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Indeed, Winchester wrote an enormous amount on Ulster before he became the superstar bestseller he is today. He was one of the "big five" early reporters on the ground before Op. Motorman. His book is entitled "In Holy terror" and was published by Faber and Faber (1974/1988). I always found it interesting he dedicated it to Jan Morris (the Oxford historian who had a sex change operation).

I met Winchester via Max Hastings and -of all people- a rabidly Marxist Dutch reporter who decided he liked me after I pointed out he was being sexist because he "didn't like Margaret Thatcher because she was too manly"!

No, I didn't write regularly for Varsity. I was too busy with girls, beer and OTC. :cheers:

One thing led to another.

My Gaelic sucks- I pronounce it "Ar Desh". It was the regular one. I have been to three in all.

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I hadn't intended this to develop into a discussion on the two Forces - only to show the two truncheons. However - as is their wont - it has developed naturally. I have new photos on the way for the truncheons and for the carbine - when I post them perhaps you will be able to enlarge the thread. Possibly because we are on a sub-forum and not the Lounge, the discussions have been informative and friendly and I , personally, would like to say thankyou . I have learnt a great deal and also, thank you Prosper for the book info. - I intend to order a copy.

No matter how well we know our subject, we cannot be experts in all fields - and Ireland has always been rather a 'blank' spot for me. I ignored it in my book since I felt it was too political and and not really part of the mainland 'Policing order of things'. There is certainly room for a new book on the RIC and RUC equipment and history.

I think Prosper mentioned that Lloyd George threatened to send in a million uniformed soldiers - it didn't work in Queen Elizabeth the 1 st's day and I don't think it would have worked for L G. When it is time for a Country to have Independence there are few forces on Earth to keep the status quo.

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I think Prosper mentioned that Lloyd George threatened to send in a million uniformed soldiers - it didn't work in Queen Elizabeth the 1 st's day and I don't think it would have worked for L G. When it is time for a Country to have Independence there are few forces on Earth to keep the status quo.

History is indeed full of examples of 'the people' getting fed up with their rulers, whether home-grown or imported, and once that happens, it is only a matter of time. In the case of The Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921, many Irish people feel that Eamonn de Valera set Michael Collins up to take the heat for signing a compromise agreement that failed to accord full independence to Ireland. Lloyd George's threat was superfluous. However, any thoughts the Irish delegation may have been entertaining of rebelling against de Valera and refusing to sign the treaty were probably banished by the threat of a resumption of the war, this time against massively superior occupation forces. This would have been very unpopular in Ireland. Moreover, veterans of the 1916 Uprising remembered the hostility of the people of Dublin, many of whom had menfolk fighting on various fronts in the British armed forces. In fact, the British soldiers - many of whom were New Zealanders, I believe - guarding and escorting the prisoners to captivity found themselves protecting the rebels from the Dublin mob rather than preventing anyone from escaping. So the Irish rebels understood that the support of the people was tenuous at best and having a million British soldiers or hundreds of thousands of British soldiers all over Ireland like a rash was unlikely to endear the Republicans to the people they were liberating. The treaty was also very unpopular. The ratification barely made it through the Dáil (Irish Parliament) after the signing, as it was. So Collins was really between a rock and a hard place: damned if he did and damned if he didn't. My grandmother's papers included some postcards and a couple of letters from Big Mick, one of which made it clear that he knew he had been stitched up.

PK

Edited by PKeating

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The treaty was also very unpopular. The ratification barely made it through the Dáil (Irish Parliament) after the signing, as it was. So Collins was really between a rock and a hard place: damned if he did and damned if he didn't. My grandmother's papers included some postcards and a couple of letters from Big Mick, one of which made it clear that he knew he had been stitched up.

PK

I think considering the treaty split the IRA, caused the Irish Civil War and politically polarised the country for decades that's a bit of an understatement !

Many people believe that De Valera knew we were not going to get full independence and therefore sent the delegation (which included Collins, Griffith etc) knowing that on their return he could either take credit for their work (plenipotentiary status) or that they would be the messengers of bad news who he could disown - which is exactly what he did. In fairness to De Valera it is arguable whether he knew just how far short the treaty would fall at the time he sent them. One fact which had worked in Collins' favour throughout the Irish War of Independence was that he was not known to the british establishment, either his character and temperament nor physically what he looked like. He really did bicycle around Dublin in a suit while being the most wanted man in Ireland and arguably europe at that time. He felt that keeping it that way was sensible should conflict resume at a later date. Being a part of the delegation put him in an impossible position and as he himself was obviously aware signing it he was signing his own death warrant.

