One of the largest ambushes of the War of Independence took place at Rathcoole, North Cork, situated between Millstreet and Banteer, on 16th. June 1921.
The railway line between Banteer and Millstreet had been cut in several places so the Auxiliary forces based at Millstreet had to travel to Banteer by road for their supplies a couple of times every week. Therefore, a combined force of 130 men were mobilised to attack the Auxiliaries as they returned from Banteer. The volunteers were from the Millstreet, Kanturk, Newmarket, Charleville and Mallow battalion columns in the second division area and were under the command of Paddy O’Brien from Liscarroll.
On the night before the ambush the I.R.A. volunteers slept at Rathcoole Wood, which overlooked the planned ambush position. Shortly after sunrise the following morning, Captain Dan Vaughan laid six landmines on the [read more …] “The Rathcoole Ambush”
On this day March 5th 1921, the IRA ambushed a British army convoy near Clonbanin, near Derinagree, killing Brigadier General H. R. Cumming, one of the highest ranked British officers to die in the Irish War of Independence. After two hours fighting, 13 (apparently) British were dead, and 15 wounded, while the republicans suffered no casualties.
In early March, 1921 Sean Moylan, Commandant of the Newmarket Column, made the decision to ambush a British party of senior officers and their military guard returning from an inspection tour in Kerry. The position he selected was at Clonbanin, near Derinagree, which was about five miles from Kanturk, where there was a strong military post and five miles north of Millstreet, then garrisoned by a force of Black and Tans and RIC.
At 3 a.m. on the morning of the 3rd. March, Moylan’s column moved out for Clonbanin and was in position by 6 a.m. They were joined by a section of [read more …] “Clonbanin Ambush”
Towards the end of 1920 nine members of the Millstreet battalion whose names were on the ‘murder list’ of the Tans, formed a flying squad or small flying column. The late Jeremiah Crowley was in charge of this body of men and under his direction training in military operations was carried out. The squad was reinforced considerably later on, and an effective column of close on forty men was formed. On the night of 3 January 1921, the squad, which then consisted of nine men all told arrived in Rathmore. The late Con Murphy, having arranged billets, went home to his father’s house in Ballydaly – a quarter of a mile from the nearest house where the squad was in billets. At about nine o’clock on the morning of 4 January, the scouts protecting the squad reported the presence of a considerable force of military and Royal Irish Constabulary raiding in Ballydaly. The little squad immediately got into a position of defence. Retreat was out of the question as the only way out was [read more …] “The Execution of Captain Con Murphy”
Phase 1 of the long awaited Old IRA/Military Pension record set is now available for free online searching at MilitaryArchives.ie (Jan 16th 2014). Phase 1 includes details of 3,200 individual pension applicants, including 2,400 recipients of pensions in respect of the 1916 Easter Rising.
We have found three files of local interest: One Rathcoole man involved in the Mutiny of India 1920, and two men who were sent to the Millstreet 4th Batallion and were active in Rathcoole / Drishane / Clonbanin ambushes. These are outlined below.
It is disappointing that so few local records were released, so if you were looking for a relatives application (like me) you’ll have to wait a little longer. The rest of the collection, which, in total, holds some 300,000 files relating to 60,000 pension applicants, will be released in ‘regular phases’ leading up to 2016.
In late 1920 Millstreet I.R.A. were considering the viability of an attack being made on British troops who frequently used rail transport while travelling through their battalion area. Various plans were made and men were put in position on a number of occasions during January 1921, but for various reasons a projected attack failed to materialise. Subsequently the column, under Commandant Jeremiah Crowley, re-examined the feasibility of the proposals.
The essential features for the success of any such attack were that the train containing the troops should be brought to a halt at a point where the column was already in a position, that an attack should be made only on an occasion when the troops travelling were armed, and where the party was neither too small to be worth while or too large to risk the failure of the operation. There was the further point that civilian passengers on the train had to be protected as far as possible from injuries. Trains travelling east or west were both potential targets. A position was selected at Drishanebeg about a mile west of Rathcoole station [a], between Millstreet and Banteer. On a few occasions the trains were allowed to pass unmolested, because the soldiers they carried were unarmed, but finally on the evening of 11 February, 1921 the attack came off.
About 6.30 p.m. when it was nearly dark the column went into position. The plan which had been made for bringing the train to a halt came into operation. One of the volunteers, whose duty it was to inspect the train and board it if it contained a suitable party of British forces, this evening saw that the party of troops travelling was such as could be dealt with by the column. He boarded the train and travelled to Rathcoole where two armed Volunteers were waiting. At his signal they boarded the engine as the train was leaving the station and on arrival at the ambush position forced the driver to halt the train. A long whistle blast was blown as a pre-arranged signal to the attacking party. A lighted bicycle-lamp placed on the track indicated the exact position at which the engine should stop.
The Column Commander called upon the military in the train to surrender but was answered by rifle shots. Fire was then opened upon the carriages containing the military party and the battle continued for about fifteen minutes. The slopes of the cutting were lit by oil torches prepared in advanced by the column and thrown down outside the target carriages at the beginning of the encounter. The fight was one-sided from the start, the attackers having the advantage of cover and darkness. When the British surrendered one had been killed and most of the others were wounded.
The column members collected fifteen rifles and a large quantity of ammunition and withdrew from the scene without suffering a single casualty. – Cork’s War of Independence
[a] “Drishanebeg about a mile west of Rathcoole station” This should probably read a mile east of Millstreet Station.