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  • Author challenged to name sources for ambush claims

    29/11/04

    http://www.irishexaminer.com/pport/w...aewFBADppk.asp
    By Eoin English
    AN AUTHOR was challenged yesterday to name his sources and end decades of controversy surrounding an IRA ambush in West Cork.

    Historian and author Meda Ryan called on Peter Hart to name two men he says he interviewed which led to his claims that Tom Barry’s account of the 1920 Kilmichael ambush was “riddled with lies and evasions”.

    Ms Ryan was speaking in Kilmichael during ceremonies to mark the 84th anniversary of the ambush.

    “While Peter Hart fails to reveal the identity of his anonymous sources, the story of the Kilmichael ambush will remain clouded in controversy.

    “This is extremely important for history and for the men who fought with the third West Cork Brigade. “If he revealed the names, then the credibility of these two witnesses who claim to give a first-hand account could be examined,” she said.




    Barry, commanding officer of the third West Cork Brigade, led the IRA unit in an ambush against Macroom Castle-based Auxiliaries on November 28, 1920.

    It was the first major ambush against British forces in Ireland.

    Eye witnesses said some Auxiliaries shouted “surrender” and dropped their guns soon after the ambush began.

    As Barry’s men stood thinking the exchange was over, some Auxiliaries picked up their guns and began to fire again, killing three volunteers.

    Realising the “false surrender”, Barry then issued an order to his men to open fire, killing all but two of the Auxiliaries.

    He accepted full responsibility for the action, Ms Ryan said. Peter Hart, who was attached to Queens University Belfast but who now lives in Newfoundland, claimed in 1998 that Barry and his men killed prisoners, and that he refused to accept the false surrender.

    But Ms Ryan, whose uncle Pat O’Donovan was involved in the ambush, reiterated the widely-held view that the Auxiliaries engaged in a false surrender.


    Catch-22 says they have a right to do anything we can't stop them from doing.

  • #2
    Oddly enough I read her full speech in Indymedia

    http://www.indymedia.ie/newswire.php?story_id=67691


    Catch-22 says they have a right to do anything we can't stop them from doing.

    Comment


    • #3
      Meda Ryan belongs to the "saxon-foe" school of Irish history. Just from memory, I thought that Peter Hart based his theory of Tom Barry's "lies and evasions" on conflicting accounts he gave of the ambush.

      The accounts of the surrender and so on, wouldn't be unique to the Kilmichael Ambush. Only the lucky get taken POW, and being a prisoner of the IRA at any stage of it's history couldn't be termed lucky. Likewise, in the middle of an ambush, it is unlikely that the entire Auxilliary patrol, held a conference to discuss a surrender. So the right hand may not have known what the left hand was doing and when three of the enemy exposed themselves in the middle of the battle, Andy the Auxie must have thought his luck was in.

      More controversial is the allegation that the IRA mutilated the dead Auxiliaries after the battle.
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      • #4
        Bloody fable of Kilmichael's dead

        John A Murphy on conflicting versions of the 1920 West Cork ambush in which 17 Auxiliaries died at the hands of Tom Barry's flying column

        ON TUESDAY next, the 80th anniversary of the Kilmichael ambush, the consistently high-quality television programme Léargas will deal with that major episode in the independence struggle. I was one of those asked by presenter Pat Butler to comment on its historical significance and in this article I give my views more fully, as well as adding a local and personal dimension.

        Only a week after Michael Collins's squad had devastated British intelligence with the Bloody Sunday assassinations in Dublin, 17 Auxiliary "cadets" were wiped out in an ambush on a bleak roadside at Kilmichael, between Macroom and Dunmanway, by a 40-strong flying column of the West Cork Brigade under its 22-year-old commander, Tom Barry. Three members of the column died in the encounter. The term "cadet", used extensively in British reports, is misleading: The men of "C" company were ex-army and RAF officers, experienced and decorated Great War veterans whose average age was 27. They comprised a crack unit of a force specially recruited to deal with the IRA.

        Their annihilation by inexperienced volunteers gave a new military significance to what had been simplistically represented in British propaganda as a civil disturbance in which policemen had to deal with a murder gang. Local and national folklore immediately acclaimed the event and a rousing ballad achieved an instant success.

        Skibbereen Eagle-like exaggerations depicted the victorious ambush in global terms and it was subsequently claimed that Kilmichael tactics were studied at famous military academies and that Japanese soldiers sang The Boys of Kilmichael as they took over Singapore in 1942!

