Timeline of the Tans…

tanMy novel Tan is a tale of exile, betrayal and revenge set during the Irish War of Independence. The arrival of the Black and Tans signalled a sharp increase in the level of violence towards civilians and combatants. It became a brutal war of attrition and retribution. You can follow what happened when the Tans came to Ireland in this handy timeline (with thanks to Wikipedia). I will be updating it from week to week. This link http://goo.gl/BTEZm provides the overall timeline should you wish to view it all at once.

25 March 1920: The first batch of Black and Tans arrive in Ireland.

26 March 1920: Resident Magistrate Alan Bell, from Banagher was killed. He was tasked by the British to track down Sinn Féin funds; he had successfully confiscated over £71,000 from Sinn Féin’s HQ and, by investigating banks throughout the country, was set to seize much more. He was pulled from a tram in south Dublin and shot three times in the head.

29 March 1920: Better Government of Ireland Bill was passed by 348 votes to 94 in Westminster. 31 March 1920: There was an unsuccessful IRA attack on the RIC barracks at Durrus, west Cork.

March 1920: The Kilkenny IRA captured the RIC barracks at Hugginstown County Kilkenny.

March 1920: West Limerick IRA volunteers killed a man for spying. This was the first such killing in the conflict.

Black and Tans

Black and Tans posing before an operation


April 1920: Rioting erupted in Limerick city on Roches Street between the Royal Welsh Fusiliers and the local population. The troops used rifles and bayonets and the crowd threw stones and bottles. The troops fired indiscriminately, killing a publican and an usherette from the Coliseum Cinema.

3/4 April 1920: IRA burned over 300 abandoned RIC barracks in rural areas and almost 100 income tax offices. It is estimated that approximately 150 barracks were destroyed on the night of 5/6 April.

5 April 1920: IRA prisoners began a hunger strike in Mountjoy Prison, demanding prisoner of war status.

14 April 1920: Detective Constable Harry Kells of DMP “G” Division mortally wounded by IRA.

14 April 1920: After large demonstrations and a general strike in support of the prisoners, all 90 were released. In Miltown Malbay a group of RIC & Army shot at a crowd who were celebrating the prisoners’ release, killing three and wounding nine.

21 April 1920: IRA prisoners began a hunger strike in Wormwood Scrubs Prison, London.

24 April 1920: IRA shot and killed a Dublin Metropolitan Police sergeant in Clonakilty, County Cork.

25 April 1920: IRA ambushed and killed two RIC men near Upton, County Cork.

27 April 1920: IRA captured and then destroyed the RIC barracks at Ballylanders, County Limerick. The IRA also seized arms and ammunition. In reprisal, Black and Tans went on the rampage in Limerick city.


8 May: 200 IRA volunteers under Frank Aiken attacked the RIC barracks in Newtownhamilton, County Armagh. A mine was used to breach the barracks wall and a potato spraying machine was used to spray it with petrol, before it was set alight. The six policemen inside refused to surrender until the roof fell in.

11 May 1920: IRA volunteers destroyed the RIC barracks at Hollyford, County Tipperary.

14–16 May 1920: Every member of the Dáil (not in prison) received a note through the post that said “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. Therefore a life for a life”.[22]

20 May 1920: Dublin dock workers refused to handle war material, and were soon joined by members of the Irish Transport and General Workers Union. Despite hundreds of sackings the strike continued. Train drivers were brought over from England after Irish drivers refused to drive trains carrying British troops.

28 May 1920: IRA volunteers attacked the RIC barracks at Kilmallock, County Limerick. Two RIC men were killed, two were wounded, and ten more surrendered. Volunteer Liam Scully from Glencar, County Kerry was killed.


1 June 1920:  IRA volunteers captured 25 rifles, 2 Lewis Guns and ammunition from King’s Inns, Dublin.

– IRA volunteers destroyed two RIC barracks in County Cork, one in Blarney and one in Carrigadrohid.[23]

3/4 June 1920: IRA volunteers destroyed the Drangan RIC barracks and captured weapons.[23]

6 June 1920: RIC sergeant Tim Holland and a civilian Peter McReesh were killed by gunfire in an IRA ambush near Cullyhanna in south Co Armagh.

7 June 1920: IRA volunteers attacked Drangan barracks on County Tipperary/County Kilkenny border.

12 June 1920: One RIC policeman was killed and one wounded in an IRA ambush at Clonee Wood, County Cork.

15 June 1920: Percival Lea-Wilson, a District Inspector in the R.I.C. who was stationed at Gorey was shot dead by the IRA outside his Gorey home on 15 June 1920, on the orders of Michael Collins.

16 June 1920: The IRA attacked the RIC barracks at Cookstown, County Tyrone. IRA man Patrick Loughrane was killed.

26 June 1920: About 200 IRA volunteers attacked an RIC barracks at Borrisokane, north Co Tipperary. The attack was unsuccessful, but the building was so badly damaged that it was evacuated the next day.

29 June 1920: An IRA ambush in Ballina, Co Mayo left One RIC man killed and one wounded.


2 July 1920: The Newtown Cross Ambush in Co. Tipperary, A four man RIC patrol was making its way back from Cashel to its Barracks at Ballinure when it was ambushed midway between Dualla village and the Barracks. Sergeant Robert Tobin was killed and Constable Brady was wounded. (He had volunteered for service early in the war and joined the Irish Guards and was wounded in action abroad. Michael Burke, who lived about three miles from the scene, was arrested on 9 August 1920 to await trial by court martial for the incident. it was alleged that at the time of his arrest he had in his possession an automatic revolver which had been removed from constable Maloney, another member of the ambushed patrol.[24]

11 July 1920: Alexander Will, from Forfar in Scotland, became the first Black and Tan to die in the conflict, during an IRA attack on the RIC barracks in Rathmore, County Kerry.

13 July 1920: Two RIC men were killed in an IRA ambush in Dingle, County Kerry.

17 July 1920: British Colonel [25] Gerard Smyth was assassinated by the IRA in Country Club in Cork city in a reprisal for a speech he made to RIC men encouraging reprisals. Railway workers refused to carry Smyth’s body. Smyth is from Banbridge, County Down and his killing provoked retaliation in the north against Catholics in Banbridge and Dromore.

A movie in which actors playing Black and Tans question a suspect

17 July 1920: Two members of the Border Regiment severely wounded in an ambush at Swinford Co Mayo

19/20 July 1920: IRA volunteers ambushed a police party near Tuam, County Galway. Two policemen were killed. The remaining two surrendered, and were then released unharmed. After searching unsuccessfully for the ambushers, police reinforcements rioted in Tuam, firing and throwing grenades in the streets, burned the town hall and a drapery warehouse and threatened to kill some Republican suspects. The Tuam police riot inspired copycat reprisals across Ireland in the summer and autumn of 1920.

21 July 1920: Loyalists forced over 7000 Catholics and left-wing Protestants from their jobs at Harland and Wolff shipyards in Belfast. There was sectarian rioting in Belfast and Derry, where many Catholics and Protestants were expelled from their homes. Up to 40 people were killed in the disturbances in Derry. Another 22 people were killed in rioting in Belfast.

23 July 1920: A critical meeting of the Coalition Government’s Cabinet was held in London. The Cabinet was divided on how to proceed. Some Liberal ministers and Dublin Castle officials were in favor of offering dominion status to Ireland. Unionist ministers argued that the Government must crush the insurgency and proceed with the Government of Ireland Bill. Debate continued after the meeting: Walter Long warned of “the gravest consequences in Ulster” if the Government changed course; by 2 August, the hawks prevailed.

25 July 1920: An RIC intelligence officer was assassinated by the IRA outside the local Catholic Church in Bandon as he was leaving Mass.

26 July 1920: IRA volunteers attacked an RIC cycling patrol at Ballyrush, County Sligo.

27 July 1920: An RIC man shot was dead by IRA volunteers in Clonakilty, County Cork.

28 July 1920: Two British soldiers were killed and two wounded, in an IRA ambush at Oola, County Limerick.

29 July 1920: One RIC man was killed and one wounded in an IRA ambush in Ballina, County Mayo.

30 July 1920: The IRA East Limerick column, including Waterford IRA officer George Lennon, ambushed a British Army cycling patrol of 6 men at Tankardstown on the Bruree to Kilmallock road. One soldier was killed.

30 July 1920: IRA man Paddy Daly shot and killed Frank Brooke, the director of Great Southern and Eastern Railway in his office in Dublin. Brooke was a member of the British military’s Advisory Council.