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What a wonderful topic! We've weaved our way from batons to B-men, via Larne and Howth and Brookeborough town to the birth of the Provos, and back again to Partition. I could add here that my great-uncle was a 'Murder Member' and so start posts spinning off in new directions but I'll save that for another day! Seriously though, some great and interesting contributions here, so thanks to all. :D

Edited by Peter Mc

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I think considering the treaty split the IRA, caused the Irish Civil War and politically polarised the country for decades that's a bit of an understatement !

I was couching my statements in the context of the period of truce from July through the autumn of 1921 to December, when the Irish delegation went to London to sign the treaty.

Many people believe that De Valera knew we were not going to get full independence and therefore sent the delegation (which included Collins, Griffith etc) knowing that on their return he could either take credit for their work (plenipotentiary status) or that they would be the messengers of bad news who he could disown - which is exactly what he did.

That's pretty much what I said.

In fairness to De Valera it is arguable whether he knew just how far short the treaty would fall at the time he sent them.

Very arguable. The film starring Liam Neeson should be taken with large doses of salt. Dev was quite the consummate politician. He was also a survivor. Dev famously said in 1966 that "It is my considered opinion that in the fullness of time, history will record the greatness of Michael Collins, and it shall be forever recorded at my expense". However, it was already recorded very much at Dev's expense, for many people thought Dev had gone as far as setting Collins up for the ambush at Beal na Blath in which he was killed. Many people view it as an assassination rather than an ambush.

For his own part, Collins knew who and what he was dealing with. After Dev's attempt to send Collins to the United States in 1921 to rally support for Ireland's entry into The League of Nations, Collins remarked: 'That long whore won't get rid of me as easy as that."

One fact which had worked in Collins' favour throughout the Irish War of Independence was that he was not known to the british establishment, either his character and temperament nor physically what he looked like. He really did bicycle around Dublin in a suit while being the most wanted man in Ireland and arguably europe at that time.

I think you might find that he was known to the British Establishment. It is true that the British security and intelligence forces did not know what he looked like or, to be more precise, did not have any photographs of him and could not get anyone to describe him accurately but they did get close to him in 1920, hence "Bloody Sunday", when Collins' Dublin Brigade hit squads took out The Cairo Gang, as the intelligence unit of British Army and Royal Irish Constabulary officers was known. Collins himself believed in hiding in full view, reasoning that if a man did not seem to be hiding, then nobody would look for him.

However, Michael Collins was not, as far as I know, wanted by any Continental police forces. I think this is hyperbole based on the fact that he achieved "Most Wanted" status in Great Britain and Ireland and, hence, throughout the British Empire. You presumably found this on http://generalmichaelcollins.com/The_Path_to_Freedom/Foreword.html. I applaud their aims, as something of a Collins partisan myself, but passages like "The most wanted man in Europe, he smiled his way through a hundred hold-ups never wearing a disguise, never missing an appointment, never certain where he would spend the night" are rather fanciful and rather unfortunately worded, making Collins seem more like Jesse James than an Irish freedom fighter. They need an editor.

He felt that keeping it that way was sensible should conflict resume at a later date. Being a part of the delegation put him in an impossible position and as he himself was obviously aware signing it he was signing his own death warrant.

Collins certainly wrote as much in a letter that survives to this day. He was certainly unhappy about being photographed by photo-reporters when he went to London, given that there was only a truce in force and that the war could certainly resume, a prospect that did not unduly worry him because he was familiar with the British people and their mindset and felt that there was no popular will for further war in Ireland. Collins did not even take Lloyd George's threats on 5.12.1921 very seriously. But other delegates did. He also knew that he had been set up by Dev to take the fall for the compromise. Dev would have known that the British weren't going to roll over and let Ireland have complete independence, along with British industrial assets in the North.

However, his principal motivation for the lack of desire to go to London was more rooted in a feeling that he was not a politician. He felt that he would be more effective as a kind of implicit threat in the background, a bogeyman to be unleashed again upon the British should they prove intransigent in negotiations. And yet, he could have been a politician, despite the general view of him as a warrior who would have been ill-suited to peacetime leadership. He had passed the British Civil Service exams, after all, and his brief tenure as Finance Minister was successful.

