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Thread: This day in Irish History 12 June 1954: The IRA Raid on Gough Barracks in Armagh

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    Politics.ie Member Catalpa's Avatar
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    Default This day in Irish History 12 June 1954: The IRA Raid on Gough Barracks in Armagh

    2 June 1954: The IRA Raid on Gough Barracks in Armagh

    In an audacious raid the Irish Republican Army seized control of a British Army barracks in Armagh and took 19 British soldiers captive while a party looted the Arsenal of its weaponry. This was the biggest raid carried out on the British Army since the War of Independence in 1921.

    The barracks had been well staked out in advance with one of the IRA men joining the British Army some months before in order to be placed on duty there. With the information he garnered IRA GHQ were able to build up a comprehensive picture of the mode of operations of life at the base.

    The operation was launched on 12 June 1954, from a farm just outside Dundalk. A large red cattle truck had been commandeered at the last moment and 19 IRA men, about half of the Dublin Brigade, climbed in and were informed as to what their target was. It was almost 3 o'clock on a busy Saturday afternoon when the cattle truck and a car drove into Armagh.

    After overpowering the single unarmed guard on the gate the raiders then quickly fanned out and located the Arsenal. They had with them a huge bunch of keys (200!)* but finding the right key to the door proved something of a problem. Eventually the right key was found and in the men went to catch the astounded soldiers within completely off guard.

    In less than 20 minutes the place was cleared out. The lorry carrying 340 rifles, 50 sten guns, 12 bren guns, and a number of small arms drove out of the barrack gates and back across the Border. The rearguard in a car followed after locking every gate and door for which they could find keys. At 3.25pm the first alarm in the barracks was given but it was not until 5 o'clock that the general alarm was given and by that time the big red truck was long gone....

    This operation was a huge morale boost for the IRA after years in the doldrums and considerably raised their profile both at home and abroad. Conversely it was a huge embarrassment for the British Government and especially the British Army who had failed to secure a place of military operations under their charge from capture by enemy forces.

    * the keys were later auctioned in America to raise funds for the IRA.

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    After the Gough raid the IRA refused advice from Eric Dorman-Smith, an ex-British Colonel who was once chief of staff under Sir Claude Auchinleck, Commander-in-Chief Middle East during World War 2.

    Dorman-Smith who had changed his name to O'Gowan after going "native" and had grown up in Cootehill, Co. Cavan and was a childhood friend of future Archbishop of Dublin John Charles McQuaid. He was also acquainted with Sean McBride since the Irish War of Independence when he secretly assisted the IRA. After World War 2 he joined Clann na Poblachta but ran unsuccessfully as an independent candidate for the Dáil. Dorman-Smith became a passionate Irish Republican after he was shafted by Winston Churchill because Dorman-Smith gave him a lecture on military matters.

    Dorman-Smith met with Chief of Staff Tony Magan and the Adjutant-General Charlie Murphy of the IRA and his family estate became a training ground but his valuable military expertise and his eagerness to play a role in the Border Campaign was disregarded by the IRA leadership despite the reknowned British historian Sir Basil Liddell Hart having refered to him as "the outstanding soldier of his generation."

    Dorman-Smith is credited with formulating the plans later used by Auchinleck's successor Field Marshal Montgomery in the British victory at El-Alamein.

    The IRA clearly hadn't a clue what they were at in the 1950s.


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    Politics.ie Member Catalpa's Avatar
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    So what was his advice?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Catalpa View Post
    So what was his advice?
    Are you taking the piss?
    A leading military man with decades of experience in the British Army turns native and demonstrates he is an Irish republican and offers his services to the IRA and they didn't take it up?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Catalpa View Post
    So what was his advice?

    Dont use tanks in the desert

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    Politics.ie Member parentheses's Avatar
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    I read somewhere that the father of the actor Sam Neill was in charge of the barracks and had to leave the army and return to New Zealand under a cloud because he got the blame for the raid.

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    Politics.ie Member Catalpa's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hitch 22 View Post
    Are you taking the piss?
    A leading military man with decades of experience in the British Army turns native and demonstrates he is an Irish republican and offers his services to the IRA and they didn't take it up?
    So please tell us what his advice was then?

    One a side note I met his daughter once (very briefly) soon after he died

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lain2016 View Post
    Dont use tanks in the desert
    Or in an Irish Bog!

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    Luckily the IRA in latter years seemed to take regular advice from representatives of the British Army.

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    Politics.ie Member Catalpa's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by parentheses View Post
    I read somewhere that the father of the actor Sam Neill was in charge of the barracks and had to leave the army and return to New Zealand under a cloud because he got the blame for the raid.
    I'd say heads rolled there that's for sure...

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