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Encyclopedia > Kilmichael Ambush
Kilmichael Ambush
Part of the Irish War of Independence

Monument on the roadside at the battle site in Dus a Bharraigh.
Date November 28, 1920
Location Kilmichael, County Cork
Result IRA victory
Combatants
Irish Republican Army Royal Irish Constabulary
Commanders
Tom Barry Francis Crake
Strength
36 IRA volunteers of the West Cork Flying column 18 officers of the RIC Auxiliary Division
Casualties
3 dead 17 dead
1 wounded

The Kilmichael Ambush on November 28, 1920 was a turning point in the Irish War of Independence. There, between the hours of 4:05 p.m. and 4:20 p.m., thirty-six local Irish Republican Army volunteers under the command of 23-year-old Tom Barry killed 17 members of the British state's elite paramilitary Auxiliary Division of the RIC.[1] The Kilmichael ambush was of great political significance as it came just a week after Bloody Sunday (1920) in Dublin and marked a profound escalation in the IRA's guerrilla campaign. Combatants Irish Republic United Kingdom Commanders Michael Collins Richard Mulcahy Cathal Brugha Important local IRA leaders Henry Hugh Tudor Strength Irish Republican Army c. ... Image File history File linksMetadata Download high-resolution version (2272x1704, 536 KB) My own photo. ... is the 332nd day of the year (333rd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 1920 (MCMXX) was a leap year starting on Thursday (link will display 1920) of the Gregorian calendar. ... Kilmichael is a village in County Cork, Republic of Ireland See also Kilmichael Ambush Categories: | ... This article is about the historical army of the Irish Republic (1919–1922) which fought in the Irish War of Independence 1919–21, and the Irish Civil War 1922–23. ... The Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) was one of Irelands two police forces in the early twentieth century, alongside the Dublin Metropolitan Police. ... Tom Barry is also the name of an Academy Award-nominated screenwriter. ... Francis Crake (d. ... West Cork (Irish: Iarthar Chorcaí) in south-west Ireland, lies in Irelands largest county, County Cork. ... A Flying column, in military organization pre-dating World War I, is an independent corps of troops usually composed of all arms, to which a particular task is assigned. ... The Auxiliary Division of the Royal Irish Constabulary, generally known as the Auxiliaries or Auxies, was a paramilitary organization within the RIC during the Anglo-Irish War. ... Kilmichael is a village in County Cork, Republic of Ireland See also Kilmichael Ambush Categories: | ... is the 332nd day of the year (333rd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 1920 (MCMXX) was a leap year starting on Thursday (link will display 1920) of the Gregorian calendar. ... Combatants Irish Republic United Kingdom Commanders Michael Collins Richard Mulcahy Cathal Brugha Important local IRA leaders Henry Hugh Tudor Strength Irish Republican Army c. ... This article is about the historical army of the Irish Republic (1919–1922) which fought in the Irish War of Independence 1919–21, and the Irish Civil War 1922–23. ... Tom Barry is also the name of an Academy Award-nominated screenwriter. ... The Auxiliary Division of the Royal Irish Constabulary, generally known as the Auxiliaries or Auxies, was a paramilitary organization within the RIC during the Anglo-Irish War. ... The Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) was one of Irelands two police forces in the early twentieth century, alongside the Dublin Metropolitan Police. ... Bloody Sunday of 1920 was a day of violence in Dublin on November 21, 1920, during the Irish War of Independence (1919–1921), which led to the deaths of more than 30 people. ...

Contents

Background

The Auxiliaries were commissioned officers and were initially designed to provide an officer class to the Black and Tans, the paramilitary police raised by the British to put down republican guerrillas in Ireland. However they quickly became a separate force following their establishment in July 1920 and were regarded as a highly trained elite force by both sides in the conflict. The Auxiliaries engaged at Kilmichael all had previous experience in World War I. While they were officially part of the RIC in effect they were independent of it. The Auxiliaries and the Black and Tans rapidly became highly unpopular in Ireland for their intimidation of the civilian population and their arbitrary reprisals for IRA actions - including house burnings, beatings and killings. Only a week before the Kilmichael ambush, the Auxiliaries had fired on a football crowd in Dublin's Croke Park, killing 14 civilians. The Auxiliary Division of the Royal Irish Constabulary, generally known as the Auxiliaries or Auxies, was a paramilitary organization within the RIC during the Anglo-Irish War. ... For other senses of the term, see Black and tan (disambiguation). ... “The Great War ” redirects here. ... The Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) was one of Irelands two police forces in the early twentieth century, alongside the Dublin Metropolitan Police. ... For other uses, see Dublin (disambiguation). ... Croke Park (Irish: Páirc an Chrócaigh) in Dublin, Ireland is the largest sports stadium in Ireland and the principal stadium and headquarters of the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA), Irelands biggest sporting organisation. ...