In addition, to bring it back to Ulster and closer to the topic, Collins actually persuaded opposing factions of the IRA to work together in a campaign in Ulster after the schism over the ratification of the treaty in April 1921. The campaign was not successful as the RUC and Ulster Special Constabulary managed to round up several dozen IRA men, thus weakening the insurgents but it was a testament to Collins' persuasiveness. Sadly, after the campaign fizzled out in June, the Civil War began in earnest, with Dev playing both ends against the middle like the skilled politician he was. Collins was eliminated, leaving the road clear for Dev to assume control of the Irish Free State and, later on, the Irish Republic.

PK

Edited by PKeating

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There are many points there - many of which would already be known.

It goes without saying that I am aware the the Neil Jordan movie is not 100% historically accurate. I was actually in that movie and so have first hand knowledge of how events on screen are never 100% accurate. Which is why I do not base my opinions on that.

Ironically that movie hints at De Valera's involvement in Collins' Death, though most people including myself would discount that aspect of the movie.

The theories around Beal na Blath are many, there was an interesting documentary about this on Irish television recently. It had been filmed somewhere in the very early to mid 1980's and interviewed surviving members of the Squad and other insiders. This went through the various scenarios and forensic evidence. One main suspicion was about a former british army man who was in Collins group ( many volunteers were of course ex BA), whom it was suspected had shot him in the back of the head either by accident during the ambush or deliberately. Another fact which I had previously not been aware of was that on that day and at the time of the ambush, 2 seperate IRA groups who were travelling across the countryside co-incidentally arrived on the scene from different approaches and joined in the attack.

I would not give any credence to the 'De Valera had Collins assasinated' theories, as at this point theories is all they are. If you disregard the fact that Collins' Death subsequently worked in De Valera's favour there is no real evidence that he was involved. That has never stopped the accusations. In fact about a month ago a book was published which recieved much publicity in Ireland - it is the work of an american who is an 'amateur Historian'. The main contention of the book is that De Valera was in fact a british spy.

The point about Collins being the most wanted man in Ireland (or arguably europe) was not related to the website link you posted. In fact he did not whistle his way through the checkpoints as some people would prefer to believe - he was frequently stopped and harrassed, including one famous incident when he and his colleagues ended up getting some some Fusiliers drunk on whiskey to avoid further investigation or hassle- this happened in either howth or Dun Laoghaire (I can't remember which offhand without checking). There was another instance where he was being manhandled and on the point of going for the soldiers gun when a comrade arrived and defused the situation - so the point is there is a wide gap between the 'jesse james' type of stories and the reality & I am aware of this. The fact remains he did bicycle his way around Dublin and by all accounts I have read/heard he rarely missed appointments or commitments - including to the De Valera family who he gave money to and checked in on weekly. In fact he cycled towards trouble too - there was one famous case where Dan Breen was held up in a house in rathfarnham when the british army sweep came close Collins and his men recieved word from other sources and unknown to Breen rushed up to help him shoot his way out. In the end the sweep missed the Breen safe house by either a house or a road. Breen commented later on how the first he knew about it was when he looked out his window and saw Collins and some other volunteers milling around outside his house.

I think the point you make on whether or not Collins was known to the british establishment basically agrees with mine, of course they were aware of the exsistence of their opponent - the point I made was that they did not know him personally through months of daily intense and involved contact.

There was a famous double agent who did get to meet him (twice I believe) before being executed as a spy, when asked to say his prayers his last words were 'God save the King'. However the overall point stands, the establishment/govt had not met him, did not know what he looked like (short of one or two unclear photographs). This was the point I made and I believe it is correct. It was an argument made by Collins directly for him to not be included in the treaty negotiations and to my reading of things makes perfect sense.

I would agree as would most people that De Valera was cynical, manipulative and disingenous (as a politician this is not too surprising) in his treaty negotiations period behavior. I still believe that he was genuinely surprised at the outcome. He was not prepared for the split. The groundwork had not been done on the anti-treaty side for either the vote or for a military conflict and it genuinely took them completely by surprise. If De Valera had the awareness months or even weeks in advance I believe the anti-treaty side would have been more prepared for both the vote and the aftermath. Considering the finished document was worked on until literally the very small hours (under threat of the terrible consequences etc) it was a surprise to De Valera - despite his involvement as a 'signatory in reserve'.

