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It depends on what you have read, how old it is and where it
The Black and Tans were, strictly speaking, ex-soldiers
recruited to make up the shortfall in RIC numbers after 1919. Although it is
commonly assumed that they were all English, a substantial percentage came from
Ireland. Exactly what made an Irish ex-soldier a Black and Tan as opposed to a
regular recruit to the RIC is probably too nuanced to pursue. It is worth
remembering that 'normal' RIC recruiting continued until 1922 albeit at a low
level and, by the nature of things, lots of these men would have been ex-soldiers.
From what I recall these men joined the RIC under normal terms of engagement.
Please see the recruiting poster image.
The Auxies were recruited from ex officers of all 3
services. Again, there were English, Scots, Welsh and Irish. They were a
distinct force, organised by companies. There are threads from people much
better qualified to speak to this elsewhere on the forum. The Auxies were not
recruited under the standard terms and remained a force apart.
The more modern historiography has started to define these 2
groups more clearly. What the majority of sources refer to as Black and Tans
were actually Auxies.
The idea that the Tans were the ‘...sweepings of the English
gaols’ has largely been exploded in the more balanced studies. Part of the image
was deliberately fostered by Republican propaganda; part was a natural reaction on the part of Irish citizens
to the undeniable excesses and predations of certain members of the RIC in this
M Leeson’s book (The Black and Tans, Oxford University
Press, 2011) is very good on this subject. Probably the best thing available at
the moment to my knowledge. I still like Richard Bennett’s book but I am in a
shrinking minority there. Another book I can’t plug hard enough is ‘Memoirs of
John M Regan’ (ed. Joost Augensteijn, Four Courts Press, 2007). Regan was a Catholic
officer in the RIC before and during the Troubles then continued in the RUC.
His insights into the true culprits behind many of the ‘reprisal’ attacks – and
why they happened - are very interesting
and certainly shift the blame away from the ex-soldier Tans. A much neglected book and deserving of a
higher profile in my opinion.
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