July 1920: Two successful ambushes were carried out by the IRA South Tipperary unit led by Dinny Lacey. In the first ambush at Thomastown, 6 British troops were killed. At Glen of Aherlow 4 Black and Tans were killed.


On various dates in August, members of the IRA and the Volunteers swore allegiance to Dáil Éireann; previously they had sworn to obey their Executive Councils.

2 August 1920:  A gun battle takes place between British soldiers and the IRA on the BallyhaunisClaremorris road in Co Mayo.

4 August 1920: Unarmed IRA burn down unoccupied RIC barracks in Blackrock County Louth.[26]

7 August 1920: The IRA East Limerick Flying Column under Donnchadh O’Hannigan and George Lennon, joined forces with Cork Column under Tom Barry to ambush a six-man RIC foot patrol near Kildorrery, County Cork. All the RIC men were wounded, one fatally (Black and Tan Ernest S. Watkins). Six revolvers and 250 rounds of ammunition were seized.

9 August 1920: The Restoration of Order in Ireland Act received Royal assent. The Act gave Dublin Castle the power to govern by regulation; to replace the criminal courts with courts martial; to replace coroners’ inquests with military courts of inquiry; and to punish disaffected local governments by withholding their grants of money.

12 August 1920: Terence McSwiney, Lord Mayor of Cork was arrested. McSwiney began a hunger strike in protest and was joined by ten other prisoners. IRA officers Liam Lynch and Sean Hegarty were also arrested, but mistakenly released by the British.

16 August 1920: British forces burned buildings in Templemore as a reprisal for IRA actions.

18 August 1920: IRA volunteers led by Sean MacEoin raided the British army barracks in Longford town and Ballymahon to obtain arms.

21 August 1920:IRA volunteers ambush a RIC patrol near Merlin park in Galway City.Constable Martin Foley is killed and another wounded[27]

22 August, 1920: IRA forces from East Mayo, led by Sean Corcoran and Sean Walsh captured the RIC barracks in Ballyvarey, County Mayo. Arms and ammunition were taken.

– RIC Detective Swanzy was shot dead by Cork IRA volunteers while leaving Church in Lisburn County Antrim. Swanzy had been blamed by an inquest jury for the killing of Cork Mayor Thomas MacCurtain. Catholic residential areas of Lisburn were burned in revenge by local loyalists. Several people were later prosecuted for the burnings. Loyalists attack Catholic areas of Belfast in reprisal. A total of 33 people died over the next ten days in sectarian rioting and shooting in the city.

August 1920: The Enniscrone Coast Guard station, County Sligo, was burned by IRA members. Also in Sligo, an IRA ambush near Tubbercurry killed one RIC man and wounded two more. Tubbercurry was then subjected to reprisals by the RIC.


10 September 1920: IRA man Patrick Gill was shot dead by the Black and Tans, in Drumsna, County Leitrim.

14 September 1920: James Connolly (73), Unshinnagh, Kinlough, County Leitrim, was shot dead by the Black and Tans in front of his own house. by Capt E. Small, Bedfordshire Regiment during a raid to arrest his son, James Connolly Jr, who was in
the 3rd Western Division IRA. Connolly Jr was dragged bootless from the house and not allowed to say goodbye to his father. He was then locked up in Belfast jail.

20 September 1920:

– IRA members ambushed of a lorry full of British soldiers on Church St Dublin. Three soldiers were killed, the first in the city since the Easter Rising of 1916. IRA man Kevin Barry was arrested at the scene and charged with murder.

– A newly promoted Head Constable was shot and killed by IRA volunteers in Balbriggan, in north County Dublin, near the training camp for British police recruits at Gormanston. Later that night, police rioted and attacked Balbriggan, killing two men, Seamus Lawless and Sean Gibbons [28] looting and burning four public houses, destroying a hosiery factory, and damaging or destroying forty-nine homes. This incident, known as the Sack of Balbriggan, caused a sensation in Britain, receiving headlines from the British press, and making reprisals an important topic for debate in Parliament.

Monument to Kevin Barry in Rathvilly, Co Carlow. Barry was hanged on 1 November 1920, for his part in the killing three British soldiers on 20 September 1920

22 September 1920: Five RIC men were killed by the IRA in an ambush at the Rineen Ambush, County Clare. Resident Magistrate Lendrum was kidnapped at a level crossing near Doonbeg, County Clare, by the IRA. He was found shot dead where his body was dumped at a nearby beach. Following this, and the ambush earlier in the day, the Black and Tans took reprisals, killing six civilians in Miltown Malbay, Lahinch and Ennistymon, and burned twenty-six buildings, including the town halls in Lahinch and Ennistymon.

23 September 1920: Two RIC men were killed in an ambush by East Mayo and South Sligo IRA brigades, at Ratra near Frenchpark, County Roscommon. One volunteer died in the action; Black and Tans mutilated his body and dragged it through the streets of Ballaghaderreen.

– Sinn Féin County Councilor John Lynch of Kilmallock, Limerick was assassinated by British agents at the Exchange Hotel Dublin.[29]

25 September 1920: In revenge for previous actions by the Black and Tans, a small group of men from the East Mayo Brigade hijacked a train and drove it past the barracks at Ballaghaderreen whilst firing at the building. The attack took the crown forces by surprise but there are no casualties.

26 September 1920: Black and Tans burned the village of Kilkee, County Clare.

27 September 1920: Black and Tans burned the town centre of Trim, County Meath.

28 September 1920: Cork IRA volunteers raided the military barracks at Mallow, County Cork to obtain arms. Thirty seven rifles were taken. British troops burned several businesses and homes in the town in reprisal.

September 1920: a law clerk named John Lynch was murdered in his hotel bed. It was a mystery to most people why he was killed, but the IRA Propaganda Department successfully deflected journalists’ attention from reporting his work on the cases of IRA volunteers charged with killing policemen.


10 October 1920: RAF Lt killed at Bandon, County Cork Ambush.

Dan Breen police notice

11 October 1920: One civilian was killed and IRA man Dan Breen was badly wounded in a shoot-out at an IRA safe house in Drumcondra, Dublin. 2 British Officers die of wounds the next day

12 October 1920: Four RIC men were killed by the IRA in an ambush at Ballinderry, County Roscommon.

12 October 1920: In County Wexford 5 IRA volunteers were killed, 5 more were severely injured, and 4 more less-severely injured, when explosives being prepared accidentally detonated in an old unoccupied house located at St. Kearns, Saltmills.

17 October 1920: Cork IRA volunteer Michael Fitzgerald died as a result of his hunger strike.

18 October 1920:Two IRA volunteers (brothers Ned and Frank O’Dwyer) were killed by British forces in Bansha, county Tipperary

20 October 1920: IRA Vol. Sean Treacy (pictured) of Co. Tipperary was killed in gunfight with British troops on Talbot Street, Dublin city centre. Two civilians were also killed in the fire fight. British officer Lt Price was also killed by accident.

22 October 1920: IRA 3rd Cork Brigade personnel ambushed a lorry of British troops from the Essex Regiment at Toureen, on the road between Bandon and Cork. Two soldiers were killed, including a Lieutenant W.A.Dixon and another 4 wounded, one of them mortally. Ten more were captured, disarmed and then released.

25 October 1920:  Terence MacSwiney died in Brixton prison, London, as a result of his hunger strike Hours later, another Cork IRA man, Joseph Murray, also died from the hunger strike. Arthur Griffith then called off further hunger strikes.

– Three RIC men were killed and three wounded in an IRA ambush at Moneygold, County Sligo. Three IRA volunteers and their woman driver were subsequently arrested and imprisoned.

31 October 1920:

– RIC Detective Kelleher was shot dead by IRA volunteers in a pub in Granard, County Longford


1 November 1920: 18 year-old IRA man Kevin Barry was hanged in Dublin for his part in an ambush of British soldiers.

– An RIC man was shot dead in Ballinalee, County Longford. The Black and Tans burned the village of Granard in reprisal.

– Civilian Helen Quinn was shot dead by the police in County Galway. Afraid of ambushes, police had begun to ‘reconnoiter by fire’, shooting blindly

Kevin Barry

into woods and possible ambush sites. Helen Quinn was near one such site when the police opened fire, and was hit by a stray bullet. Irish public opinion was outraged when a military court of inquiry subsequently returned a verdict of “death by misadventure”. Soon afterward, the RIC Headquarters and the Chief of Police issued orders against wild firing from motor vehicles.

– IRA fighters from West Waterford, under Column O/C George Lennon, ambushed a British army patrol at Piltown (Kinsalebeg) Co. Waterford. Two soldiers were killed, six wounded and thirty captured but those captured were later released. RIC Constable Maurice Prendiville promised to leave the RIC but was fatally shot the next month at the Youghal Bridge.

