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Member Since: 20-Mar-2011
Dec 6 14 1:17 PM
Member Since: 2-Nov-2009
Jun 17 15 1:39 AM
Peter Mc RIC wrote:....The photo was taken in all likelihood following the Fernside raid when Dan Breen was wounded and a number of others killed; and it is thought this was a search of the hospital at the time (at least according to the Fleet st photographer who took these). We posted more detail in the Auxiliary forum some years back and here is the other picture from the set:
Member Since: 11-Apr-2004
Jul 9 15 7:15 PM
Jul 11 15 3:00 AM
Jul 21 16 10:41 PM
posts 7 & 8 on this thread Peter Mc & Dez listed the ADRIC wounded at the
to admit I’d been dubious about Goold being among them, lacking a primary source.
findmypast has released military inquiry material on the Burning and Goold is
indeed included in an official report (in WO35/85).
So I'm glad to acknowledge that Dez & Erne McCall were correct!
D. Mac. M. Byrne, Lieut. & 3rd D.I., F Company, Dublin Castle wrote:
cadets sustained casualties (sic) – two slight.
& 3rd D.I. J. J. Huntingford – slight abrasions
H. H. Oliver – slight abrasions, face
G. H. Lewis (Dangerous) – leg and arm
A. L. G. Tottenham – leg and arm
H. Beaumont - foot
J. A. Goold - foot.
with the exception of Lewis are progressing favourably.”
the report ends with some fanciful ideas about IRA men trapped in the burning
building taking their own lives and so on, I think we can take the count of ADRIC
casualties as accurate in number. But Byrne understates the injury suffered by Oliver.....
Interestingly the report states that F Company received an ‘urgency call’ at 13.10 hours that
the attack was in progress and used 3 tenders and 1
armoured car initially.
A related Special Intelligence Report by R. K. Caparn, Lt. & 1st D.I. of F Company specifies the 1st A/C was a Rolls Royce - as Peter Mc suggested earlier.
implies all the Auxy casualties resulted from the bomb thrown into the 2nd
tender (by Vol. Dan Head). One of them (forget which) was also shot through the arm while lying on the ground wounded.
also says 27 revolvers were recovered after the action was over (Many others were taken away by IRA members of the Fire Brigade. That's but a tiny element of their part. Las Fallon has written a most interesting book - 'The Firemen's Tale: the
burning of the Custom House 1921' (Kilmainham Tales, Dublin, 2015) - great value at €5 plus P&P (free in Ireland).
Findmypast has other
action reports, witness statements and the military inquiries into the deaths
resulting from the Custom House Burning.
interesting, they add nothing really new, startling or not already covered in
this thread – apart from the inquiries into the deaths of the 5 IRA Volunteers:
Ned Dorins (E Coy); Sean Doyle (The Squad); Dan Head (D Coy) and brothers Patrick &
Stephen O’Reilly (F Coy).
addition, from other sources (BMH WS, etc), at least 6 Volunteers were seriously wounded:
commander in the building, Comdt. Tom Ennis (O/C 2nd Battalion) - 2 bullets
shattered right hip;
Slattery (The Squad) - shattered left hand amputated;
Michael C. Stephenson (Active Service Unit) - shot in legs & stomach, fell into the
Liffey and was rescued by a coalman;
Ward (O/C, F Coy, 2 Batt) - 2 wounds in torso, arrested;
McGlynn (no details, but brought to KGV Hospital after arrest); and
MacMahon (B Coy, 2 Batt) - rifle bullet lodged in brain (till specialist surgery in 1925!).
all recovered to resume active service; and most fought during the Civil
War (on Free State side).
Jul 22 16 8:21 AM
Jul 22 16 8:43 PM
Jul 24 16 11:12 PM
Jul 26 16 10:43 PM
A typically very constructive and interesting post,
I don’t think we are at odds at all on the basic issues.
And I fully acknowledge your criticisms of the IRA plan
(which I’ll return to below).
I was not belittling the success of the Crown forces on
the day, merely trying to put it in context by comparing resources deployed/reserves
available versus results.
Dealing with the rescued flag first, I agree it was a
symbolic act for the Auxies (like the military in 1916 displaying the captured Republican
flag from the GPO). It’s interesting that no IRA man thought to haul down
or burn the ensign (had they the time, of course) – possibly seen by them and
others as a hated symbol of oppression. Their target was the building - the real Crown symbol
to be destroyed - followed by successful escape. It highlights a difference in culture - and priorities –
between the civilian IRA and the ex-military Auxies.
By the way, at the stage the ensign was recovered, the
fire was not as well or widely set as you may imagine, Peter……… That was the
later role of the Fire Brigade - seriously!
Now to more substantive points.
IMO, a night time attack would not have been feasible at
all. Crown forces owned the hours of darkness through an enforced curfew, using
widespread ad hoc cordons, raids and mobile patrols with searchlights.
Impossible for the IRA to assemble their forces even in ones and twos,
converging on a single location without attracting immediate reports, challenge,
arrest or lethal force.
