Monday, August 15, 2011
Photo of the Day
I took this photo during my recent journey through Co Cork. Since I was spending the night in Macroom I decided to drive the ten mile or so to view the above monument which marks the spot of a ferocious gunfight in 1920, in which 20 people were killed. On the 28th of November 1920, two trucks carrying 18 members of Royal Irish Constabulary, Auxiliary Division (which consisted of former British Naval, Air and Army officers) left Macrooom and headed for Dunmanway. They were ambushed just outside the village of Kilmichael by 36 IRA men led by flying column commander and former British soldier Tom Barry. In the savage fighting that followed seventeen of the eighteen Auxiliaries were killed as were three IRA men. The ambush was seen by many as revenge for the Auxiliary attack on Croke Park which occurred one week previously and led to the deaths of 14 civilians. The British themselves would retaliate one week later by burning Cork City center to the ground. The ambush itself would be the source of much controversy because it was claimed in later years that the Auxiliaries had attempted to surrender and that it was not accepted. Tom Barry in his 1949 book Guerrilla days in Ireland claimed that the men in the second truck had attempted to surrender but on doing so opened fire on the three IRA men who had stepped forward to disarm them. Barry claims these were the only fatal casualties incurred by the IRA during the engagement. He then openly admits that he ordered his men to resume fire and not to accept any further calls for surrender. The one surviving auxiliary was not in a position to verify as he was severely wounded early in the ambush. Another Auxiliary did escape the ambush site but was killed some hours later by local IRA. Some historians appear obsessed with finding out the truth about the ambush and the false surrender claim. I am not as I believe it is academic. If anything the fact that it remains controversial to this day indicates to me that the IRA of the day (1919-21) did for the most part obey the rules of war.