– Simultaneous IRA attacks were carried out on the RIC barracks and Marine Station at Ardmore, County Waterford.

– Police burned the County hall in Tralee in revenge for the killing of two constables the previous day and fired shots at people going to Mass. Shops and businesses were forced by the RIC and Tans to remain closed until 9 November in an effort to recover the bodies of the dead RIC men. Local man John Conway was also shot dead by Police in the town.

2 November 1920: Black and Tans shot dead IRA man Tommy Wall in Tralee.

– Sean MacEoin’s North Longford IRA column defended the village of Ballinalee from a Black and Tans assault, launched in response to the shooting of an RIC man there the previous day. British forces, consisting of eleven lorries of troops, retreated after a two and a half hour gunfight. The IRA column remained in the village for a week.

4 November 1920: Black and Tans burned the businesses of Sinn Féin sympathisers in Tralee.

8 November 1920: An IRA column mounted an ambush at Grange, County Limerick; four British soldiers were killed when their lorry was fired on. The IRA column under Tomas Malone retreated when seven more British troop lorries arrived.

12 November 1920: Two IRA volunteers were killed in a gunfight in Ballymacelligott, near Tralee, County Kerry.

14 November 1920: A Catholic priest, Father Michael Griffin disappeared. He had left his residence at St. Joseph’s Church, in Galway; his housekeeper heard him talking to someone at the door and assumed that Fr. Griffin was going to visit a sick parishioner. He never returned. His disappearance was reported to the police the following day. It afterwards emerged that he had been abducted and killed by state forces.

15 November 1920: 3 English officers were kidnapped and killed.

16 November 1920: Three IRA men were arrested by the Auxiliaires near Killaloe, County Clare. They were beaten, interrogated and then shot dead.

17 November 1920: RIC sergeant James O’Donoghue was assassinated by IRA volunteers in White Street in Cork city.

18 November 1

920: Three civilians were shot dead in Cork city by masked men (presumed to be RIC/Black and Tans) in reprisal for killing of O’Donoghue.

19 November 1920: Four IRA officers were captured by the Auxiliaries in Durris, County Cork. Only the intervention of a colonel of the King’s Liverpool Regiment prevented the men from being summarily executed.

19 November 1920: Joseph Devlin, MP for Belfast/Falls, accused the security forces of kidnapping Fr. Michael Griffin of Galway. Chief Secretary Hamar Greenwood denied this accusation.

20 November 1920: The body of Fr. Michael Griffin was found in a shallow grave, in a bog near Barna, outside Galway city.

21 November 1920: Morning: The IRA attacked eight addresses in central and south-central Dublin city, killing eleven men and wounding five, one of them fatally. Their victims were British Army officers, some of whom are intelligence agents (known as the “Cairo Gang“). In one case, a gun battle erupted between IRA gunmen and Auxiliaries who stumbled across the scene of one assassination: two Auxiliaries were killed, and one IRA man was captured in the shootout.

– Afternoon: Police, Auxiliaries, and soldiers raided Croke Park during a Gaelic football match between Dublin and Tipperary in response to the IRA shootings that morning. For some unknown reason, police opened fire on the crowd. Fourteen spectators were killed. That evening, Dublin Castle claimed that the raiding party came under fire from rebel gunmen; this claim was contradicted by the press, and, later, by the findings of military courts of inquiry, which were suppressed by the Government. The shootings were generally considered to be a reprisal.[38]

– Evening: Two IRA prisoners, Dick McKee,Peadar Clancy and a civilian friend Conor Clune who had been arrested with them, were “shot while trying to escape” in Dublin Castle. 21 November 1920 became known as Bloody Sunday.

21 November 1920. Three IRA volunteers of the West Waterford Flying Column, were recognised driving past Walsh’s Hotel, Cappoquin, and, in an exchange of fire fatally wounded RIC Constable Isaac Rea.

25 November 1920: Sinn Féin leaders Arthur Griffith and Eoin MacNeill were arrested by British troops in Dublin.

26 November 1920: IRA members/brothers Patrick and Harry Loughnane were abducted and killed by Black and Tans at Kinvara, County Galway.

27 November 1920: RIC Constable Maurice Quirk was fatally shot outside Walsh’s Hotel in Cappoquin by Waterford Column men Mick Mansfield, George Lennon and Pat Keating.

28 November 1920: Kilmichael ambush. The west Cork unit of the IRA, under Tom Barry, ambushed a patrol of 18 Auxiliaries at Kilmicheal in County Cork, killing 17 of them {1 survived}. It has been alleged that some of the Auxiliaries were killed after they had surrendered, though the IRA volunteers were adamant there had been a false surrender, after which no quarter was given. Three IRA volunteers were also killed in the action.

30 November 1920: Two IRA volunteers were killed by British forces in Ardee, County Louth.[39]


6 December 1920: An IRA unit attacked the RIC barracks in Camlough, County Armagh. Roughly 300 IRA volunteers assaulted the building, which was held by six RIC constables, for several hours. Troops arriving from Newry were ambushed by the IRA before they retired. In reprisal, the Ulster Special Constabulary burned buildings in the village of Camlough. Local IRA leader Frank Aiken‘s home was burned the next day, as were the homes of ten of his relatives.

10 December 1920: Martial law was proclaimed in Counties Cork, Kerry, Limerick, and Tipperary.

– British troops captured an IRA bomb making factory in Dublin. Ernie O’Malley was captured by British troops in Kilkenny, in possession of a pistol and incriminating documents.

11 December 1920: The Burning of Cork. A lorry of Auxiliaries was ambushed by the IRA near Dillons Cross: one Temporary Cadet was killed, and several were wounded. That night, Crown forces killed two Cork IRA volunteers (Delaney brothers killed in their home), set fire to the commercial centre of Cork city, and burned both the City Hall and the Carnegie Library.

12 December 1920: The Roman Catholic Bishop of Cork, Daniel Colahan, issued a decree saying that “anyone within the diocese of Cork who organises or takes part in ambushes or murder or attempted murder shall be excommunicated.[40]

13 December 1920: Two IRA officers, Michael McNamara and William Shanahan, were abducted and shot by British forces in Clare. Their bodies were found near Kilkee on 19 December.

14 December 1920: Passenger services suspended on the Cavan and Leitrim Railway, until 1921, due to the refusal of drivers and enginemen to carry the Black and Tans on trains at Mohill and Ballinamore, leading to the arrest and internment of railway employees.[41]

15 December 1920: An Auxiliary officer named Harte killed a boy and a priest, Fr. Magner, in an apparently motiveless attack at Dunmanway County Cork. He was discharged and declared insane by the British authorities.

16 December 1920: IRA fighters ambushed British troops at Kilcommon Cross, north Tipperary. Four British soldiers were killed and three wounded.

17 December 1920: The Roman Catholic Bishop of Kilmore, Patrick Finnegan, stated that “Any war…To be just and lawful must be backed by a well-grounded hope of success…What hope of success have you against the mighty forces of the British Empire? None, none whatever…and if it unlawful as it is, every life taken in pursuance of it is murder”.[40]

20 December 1920: The Kilkenny IRA unit ambushed an RIC/military patrol at Nine Mile House, County Kilkenny, eight soldiers and one RIC man were killed.

22 December 1920: Two IRA men were arrested by the Auxiliaires at a safe house near Doonbeg, Clare. They are shot dead on the road back to Ennis.

23 December 1920: The Government of Ireland Act received Royal assent, creating the provinces of Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland, each with its own parliament.

25 December 1920: A British patrol in Tralee County Kerry shot dead two men who were suspected of being IRA members and burned their homes.

27 December 1920: Republicans took over the unoccupied mansion at Caherguillamore, County Limerick, for a fund-raising dance. However British troops and RIC police surrounded them and in the ensuing gun battle five IRA volunteers and one Black and Tan were killed.[42]

29 December 1920:

– British generals attended a meeting of the Cabinet and predicted victory in Ireland by the spring. Dublin Castle’s Chief of Police agreed. “General Tudor said he thought that, in this area, in four months’ time the terror would be broken if there was no truce. The great hope of the extremists was a change of policy.”

– British government sanctioned “official reprisals”. They were begun with the burning of seven houses in Midleton, County Cork in reprisal for IRA ambush earlier in the day.

30 December 1920: Martial law was extended to Counties Clare, Kilkenny, Waterford and Wexford.


1 January 1921: An IRA column led by Eoin O’Duffy mounted an ambush in Ballybay, County Monaghan, one RIC man and one civilian were killed, three Auxiliaries were wounded.