        Seriously, the impact was real and considerable. Volunteer morale was enhanced in West Cork and further afield, the unionist Irish Times described the ambush as "the biggest and most terrible that has yet taken place in Ireland", and the Irish Chief Secretary, Sir Hamar Greenwood, informed the House of Commons that it was "a challenge to the authority of this House, and of civilisation" no less!

        Kilmichael, in conjunction with other events, upped the ante considerably. There was a general intensification of Irish resistance and British response in the introduction of martial law, for example.

        The prominence of the West Cork flying column was again highlighted in the successful engagement at Crossbarry in March 1921. There were many factors at work during thewinter/spring of 1920-21 which must be considered in explaining the radical change in British offers to nationalist Ireland over that period, from modest devolution to the substance of independence.

        But the role of the guerrilla struggle cannot be gainsaid. Henry Kissinger's interesting observation about Vietnam comes to mind: "The guerrilla wins if he does not lose: the conventional army loses if it does not win."

        If we accept this as applicable to the 1920-21 struggle, then there is more than an element of truth (making due allowances for local boasting) in the claim made by that other ballad that "the boys who beat the Black and Tans were the boys of the Co Cork".

        TOM Barry's account of what happened at Kilmichael, as set down in his Guerrilla Days in Ireland (1949), has been widely accepted by nationalists including, presumably, those who will assemble today at the monument site for a commemorative address by Sinn Féin's Pat Doherty. Central to Barry's version is the "false surrender" story: He claimed that during the bloody hand-to-hand combat some Auxies treacherously resumed fire after a pretence at surrender, killing three volunteers. Barry then directed his men to keep firing at the remaining Auxies "until the last of them was dead".

        The "false surrender" incident has been much disputed, most recently in a detailed analysis by historian Peter Hart in his admirable book, The IRA and Its Enemies: Violence and Community in Cork, 1916-1923 (Oxford 1998). The official British report, needless to say, has no reference to the "false surrender" and it alleges, moreover, that the victorious ambushers "forcibly disarmed the survivors" and perpetrated "a brutal massacre, the policy of the murder gang being apparently to allow no survivor to disclose their methods: the dead and wounded were hacked about the head with axes, shotguns were fired into their bodies, and they were savagely mutilated".

        Similar allegations of "hideous mutilations" posthumously inflicted were made during malicious injury applications, in court the following January. It should be noted, however, that the more shocking the picture painted, the greater was the prospect of substantial compensation being paid to the bereaved relatives.

        CONTINUED NEXT POST.
        Last edited by Groundhog; 2 December 2004, 04:28.
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        Say NO to violence against Women

        Originally posted by hedgehog
        My favourite moment was when the
        Originally posted by hedgehog
        red headed old dear got a smack on her ginger head

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        • #5
          Barry, who remained obsessive about Kilmichael until his death in 1980, unsurprisingly dismissed the atrocity allegations as black British propaganda. He always expressed his annoyance with any accounts of Kilmichael which differed from his own, and he was particularly furious with those, especially fellow-volunteers, who seemed to cast doubts on the "false surrender" story. He protested that he was thus being depicted as a "bloody-minded commander who exterminated the Auxiliaries without reason".

          What seems certain is that Barry meant Kilmichael to be a fight to the finish. Not only would it be a major challenge to British military might but his own commitment to the cause would be clearly demonstrated, thus resolving all doubts arising from his Great War service and his loyalist family background. The ambush strategy reflected Barry's bravery, and his ruthlessness. There would be total victory or total defeat. No quarter would be given and no prisoners taken. It was not an outing for faint-hearted boy scouts. Barry graphically depicts the lurid and nightmarish post-ambush scene. "Afterwards some of our men were shaken by the whole thing and I had to drill them in the road, march them up and down, to preserve discipline ... it was a strange sight, with the lorries burning in the night and these men marching along, back and forth between the blood and the corpses ... "

          GROWING up in my native town of Macroom and in a strongly republican family, I was keenly aware from an early age of the stories about Kilmichael ambush. "C" company had been stationed in Macroom Castle and it was from there they drove the 10 miles or so "to their doom" at Kilmichael, as the ballad narrates. Before the obscure place name finally registered with the press and the British military authorities, the episode was referred to as "the Macroom murders". The townspeople were greatly relieved when dreaded reprisals didn't materialise. Presumably, they were glad enough in the circumstances to comply with the order to close business premises as a mark of respect to the dead Auxies, whose remains were driven through the streets en route for Cork and the sea crossing for burial in England.