I think the batons posted are very interesting but would have no idea to their value though I imagine it is quite high :)

Edited by gerardkenny

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Far more interesting than the batons, have been these detailed posts. This is Irish and Ulster history and I would think most mainland people are ignorant of these fine details - as I have freely admitted, I have learnt a great deal. I knew that when we got around to the subject that it would be of importance - there is a lot more to be said yet and I hope you can all find the 'stamina' ? My fear is that not enough members will find it on the Police sub-forum - I have taken to highlighting some posts on that 'personal comment' section at the top - however, I don't always like to be the one doing this - could someone else draw attention to the thread. We have many members from both sides of Ireland and I am sure they might wish to add comment. Mervyn

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Well, what more would you like to know?

The Bs were local special constables organized in platoons and companies and wearing traditional police garb (not the Bobby helmet but the flat cap and sometimes armbands.

They traditionally wore greatcoats when on patrol. In the old days t.v. cameras weren't around, training was minimal and the Bs were only called out in times of local disturbances, usually sectarian in nature. So, they tended to thump people that were causing trouble, notably Catholic teenage boys. They wouldn't touch a female, because that wasn't proper.

They ranged in character from older gentlemen (in the classic British sense of the word: WW1 officer types) to rural thugs. they reported and were commanded directly by RUC officers (usually a station Sergeant acted as a company commander in an area).

The Nationalists portrayed them as football hooligans in uniform, but most were in fact regularly employed, veterans, middle-aged family men who belonged to the local Unionist lodge and went to Presbyterian church every Sunday: sober salt-of-the-earth types who enjoyed a good beer and hated Eire and Irish Nationalists.

My impression from the couple I met twenty-three years ago is that most later voted DUP. The Bs were strongest in rural Ulster and not nearly as prevalent in the cities or even the border towns.

As was pointed out many, many Bs had ties to the old UVF of Carsons' day (which was the basis of the 36th Inf. Division in WW1 and the Ulster Home Guard in WW2), but their cross-over to the "newer" UVF , founded by 'Gusty Spense (whom I once called "Gutsy" by mistake )in the late 1960s was minimal-if limited to three or four individuals.

The Northern Ireland Forum has a few chaps on it who are ex-UVF/UDA as well as a couple retired RUC who collect this stuff. They'd probably know exactly what it is and maybe even who owned it.

It is VERY rare.

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Once I had posted the RIC carbine, my original hope had been that we could explore - with some personal viewpoints from knowledgeable members -the feelings and viewpoints of the public in both Ireland and Ulster towards the two Forces. Taking the mainland forces as an example - the view always given out for pre-War policing was that of a benign paternalism accepted by the entire Country - we , of course, know that was a police point of view. So, in a much more volatile period how were the RIC or the RUC , viewed by the average member of the public. As their helpful Community Protector, or, as the occupying force ?

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Once I had posted the RIC carbine, my original hope had been that we could explore - with some personal viewpoints from knowledgeable members -the feelings and viewpoints of the public in both Ireland and Ulster towards the two Forces. Taking the mainland forces as an example - the view always given out for pre-War policing was that of a benign paternalism accepted by the entire Country - we , of course, know that was a police point of view. So, in a much more volatile period how were the RIC or the RUC , viewed by the average member of the public. As their helpful Community Protector, or, as the occupying force ?

I think that will depend entirely on who you speak to & going down this conversation could easily stray this thread into the politics.

Putting it mildly I would not agree that their actions could be accurately characterised as 'benign paternalism'.

There have been a multitude of reports over the years into different aspects of policing in Northern Ireland - (including the B-Specials as mentioned). Many commissioned by the british govt after this event or that which were highly critical and called for change. The fact that the B Specials were approx 99+% protestant should tell you something. As an FYI there was to my knowledge a single IRA infiltrator - though I believe he was also Protestant. Pre patton I believe the RUC hovered about the 6 to 10% catholic range though I am sure others here will have more accurate figures on that.

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Well, there's an enormous of amount of literature on this subject much of which is good and some of which is really bad (polemics run amok).

However, the RIC was generally regarded as much the same as the Garda-before 1918 that is. In the early Troubles not a few RIC men were murdered and more than one " kindly old village cop on the beat" got shot by some youngster who was in the IRA.