The Auxiliaries in Cork were based in the town of Macroom and in November 1920 carried out a number of raids on the villages in the surrounding area, including Dunmanway, Coppeen and Castletownkenneigh in order to intimidate the local population away from supporting the IRA. Tom Barry, in his memoirs, noted that the IRA had, up until Kilmichael, hardly fired a shot at the Auxiliaries, which, "had a very serious effect on the morale of the whole people as well as on the IRA". Barry's assessment was that the West Cork IRA needed a successful action against them. WGS-84 (GPS) Coordinates: 51. ... WGS-84 (GPS) Coordinates: , Irish Grid Reference W228530 Statistics Province: Munster County: Population (2006) 2,328 Website: www. ...


On November 21, he assembled a flying column of 36 riflemen at Clogher. The column had just 35 rounds for each rifle as well as a handful of revolvers and two mills bombs (hand grenades). Barry scouted possible ambush sites on horseback and selected one on Macroom-Dunmanway road, on the section between Kilmichael and Gleann, which the Auxiliaries coming out of Macroom used every day. The flying column marched there on foot and reached the ambush site on the night of the 27th. The IRA men took up position in low rocky hills on either side of the road. is the 325th day of the year (326th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... A Flying column, in military organization pre-dating World War I, is an independent corps of troops usually composed of all arms, to which a particular task is assigned. ... For other uses, see Rifle (disambiguation). ... For other uses, see Revolver (disambiguation). ... Mills bomb is the popular name for a series of prominent British hand grenades. ...


The ambush

As dusk fell between 4.05 and 4.20 on November 28, 1920 on a desolate roadside at Dus a' Bharraigh in the townland of Shanacashel, Kilmichael Parish, near Macroom the ambush took place. is the 332nd day of the year (333rd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 1920 (MCMXX) was a leap year starting on Thursday (link will display 1920) of the Gregorian calendar. ... Kilmichael is a village in County Cork, Republic of Ireland See also Kilmichael Ambush Categories: | ... WGS-84 (GPS) Coordinates: 51. ...


Just before the Auxiliaries came into view, two armed IRA men, responding late to Barry's mobilisation order, drove unwittingly into the ambush position in a horse and side-car, almost shielding the British forces behind them. Barry managed to avert this by directing the car up a side road and out of the way. The IRA got the Auxiliaries' first lorry to slow down by placing Barry himself on the road, wearing what Barry claims was an IRA officer's tunic given to him by Paddy O'Brien, but what the British would later claim was one of their own uniforms. The British would also claim that the IRA had worn British uniforms including steel trench helmets, however Barry insisted that, with the exception of himself, they were all dressed in civilian clothes, although they were using captured British weapons and equipment. The lorry, containing nine Auxiliaries slowed almost to a halt 35 yards (c. 30 metres) from the ambush position before Barry gave the order to fire and the lorry was hit by hand grenade, thrown by Barry into the open cab. A savage close quarter fight ensued. According to Barry's account, some of the British were killed using rifle butts and bayonets. The British later claimed that the dead had been mutilated with axes, although Barry dismissed this as absurd. All nine Auxiliaries in the first lorry were killed. Paddy OBrien is a retired inter-county Irish Gaelic footballer for County Meath in Ireland. ... For other uses, see bayonet (disambiguation). ...


While this fight was still going on, a second lorry, also containing 9 Auxiliaries, had driven into the ambush position and its occupants were exchanging fire with the IRA squad who had not engaged the first lorry. When Barry brought the men who had attacked the first lorry to bear on the second lorry, he claims the Auxiliaries called out to surrender, but then opened fire when the IRA men emerged from cover, killing two of them. Barry then says that he ordered, "Rapid fire and do not stop until I tell you". Barry states that he ignored a subsequent attempt by the Auxiliaries to surrender, and kept his men firing at a range of only ten yards (8 metres) until he believed all the British troops were dead. In fact, two survived, though badly injured. Among the dead was Colonel Crake, commander of the Auxiliaries in Macroom. Two IRA men, Michael McCarthy, Jim O'Sullivan were killed outright and Pat Deasy (brother of Liam Deasy) was mortally wounded. [2]. Liam Deasy was an Irish Republican Army officer in the Irish War of Independence and the Irish Civil War of the 1920s. ...