2 January 1921: Two RIC men were shot dead by the IRA in a hotel in the centre of Belfast.

– West Waterford Column under George Lennon ambushes enemy patrol at the v intersection outside Cappoquin on the Cappoquin to Mt. Mellary road.

5 January 1921: Martial Law was extended to Clare and Waterford.[43]

7 January 1921: A British Army patrol was ambushed by a combined Waterford force at Pickardstown following a feint attack on the Tramore RIC Barracks. Present were W. Waterford O/C Pax Whelan, E. Waterford O/C Paddy Paul and Flying Column O/C George Lennon. Two IRA volunteers (Thomas O’Brien and Michael McGrath) were reportedly taken away and shot by members of the Devon Regiment.

– The RIC raided a cottage near Ballinalee, County Longford, looking for Sean MacEoin. MacEoin opened fire from the cottage, killed District Inspector Thomas McGrath, wounded a constable, and escaped.

8 January 1921: Thomas Kirby executed by IRA[44]

13 January 1921: British troops manning a checkpoint at O’Connell Bridge, Dublin, opened fire on a crowd of civilians, killing two and seriously wounding five.

– An Ulster Special Constable was shot dead in Crossmaglen, county Armagh.

15-17 January 1921: British soldiers imposed a curfew in an area bounded by Capel St., Church St., North King St. and the quays in Dublin’s inner city, sealing it off and allowing no-one in or out. They then conducted a house-to-house search, but no significant arrests or arms finds were made.

20 January 1921: IRA in Clare, under Michael Brennan, ambushed an RIC lorry at Glenwood, between Sixmilebridge and Broadford. Six RIC men were killed and two more were wounded but escaped. The IRA took their weapons and over 1,000 rounds of ammunition before burning the lorry. Among the dead was RIC District Inspector William Clarke. In reprisals, the British forces burned 21 homes in the vicinity and arrested 22 people. Glenwood ambush.

21 January 1921: Abortive IRA ambush took place at Drumcondra, Dublin city. One IRA man died later from his wounds and five captured, of whom four were later hanged.

24 January 1921: The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Tuam, Thomas Gilmartin, issued a letter saying that IRA volunteers who took part in ambushes “have broken the truce of God, they have incurred the guilt of murder”.[45]

28 January 1921: British troops in county Cork were tipped off by a local Loyalist named Mrs Lindsay about an IRA ambush at Macroom-Cork road. Two IRA volunteers were killed and five captured by British soldiers. The five IRA prisoners were later executed under martial law. The local IRA executed Lindsay and her chauffeur James Clarke in reprisal.

Also in January 1921:

– IRA man John Doran was abducted from his home in Camlough, County Armagh and killed by unknown gunmen.

– An IRA ambush was mounted at Freeduff, County Armagh. Two RIC men were killed and more injured.

End of January 1921: The British army in Dublin started carrying republican prisoners in their trucks when on patrol to stop grenade attacks on them, with signs saying “Bomb us now”. This was discontinued when foreign journalists in the city reported it. They later covered the trucks with a mesh to prevent grenades entering the vehicles, to which the IRA responded by attaching hooks to what were then referred to as “Mills bombs“, which would catch in the mesh.


British soldiers imposed a curfew on the Mountjoy Square area of north Dublin city and conducted a house-to-house search. Shortly afterwards another similar curfew was imposed on the Nassau Street/Kildare Street area. Few arrests were made but some arms were seized.

1 February 1921:

Sean MacEoin

Sean MacEoin

Led by Sean MacEoin, the North Longford IRA ambushed two lorries of Auxiliaries at Clonfin County Longford. A landmine was exploded under the lorries, followed by a two-hour firefight. Four Auxiliaries and a driver were killed and eight wounded. The IRA volunteers captured 18 rifles, 20 revolvers and a Lewis gun.

– The first execution under martial law of an IRA man took place. Cornelius Murphy of Millstreet, County Cork, was shot by firing squad in Cork city.

3 February 1921: The Limerick IRA unit ambushed an RIC patrol at Dromkeen, County Limerick. Eleven policemen were killed;,[46] some were allegedly killed after surrendering. The Dromkeen Ambush.

– An IRA Volunteer was shot dead when British troops raided his safe house in west Cork.

5 February 1921: British Intelligence officer Lance Corporal MPC/MFP [47] John Ryan was assassinated by IRA volunteers in a pub on Corporation Street in Dublin.

– An IRA Volunteer of Cork 3 Brigade died in an accidental shooting.

9 February 1921: Drumcondra Murders. Republican activists James Murphy and Patrick Kennedy were arrested by Auxiliaries in Dublin. Two hours later, Dublin Metropolitan Police found the two men lying shot in Drumcondra: Kennedy was dead, and Murphy was dying when they were discovered.

11 February 1921:

– James Murphy died in Mater Hospital, Dublin. Before the end, he declared that he and Kennedy were shot by their Auxiliary captors. A court of inquiry was held, and Captain W L King, commanding officer of F Company ADRIC, was arrested for the killings.

– IRA fighters from the 3rd Cork Brigade made an attack on a troop train at Drishabeg, near Millstreet County Cork. One British soldier was killed, five were wounded and fifteen were captured but later released. The IRA also seized arms and ammunition from the British troops.

14 February 1921: IRA prisoners Ernie O’Malley, Frank Teeling and Simon Donnelly escape from Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin.

– Two IRA Volunteers, the Coffey brothers, were assassinated in their beds by unknown gunmen in Enniskeane, Cork. Republicans blame an Auxiliary or Black and Tan unit but suspicion also falls on a local loyalist organisation known as the Loyalist Action Group.

15 February 1921: Upton Train Ambush: An IRA column from the 3rd Cork Brigade, led by Charlie Hurley mounted a disastrous attack on a train containing British soldiers at Upton County Cork, 3 IRA volunteers were killed and 3 captured. Six civilian passengers were killed and ten wounded in crossfire. Six British soldiers were wounded, three seriously.

– An IRA ambush position at Mourne Abbey, County Cork, was betrayed by an informer, Dan Shields. Five IRA volunteers were killed by British troops, four more were wounded and captured. Two of the captured Volunteers were later executed.

16 February 1921: four unarmed IRA men, who had been digging a trench at Kilbritain, Cork, were arrested by British troops of the Essex regiment and shot dead.[48]

19 February 1921: Three British soldiers (privates) of the Oxford Regiment were found by IRA men, unarmed and wearing civilian clothes near Feakle in Clare. The soldiers said they were deserters but the IRA suspected they were spies, shot them and dumped their bodies near Woodford.

20 February 1921: The Clonmult Ambush – Twelve IRA volunteers were killed in Clonmult, near Midleton, County Cork by British soldiers and Auxiliaries after being surrounded in a house. The British alleged a false IRA surrender and killed all the IRA volunteers in the house. Four more IRA volunteers were wounded and another four were captured unscathed. Only one got away. The IRA suspected that an informer was to blame and a spate of shootings of six suspected informers followed in the week after.

21 February 1921: Two IRA volunteers were killed and two wounded in a shoot-out in Friary Street in Kilkenny city.

23 February 1921: IRA volunteers from the Squad attacked RIC men returning from lunch to Dublin Castle on Parliament street. Two Policemen were killed, another was badly wounded and died that night.

– Two soldiers of the Essex Regiment kidnapped and killed.[49]

25 February 1921:

– The IRA Cork Number One Brigade led by Dan “Sandow” O’Donovan at Coolavokig, County Cork, a British Major, Grant, was killed, eight soldiers were wounded.

– A British review stated that two British soldiers (excluding RIC personnel) had been killed in the preceding week, the lowest total so far for a week in 1921. The review listed ten ambushes in the preceding seven days. Seven people had been killed as spies by the IRA during the week.

28 February 1921: An IRA column led by Sean Moylan ambushed an RIC patrol at Tureengariff County Cork, two RIC men were killed and two rifles were taken.

– 6 IRA prisoners were shot in Cork.

29 February 1921: In retaliation the previous day’s executions, the IRA shot and killed 6 off-duty British soldiers and wounded 5 more in separate incidents in Cork.[50][51]


IRA Informer Dan Shields betrayed the position of an IRA column in  Nadd, west Cork. Three IRA volunteers were killed in the subsequent ambush.

1 March, 1921: The IRA North Longford commander Sean MacEoin was captured at Mullingar and charged with the murder of an RIC detective.

