackets, waistcoats and so on can be bought for practicly nothing in any charity shop. And if dosent take your fancy then every one has an old suit at home for weddings etc once its a dark colour, black, brown, grey, navy or pinstripe. However for those of you who are insistant about the Irish Volunteer uniform here it goes.

This is just the first article I intend to descride the uniform in a series of articles as follows.

1 The Official Irish Volunteer Uniform (Ordinary Ranks) 1914 – 1916
2 Officers Uniforms 1914 – 1916
3 War of Independence – I.R.A. Volunteers Uniforms
4 Badges, belt buckles and regional variations in uniform
5 Weapons and Equipment

Or something like the above any way. I will not be attempting to give the history of the organiseation in any detail.

1 – The official Irish Volunteer Uniform (Ordinary Ranks) 1914 -1916

“The Volunteer Uniform. Report By Uniform Sub-Committee, 12th August 1914.
Report;-Summary of work done.

Uniform Cloth; Having made exhaustive enquiries the sub-committee found that it was necessary to start ab initio. They found that no suitable uniform cloth was made in Ireland. They therefore obtained samples of a high class uniform serge from a well known English mill. From these they selected a grey green cloth of a very suitable colour for field work in Ireland. They then inquired from several Irish mills wether they could match this sample. The buisness was not keenly sought after as the mills were full of orders and the extent of the Volunteers requirements was somewhat uncertain. Finally Messers Morrough Bros. of Douglas Mills, Cork got special looms working and matched the sample. The sample they produced was submitted to experts and pronounced excellent. It was therefor decided to give the first order to the Morrough Brothers.

Design of Uniform

After having several samples submitted the sub committee decided upon the cut of the uniform. This was fixed as standard for all Irish Volunteers. The only variation to be permitted to the different regiments was in the manner of facings which were to be left to the discretion of the regimental committes or county boards. The uniform consists of tunic, two buttoned knickers and putees.

Headdress

The headdress was decided upon for the Dublin regiment but was left undecided for the other regiments. A considerable body of opinion favoured soft hats but it was found impossible to get a suitable hat of Irish manufacture.

Putees

The Putee presented a difficulty as the well known spiral putee is protected by patents. A semi spiral was decided upon and a special light Irish Serge made to match the uniform. The caps are made of Putee cloth.

Buttons and badges

A design of Button and cap badge was decided upon and dies struck, and buttons made. The button design as submitted by your subcommittee was altered byyou and consequent on this change your sub committee find it will be impossible to protect the design. A Report on this subject will be laid before you. The badge will be protected.”
From Bulmer Hobson Papers N.L.I. MS. 13174 (1)

A photograph of this uniform (Picture 2) also dated 12th August 1914 appeared in the Irish Sword in an article by F. Glenn Thompson. Material – the cap, tunic and breeches were of a grey green serge.

Irish Volunteers Uniform

Picture 2

The cap is made in an almost russian or cossack style with a high stiff crown and very small peak. The peack and chinstrap were both in black leather. The buttons for the chinstrap were small with a flat syrface covered in black cloth. (Original Uniform Cap Picture 3)

Irish Volunteers Uniform Cap

Picture 3

The Tunic

The main body of the tunic was made of the grey green serge. However the tunic had very dark green shoulder straps/epaluttes and cointed cuffs. The tunic has a high collar like a modern shirt. On the front of the tunic were five large brass buttons with a harp decoration and the letters I and V on either side of it. (Picture 4 is an origional I.V. button – note how wide/fat the harp is. Ive checked the manufacturers markings on the back and they are the same as those on uniforms in Kilmainham Jail Museum)

Irish Volunteers Uniform Tunic and button detail

Picture 4

There were two brest pocket seach with a box pleat and two lower large pockets on the hips. The buttons on the pockets and shoulder straps were of the same harp &IV design but smaller in size than those on the uniform front. Each shoulder of the tunic was reinforced by a patch, just Like WW1 British Army uniforms. The back of the tunic was plain.

Trousers

The trousers in the picture are straight and not in the bow legged jodhpurs style. Again they were made of grey-green serge.

Boots

Though not shown they were presumably brown or black.

Equipment

The volunteer in the photo has a five pouch brown leather bandolier. A white canvas knapsack on a sling. The brown leather belt with brass buckle had a harp in the centre surrounded by the inscruiption Oglaign Na h-Eireann was the official pattern (More on this and pics in a later article). The rifle shown is a 303 Lee Metford Mk II with a leather sling which would have taken an 1888 Mark I pattern sword bayonet, worn in a scabbard and frog on the same side as the knapsack.

So this was the official Dublin Head Quarters approved uniform for ordinary volunteers. Very few volunteers would have had the financial resources and been in the position to buy from an approved supplier. Therefore many Volunteers would have gotten their sisters or wives to make their uniform resulting in a wide variation of cuts, colours and cloths all trying to copy and approximate the approved design. Though the standard and style of uniform varied greatly this was the uniform and equipment that most Volunteers aspired to have. And re-enactors should bear this in mind when ordering / making up their own uniform tunic.

Picture 5 shows a well equipped section of Irish Volunteers from the 4th Battalion Dublin Brigade taken in September 1915 when they were commanded by Eamonn Ceannt. Most of they all appear to be wearing the offical pattern uniform except that some have the darker green shoulder straps and pointed cuffs on their tunics whilst others thetunic, shoulder strapps and cuffs are all the one colour. They all seen to have bought the same type of rifle and equipment. However even in this well turned out group there is variation. The first volunteer back row standing on the left weard a Dublin Brigade FF-Drong Atha Cliath cap badge. The man standing beside him simply wears a uniform button in place of a badge on his cap and five of the men have no cap badge at all

Irish Volunteers 4th Battalion Dublin Brigade

Picture 5

Picture 6 is an illustration of an uniformed volunteer from an advert in “The Irish Volunteer” newspaper December 1915. While the tunic, belt, cap and equipment are the same as Picture 2 the approved design – the trousers are of the jodhpurs / riding breeches style.

Uniformed Irish Volunteer advertisement 1915

Picture 6

Picture 7 shows Irish Volunteer Gerald Keogh shot dead outside trinity college during Easter Week 1916.  Again he is wearing the approved uniform and cap.

Irish Volunteer Gerald Keogh Easter week 1916

Picture 7

Picture 8 shows a close up of a group of Irish Volunteers on parade. Note how no two are dressed exactly the same and there is a mixture of full uniforms and civilian clothes. Also note both Boer War and WW1 bandoliers were in use. They appear to be armed with Italian Varetti rifles.

Group of Irish Volunteers on parade

Picture 8

Picture 9 shows a Dublin member of the Irish Volunteers. The only piece of official uniform he is wearing is the cap. Its also interesting that he wears knee high socks over his trousers in place of putees or leggings.

Dublin member of the Irish Volunteers

Picture 9

In 1915 the uniform regulations were changed. These ordered that the shiny black leather peaks on the uniform caps be dulled or covered with cloth, and that the brass buttons be oxidised brown or replaced with leather buttons. The theory behind this is that the shinier parts of the uniform would attract a snipers attention on the battlefield.

Uniform regulations and styles changed rapidly again over the following years based on the availability and practicality of wearing uniforms in the years 1917-1921. I will cover this in later articles.