Two officers survived the ambush. One, HF Ford, survived, though shot in the head, brain-damaged and paralysed. Ford was left for dead by the IRA. Ironically, the severity of his injuries saved his life. He was picked up by the British the following day and taken to hospital in Cork and was later awarded £10,000 in compensation. The other survivor, Cecil Guthrie, escaped, badly wounded from the ambush site but he asked for help at a house where two IRA men were staying and they killed him with his own gun. According to Father Pat Twohig’s “Green Tears for Hecuba”, Guthrie was identified as the member of the Auxiliaries who had previously murdered the uninvolved civilian Séamus Ó Liatháin in Ballymakeerahe.[3] His body was dumped in Annahala bog. In 1926, on behalf of the Guthrie family, Kevin O'Higgins, Irish Free State Minister for Home Affairs, interceded with the local IRA. Guthrie's remains were disinterred and handed over to the Church of Ireland authorities at Macroom. He was soon buried in a proper grave. Kevin Christopher OHiggins (Irish name Caoimhín Críostóir Ó hUiginn; June 7, 1892 – July 10, 1927). ... This article is about the prior state. ... Did you mean. ... Following the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty on 6 December 1921, the Irish Republican Army in the 26 counties that were to become the Irish Free State split between supporters and opponents of the Treaty. ... The Church of Ireland (Irish: ) is an autonomous province of the Anglican Communion, operating seamlessly across the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. ...


Many of the IRA men were severely shaken by the action and some of them were physically sick. Barry tried to restore discipline by making them form up and perform drill, before they marched away. Barry himself may have been psychologically affected by the fight, as he collapsed with severe chest pains on December 3 and had to be secretly hospitalised in Cork City. It is likely that the ongoing stress of being on the run and the commander of the flying column along with a poor diet as well as the intense combat at Kilmichael contributed to his medical problems. A Pershing Rifleman practicing an exhibition drill routine in Fort Monroe, VA. A drill team that is affiliated with the military will sometimes perform exhibition drill. ... is the 337th day of the year (338th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... This is a disambiguation page — a navigational aid which lists other pages that might otherwise share the same title. ...


Aftermath

The political fallout from the Kilmichael ambush far outweighed its military significance. While the British forces in Ireland, over 30,000 strong, could easily absorb 18 casualties, the fact that the IRA had been able to wipe out a whole patrol of elite Auxiliaries was deeply shocking for them. The British forces in the West Cork area took their revenge on the local population by burning several houses, shops and barns in Kilmichael, Johnstown and Inchageela, including all of the houses around the ambush site. On December 3, three IRA men were arrested by the British Essex regiment in Bandon, beaten and killed and their bodies were dumped on the roadside. is the 337th day of the year (338th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Bandon is the name of several places Bandon in Oregon, USA Bandon in Ireland the River Bandon in Ireland the old name of Surat Thani in Thailand the Bandon Bay near Surat Thani This is a disambiguation page — a navigational aid which lists other pages that might otherwise share...


For the British government, the action at Kilmichael was an indication that the violence in Ireland was escalating. Shortly after the ambush (and also in reaction to the events of Bloody Sunday), barriers were placed on either end of Downing Street to protect the Prime Minister's office from IRA attacks [4]. On December 10, as a result of Kilmichael, martial law was declared for the counties of Cork, Kerry, Limerick and Tipperary. The British military now had the power to execute anyone found carrying arms and ammunition, to search houses, impose curfews, try suspects in military rather than civilian courts and to intern suspects without trial. On December 11, 1920, in reprisal for Kilmichael and other IRA actions, the centre of Cork city was burned down by Auxiliaries, British soldiers and Black and Tans, who also shot dead two people in the incident. In separate proclamations shortly afterwards, the authorities sanctioned "official reprisals" against suspected Sinn Féin sympathisers and also sanctioned the use of hostages in military convoys to deter ambushes. Bloody Sunday of 1920 was a day of violence in Dublin on November 21, 1920, during the Irish War of Independence (1919–1921), which led to the deaths of more than 30 people. ... Downing Street Downing Street gates Downing Street is the street in London which contains the buildings that have been, for over two hundred years, the official residences of two of the most senior British cabinet ministers, the First Lord of the Treasury, an office held by the Prime Minister of... is the 344th day of the year (345th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... For other uses, see Martial law (disambiguation). ... Statistics Province: Munster County Town: Cork Code: C (CK proposed) Area: 7,457 km² Population (2006) 480,909 (including City of Cork); 361,766 (without Cork City) Website: www. ... Statistics Province: Munster County Town: Tralee Code: KY Area: 4,746 km² Population (2006) 139,616 Website: www. ... Statistics Province: Munster County Town: Limerick Code: LK Area: 2,686 km² Population (2006) 183,863 (including Limerick City); 131,303 (without Limerick City) Website: www. ... Statistics Province: Munster County Town: North: Nenagh South: Clonmel Code: North: TN South: TS Area: 4,303 km² Population (2006) 149,040[[1]] County Tipperary (Contae Thiobraid Árann in Irish) is a county in the Republic of Ireland, and situated in the province of Munster. ... is the 345th day of the year (346th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 1920 (MCMXX) was a leap year starting on Thursday (link will display 1920) of the Gregorian calendar. ... This article is about the city in the Republic of Ireland. ... For pre-Arthur Griffith use of the political name, see Sinn Féin (19th century). ...