– Two IRA volunteers were killed in a skirmish with British forces at Ballynamrossagh, Tipperary.[52]

2 March 1921: IRA fighters from the 2nd Cork Brigade and 2nd Kerry Brigade laid landmines near Millstreet. Thirteen British soldiers were killed and fifteen wounded when the landmines were exploded under their lorry.

3 March 1921: A train of jurors bound for Waterford was ambushed by the West Waterford Column under George Lennon, at Durrow/Ballyvoile. A fire fight resulted at Durrow Station and IRA reported two enemy killed and a number wounded.

3 March 1921: A Black and Tan is wounded in an ambush at BonniconlonCo Mayo.

4 March 1921: The South Leitrim Brigade of the IRA ambush a Black and Tan Convoy, at the Sheemore ambush, near Carrick on Shannon. Several casualties result, including the death of a Captain in the Bedfordshire Regiment. Black and Tans later ran amok in Carrick, burning and looting, and burned both the premises of the Leitrim Observer newspaper and the local rowing club to the ground.

5 March 1921: An IRA column mounted an ambush at Clonbanin, County Cork. A British general, Cumming,[53] and three other soldiers were killed when their armoured car broke down and they were exposed to IRA fire.

– Two ambushes took place in Dublin, one near Parnell Square and one in Clontarf, both in the north of the city. In both incidents, IRA members threw hand grenades and exchanged fire with British troops. One civilian was killed and four wounded. No combatant casualties were reported.

6 March 1921: The Limerick Curfew Murders. The Mayor of Limerick, George Clancy, former mayor Michael O’Callaghan and Volunteer Joseph O’Donoghue were shot dead in their homes at night after curfew by British intelligence agent, George Nathan, assisted by an Auxiliary from G Company ADRIC.[54]

7 March 1921: The South Mayo IRA flying column under Tom Maguire surrounded a British army patrol at Kilfall, between Ballinrobe and Castlebar, forcing it to surrender and give up its arms.

10 March 1921: A large British force carried out a large scale sweep at Nadd, Cork (in the Boggeragh Mountains). A house with six members of the Mallow IRA column asleep in it was surrounded. Two make their escape (Joe Morgan and John Moloney) but the other four Volunteers are shot dead after surrendering.

11 March 1921: Dáil Éireann debated, resolved and finally on 11 March declared war on the British administration.[55]

– The North Longford IRA officer Sean Connolly and five other IRA volunteers were killed by British troops at the Selton Hill ambush, near Mohill, County Leitrim when their ambush position was betrayed by a local Orangeman.[28]

– Three RIC men were attacked by the IRA near the corner of Victoria Square and Church Street in Belfast resulting in the death of all three. Two civilians were also injured in the attack and one of them later died in the hospital.

12 March 1921: A firefight took place between the Kilkenny IRA unit and British forces at Garrykerin House on the ClonmelKilkenny road. One Black and Tan constable was killed.

14 March 1921:, Six IRA prisoners were executed by hanging by the British in Mountjoy Prison .[56]

– An Auxiliary patrol of two lorries and an armoured car, which was on its way to raid St. Andrews Club, 144 Brunswick St., Dublin was attacked on Brunswick Street (now Pearse street) near the corner of Erne St. In the gun battle that followed, three IRA volunteers and two policemen as well as two civilians, were killed. A number of IRA volunteers were captured and one of them, Thomas Traynor, was hung on 25 April.[57]

16 March 1921:, The IRA in Galway attacked the RIC barracks in Clifden. Two RIC constables were killed. The IRA column retreated to the Maam valley, where they ambushed British reinforcements at Munterowan and Screebe. The RIC burned several buildings in Clifden in reprisal for the attacks.

18-19 March 1921: Burgery ambush – West Waterford IRA under Pax Whelan, George Lennon and George Plunkett from Dublin HQ, ambushed a convoy of Black and Tans returning to Dungarvan via the Burgery. One Black and Tan, Redman, was killed along with 2 IRA Volunteers (Pat Keating and Sean Fitzgerald).

– An IRA firing squad executed Dungarvan R.I.C. Constable Michael Hickey. Affixed to his tunic was the notation “police spy”. He was later interred, upon the intercession of the parish priest, in an unmarked grave, belonging to his fiancee’s family, at St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, Dungarvan.

Tom Barry

Tom Barry

19 March 1921: Crossbarry Ambush– The IRA Cork no. 3 Brigade under Tom Barry fought an action against 1,200 British troops at Crossbarry, County Cork. The IRA column, comprising roughly 100 men, escaped encirclement, inflicting between ten and thirty killed on the British side. {One RIC Constable killed and 6 soldiers killed.[58]}The British claimed that six IRA volunteers were killed, the IRA claimed only three killed/3 wounded

– An RIC Constable and a RIC Sgt killed/died of wounds in IRA ambushes[58]

  • 21 March 1921: The Kerry IRA attacked a train at the Headford junction near Killarney. The IRA estimated twenty British soldiers were killed, as well as two IRA volunteers and three civilians. The British reported 7 soldiers killed and 12 wounded.- In an ambush at Lipole, county Kerry, three IRA volunteers were killed [59]
    22 March 1921:
    Three members of the West Mayo IRA flying column attacked a four man RIC patrol at Clady. Three policemen were wounded and one was killed.- IRA volunteers in Fermanagh burned the homes and farms of ten local men who were members of the Ulster Special Constabulary. Two Special Constables were shot dead in their beds23 March 1921: An IRA ambush is mounted on StrokestownLongford road by south County Roscommon IRA. One British soldier and two policemen were killed. Two Black and Tan constables surrendered and were later shot dead by the IRA. Arms and ammunition including a Hotchkiss machine gun were captured by the IRA, who lost one man killed. (the Scramogue Ambush).- The Press reported that 28 people were killed and 33 wounded in various ambushes on this day, bringing the total for the previous five days to 65 killed and 67 wounded.[60]– Six IRA volunteers of the Cork number 1 Brigade were captured Cork by British forces at Clogheen and summarily shot.24 March 1921:: A bomb was thrown at a group of soldiers at Westport, County Mayo. British reprisals took place that night throughout West Mayo.30 March 1921: Two RIC men are killed in an ambush in Ballyfermot, county Dublin.

    MARCH 1921:
    The west Cork IRA column under Tom Barry attacked the RIC barracks at Rosscarbery.
    – A County Donegal IRA column under Peadar O’Donnell attacked the RIC station at Falcarragh, one policeman was killed.- The Dublin Brigade of the IRA carried out 53 attacks on British forces in the city in the course of the month.

    APRIL, 1921

1 April: The IRA Mayo officer Sean Corcoran was killed by British troops at Ballyhaunis County Mayo. Later that day a Black and Tan is killed by a sniper in the town and an innocent man named Michael Coen is murdered in retaliation.

3 April 1921: An IRA informer, Vincent Fouvarge from Dublin, was shot dead at a golf course near London, England. A note was left saying, “let spies and traitors beware, IRA”.

9 April 1921: An abortive IRA ambush took place in Mullinglown, County Carlow – no casualties resulted but several IRA volunteers were arrested.

10 April 1921: Pvt George Motley, along with Pvt John Thomas Dixon Steer, both of the East Lancashire Regiment, was captured by the IRA at Barraduff, County Kerry. They were moved around the countryside for about 6 months before being shot and their bodies dumped in Anablaha bog. Their bodies were recovered in Jan 1927 when Motley was buried in Nab Wood Cemetery near his home town of Shipley, West Yorkshire, and Steer in Immanuel Church, Accrington, Lancashire, both with full military honours.[61][62][63]

13–15 April 1921: Captain W L King, the commanding officer of F Company Auxiliary Division, RIC, was tried by court-martial for the murder of James Murphy on 9 February. James Murphy’s dying declaration was ruled inadmissible. Two Auxiliary officers provided alibis for Captain King at the time of the murder. King was acquitted.

14 April 1921: Arthur Vicars was assassinated in Kilmorna County Kerry by IRA.

15 April 1921: Major McKinnon, an Auxiliary officer, was shot dead by the IRA at Tralee golf course, County Kerry.[64]

23 April 1921: In central Belfast, two IRA volunteers shot dead two Black and Tans. They exchanged fire with other RIC men as they made their escape and two civilians were injured in the crossfire. Loyalist gunmen killed two Catholic civilians in reprisal. Uniformed RIC men assassinated two republican activists, the Duffin brothers, in revenge.