Anyway, could the operation in a huge darkened building have
been practicable? To have turned on internal lighting would’ve been a clear
signal that something was badly amiss and invited Crown forces attention before
any flames became visible.
Lunchtime was a reasonable window of opportunity, with
staffing in offices reduced and minimal public visitors. After all even the
Castle Auxies were eating when the alarm came! It also allowed the IRA to
approach on busy streets without causing immediate alarm.
Despite that, their assembly was noted and reported (Do
we know for definite by whom?).
As for the rapid response, aggressive tactics and speedy encircling
of the site, I would expect nothing less from the Auxies. That was a central
part of their counterinsurgency mission and approach through training,
experience and orders or direction from on high.
I often wonder though, why it took Q Coy, located much
nearer the Custom House, so long to arrive. Clearly communications were not
perfect (Some key local communications cables had been cut by the IRA). And,
interesting also is that the report came to the Castle rather than the local
Auxy discipline appears reasonable as you say. But I guess judging that depends on standards applied.
If we accept the view the Auxies were a rabble of war-damaged, mercenary,
blood-thirsty killers then they behaved like angels on 25 May 1921!
But if we judge them as an official security force of the
administration, then what less should we expect?
I would suggest their discipline and restraint was
determined by circumstances rather than high-minded ideals. This was not some
isolated dark bohreen in the countryside or empty city park at night where "shot
while trying to escape" could justify shootings of suspects or prisoners. There were hundreds of eyes watching and witnesses everywhere. Many were Crown employees and senior officials caught up in the attack. Just a suggestion.....
The Auxies legitimately answered initial IRA firing with heavy
volleys directed at the building and points where shots came from – but also swept
the surrounding plaza, bridge, quays and streets which were busy. Initially,
few IRA were in those outside areas. Anyway, apart from the obviously exposed
bomber Dan Head, they would not have been distinguishable as hostiles among
passers-by and local workers. But, as you say, the police had to anticipate possible
threats from many directions.
I’m not suggesting Auxy fire was totally indiscriminate
or disproportionate, but the plaza and street is where a passer-by and a quay
worker (John Byrne & James Connolly) died. From whose bullets we’ll never
know for certain. As you can imagine, I reckon they were British .
It is also where 4 IRA were killed instantly, a 5th
mortally wounded and another 6 or more hit by bullets.
I don’t know of any IRA killed in the building, despite
claims in police reports and you mentioning one?
There weren’t many, if any, people running from the
building in the early stages. Everyone – IRA and employees - was trapped in
there. Most who tried escaping later were hit (Ned Dorins, Sean Doyle, the two
O’Reillys, Tom Ennis, among others).
But as the Auxies closely approached the building and fired
through windows, Mahon Lawless was definitely hit by their fire, along with
several other employees & visitors crowded together. Firing into the
passageway only ceased when one or more of them bravely showed themselves to announce
the crowd as friends.
At that stage those in the building were herded out for
sorting, etc. People, including IRA mingling with staff, were not running away
in panic. They’d no option, being under close guard. Anyway there were very few
usable exits from the building to be watched for occupants emerging.
I agree there were no cases or claims of surrendering IRA
being shot down, despite arrest reports stating that 10 or 12 were caught with
firearms. Those men were sent to Mountjoy Jail rather than Arbour Hill or
Kilmainham and detained separately from the rest - to face serious charges
carrying the death penalty. Some of the captured men were, however, beaten on
arrest or in detention.
There were stories that at least one IRA body was
bayonetted (Capt. Patrick O’Reilly); and the famous James Kelly-in-fact-John
Byrne civilian victim was described by a passer-by as having being shot and
bayonetted. But, to be fair, there was no medical evidence of such wounds and
it has never been trumpeted as “another dastardly outrage by the Tans”.
I find it interesting that only 2 IRA wounded were
captured; the rest got away with severe injuries, in one case bad enough to
cause his subsequent death. Others managed to melt away, evading interception
or arrest unscathed. At least one bluffed his way out. The cordon wasn’t
water-tight and did not involve out-lying rings.
Peter, I believe you seriously underestimate the number
of IRA involved. About 120 from 2nd Battalion were used inside the
building. There were at least that number again from other units involved in support
outside the building in various roles. The more we research the event, the more
documented genuine participants emerge (But no – before you say it - the
numbers will never approach the alleged mythical GPO 1916 cast of thousands!).
For example one ancillary operation was to prevent the
Fire Brigade at all relevant city stations from attending. This was effected either
by holding them in custody or by hijacking or disabling their
appliances. Despite many firemen being active IRA auxiliaries, they were not
known as such to the Castle.
I think the Brigade would’ve had an easy defence in the
event of the human fire catastrophe you quote the female staff member feared.
Another IRA party occupied post office communications premises
at Beresford Place.
All involved evaded capture.