Dan Breen himself kicked off the Troubles by executing a nice old RIC man who was unarmed. Some of these murders kicked off family feuds that continued as political divisions in the Republic well into the 1970s.

However, the RIC was unable and in many cases somewhat unwilling to deal with the IRA in the 1920s. That is why the British recruited the "Black and Tans ", ex-WW1 vets (not a few of whom had been officers and NCOs in the British army) and these men were NOT trained as community policemen. The Tans had the finesse of the Wehrmacht in occupied France.

In Ulster meanwhile (at the time 9 (whoops) counties, but after partition six), the local RIC was solidly Unionist and the IRA never got much a toehold before being hunted down and often, killed. There are accounts of 13 year old teenagers being beaten to death with pick axe handles in 1920 for daring to put up pro-Sinn Fein posters in Belfast. Not a few prominent Nationalists had their houses burnt to the ground and their families beaten.

There were riots and shootings in Ulster in the Troubles, but on the whole the Unionist majority (at the time there were 3.75 Protestants to every one Catholic)kept the lid on. Had the civil war been exported northwards, the old IRA might have found itself in very real trouble, as the Unionists were willing to "burn and kill everything that got in their way down to Cork".

During the "Independence War" the IRA was lucky if it fielded @ 2,500 men in toto. Most units were no more than @ 35 in size and rarely fought in the open. They were shoot-and-scoot guerrillas.

The UVF had over 115,000 men on its rolls in 1920 (and not a few of these had served in WW1) and these were organized into battalions, companies, platoons and squads, complete with a Red Cross section, staff and even a 'navy'! The UVF also had lots of guns and lots of ammo.. Back in @ 1980 Pluto Press (the UKs' Communist Party publishers) put out an interesting book on how the Unionists armed themselves right through the mid 1930s.

Ulster was awash with guns in the 1920s and the VAST majority were in Protestant hands.

Before the recent police reforms in Ulster the RUC (reformed twice since 1969) had @ 8-10% Catholic membership. The highest it ever got was 13% in @ 1975 I think. Ulster had @ 30-35% Catholic population at the time.

Being a Catholic in the RUC was VERY tough in the 1970s and 1980s as the PIRA made a special target of you AND your family. The Protestant paramilitaries weren't exactly warm and fuzzy about RUC Catholics either (esp. the rabid dogs of the UVF and RHC) so it was a very isolated and scary situation to be in.

Seamus Heaney in North wrote of his Ulster Catholic family's attitude towards the local RUC cop:

His bicycle stood at the window-sill

The rubber cowl of a mud splasher

Skirting the front mudguard,

Its fat black handgrips

heating in sunlight, the spud

Of the dynamo gleaming and cocked back,

the pedal treds hanging relieved

Of the boot of the law

His cap was upside down

On the floor, next to his chair.

The line of its pressure ran like a bevel

In his slightly sweating hair.

He had unstrapped

the heavy ledger, and my father

Was making tillage returns

In acres, roods and perches.

Arithmetic and fear.

I sat staring at the polished holster

With its buttoned flap, the braid cord

looped into the revolver butt.

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I agree with almost everything Ulsterman says but must take issue with some points -

1.

The Tans had the finesse of the Wehrmacht in occupied France.

In some key areas like Cork and Kerry some Tans (if you mean temporory constables) were brutal, ran amok and earned themselves a fearful reputation. Across the whole of Ireland the picture was different and where the local sergeant was a robust and good leader, the English recruits often integrated very well. The same could be said for the Auxiliary companies, of which a handful were rightly despised. I just can't accept the similarity to the forces of the Third Reich.

Many Tans as you know were Irishmen. One Auxiliary cadet, from a very notorious company, went on to marry the lady editor of the Freeman's Journal and the President of Ireland even saw fit to attend his funeral.

2.

In Ulster meanwhile (at the time 8 counties, but after partition 6), the local RIC was solidly Unionist

I'm sure you mean the nine counties of Ulster, and that Ulster remains nine counties even now!

The RIC was not solidly Unionist in Ulster before 1922. It was, even in these counties, predominantly catholic and therefore one can suppose, Nationalist or Redmondite in sympathy. The situation did change from late 1920 onwards and I agree that after 1922 it could be said to be majority Unionist.

