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Thread: Crossbarry 19 March 1921

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    Politics.ie Member Catalpa's Avatar
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    Default Crossbarry 19 March 1921

    19 March 1921: Battle at Crossbarry, Co Cork on this day. The Flying Column of the West Cork Brigade under Commandant Tom Barry successfully engaged and defeated a number of different British units that were advancing on his position at the crossroads near Crossbarry, 12 miles south west of Cork City. During the days preceding the encounter both sides had engaged in a deadly game of intelligence and counter intelligence gathering information as they desperately tried to outwit each other. The IRA were keen to ambush a British column but their intention & general location had been given away. General Strickland, head of the British forces in Cork, decided to organize a ‘sweep’ that would flush out Barry’s men and kill or capture them. In return Irish scouts and agents brought news to Barry as to what was afoot.

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    With just 104 Officers and men, armed with only rifles and 40 rounds per man he knew that to retreat would mean his column would be cut to pieces in a running battle. He decided to hold his ground and fight it out – he calculated that when the enemy was broken and no longer in a position to pursue would be the moment to withdraw on his own terms.
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    In the very early hours of the day Barry’s scouts reported considerable enemy activity from a number of different points of the compass as they converged on his position. His plan was that all the men were to stay under cover until the British were amongst them and could be surprised at close quarters. All sections were to stay put even if under pressure and only to move from their positions under express orders. To encourage his men in battle he had made arrangements that on the commencement of firing the Column’s Piper would strike up martial airs on his bagpipes to quicken their spirit. As luck would have it the British advance was not well co coordinated and this gave Barry the chance to defeat them in sequence of arrival. All went well until the first convoy of lorries weaved its way along the road and was almost ready to be attacked when (despite strict orders) a Volunteer inadvertently revealed himself to the enemy who immediately started to deploy for action. The order was then given to open up and the British soldiers were either cut down or fled the scene. But there was no time to savour the moment as another three columns came upon them from different directions and were also shot down or bolted. Eventually all the converging forces were engaged and defeated in detail until not one organised enemy unit remained in the field.

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    About two hours had elapsed since the opening of the fight; we were in possession of the countryside; no British were visible and our task was completed. The whole Column was drawn up in line of sections and told they had done well. Guerrilla Days in Ireland
    By Tom Barry

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    Barry then gave the order to move out leaving behind a scene of dead and wounded British soldiers strewn about the ambush site as their lorries blazed away in the background. His men carried away much military booty – plenty of bandoliers of ammunition, rifles and a much prized Lewis machine gun.

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    While the enemy had lost numerous casualties the Flying Column had not escaped without loss either. Three Volunteers were killed in action and another three were seriously wounded. Those who died for Ireland that day were Peter Monahan, Jeremiah O’Leary and Con Daly. Earlier the British had shot dead a wounded volunteer, Charlie Hurley, when they discovered him in a nearby farmhouse. But he did not die in vain for the shots that killed him helped alert his comrades to the close presence of the enemy.

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    Crossbarry was a great morale booster for the IRA and helped to further weaken the grip of British rule not just in Cork but also further afield. For it showed that even in an open fight and against overwhelming odds that the British could be defeated when brave and well-led Volunteers with excellent Leadership were given the chance.

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    Politics.ie Royalty toxic avenger's Avatar
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    A fantastic achievement, probably without parallel in the country, an unqualified large-scale success (probably with only the exception of the Bloody Sunday intelligence operation in terms of effectiveness). I drop by the memorial the odd time I'm out there...

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    The_Big_Fellow
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    Thanks Catalpa, absolutely brilliant post.

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    Any idea what the British units were and what casualties they suffered?
    How did this go down with the press in Britain?

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    I remember watching the opening scenes of 'The Wind that shakes the Barley' and thinking that it was based on the Crossbarry ambush. Particularly the scene where the unit are marched up and down after the ambush to restore discipline.

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    Politics.ie Royalty toxic avenger's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PaddyJoe McGillycuddy View Post
    I remember watching the opening scenes of 'The Wind that shakes the Barley' and thinking that it was based on the Crossbarry ambush. Particularly the scene where the unit are marched up and down after the ambush to restore discipline.
    Kilmichael. Barry forced the men to drill because they had lost men, had been in a pretty ruthless and hard fight, and were probably in a state of shock. That was the more controversial ambush where the 'false surrender' happened, Barry ordering his men to keep firing until the British were down after seeing one of his men killed after falling for the ruse. Some like Eoghan Harris claim the story was used as a cover for a slaughter, but I don't believe he has any grounds to make that assessment.

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    Politics.ie Member spidermom's Avatar
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    Thanks Catalpa...hope you find a spot for the other great Barry...Commodore Barry
    When a man sits with a pretty girl for an hour, it seems like a minute. But let him sit on a hot stove for a minute and it's longer than any hour. That's relativity.

    ALBERT EINSTEIN

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    Quote Originally Posted by toxic avenger View Post
    Kilmichael. Barry forced the men to drill because they had lost men, had been in a pretty ruthless and hard fight, and were probably in a state of shock. That was the more controversial ambush where the 'false surrender' happened, Barry ordering his men to keep firing until the British were down after seeing one of his men killed after falling for the ruse. Some like Eoghan Harris claim the story was used as a cover for a slaughter, but I don't believe he has any grounds to make that assessment.
    There is no need for cover for a slaughter.

    They were fighting as guerilla war. They had no option to take prisoners. Where were they going to put them, in their cow house?

    The logic of an ambush is to kill. It is not to kill one or two, then the rest will see the error of their ways, and take the first boat back to Liverpool. End of. Kill as many as you can. Thats what they did.

    The above is not nice, but the notion about accepting surrendering British troops is absurd.

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    Politics.ie Member nonpartyboy's Avatar
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    True patriots, there's barely a handful of people in the current dail even fit to lick their boots.

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    Politics.ie Royalty toxic avenger's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by meriwether View Post
    There is no need for cover for a slaughter.

    They were fighting as guerilla war. They had no option to take prisoners. Where were they going to put them, in their cow house?

    The logic of an ambush is to kill. It is not to kill one or two, then the rest will see the error of their ways, and take the first boat back to Liverpool. End of. Kill as many as you can. Thats what they did.

    The above is not nice, but the notion about accepting surrendering British troops is absurd.
    I agree with that, it wasn't exactly conventional war. My point was that Harris has little cause to pronounce that Barry was lying about the British tactic of 'false surrender'.

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