As for the fears of Charlie Dalton - ah young Charlie the
latter day cold-blooded killer! His pessimistic thoughts may not have been
unique among junior IRA members. But tougher men like Paddy O’Daly, Harry Colley, Tom Ennis
and more thought otherwise. O’Daly claims the Dublin Brigade got a real boost
to morale from the destruction of the Custom House. Harry Colley's WS1687 (page 83) also covers their recovery from the initial shock of losses at the Custom House. And new recruits were joining
the ranks as well; even though raw and inexperienced, they’d be blooded quickly
enough as needed.
However, while I recognise the Dublin IRA were under real
pressure at that stage of the conflict, it is fair to say that they, like the
Crown forces, can legitimately claim they were not defeated when it ended.
Finally, that attack plan (I'm led to believe there may have been several versions. I aim
to look at one, in Emmet Dalton’s papers at NLI, asap).
It was a compromise and led to friction between GHQ and
Dublin Brigade; and I believe to a major falling-out between Oscar Traynor,
Brigade O/C and Tom Ennis, O/C 2nd Batt., respectively 1st and 2nd
in command of the burning.
You are of course correct to say that cordons and
barricades should have been deployed further from the Custom House to
prevent/delay Crown forces approaching. Many participants ruefully recorded
that view afterwards. A couple of ASU men (Padraig O'Connor & Jim McGuinness) even discussed it just before the shooting started on the day.
That screen of protection was the major omission in the
down-scaling of the operation – GHQ (or Michael Collins) did not want the
British led to believe another general rising like 1916 was taking place. And
that led to the internal arguments later.
Another defect in my view was timescales - far too tight
to cater for inevitable hitches & delays (which occurred). Whatever about various versions of the plan of attack, there was no
Plan B. The IRA hadn’t planned to start a battle with anyone that day (true, neither had the
Arrangements for safe lines of retreat were omitted. It
was every man for himself. In contrast to the attack on Q Company at North Wall
Hotel the previous month, key drawbridges on the quays and roads to the seaport
side of the building were not raised. That could have hampered the full encirclement
of the building from the east and possibly assisted escape of more attackers.
But, like other aspects of the event, that is all
conjecture and good stuff to argue about with no final or useful conclusion.
To sum up, yes the Auxies won the military battle on paper
that day but their defeat was never a real possibility, particularly as events
While the IRA lost many men, key figures and others escaped
to continue the fight another day.
For either side, the destruction of the Custom House was
not a decisive military result in the Anglo-Irish conflict.
It is of course a celebrated and commemorated event in
Irish memory and as a you say was a notable propaganda victory at the time.
It would be really interesting to know if there are any
British archives containing a political assessment of the event’s significance in
the context of impending negotiations and then Truce. As we know, it was a big event in itself but far from the only
burning of government buildings, from RIC barracks to tax offices and
courthouses, happening in those times. How much did it impact the will of the British to continue
their rule in all of Ireland – if at all?
Last word – honest – from me, for the moment.
The attitude of descendants of the ‘Custom House Men’
towards the Auxies actions is an interesting topic.
Something we have considered in the context of the
Commemoration Group is a talk on the IRA’s opponents that day. It sure won’t be
a PR job for them, haha . But it will be factual, if I've anything to do with it......
In my contacts with Group members (including relatives of
casualties), I’ve never heard the Auxies actions raised specifically. Of course I’ve heard expected
general antagonism against ‘Tans’ (which I share!).
But, without inferring any question of ignorance, I’d
venture that lack of information about who the Auxies involved were in some way
prevents rational views emerging.
I feel it would be hard, maybe even unfair, to separate the specifics of the Custom House fight from Auxy reputations (collectively or individually) in other events.
Anyway, I guess it’s personal to each individual and the
range of opinions and responses might vary widely.
But a subject definitely worth a discussion some day in a
Jul 28 16 9:25 PM
Jul 29 16 2:36 PM
Jul 29 16 8:36 PM
Jul 31 16 8:36 PM
Jimmy Wren’s 30 year labour of love is a fantastic reference book with lots of
interesting bios and hand-drawn sketches by the author of the individuals in the
GPO Garrison. How he found so much before the internet arrived is
While the work may not be of direct relevance to people
interested in the DMP or RIC etc., it does include many Volunteers who were later
active in the WoI and undoubtedly took part in many actions against the various
police forces engaged then.
As you know, we counted 73 men who were out in 1916
(mostly but not solely in GPO) and who 5 years later participated in the
destruction of the Custom House. Clearly these were among the hard core of
experienced Dublin IRA involved.
I know Peter (and myself) made cynical refs to the ‘GPO
hordes’ myth. But so have thousands more, including good ould Brendan Behan, a later IRA man himself who
said something like – but far wittier - “the
GPO must have covered the whole city to hold all those claiming to
have been there”?
Despite Jimmy Wren’s great effort and release of the BMH
records, it’s unlikely that all of the “my relative X was in the GPO” invented family stories and memories will disappear. But, I suppose that does nobody any real harm......
Oct 28 16 5:34 PM
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