3. Heaney's poem relies on the symbolism of the revolver as defining the division between policing by consent and policing by force. I agree totally. My grandfather had always said, when told to start wearing his revolver after 1917, that the carrying of arms set the RIC apart from the people and that they would never be able to win their confidence again. He was so right.

Peter

The Royal Irish Constabulary Forum

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My error regarding the "nine counties". (Note PK did the same with the 32) :speechless:

1. My Wehrmacht comparison was apt I thought. The vast majority of Wehrmacht soldiers in France behaved themselves -indeed, probably 99%.

The 1% that did not were beastly and so were many of the Tans. It wasn't all IRA propaganda.

2. I interviewed surviving Auxis. and a couple of Tans in 1985/1986 for my MA. thesis. All of them confessed to regularly beating up known IRA suspects and one recounted a cold blooded murder of a man they'd been told was an IRA officer, but later may just have 'only' deflowered the informant's daughter! Again, I still have the cassette tapes upstairs.

3. Can you point me as to the RIC stats in Ulster? I just went back to the library and had a look and lo and behold, discovered that one couldn't be in the Orange Order AND be a copper until 1920!

Also, I had no idea that the Londonderry RIC arrested armed UVF squads and gaoled them for disturbing the peace.

Good discussion-interesting sister forum. Can you id the truncheons?

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My error regarding the "nine counties". (Note PK did the same with the 32) :speechless:

Not an error on my part. The Free State and the Republic comprised thirty-two counties. Northern Ireland, popularly called Ulster, comprises six counties if one thinks just of the British province. One could therefore say that a quarter of Ulster is free while two thirds remain under the British flag. However, it is hard to find people in the Irish Republic these days who would support reunification and this is probably more acute now that the Celtic Tiger has proved to be a paper tiger. Most people, particularly Irish Conservatives, just don't want the social baggage and the social security bill. A cousin of mine close to high places in Dublin told me that this was one of the viewpoints that informed the revision of the Irish Constitution in order to drop the claim on Ulster or, at least, the two thirds of it remaining under British control.

It all boils down to money in the end. London wanted to keep Ulster because of the money generated there. Now that Britain would like to offload Ulster, having run down its industrial base as in the rest of the UK, Dublin doesn't want it anymore because of the money it would cost. Everyone remembers what happened to the German economy when after reunification.

Regarding Gerard Kenny's posts, I would agree that we agree on many points and am pleased that we have done so in a civil manner because when Irishmen disagree, it can get nasty. I regret any standoffishness in tone and look forward to continuing discourse. Very interesting comments from Kenny there. Food for thought. As Mervyn and others have remarked, this has become one of the better threads I recall seeing on GMIC in a long time. Because - say it quietly! - we can discuss things 'political' after all, without all of us getting bent out of shape. Jeff makes some good points about decent Specials and Tans. There were plenty of decent men in their ranks.

There were also plenty of decent men in the ranks of the IRA. I wouldn't dismiss them out of hand as "scoot and shoot" guerillas. If they sometimes employed hit-and-run tactics, it was because some of the commanders had studied Apache Indian tactics. But they were brave, nonetheless. They were up against trained soldiers from the best army in the World, many of whom were hardened combat veterans. When you command a flying column of thirty-five or forty men, are you going to commit them to a pitched battle or are you going to hit the enemy as hard as you can and leg it? To suggest that these tactics indicate cowardice is surely akin to suggesting that the LRDG or the SAS were cowards for not standing still to be shot.

Pax vobiscum.

PK

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Ambuscade and shoot-n-scoot is one thing, shooting unarmed people in front of their kids is another. Of course there's also burying people alive in sand up to their necks and watching as the tide comes in ..... and burning people alive.

As you know, a LOT of people in Ireland know and remember these things. I knew lots of horsey-type Fianna Gael supporters who could tell you exactly who, what and when did for their parents and disliked DeVelera because of it.

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I agree with the previous posters that the thread has been civil all round so far which is obviously better for all.

I would not agree with all of the points raised though - probably no one here would. As most here know the black and tans were called in after the RIC were unable to contain the situation and RIC morale and recruitment nosedived. The posts were advertised in britain, hurriedly looking for men to 'face a rough and dangerous task'. They were recruited, paid very well, trained and shipped with a sense of urgency that might have contributed to their lack of discipline. There may have been some Irish born in britain at the time who joined & considering the numbers of Irish returned from WWI it would not surprise me. Having said that I have not seen evidence that the Irish born members of the black and tans were significant in numbers. It was always claimed in Ireland that they were composed of the unemployable dregs of british society and emptied military prisons, but most would have been just returned WWI combat-hardened veterans.