Controversy

The principal source for what happened at the Kilmichael ambush is Tom Barry's own account, as detailed in his book, Guerrilla Days in Ireland (1949). However Barry's version of events was disputed in The IRA And Its Enemies (1998) by Professor Peter Hart. Hart claims that Tom Barry's claim of a false surrender is an invention and that the surviving Auxiliary officers were exterminated after they had surrendered. This was what the British authorities stated publicly at the time, but it was never accepted as fact by the IRA veterans of the ambush. Hart backs up his argument by citing an account of the ambush by Paddy O'Brien in the general history of the period by Liam Deasy, which did not mention a false surrender. Hart claims that Barry disarmed the Auxiliaries in the second lorry, most of whom were wounded and then had them killed. Hart's critics, notably the historian Meda Ryan, argue that although O'Brien's version does not mention a false surrender, it does not detail the killing of wounded or disarmed men either. Peter Hart is a Canadian historian, specialising in modern Irish History. ... Liam Deasy was an Irish Republican Army officer in the Irish War of Independence and the Irish Civil War of the 1920s. ...


In Tom Barry's own words, he told his men before the action that, "the fight could only end in the smashing of the Auxiliaries or the destruction of the flying column... The Auxiliaries were killers without mercy. If they won, no prisoners would be brought back to Macroom. The alternative now was to kill or be killed; see to it that those terrorists die and are broken". These words indicate to Hart that Barry did not anticipate taking prisoners in the ambush. To others it is an unremarkable example of pre-battle rhetoric signifying little of substance in the context of the debate on Kilmichael.


Controversy continues in Ireland over Hart's claims. [5] Meda Ryan, author of Tom Barry, IRA Freedom Fighter (2003,5), disputed Hart's claim to have interviewed an anonymous IRA veteran alleging a massacre of wounded Auxiliaries. Hart states that he interviewed an IRA participant in the ambush on November 19, 1989, though the last surviving IRA Kilmichael veteran, Ned Young, died on November 13, 1989. Hart claimed to have conducted anonymous interviews with two IRA ambush veterans, between 1988 and 1990, one of them an unarmed ambush scout. According to Ryan, the second last veteran of Kilmichael, Jack O'Sullivan, died in January 1986, and the last ambush scout died in 1972. Ryan's dating is not disputed. Hart also claimed to have sourced additional information from interviews conducted by a Father Chisholm, but again the interviewees are anonymous and therefore cannot be verified. In addition Hart claimed that an unsigned typed 'report' of the battle he found in the Imperial War Museum is Barry's after battle report to his superiors, captured by the British. Ryan and another historian, Brian Murphy, assert that it is a forgery because it contains errors of fact Barry that would not have made - for instance, stating that two IRA volunteers had been mortally wounded and one killed outright, when the reverse was true. In addition, the document contains information known only to the British authorities, but unknown to Barry. Barry did not know that Guthrie, the Auxiliary who escaped, is “now missing”, or even that he escaped in the first place. Barry referred to seventeen Auxiliaries dead on the road. This was incorrect, as one, HF Ford, was severely wounded and left for dead. The ‘report’ correctly attests to “sixteen of the enemy . . . being killed”. As Meda Ryan pointed out in History Ireland (Vol 13, No 5): “in other words, the ‘report’ correctly attests to British casualties (and also to arms captures) known to the British but unknown to Barry, while it incorrectly states facts about Irish casualties that were known to Barry but unknown to the British.” Peter Hart omitted the sections of the ‘report’ that subsequently cast doubt on its authenticity from his published version. is the 323rd day of the year (324th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 1989 (MCMLXXXIX) was a common year starting on Sunday (link displays 1989 Gregorian calendar). ... is the 317th day of the year (318th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 1989 (MCMLXXXIX) was a common year starting on Sunday (link displays 1989 Gregorian calendar). ... The Imperial War Museum is a museum in London featuring military vehicles, weapons, war memorabilia, a library, a photographic archive, and an art collection of 20th century and later conflicts, especially those involving Britain, and the British Empire. ...


