The River Lee and the Republican Armoured Cars of the Irish Civil War

A Peerless armoured car in Cork, 1922.

By Anthony Barrett

When the artillery of the Provincial Government’s National Army opened fire on the Four Courts on the morning of the 28th of June 1922, their anti-Treaty IRA opponents were ill-prepared for a lengthy conventional war. Chief-of-Staff Liam Lynch and his officers immediately fled the capital for the south, where they held most of the province of Munster.

To defend a frontline stretching from Limerick to Waterford, they attempted to build up a cohesive Republican army from the disparate guerrilla columns of the IRA’s First Southern Division. Along with its artillery, the greatest advantage that the National Army held over them was its fleet of armoured cars, given over to the Free State by evacuating Crown forces.

Along with its artillery, the greatest advantage that the National Army held over them was its fleet of armoured cars

Armoured vehicles had developed during the First World War as a means of moving troops forward in the face of increasingly lethal small arms and artillery fire and providing mobile fire support. In Ireland, Crown forces had used them extensively in the War of independence from 1919-1921 to protect vulnerable columns from ambush, particularly useful were the more mobile armoured cars rather than the cumbersome tanks that had been developed for trench warfare. In the early days of the Civil War, armoured vehicles proved invaluable to pro-Treaty forces as a means of taking fortified positions.

The pro-Treaty forces armoured fleet comprised of fourteen single-turret Rolls-Royce armoured cars (the most famous of these, ARR2 Sliabh na mBan, still survives in the Curragh Military Museum), seven large twin-turreted Peerless and over one hundred Lancia armoured lorries. To counter these, Lynch ordered the engineers of Cork First Brigade’s Transport Section to construct a fleet of improvised armoured vehicles of their own design.

What resulted was the legendary River Lee; a great leviathan of a coal lorry armoured all over with plates of iron. The pride of Cork First Brigade engineers, it was less appreciated by the crews who manned it in the fighting. Nevertheless, it lived long in the memories of all who saw it thunder into action in 1922 and years later many tales were told of it in the memoirs of the war veterans. During a lengthy battle career spanning most of the Civil War, it took on the National Army in engagements from Limerick to Bantry. The River Lee stands out as a story of ingenuity and determination, but ultimately too of the futility of this internecine conflict.


Jim Gray

IRA guerrillas, in this case from the Cork No. 1 Brigade.

The task of constructing the improvised armoured cars was given to the Director of Munitions in the new Republican Army, the remarkable Jim Gray. During the War of Independence, with his brother Miah he ran a very successful garage at Barrackton, just opposite the gates of Victoria Barracks in Cork. His business was patronised by a clientele of wealthy Cork citizens, loyalist officials and military transport officers from the barracks, and the RIC even gave him a firearms licence to protect it from IRA attacks.

Yet all the while this premises was a front for the main depot of Cork First Brigade IRA’s Transport Section which Gray headed up, where military equipment was stored and stolen vehicles were disguised before being moved on to secret dumps. His staff were all active IRA volunteers.

As well as being an extremely gifted and daring driver, Gray had a passion for stealing cars to augment the brigade’s fleet of vehicles, and by the Truce of July 1921 he had amassed about fifty cars, lorries and motorbikes, all hidden in secret dumps throughout the brigade’s territory.

Republican Jim Gray built improvised armoured cars for anti-Treaty forces using steel plate mounted on heavy trucks

His most audacious theft was of a Crossley tender, which he took from its crew at gunpoint outside the Great Southern & Western train station in Cork with his colleague Sean Cody. Though immediately chased out the Glanmire Road by another tender carrying a fully armed section of soldiers, he managed to evade his pursuers and safely conceal his prize.

Gray had already built an armoured car during the truce period. With the brigade’s consent and drawing on the extensive knowledge and skills of IRA volunteers from UCC’s engineering department and from those working at engineering firms around Cork Harbour, he set about realizing an ambition to build a bullet-proof vehicle.