          All except one. Cadet Cecil Guthrie, left for dead at the ambush, actually escaped but was shortly recaptured by two local volunteers, murdered and buried in Annahala Bog, near Macroom. In the mid-1920s, his family arranged for his exhumation and reburial which took place, curiously enough not at home in England but in enemy country, in the graveyard of the Protestant church in Inchigeela, in the adjoining parish to Kilmichael. The grave slab, isolated just inside the cemetery wall, records the date of death and his name but discreetly makes no reference to the engagement which led to his murder. The grave is only yards away from the resting place in the Catholic churchyard of my paternal grandmother's people. A well-known Macroom personality had carried out the gruesome task of exhumation and my child's mind was morbidly fascinated by the grisly detail that one of Guthrie's legs had been eaten "by Tom Shea's sheepdog".

          Our GP when I was a boy was Dr Jeremiah Kelleher who had also been Macroom coroner. He had given evidence to the malicious injuries court on the nature of the wounds inflicted on the victims of Kilmichael ambush. He had examined the bodies of the dead Auxies and was therefore a first-hand forensic witness to the results of the slaughter.

          In the 1930s and 1940s, Kelleher was still a familiar figure in the streets and sickrooms of Macroom and a welcome one. He was a devoted family physician bringing his healing skills and his irascible attention to all his patients irrespective of ability to pay, across the multi-layered social divide. He rejected 1916 and all that followed, sometimes berating my mild-mannered father beyond endurance, and calling him "a bloody fool" for being duped by the subversive riff-raff who were now running the country. Kelleher had been personally affected in the course of the Troubles when his son, a RIC officer, had been shot dead by the IRA in Granard, Co Longford. Though he made no secret of his anti-nationalist views, it is said that he won the respect of his enemies for unfailingly answering the call of duty in tending confidentially to wounded volunteers.

          His bristling integrity commands respect for his Kilmichael evidence. While not corroborating the wilder British charges of "hideous mutilation", the doctor testified that the Auxies had been riddled with bullets, three had been shot at point-blank range, several had been shot after death, and another's head had been smashed open.

          I HAVE sometimes wondered if my parents' obvious unease about the Kilmichael ambush was not partly due to Dr Kelleher's influence. But then they weren't too happy either with other incidents in the locality during the Troubles. My father was a volunteer whose name appeared on RIC lists but whose warlike activities were confined to ancillary operations like felling trees, using his carpenter's skills. In my wildest dreams, I could never envisage him firing a gun or throwing a Mills bomb.

          My parents, like other nationalist supporters of the physical-force struggle, wanted fervently to believe that the volunteers had fought with the utmost chivalry. After all, "On our side was virtue and Erin, on theirs was the Saxon and guilt". The gap between the sentimental Jacobite militarism of Thomas Davis ballads and the blood-and-brains-bespattered reality of 20th century terrorism was too vast for my parents to grasp and come to terms with.

          And so, whenever they sang The Boys of Kilmichael (which they rarely did because they found its braggadocio unpleasant and because in any case their nationalist repertoire was too wide and rich) they used the more genteel punch-line about "the boys of the column making a clean sweep of them all".

          However, the no-holds-barred reality of the encounter is more truthfully and more terribly depicted in the vulgarly robust version: "the Irish Republican Army made s**t of the whole f***ing lot".

          There is no place for Thomas Davis parlour-sentimentality in guerrilla warfare, any more than there is for the Queensberry Rules or the Geneva Convention. That is why the "false surrender" controversy is irrelevant.

          Once the Sinn Féin resurgence drifted away from political disaffection towards violence in 1919, the savagery of terrorism and counter-terrorism became inevitable. At Kilmichael, Tom Barry's guerrillas did what guerrillas do.

          Kilmichael cemetery is the burial ground of my Murphy ancestors. The day I was interviewed at the monument site for the Léargas programme, my thoughts turned to their neighbouring resting place which I occasionally visit and venerate.

          A century before the ambush, all that area of West Cork was "severely disturbed" (to use the security jargon of the day), as the exploited tillers of the soil made their elemental protests against the tyranny of land holders and magistrates. These are the largely unknown "boys of Kilmichael" (and of nearby Iveleary) that I sing about to myself.