23 April 1921: the Third Tipperary Brigade, IRA ambushed a small party of British soldiers accompanying two horse-drawn carts approached from Clogheen, near Curraghcloney, close to the village of Ballylooby.The IRA volunteers withdrew southwards towards the Knockmealdown Mountains leaving one British soldier dead and two others wounded, one fatally. By chance, RIC District Inspector Gilbert Potter was returning by car from police duties at Ballyporeen, drove into a section of the withdrawing Column. Potter was held as a hostage for the safe release of Thomas Traynor, an IRA Volunteer under sentence of death. Following the British execution of Traynor by hanging, Potter was shot dead by the IRA.

26 April 1921: Private of East Lancashire Regiment killed.

28 April 1921: IRA Volunteer Patrick Ronayne (b. 17 June 1897) of Greenhill, Mourneabbey, Mallow, Co. Cork was executed at Cork Military Detention Barracks for his involvement in the failed Mourneabbey Ambush, where eight of his Volunteer comrades were killed.

29 April 1921: The West Waterford Flying Column under George Lennon ambushed a train carrying British troops at the Ballylynch level crossing. One Volunteer was wounded and two British military were killed in a fire-fight.

30 April 1921: Major Geoffrey Lee Compton-Smith {DSO}  of the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Welch Fusiliers captured and executed by the IRA

APRIL 1921:

– A series of shootings took place in and around Dromore, County Tyrone. First, one RIC constable was killed and four Special Constables wounded in an IRA ambush near the town. The following day, an RIC officer shot a Catholic girl, Eileen Doherty. in the legs. Her brother, who was an IRA man, then sought out the Policeman and shot him dead. The next day, a group of Special Constables abducted three IRA volunteers, shot them dead and dumped their bodies half a mile outside the town. In another ambush later that month, one IRA man was killed and four RIC men were wounded.

– An IRA unit took the Protestant congregation of Creggan, County Armagh, hostage as they arrived for church and ambushed the local B-Specials as they were arriving for the service with grenades and small arms. One constable was killed, another was wounded. The Protestant civilians were released unharmed.

– A group of Auxiliaries mistook a group of off duty RIC constables who were drinking in a hotel in Castleconnell, County Clare, for IRA volunteers and opened fire on them. Two RIC men, one Auxiliary and the hotel landlord were killed in the gunfight until the mistake was realised.

– The IRA in Belfast shot dead two Auxiliaries in Donegal Place, in the city centre. The same night, two Catholics were killed in reprisal on the Falls Road.

– The Dublin IRA carried out 67 attacks on British forces in the city in the course of the month.


1 May 1921: An abortive IRA ambush at Islandeady, County Mayo led to the death of two volunteers.

– Two RIC men were killed.[50]

2 May 1921: An IRA column ambushed British troops near Lackelly, County Limerick, but took heavy casualties in the ensuing fire fight. The IRA columns was itself ambushed another three times as it retreated during a five and a half hour running fight. Between five and fourteen IRA volunteers were killed and up to thirty wounded.

3 May 1921: The South Mayo IRA flying column under Tom Maguire together with members of the east Mayo flying column ambush British troops at Tourmakeady. Six British soldiers are killed. The IRA volunteers are then pursued across the Partry Mountains by over 600 members of the crown forces guided by airplanes. They were then surrounded but managed to escape despite Maguire being badly wounded-one volunteer was killed in this engagement. British causulties were not revealed but are believed to have been high. Four RIC constables are killed [50]

4 May 1921: The Kerry IRA ambushed an RIC patrol. Eight Policemen were killed/died of wounds RIC memorial, with only one escapee from the RIC patrol. Five houses and a creamery were burned in reprisal by British forces. The IRA had left the body of an 80 year-old informer, Thomas Sullivan, they had killed at the side of the road near Rathmore, in order to lure the police into the ambush.

8 May 1921: An IRA column was surrounded by British troops in the hills of Lappanduff, County Cavan. One IRA man was killed, two wounded and eleven captured.

– British forces in Carrigtouhil, Cork, shot dead an IRA volunteer.[73]

9 May 1921: In Kerry, near Castleisland, two RIC men were shot by IRA volunteers on their way home from Mass. One was killed, the other saved when his wife covered him with her body.

10 May 1921: Two RIC constables Alexander Clarke and Charles Murdock disappeared near Clonmany, County Donegal. The body of Clarke was washed up on the shore the next day.[74][75]Murdock was reportedly buried in a bog[76]

12 May 1921: A group of Black and Tans traveling from Listowel towards Athea arrested three young men in Gortaglanna. Prior to this the barracks in Listowel had been burnt out and the troops decided to execute the young men in revenge. One of the men, Dalton, attempted to free himself from captivity and escaped, though injured by a bullet. Both of the other two men are shot on the spot.

13–15 May 1921: “Black Whitsun”. A general election for the parliament of Southern Ireland was held on 13 May. Sinn Féin won 124 of the new parliament’s 128 seats unopposed, and its elected members refused to take their seats. If that had happened, under the terms of the Government of Ireland Act, the Southern Parliament would have been dissolved, and Southern Ireland would have been ruled as a crown colony. Over the next two days (14–15 May) the IRA killed fifteen policemen. These events marked the complete failure of the Coalition Government’s Irish policy.

14 May 1921: IRA volunteers, led by Paddy Daly and Emmet Dalton seized an armoured car on the North Circular Road in Dublin, killing two British soldiers. The car was then used to gain entrance to Mountjoy Prison in an effort to free IRA prisoner Sean MacEoin. However, the plot was discovered and the IRA volunteers in the car had to shoot their way out of the prison. The car was later abandoned in Clontarf. {Possibly the 2 soldiers killed were 2 gunners of the 8th Royal Marine Battalion RMA. See [77]}

– IRA in Castletownbere led by Michael Og O’Sullivan killed 4 and wound 2 soldiers of the King’s Own Scottish Borderers at Furious Pier.

– IRA battles Black and Tans outside Castletownbere-no casualites on either side

– IRA volunteers in Tipperary assassinated an RIC detective Insp named Harry Biggs and a local Loyalist, Miss Barrington, who was sitting beside him in a police car.

15 May 1921: Ballyturin House Ambush. An IRA unit in County Galway ambushed a motor car as it left Ballyturin House near Gort. Two Army officers were shot dead, along with an RIC District Inspector and his wife. Margaret Gregory, daughter-in-law of Augusta, Lady Gregory, survived unharmed. The RIC then came under fire when they arrived at the scene; one constable was wounded and died six days later.

– British forces in Carrigtouhil, Cork, shot dead three civilians.[78][79]

16 May 1921: Two IRA men are killed in an attempted ambush of an RIC patrol at Barrowhouse, county Kildare.[80]

17 May 1921: Pvt of 8th Royal Marine Battalion RMLI was kidnapped and killed.[81]

19 May 1921:

Kilmeena ambush, British troops surprised an IRA ambush party at Kilmeena, County Mayo; 6 IRA volunteers were killed and seven wounded. The remainder of the column fled over the mountains to Skerdagh. One RIC man [6] and one Black and Tan were killed in the action. British forces threw the dead and wounded IRA volunteers into the street outside the Police barracks in Westport, causing widespread revulsion. The Marquess of Sligo visited the Police station to complain.

– Two RIC men were killed by IRA members in Kinnitty, County Offaly.[82]

21 May 1921: IRA Ambush at Ballyvaughan of 10 members of the British 8th Royal Marine Battalion RMLI under command of a Sgt. At least 2 RMB killed and 2 RMB wounded.[81]

23 May 1921: The IRA in Clare ambushed an RIC patrol at Glenwood, between Sixmilebridge and Broadfoot. Six RIC men were killed including a District Inspector and two were wounded. The IRA volunteers captured 10 rifles.

– A British Army Officer disappeared, presumed killed, in County Cork. See [83]

25 May 1921: Dublin IRA units occupied and burned the Custom House, centre of local government in Ireland in Dublin city centre. The building and the IRA units were quickly surrounded by first two companies of Auxiliaries and then several hundred more British Army troops. Five IRA volunteers and three civilians were killed and about eighty Volunteers were captured. Four Auxiliaries were wounded in the firing. The operation was a publicity coup but a military disaster for the Dublin IRA.[84]

31 May 1921: IRA volunteers exploded a remotely detonated mine under a British Military band at Youghal county Cork. Seven British soldiers (military bandsmen from Hampshire regiment) were killed, twenty more were wounded in the explosion.

May 1921:

Pope Benedict XV issued a letter that encouraged the “English as well as Irish to calmly consider … some means of agreement”.

– Ulster Special constable George Lynas was shot dead in County Armagh. The B-Specials shot dead two local Catholics in reprisal.

– A Black and Tan was killed in BallyhaunisCounty Mayo by a sniper. In reprisal an innocent man named Michael Coen was shot dead outside the town.