Expensive spring steel plate was purchased in Bristol and given a specialized heat treatment at the Fordson Factory on the Marina. At an engineering workshop in Rushbrooke Docks, the plating was tested and then mounted on the chassis of the Crossley tender stolen from the train station. A/C No. 1, his first armoured car, was unveiled to the nation in a most dramatic fashion in March 1922 when it was driven to Dublin at the head of a fleet of thirty cars bringing the officers of the First Southern Division to the IRA Convention in the Mansion House.

Free State troops in a Roll Royce armoured car in Sligo.

With the outbreak of Civil War, Gray was given the authority to commandeer resources from engineering premises all over Cork city to build armoured cars, but very demanding deadlines were imposed upon his men.

The engineering workshop in the Dairy Supply Engineering Company on Leitrim Street was taken over as his main munitions factory and here his engineers began to build A/C No. 2 on the chassis of a four-ton Dennis lorry.

It appears that this was intended to have a rotating turret like the Rolls-Royce, but it was never brought to completion. Clearly his engineers now had little time or resources to develop high quality armoured plate like that on the Crossley. A/C No. 3 was built on the chassis of a four-ton Karrier lorry and, according to Cork Fifth Brigade’s Mossie Donegan, was covered with heavy inch-thick iron plate, not steel. This would become the famous River Lee.

A/C No. 4 was built on the chassis of a three-ton Lancia truck and, according to Kerry First Brigade’s John Joe Rice, it was plated with steel shutters taken from the windows of RIC barracks. After a few weeks of intensive work, A/C No. 3 and A/C No. 4 were completed, then hastily despatched to Limerick to defend against the advance of the National Army.[1]


Defending Limerick

National Army troops firing an 18 lb field gun during the fighting in Co. Limerick in July 1922. (Picture courtesy of IFI)

During the opening days of the Civil War, the Crossley armoured car, driven by Sean Cody and with Dan Healy manning its Lewis machine gun, was immediately sent into action to support Republican columns from Cork and Kerry as they scrambled to take over barracks in the towns of County Limerick from pro-Treaty IRA. It was then based at New Barracks in Limerick.[2]

Both the National Army and the republicans established garrisons in Limerick city, and to avoid the outbreak of all-out war in the south Liam Lynch brokered a truce with Limerick National Army commander Michael Brennan on the 7th of July. The republicans continued to assemble a fighting force drawn from their First Division brigade columns under the overall command of General Liam Deasy and his staff, though each unit still retained its leadership and personnel from the former guerrilla campaign.

Their National Army opponents were not much more professional, comprising units of hastily recruited troops given little training and few uniforms. However, their distinct advantage in armoured vehicles and artillery would soon become apparent.

Brennan used the truce to secretly build up his forces in Limerick, and from the 11th of July his men began to attack republican positions throughout the city. The Crossley armoured car took part in numerous clashes along its streets as the republicans fought to regain control of them. On the 13th of July it rode out from New Barracks to support a republican column whose orders were to establish a defensive post at Roches Corner.

Limerick city saw the first clash of the armoured cars on both sides

They were soon counter-attacked by a National Army force which included a large Peerless twin-turreted armoured car, in probably the first clash of the Civil War between rival armoured vehicles. The republicans prevailed on this occasion and the National Army withdrew. The republican armoured car came out from New Barracks again on a few other occasions to attack fortified National Army positions in the city centre, but each time it was driven off by heavy defensive fire.[3]

After a week of intense fighting across the city, on the 20th of July National Army reinforcements arrived with an 18-pounder artillery gun, the weapon which decisively swung the battle in their favour. Shelling throughout the day destroyed the republican-held Strand Barracks and the barracks blocks within Limerick Castle, demoralising the republicans. That evening, Lynch ordered the entire republican garrison in the city to evacuate the city to a new defensive line with its headquarters at Kilmallock.