          * Léargas, RTE 1, Tuesday, November 28, 7pm.
          * John A Murphy is Emeritus Professor of Irish History at University College, Cork

          This article appeared in the Sunday Independent of Nov 26th 2000
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          Say NO to violence against Women

          Originally posted by hedgehog
          My favourite moment was when the
          Originally posted by hedgehog
          red headed old dear got a smack on her ginger head

          Comment


          • #6
            I asked a friend of mine about this. He studied history in UCC & wrote his thesis on the War of Independence. This is his reply:


            That Hart is a smug git, a lot of his research was good and I did use some of his stats but his "Hitler's Willing Executioners" approach is a bit much. I actually met Meda Ryan a few times, nice woman, the direct opposite to Hart. While Hart comes out with outrageous comments such as calling the IRA in 20-21 "political serial-killers", unfortunatley Ryan seems unable to accept that there was a certain amount of unpleasantness on the IRA side during the WoI.

            This Kilmichael controversy is a bit overblown, particularly from the likes of Kevin Myers et al. Its not as if the BA never shot surrendered/surrendering/wounded etc. It happens all the time, particularly in firefights like Kilmichael, really up close and personal. The fact is no one will ever know what really happened. I have seen what appears to be Barry's initial after action report to GHQ and it made no mention of a false surrender. Who know's why? Hart does make a big deal out of that though, saying the false surrender story only came later. Ryan does have a point asking Hart to name names though. There wasn't too many of those guys still around when he was doing his research.
            "The dolphins were monkeys that didn't like the land, walked back to the water, went back from the sand."

            Comment


            • #7
              unfortunatley Ryan seems unable to accept that there was a certain amount of unpleasantness on the IRA side during the WoI.


              Well thats what I meant by saying she comes from the Saxon Foe school of Irish historian. All Brits bad, IRA good kinda thing.

              This Kilmichael controversy is a bit overblown, particularly from the likes of Kevin Myers et al.

              I think Myers tries to deflate the ego of the smug Meda Ryans. There's a couple of small time authors here locally who view the Irish Civil Wars through green-tinted spectacles as well.
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              Say NO to violence against Women

              Originally posted by hedgehog
              My favourite moment was when the
              Originally posted by hedgehog
              red headed old dear got a smack on her ginger head

              Comment


              • #8
                You hav to understand that they were three auxi truck involved. Thease had being more widly spaced apart than normal. Auxi's from the first truck might hav surrendered but 300 yards down the road in the third truck, thease troops might of knowing nothing about the surrender and opened fire killing two IRA voulenteer's. I personally believe Tom Barry's account about the kilmichal ambush. Any body that read into the man's life knows how honest he was and how much of a sticker he was for fact. He often let captured prisioners and let them go if they promised to go home to there family's and leave Ireland to Ireland. This contricts what people are saying that he cold bloodly killed auxi's at the kilmichal ambush 1920. If you were alive at the time would you trust the brits??????????????????????????????????

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by THE DAWN
                  This contricts what people are saying that he cold bloodly killed auxi's at the kilmichal ambush 1920. If you were alive at the time would you trust the brits??????????????????????????????????
                  Those nefarious saxons...
                  Meh.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Only the lucky get taken POW, and being a prisoner of the IRA at any stage of it's history couldn't be termed lucky.
                    I read somewhere that Sean McKeown CO of the Mayo flying colum treated all prisoners fairly and saw to it that the wounded were attended to.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      More controversial is the allegation that the IRA mutilated the dead Auxiliaries after the battle.
                      It might be no harm when repeating such allegations to bear in mind that you are refering to the national army who have no link historically or any other way with the present day provos.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I personally believe Tom Barry's account about the kilmichal ambush.

                        Which one. He gave a few different accounts.
                        sigpic
                        Say NO to violence against Women

                        Originally posted by hedgehog
                        My favourite moment was when the
                        Originally posted by hedgehog
                        red headed old dear got a smack on her ginger head

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          These Auxies were part of the British terror machine of offically sanctioned reprisals.These Auxies burned and sacked towns,engaged in wanton destruction and murder and if a unit of the Irish army took them out well then why shed tears?

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            One explanation given for the mutilated corpses story is that the BA payed out a bigger pension to the widow if the body of a dead soldier had been carved-up post mortem. The unit therefore put forward the story to get more cash for the families.
                            "The dolphins were monkeys that didn't like the land, walked back to the water, went back from the sand."

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              The dead men weren't in the army.
                              sigpic
                              Say NO to violence against Women

                              Originally posted by hedgehog
                              My favourite moment was when the
                              Originally posted by hedgehog
                              red headed old dear got a smack on her ginger head

                              Comment

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