– The Dublin IRA carried out 107 attacks on British forces in the city in the course of the month.

JUNE 1921

1 June 1921: IRA fighters ambushed a police bicycle patrol near Castlemaine, County Kerry. An RIC District Inspector and three constables were killed outright; a sergeant was wounded and died later.[51]

2 June 1921: Carrowkennedy ambush, County Mayo. Michael Kilroy and the IRA’s West Mayo Flying Column ambushed a convoy of RIC and Black and Tans. Seven policemen were killed and six were wounded, two of them fatally RIC memorial. The surviving seventeen police surrendered and the IRA seized a large quantity of arms. Many of the local people went into hiding to avoid the retribution of the Black and Tans. The Irish fighters went on the run throughout the region sheltering in safe houses.

3 June 1921: IRA volunteers ambushed British troops at Modreeny North Tipperary. Members of the IRA’s North Tipperary Flying Column led by Sean Gaynor attacked a mixed group of 25 British soldiers, RIC policemen and Black & Tans, killing four and injuring 14.

4–14 June 1921: Around 800 British troops swept the Macroom area, of County Cork.

5 June 1921: 3 members of Manchester Regiment killed at Kilcrea.[55]

6 June 1921: The British government called off the policy of house burnings as official reprisals.

7 June 1921: The Lord Lieutenant of Ireland appoints James Craig the first Prime Minister of Northern Ireland. Several other members of the new Northern government are also appointed.

10 June 1921: Seven Waterford IRA men were captured when a party of Marines, having crossed from Youghal by boat to Ferrypoint by night, surprised them near Piltown, County Waterford.

12 June 1921: Three RIC men were shot by the IRA on the Falls Road in Belfast. One of them died. Uniformed RIC/Black & Tans including DI Nixon arrested and murdered three innocent Catholic men in north Belfast. Over the following two days, loyalist gunmen killed 6 more Catholics and the IRA assassinated three Protestants in the city.

15 June 1921: Members of the East Clare Brigade IRA were ambushed by British soldiers at Woodcock Hill, Meelick while they were attempting to raid the Limerick to Ennis train. Captain Christopher McCarthy of the IRA was wounded during the ambush and his comrade Captain Michael Gleeson returned under fire to rescue McCarthy. Both men were subsequently captured by British soldiers and killed. This event has since been known as The Meelick Ambush.

16 June 1921: An IRA ambush was mounted at Rathcoole, near Banteer, County Cork. Landmines were exploded under three lorries, killing two Auxiliaries and wounding four. An RIC Constable was kidnapped and killed on this day.

18 June 1921: 36 IRA Volunteers in Kilkenny tried to ambush a British Army convoy, at Coolbawn, between Castlecomer and Athy travelling with a mine. However the British were tipped off by a local woman, Florrie Draper. The British troops crept up on the ambushers and opened fire, killing two and injuring one. Ms Draper’s house is burned as a reprisal.[84]

– Three British officers, dressed in civilian clothes but carrying pistols, were captured near Fethard, Tipperary, by IRA Volunteers under Ernie O’Malley. O’Malley had them shot by firing squad at dawn the next day in reprisal for the execution of captured IRA men by the British.[85]

22 June 1921: King George V addressed the first session of the parliament of Northern Ireland, calling on “all Irishmen to pause, to stretch out the hand of forbearance and conciliation, to forgive and to forget, and to join in making for the land they love a new era of peace, contentment, and good will.”

23 June 1921: Over 1000 British troops mounted a sweep of the Millstreet area of County Cork.

– An IRA column was encircled by British forces in Ballycastle, County Mayo; one IRA man was killed and seven captured.

23 June 1921: IRA volunteers ambushed a troop train between Adavoyle and Jonesborough in County Armagh. A mine was exploded under the train, derailing it and killing four soldiers of the 10th Royal Hussar cavalry regiment, two drivers and 63 horses. British troops conducted a sweep of the area and shot dead one local man when he failed to stop when challenged. One source reports British casualties as 3 killed/1 DOW/4 injured.[36]

24 June 1921: The British Coalition Government’s Cabinet decided to propose talks with the leaders of Sinn Féin. Coalition Liberals and Unionists agreed that an offer to negotiate would strengthen the Government’s position if the revolutionaries refused. Austen Chamberlain, the new leader of the Unionist Party, said that “the King’s Speech ought to be followed up as a last attempt at peace before we go to full martial law”.

– The IRA mounted an attack on Grafton Street, central Dublin, killing two Auxiliaries.[86]

26 June 1921: IRA volunteers in Dublin killed Temporary Cadet William F. H. Hunt in the dining-room of the Mayfair Hotel on Baggot Street. Cadet Hunt had previously been a policeman in England, and his widow takes advantage of a loophole in British law to claim two pensions.

30 June 1921: The Pearson brothers were executed by an IRA firing squad at Coolacrease, County Offaly. They were seized while gathering hay and shot several times. They died from blood loss some six hours later, as no coup de grace was made. The family house was also burned out. There are conflicting versions of the incident. Some locals contend that the two men were killed for sectarian reasons and to steal their land. Others argue that the family were British informers and that they had fired at an IRA party some days before.

JUNE 1921:

– Four Catholic civilians were taken from their homes in Bessbrook and Altnaveigh, Armagh and shot dead by the B-Specials.

– The Dublin IRA attacked a cricket match involving British soldiers in Trinity College Dublin. One woman spectator was killed in the crossfire.

– The Dublin IRA carried out 93 attacks on British forces in the city in the course of the month.

– A reported deserter a Lt John Watts is captured and executed by the IRA near Rivertown County Sligo[87]


JULY 1921

 – 1 July 1921: Seven-man RIC patrol was ambushed by the IRA; the RIC had 4 casualties-2 RIC wounded and two RIC men were captured and later shot dead by IRA volunteers in Culleens, County Sligo.

4 July 1921 Local IRA Volunteers joined West Waterford Column under George Lennon in attack on Waterford-bound military train. After a fire fight of some 15 minutes the train smashed through the crossing gates. This was the last engagement between enemy forces and the Waterford Brigade Flying Column.

– 8 July, IRA man, Dennis Spriggs was taken from his home in Cork and killed by British forces

– 9 July 1921:Truce terms were signed in Dublin, to be effective on 11 July.

– Filling in a trenched area at Kilgobnet, just north of Dungarvan, six civilians were killed when a secretly buried British mine exploded. The device was reportedly planted on orders of Captain Thomas of the Dungarvan Buffs. Thomas had, earlier at the mid March Burgery Ambush, been captured and released on orders of Seoirise Plunkett, GHQ Officer

– 4 British Soldiers are captured and executed at Ellis Quarry, Cork City, County Cork by IRA.[90]

10 July 1921: Belfast’s Bloody Sunday The IRA mounted an ambush in Raglan Street in Belfast, killing two policemen. This sparked an outbreak of ferocious fighting between Catholics and Protestants in west Belfast in which 16 civilians (11 Catholics and 5 Protestants) lost their lives and 161 houses were destroyed.[91] Of the houses destroyed, 150 were Catholic. Four more civilians died in the shooting over the next two days.[92]

– A gunfight took place at Castleisland, County Kerry; five IRA volunteers and four British soldiers were killed and three British troops wounded in the action.

– An Auxiliary is wounded in a gun battle with two members of the east Mayo brigade at Ballaghaderreen.

11 July: The Truce. Actions commanded by IRA H.Q. ended in the south at midday under the Truce. Violence in Northern Ireland and unofficial violence in the south continue.

July 1921: County Kildare RIC Constable wounded-later retired and dies of wound 14 September 1922.


27 August 1921: A house in Belfast was bombed by loyalists. Over the next two days, two Protestants are killed by republican snipers.

30–31 August 1921: Eighteen people were killed during street battles in Belfast; nine Protestants and nine Catholics.[93]

64 Responses to Timeline of the Tans…

  1. Oooooh. Great! reads like the timeline in Lord of the Rings! Can’t wait to read more!


  2. dubmantalks says:

    Interesting chronology of a terrible time on this Island. I have read the book: Tan. Dave’s compelling story brings that dark period in southern Irish history to life. It was a period which scarred the lives of so many. Dave’s book is a gripping tale, which in good page turning style propels the reader, as witness, through the lives of its characters revealing in a masterful way, as the story unfolds, the unbearable tensions of the time.


  3. Ivan Lennon says:

    Curious as to where you unearthed info re my father George Lennon O/C W. Waterford A.S.U.