A few days later at their new headquarters in Ash Hill Towers, a grand castellated mansion on the outskirts of the town, the republicans received delivery from Cork of the newly built River Lee and the Lancia armoured car, driven respectively by Billy Barry and John O’Driscoll, both key members of Cork First Brigade’s Transport Section. These were quick and dirty, ugly war machines, remarkable to all who saw them, but it was the sheer intimidating bulk of the River Lee which left the greatest impression on the republican fighters – Jamie Moynihan from Ballyvourney famously described it as cruising around Kilmallock looking like a labourer’s cottage.

On the 23rd of July the Crossley armoured car, commanded by Kerry Second Brigade’s Con O’Leary, Kilmallock Director of Operations, and crewed by Cody and Healy, took part in an attack on a forward National Army post in a farmhouse at Thomastown, on the road between Charleville and Kilmallock.

The post eventually surrendered and their republican captives were released. Among these was a young despatch driver from Cork named Mick O’Donovan, still smarting from having been captured on his very first day of active service while carrying important despatches from General Deasy. Years later he achieved renown writing under the pseudonym of Frank O’Connor and he wrote about this incident in his famous memoirs An Only Child. To him the improvised armoured car looked an improbably ridiculous fighting vehicle, but he noted that it did intimidate the enemy defenders.[4]


Into Battle at Bruree

Free State troops fend off an ambush in Co Limercik.

The advancing National Army had seized the village of Bruree from the republicans by the 30th of July, causing them much concern for it was the next town to their Kilmallock headquarters.

In the great gothic hall of Ash Hill Towers, they hurriedly planned a daring attack to win it back. Early on the morning of the 2nd of August two armoured cars dashed out from Kilmallock, each accompanied by a column of troops in trucks. They were commanded by Con O’Leary and Mossie Donegan, the Cork Fifth Brigade column commander from Bantry.

One, most likely the River Lee, was armed with two Lewis light machine guns, while the other, likely the Lancia, had just the Thompson submachine guns and the rifles held by its crew (in their pension applications made years later, neither Cody nor Healy claim to have fought at Bruree in the Crossley).[5] The resulting action at Bruree epitomized the chaos of the conventional fighting phase of the Civil War in Limerick.

When the vehicles entered the village, the sentry stationed at the western bridge thought them to be Free State armour and waived them on. He was quickly captured before the alarm was raised. The first armoured car then stormed straight for the post in the schoolhouse at the western end of the village, smashed into its door and blasted at its windows with machine guns.

A column of republican troops surrounded the building and opened fire. After a short fight, the surprised pro-Treaty troops inside surrendered. After attacking the post in the Railway Hotel, the second armoured car then sped down Mill Road towards the post in Bruree Lodge, a big house to the south of the village, the home of County High Sheriff John Roche Browning. The garrison within, doubtlessly stunned by the strange vehicle before them, did not even respond to its initial attack.

A republican column of troops advanced from a nearby wood and then a lengthy battle ensued, until the republicans withdrew to attack other posts in the village. However, when the first armoured car and its column renewed the attack on Bruree Lodge, as it lumbered up the lane towards the house, its engine cut out and the great vehicle stalled.

Their armoured cars enabled the republicans to advance under fire, but often broke down while in action.

One of its crew, a volunteer of just seventeen from Listowel named Charlie O’Hanlon, leapt out and began to crank the starter handle. The garrison in the lodge, apparently recognising his youth and reckless bravery, held their fire.

According to Siobhan Lankford’s version of this story, an officer inside the lodge ordered one of his men to open fire. The National Army soldier flatly refused, claiming that he could not shoot such a brave young lad. The officer just threw his eyes to heaven and walked off. The armoured car roared into life again and thundered up to the lodge door, followed by its column of troops. O’Hanlon joined a storming party firing on the windows but was hit by a defender from within and collapsed.

