• September 1, 2013


Plans to revamp the Kilmichael Ambush site in Co Cork where the IRA decisively engaged and wipe-out a squad of the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) Auxiliary division have caused outrage when it became apparent that the role of the RIC in the action was to be enhanced with a memorial to the eighteen auxiliaries who died. The plans for such a memorial at the site have since been denied but suspicions that the site development would, in a historical sense, be revisionist have been heightened by the fact that a replica Crossley tender was to be included. (The Crossley tender was a small military vehicle manufactured by the Crossley, later AEC, motor company in the UK which could carry 9/10 men and was extensively utilised by the Auxiliary division of the RIC).

The Irish branch of the Celtic League has expressed its concern to planning authorities in Ireland about any attempt to rewrite the history of the Kilmichael site to give an enhanced role to those members of the RIC who were killed.

The Editor of the League journal Carn has also said the matter will feature in the next issue of the magazine and other League branches are expected to voice concern.

Kilmichael, although in relative terms a small engagement, has huge significance in the context of the War of Independence. Up until the action the RIC Auxiliary division and their fellow para-military police wing of the RIC (the so called `Black and Tans’) had ranged through Ireland with apparent impunity committing all manner of atrocities.

The Kilmichael ambush which came just one week after the `Bloody Sunday’ attacks in Dublin when the IRA eliminated the keys elements of the British Intelligence services demonstrated to the British that whilst they might contain the independence struggle they would not defeat it and an increasingly efficient IRA would cause them significant losses.

Kilmichael also has a unique resonance in the context of the independence war because of the range of security forces deployed (Regular British Army, Regular RIC, Dublin Metropolitan Police, Black and Tans and Auxiliary Division) the Auxiliaries Division or `Auxies’ as they were known were the worst of a bad lot. Whilst all elements of the security forces committed atrocities it was the Auxiliaries who excelled at beatings, robbery, arson and murder.

As the war of independence progressed it became clear to the British government that the existing security forces were inadequate to meet the perceived threat. The Regular Army was being used extensively to guard strategic buildings and infrastructure and the RIC charged with policing what the British saw as an insurrection were proving ineffectual. In January 1920 as part of an attempt to bolster the RIC the British government advertised in British Cities for men willing to “face a rough and dangerous task”, as temporary constable of the RIC. There was no shortage of recruits, many of them former First World War unemployed army veterans. By November 1921 almost 10,000 men had been recruited. This sudden expansion of the police led to a shortage of RIC uniforms, and the new recruits were issued with khaki army uniforms (usually only trousers) and dark green RIC or blue British police surplus tunics, caps and belts. The uniform mishmash led to the new temporary constables being christened `Black and Tans’ a name that persisted even after regulation RIC uniforms was issued.

Within three months of the recruitment of the `Black and Tans’ it became apparent that the police were still incapable of fulfilling there role. As a result during a Cabinet meeting in May 1920, the Secretary of State for War, Winston Churchill, who just weeks earlier had approved the `Black and Tan’ expansion suggested the formation of a “Special Emergency Gendarmerie, which would become a branch of the Royal Irish Constabulary.”

Churchill’s proposal was initially rejected by General Sir Nevil Macready, Commander-in-Chief of the British forces in Ireland. However the plan was revived two months later, in July 1920.

The Auxiliary Division as it was called were termed `temporary cadets’ they were paid appreciable more (twice) pay than the RIC and they were to function solely in a `counter insurgency’ role and be highly mobile (hence the equipment of the Division with Crossley motor vehicles).

By November 1920 almost 1000 had been deployed operating in Companies about 100 men strong, heavily armed and highly mobile each company had 7 Crossley tenders and two ford touring cars occasionally these were augmented by armoured cars. Weaponry consisted of Winchester repeating rifles, Lewis machine guns and small arms. Their operations were concentrated in the south and west of the country.

They committed many atrocities (see Pathe News clip below) such as the burning of houses and the ill treatment of civilians in Balbriggan.


They literally got away with murder (see Pathe News clip below).


The wedding party above included in its number a particular officer called Captain William Lorraine King, DCM, MC & Bar, Commanding Officer (CO) of “F” Company ADRIC Dublin Castle, to some IRA members he was their most feared officer. He had been involved in some controversial incidents and was also tried for murder along with two other Auxiliary Cadets in which he and the other Auxiliary Cadets were found not guilty. The background to this is that James Murphy and Patrick Kennedy were arrested by Auxiliaries in Dublin and were in the custody of ‘F’ company. Two hours later, constables of the Dublin Metropolitan Police found the two men lying shot, with pails on their heads, in Clonturk Park, Drumcondra, Kennedy was dead, and Murphy was dying. Murphy died in Mater Hospital, Dublin on 11 February, but just before dying James Murphy testified that King had taken them and stated that they were just going for a drive.

Captain W L King, commanding officer of F Company ADRIC, was arrested for the killings. King and two of his men, Hinchcliffe and Welsh were court-martialled on 13-15 February, but acquitted, after Murphy’s dying declaration was ruled inadmissible, and two officers from F Company provided perjured alibis for Captain King at the time of the shootings.

Perhaps the most grotesque example of a reprisal killing committed by either the `Black and Tans’ or Auxiliaries during the War of Independence were the killings of Patrick and Harry Loughnane, two IRA Volunteers who were killed by members of D Company of the RIC’s Auxiliary Division in November 1920. The Loughnane brothers were arrested in daylight at their family home at Shanaglish, Co. Galway on the 26th November 1920. Their partially burned and mutilated bodies were discovered in a pond near Ardrahan on 5th December that year.

The two brothers had been tied to the back of an R.I.C. lorry and forced to run behind it until they collapsed from exhaustion and were dragged along the road. Both of Pat’s wrists, legs and arms were broken. His skull was fractured and there were diamond shaped wounds, resembling the cap badge worn by the RIC Auxiliaries, carved into his torso. Harry’s body was missing two fingers; his right arm was broken and nearly severed from his body. Nothing was left of Harry’s face except for his chin and lips. A doctor who examined the Loughnane’s bodies stated that the cause of death was “laceration of the skull and the brain.” Photographs of the brothers’ bodies at the time of their discovery show the horrific injuries they suffered. The same month that the Loughnane brothers were killed, members of the RIC in Galway also killed a pregnant woman and a Catholic priest.

Many suspected IRA men and civilians were taken into custody (See Pathe News clip below – note the hooding/blindfolding used later by the British Army in Ulster and outlawed by the ECHR) at best they could expect a beating, at worst death.


After the Kilmichael ambush the British security forces were given new more draconian powers and just two weeks later burned the centre of Cork following a similar attack on an Auxiliary squad by the IRA (see Wiki link below).


The RIC Auxiliary Divisions operations were short-lived, fully operational by September 1920 they were disbanded and left Ireland by end January 1922 just over 2000 men served with the Division (See first section of this Pathe News clip below)


However some put the brutal skills they had honed in Ireland to the further service of the British Crown going on to serve in the Palestine Police.

J B Moffatt (Mr)
Director of Information


For comment or clarification on this news item in the first instance contact:

General Secretary, Celtic League:


The General Secretary will determine the appropriate branch or General Council Officer to respond to your query.

(Please note that replies to correspondence received by the League and posted on CL News are usually scanned hard copies. Obviously every effort is made to ensure the scanning process is accurate but sometimes errors do occur.)


The Celtic League has branches in the six Celtic Countries. It works to promote cooperation between these countries and campaigns on a broad range of political, cultural and environmental matters. It highlights human rights abuse, monitors all military activity and focuses on socio-economic issues

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