  4. The timeline is very helpful. Good idea.


  5. Deborah Kay says:

    Our Grandfather, Thomas Joseph Hogan of County Limerick along with his brother, Michael and thier sister, a nun, were at Caherguillamore on St. Stephen’s night and among those arrested, tried, and sent to Dartmoor for a 10 year penal servitude sentence. His handwritten account details the events of that night. He states he was taking his sister there for a night of fun with friends as a way to thank her for her good caretaking while he had been recovering from scarlet fever.


  6. helen broderick says:

    Is there any record of the black & tans being in Belfast?


  7. bridie fahy says:

    My father patrick fahy was a member of the ira in the 1920s [he would have been in his late teens early twenties]. and escaped the clutches of the black & tans by hiding in the hay field. He lived in the parish of abbeygormican / mullagh, east county galway. i would like to know more about that area from that era please. I would really like to know if anyone was injured or fatally wounded. I would really appreciate your help,


    • Hi Bridie, Your father may have applied for a pension for his service during the War of Independence. If he did then he would have had to fill in a form outlining the actions he was involved in. You might be able to get a copy of this from Dept of Defence Pensions
      Address: Finance Branch Aras an tSaile Renmore Co. Galway
      City of Galway
      Phone: (091)743824
      Alternatively, you could check with the Military Archives at Cathal Brugha Barracks, in Dublin for any possible reference to your father’s service. There is also an office at the National Archives, in Bishop St, Dublin, which might be of help. You could also check with the people at Volunteers.org (a very good website).

      I hope this helps in some small way. Good luck with your search.


  8. martin . says:

    Mary Creighton Wong
    21 January

    Wonder could anyone get info of the shooting in the gymnasium in cork in the 1920’of two ric policemen brothers surname Nixon thanks.


  9. Kirsty says:

    Is there anyone with any info on a Francis/Frank Kearns aged 18/19 from Loughrea who was shot and killed by the Black and Tans in 8 July 1922. This is a family story but I can”t find details anywhere. Any help would be great. kuirki@gmail.com


    • There’s a Francis Kearns mentioned in the index of a book called ‘They Put The flag a-Flyin’ (p331). That’s all I have. Not sure it will help, Kirsty


    • Michael O' Sullivan says:

      The truce with the British came into effect in July 1921 so its very unlikely it was the tans who did the shooting but this was during the Irish civil war. There is no record of a Francis Kearns having being shot in the civil war on either the pro or anti treaty sides.


    • Thomas Byrne says:

      He was my grannys youngest sibling, and was killed in a skirmish with Free State forces, there was a young Free state soldier from Dublin killed in the same skirmish.


  10. Pingback: Justice Irish in UK | northkerry

  11. Fred warner says:

    Any info on the Black and Tans entering carrick in Donegal ‘ looking for 3 men con Hegarty (cornelius) my grandfather along with Boyle and haugey


  12. Maureen Gibbons says:

    My great grandfather James Connolly Unshinagh, Kinlough, Co. Leitrim was shot
    by Capt E. Small, Bedfordshire Regiment on 14 September 1920. Along with RIC
    the British raided the house looking for Capt James Connolly his son who was in
    the 3rd Western Division IRA. James Connolly Senior aged 73 died the following
    day from gun shot wound and James Connolly Junior was lifted out of the house
    and brought to Belfast Jail. He was not afforded a chance to say goodbye to his
    father and was dragged bootless out of the house.


    • That’s terribly sad, Maureen, and, unfortunately, somewhat typical of the Tans. I have updated the Timeline to include this extra information that you have provided. Thanks for dropping by. – David


  13. perspiringpoet says:

    Fascinating stuff thanks – and I’m now looking forward to reading the novels! Re the Irish diaspora in Scotland people tend to think of Glasgow but Dundee where I was born and brought up had proportionately a larger Irish population many of whom like my forebears came post Famine to work in the Jute Mills. Albeit brutal these were no doubt preferable to a Coffin Ship across the Atlantic. James Connolly no less born and brought up in Edinburgh was resident in Dundee for a time and De Valera was a visitor. During the Easter Rising there were arrests for gun running and the Dundee Irish were hugely responsible for the downfall of Winston Churchill as MP in November 1922. He described his opponents as ‘Fenian Lions with Communist Teeth’.

    Today the city has a large student population at the two Universities and considerable numbers of them come from Ireland – which I would like to think is a sign of progress!
    P.S. ‘Scotland and the Easter Rising’ (Luath Press) is well worth a read!


  14. Michael O' Sullivan says:

    This is wonderful history.There is a mistake for entry,May 12,1921.Four volunteers were held up by tans at Gortaglanna.Three were killed namely Welsh,Lyons and Dalton. The fourth man named Dee escaped with a leg wound.He later emigrated and died in Chicago in 1967. The Tans were supposedly drunk and had no reason to kill the unarmed men.The RIC station in Listowel was not burned until August 1922 in the civil war


  15. Don O'Connell says:

    Were the four volunteers shot by the tans armed at the time. Unarmed they were merely civilians Creditable history would distinguish between civilians and combatants under arms. Shooting unarmed civilians is utterly wrong however shooting at armed enemies is just war.


  16. I agree that shooting unarmed civilians is wrong. I also agree that to shoot unarmed volunteers is wrong. However, I don’t agree with the notion of unarmed vounteers being the equivalent of civilians; they are not. That’s would be akin to saying that unarmed soldiers are civilians, which is not the case.


  17. Don O'Connell says:

    An unarmed volunteer is a civilian as he is not in uniform. A fairly critical distinction in a guerrilla war.


    • The fact that someone does not wear a uniform does not necessarily make them a civilian. That is why spies have been executed down through the years. Also, Volunteers swore an oath to do their utmost to secure a democratic Irish Republic. The very fact that they took such an oath places them in a different category to civilians, who did not take that oath. That’s my view anyway. I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree, Don


  18. Don O'Connell says:

    Yes, no problem we will disagree with respect intact.


    • Kirsty says:

      Hi Don,

      I hope you’re having a good day.
      I have to also hope you know that you’re wrong in this instance.
      The guy was giving you a nice way out because you are not even trying to understand.
      Just so you know.


      • Thanks for the comment,Kirsty 🙂


      • Don O'Connell says:

        The Belfast note. For goodness sake Its nearly a hundred years ago. Please dignify the the story as the history it truly is


      • Don, I’m more than happy to improve this blog and will take on any constructive suggestions and information. I believe that we can all benefit when that approach is taken Your comment, though, is somewhat vague and, dare I say it, tinged with acrimony. If you’d care to elaborate, I’d appreciate it, but I’m not here to be kicked, prodded and reprimanded.


  19. Don O'Connell says:

    I was replying to an E-Mail from a Kirsty. My reply was directed at the veiled hint in that missive. It was never in any way, intended to adversely reflect on your excellent presentation of a most interesting period of history.


  20. Fair enough, Don. That was my mistake.Thanks for taking the time to look at my blog. I will point out that I am by no means an historian, nor do I style myself as one, merely an enthusiast for the subject. I appreciate your comments. Regards, David


  21. Kirsty says:

    Hi again, Don.

    Your comments are barely making sense. I’ll happily reply to you if you can explain what you mean further. You’re trying way too hard.
    This website is a great source of information and very well written.
    I contested that you were wrong on what a civilian is. And you’re still wrong. Simple as that. You could try Google instead of arguing with an author on something you clearly aren’t educated on.


  22. Gerry Corcoran says:

    a great read, but you mentioned twice that piltown was in waterford piltown is in kilkenny


  23. Mary says:

    RS Murray-White was injured on 14 April 1920 (see Hansard). As far as I know he was not with Black and Tans, but do you know this or anything else of his involvement in Ireland in 1920-1921?



    David, Are there any stories of the black and tans being shot on a farm owned by the Mitchel family living in Limerick during this time? The family story goes that the B/T were extorting money and came to my family farm to retrieve it. One of the sons told them to come back and when they did, that son shot both. One was killed the other ran off. The Mitchel family sold the farm and ran to Canada.


  25. The Duffins killed in Belfast were not republican activists. It was a case of mistaken identity. Nearby lived the Dobbyns, who were.


  26. laurence Barron says:

    What an informative site My father was captured attending a fundraising dance at Cahergilamore & was transported to prison in Dartmoor then later to a prisoner of war detonated Center in Wales prior to his realise
    I have heard whispers of the treatment they got in prison Beatings rape etc by prison wardens
    Not a lot different treatment to prisoners of war elsewhere but at least they didn’t have to eat rice or learn how to use chopstick
    My fathers name John Barron. East Limerick Brigade
    Got his Bar & Medal. &a pension about 1950


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