There is a well known order from Col Smyth an RIC Commander (later shot by the IRA) which I think is useful to remember. I have also read that some of the RIC men present to hear this later joined the IRA.

"....If a police barracks is burned or if the barracks already occupied is not suitable, then the best house in the locality is to be commandeered, the occupants thrown into the gutter. Let them die there - the more the merrier. Police and military will patrol the country at least five nights a week. They are not to confine themselves to the main roads, but make across the country, lie in ambush and, when civilians are seen approaching, shout "Hands up!" Should the order be not immediately obeyed, shoot and shoot with effect. If the persons approaching carry their hands in their pockets, or are in any way suspicious-looking, shoot them down. You may make mistakes occasionally and innocent persons may be shot, but that cannot be helped, and you are bound to get the right parties some time. The more you shoot, the better I will like you, and I assure you no policeman will get into trouble for shooting any man ..."

June 17, 1920, Lt. Col. Smyth

To my knowledge they were rarely deployed in Ulster so that may make it easy to understand their record there. Their record in the other 3 provinces of murder, violent attacks on catholics & their property is substantial and pretty horrific. They took pot shots at civilians, shot priests, tortured prisoners, assasinated mayors & many other innocent people. They also targeted creameries which has been seen as a mode of economic intimidation against the local population. They tried to burn towns to the ground (a few examples of which were already mentioned - there were many more not mentioned) even to the point of shooting at fire brigades & cutting their hoses to let the towns burn for longer etc (ironically the hoses of the Dublin fire brigade were the ones cut decades later in the aftermath of the 1972 bloody sunday when the british embassy was burning down). Eventually the british press and some politicians were rightly repulsed at their behaviour.

I would agree with the person who said they were not suited for a policing role (& also that there were atrocities on all sides as mentioned above). I would also agree that much of this on both sides is clouded with propaganda and exaggeration. Whichever way their introduction was originally envisaged it completely backfired, they drove the moderates away from constitutional and towards physical force republicanism. They de-legitimised the british role in Ireland even further in my view both here and on the international stage and scored a massive own goal as regards the propaganda victory they handed to so called physical force republicanism.

With all that in mind & given the scope of and scale of their record in Ireland I have a hard time believing that the black and tans were 'essentially a decent force' and all this was the work of a few or even just 1% misbehaving.

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Well, the one book on the subject was quite polemic. however, I have looked at the violence statistics for Ireland 1919-1922 (which seem quite comprehensive) and the Tans and Auxis clearly weren't the Vikings they were portrayed to be. Mind you, they weren't exactly the restrained response of the Security Forces in Ulster in the 1980s either.

Who was killing whom in Ireland in the 1920s is an interesting tale.

As I recall, one sociologist/historian thought that up to 10% of irish casualties were NOT war related, but criminal murders. The murderers then put a "Tout" sign upon the corpse. Similar criminal conduct plagued all the paramilitaries in Ulster, most appallingly the UDA. The PIRA however, also had BIG problems with certain "cells" and "companies". My best friend once saved the life of a PIRA "officer" who was running naked (except for his sox) down the street of Omagh at 3AM being chased by two other PIRA men shooting at him with a WW2 era Colt!

The naked man had been caught in bed with one of the other mens' wives.

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The murderers then put a "Tout" sign upon the corpse.

I have read something similair (but don't have the source to hand) and that was that the tans put 'Executed Tout' signs on people that they killed in order to deflect suspicion from themselves. I can probably dig up the source of that but it would take a while - proving that it actually happened to everyone's satisfaction either way at this stage would probably be impossible though.

On balance I would say it is at least possible. Regarding plain common-garden variety criminals killing people and assigning it to republicans - that may also have happened in War of Independence era Ireland, though it probably goes without saying that it would have meant some very 'harsh treatment' for the criminals had they been caught. I also think they were more likely to have been caught by the IRA than the authorities at that time.

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To return to the original theme, even if albeit briefly....

I did propose in an earlier post what I believe Mervyn's truncheon was for. I can't speculate on the value as the collecting field is too volatile in this area.