In his replies to criticism in 'History Ireland' in 2005 Peter Hart did not explain the interview anomalies and the omissions from his published account. Historian Brian Murphy, in his The Origin and Organisation of British Propaganda in Ireland in 1920 (2006), drew attention to the manner in which Peter Hart reproduced sophisticated British propaganda accounts of the ambush. Murphy detected the hidden hand of chief propagandist Basil Clark in Dublin Castle, the seat of British Administration in Ireland, in the writing of these reports, including the allegation of mutilation of British Auxiliaries by axes at Kilmichael. Murphy traced the origin and authorship of news reports appearing in newspapers to the Dublin Castle strategy of "propaganda by news". According to Murphy, Basil Clarke's media spin later become Peter Hart's historical spin. Dublin Castle. ...


In Popular Culture

A famous rebel song "The Boys of Kilmichael" commemorates the ambush. Lyrics, plus: new final verse by the poet Patrick Galvin, critical of "revisionist" historians. To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article or section may require cleanup. ...


An often repeated myth is that following the Japanese capture of Singapore in 1942, Lord Haw Haw declared on "Germany Calling" that as the 100,000 British troops were marched into captivity the Japanese band struck up "The Boys of Kilmichael". This article is about the Second World War propagandist. ...


An attack on British trucks in British Director Ken Loach's Palme D'Or (2006) winning film The Wind That Shakes The Barley is based on the Kilmichael Ambush. However some details of the ambush in the film are different. In the film only one volunteer dies and all the British are killed. Also the ambush in the film takes place during the day. In Addition, the leader of the ambush in the film wears a British Army uniform, whereas Tom Barry reported that he wore Volunteer Paddy O'Brien's IRA officer's uniform. The purpose was the same, to make the driver of the first lorry slow down, on the assumption that Barry was a British officer. However, some details of the battle, the order to form up into ranks and the content of the speech after the battle by the ambush leader is similar to what happened on November 28, 1920 at Kilmichael. Ken Loach Kenneth Loach (born June 17, 1936), known as Ken Loach, is an English television and film director, known for his naturalistic style and socialist themes. ... Palme dOr The Palme dOr (Golden Palm) is the highest prize given to a film at the Cannes Film Festival. ... For the folksong, see The Wind That Shakes the Barley (song). ... is the 332nd day of the year (333rd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 1920 (MCMXX) was a leap year starting on Thursday (link will display 1920) of the Gregorian calendar. ...


Footnotes

  1. ^ The Truth About the Boys of Kilmichael, Sunday Business Post, November 26 2000
  2. ^ Tom Barry, Guerrilla Days in Ireland
  3. ^ See Manus O'Riordan, Forget not the boys of Kilmichael in Ballingeary Historical Society Journal 2005 (reproduced in http://www.indymedia.ie/article/69172)
  4. ^ Michael Hopkinson, Irish War of Independence, p88
  5. ^ See for example What Is The Dispute About Kilmichael And Dunmanway Really About? and similar articles, also History Ireland, 2005, Vol 13, Numbers, 2,3,4,5

Sources

  • Tom Barry, Guerrilla Days in Ireland
  • Richard Bennet, The Black and Tans
  • Michael Hopkinson, The Irish War of Independence
  • Peter Hart, The IRA and its enemies
  • Peter Hart, Meda Ryan, et al, in History Ireland, 2005, Vol 13, Numbers 2,3,4,5
  • Brian Murphy, The Origin and Organisation of British Propaganda in Ireland in 1920.
  • David Miller, British Propaganda in Ireland and its significance today (foreword to Murphy)
  • Meda Ryan, Tom Barry, IRA Freedom Fighter

See also


 
 

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