Attached are some other Irish police batons:

This first is a 19" RIC baton dating before 1901. After that date the handpainted device was replaced by a transfer. Standard issue batons for the RIC were 15.5 inches long, and were unpainted.

Painted11.jpg~original

And a close up of the crest:

Painted2.jpg~original

This baton is made of bog oak and very hefty. Some believe these were issued to the very early Irish policing bodies; I'm not convinced. I think they are a late 19th century tourist souvenir, but I retain an open mind.

Bog2.jpg~original

again - a close up. The baton is decorated with shamrocks and a harp, and has a hole for a wrist strap.

Bog1.jpg~original

Edited by Peter Mc
Photobucket fixes

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Of a sample of over 1000 men David Leeson ("The 'Scum of Londons Underworld'? British Recruits in the Royal Irish Constabulary", 2003); finds that around 20% were allocated to Ulster. This corresponds with my own knowledge of Donegal and Monaghan as an example.

The Listowel reference is timely, I was inside that building only last week. Not all of those dismissed RIC joined the IRA, in fact very few did and it was hardly in their nature anyway to start killing their ex-comrades. There is a plaque inside the door -

IMG_0012.jpg~original

- but you don't find any mention on it of the dismissed Black and Tan from London who was in the party of 14 present - Archibald Thompson. Guess he doesn't fit the stereotype.

The Irish nationalist P.S. O'Hegarty in "The Victory of Sinn Fein" (Talbot Press 1924, p55) notes that, due to the increasing level of tit-for-tat violence "...The eventual result was a complete moral collapse here. When it was open to any Volunteer Commandant to order the shooting of any civilian, and to cover himself with the laconic legend "Spy" on the dead man's breast, personal secutity vanished and no man's life was safe...."

Edited by Peter Mc
Photobucket fix

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Whoa- you are speaking Waaaaaaay above me here on that last one.

Only about 600 RIC men quit after the IRAs' "kill the RIC" campaign in 1920/21?

Is that correct?

they were replaced by Tans and Auxies (@ 50,000 in all?) as well as Bs and Cs in Ulster?

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Of a sample of over 1000 men David Leeson ("The 'Scum of Londons Underworld'? British Recruits in the Royal Irish Constabulary", 2003); finds that around 20% were allocated to Ulster. This corresponds with my own knowledge of Donegal and Monaghan as an example.

The Listowel reference is timely, I was inside that building only last week. Not all of those dismissed RIC joined the IRA, in fact very few did and it was hardly in their nature anyway to start killing their ex-comrades. There is a plaque inside the door -

IMG_0012.jpg

- but you don't find any mention on it of the dismissed Black and Tan from London who was in the party of 14 present - Archibald Thompson. Guess he doesn't fit the stereotype.

The Irish nationalist P.S. O'Hegarty in "The Victory of Sinn Fein" (Talbot Press 1924, p55) notes that, due to the increasing level of tit-for-tat violence "...The eventual result was a complete moral collapse here. When it was open to any Volunteer Commandant to order the shooting of any civilian, and to cover himself with the laconic legend "Spy" on the dead man's breast, personal secutity vanished and no man's life was safe...."

There is a good article here about the composition of the black and tans. Re Smyth and Listowel - there is another article here from a Garda Síochána historical website that might be interesting to some. I wouldn't mind photographing that plaque at Listowel myself.

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Peter - the photo shows two examples for an Irish Bog Oak truncheon and also, a tipstaff. We are fairly sure that they were introduced into Ireland in about the 1840's or, 1850's. They were made from a local material and carved with symbols that the ordinary people would immediately recognise. We think that the purpose was to give a legitimacy to the local or parish Constables. However, if there was ever correspondence or, an Act to authorise them - I have yet to hear ? Perhaps the Government thought of the idea - but, they are not rare and come-up occasionally at auction. The tipstaff is rarer than the truncheon.

Always with the British - where Law and Policing is concerned, it is multi-layered due to the passage of time. The small white staff with the dark ends , is a Wand of Office. The carrying of a tipstaff to show authority is a long held tradition - however, many people who needed to show their authority were not entitled to carry a tipstaff. Court officials, Government officer's, Town officials - could be just a few. When on duty they carried this Wand of Office to show that their authority was from the Crown. I think it likely that they would also have been used in the main towns in Ireland - i.e. Dublin and others.

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