The storming party withdrew, except for one who stayed to drag O’Hanlon to the safety of the armoured car. One of the defenders within the lodge cried “an act of mercy!” and they all held their fire as the young casualty was carried back to the car. The armoured car rallied again, but soon after left the fight to bring O’Hanlon to a First Aid station. The brave young volunteer from Listowel died of his wounds two days later.[6]

The armoured cars were then called to join in the attack on another National Army post at a mill, but soon after this large numbers of National Army reinforcements led by General Seamus Hogan reached the village, and the republicans were forced to retreat. Mossie Donegan, who rode in the River Lee that morning, remembered the terribly uncomfortable conditions within it.

As it lacked by necessity ventilation ports, it was stiflingly warm inside, and its crew stood firing furiously on the enemy through tiny ports on its flanks. While it was covering the general republican withdrawal, the River Lee was suddenly attacked by the Rolls-Royce ARR6 The Customs House, commanded by General Hogan himself. Its heavy Vickers machine gun proved too powerful for the River Lee, which quickly withdrew. Donegan remembers one of bullets from The Customs House entering through a firing port and ricocheting around inside the iron cabin of the River Lee. The republican armoured cars sped back to Kilmallock with The Customs House in hot pursuit, until its gun jammed and Hogan gave up the chase.[7]


In The Battle for Douglas

A Free State armoured car is loaded on a ship bound for Cork.

The republican efforts to hold the northern front of the territory they controlled in Munster faltered after the National Army invaded by sea at Fenit near Tralee on the 2nd of August and then Passage West near Cork on the 8th of August, forcing the Kerry and Cork columns to be withdrawn from Limerick to defend their own counties.

The republican armoured cars were ordered back to Rochestown to counter the National Army advance from Passage West towards Douglas. The National Army had landed their own armoured vehicles, a twin-turreted Peerless, the Rolls-Royce ARR5 The Manager and a Lancia armoured lorry.

During three days of what was perhaps the most extensive fighting of the entire war, a series of fierce clashes between rival armoured vehicles took place along the roads around Rochestown, Maryborough and Douglas. By the morning of the 10th of August, the National Army advanced to the southern outskirts of Douglas Village, where a lengthy battle took place in the vicinity of The Finger Post. The Peerless and The Manager were held at bay here by firing from a republican armoured car which prowled the roads around Douglas West Village (likely Cody and Healy in the Crossley).[8]

By mid-morning the republican defenders of the village were ordered to evacuate, and the gunfire died down considerably. The Peerless slowly advanced into Douglas Village unchallenged, and parked up near O’Driscoll’s Public House. As its crew were getting out, the republican armoured car suddenly appeared from around O’Driscoll’s Corner.

On encountering its intimidating National Army rival, it immediately reversed and sped back down Church Road. The crew of the Peerless hastily climbed on board and chased after it with their machine guns blazing.

This action was seen by Cumann na mBan scout Kathleen Murray from the opposite end of Church Road, and she signalled frantically to republican volunteer William Kelleher, lying near the bridge at the northern end of Douglas West Village with a mine detonator to hand. The republican armoured car raced over the bridge, which moments later was blown apart in a great explosion, bringing the pursuing Peerless to a sudden halt on the road behind in a cloud of dust and debris.[9]

After two days of hard fighting, the republican defence of Cork city had collapsed and a chaotic evacuation to Macroom. One of their armoured cars was abandoned.

By evening the republican defence of Cork city had collapsed and a chaotic evacuation to Macroom ensued before National Army units reached the city centre. The republican armoured cars were ordered back to Ballincollig Barracks. Here one of the vehicles, worn out from weeks of fighting, was abandoned at the side of the road in the middle of the village, just west of the main gates of the barracks, where it was seen by a reporter from the Cork Examiner a few days later, with ‘Cork No. 1’ still emblazoned on its flank.[10]

The other two joined the fleet of all manner of motorized transport pressed into service to ferry the retreating republican volunteers and their equipment west to Macroom Castle. After a week, the republican forces moved again en masse to the mountainous country between Ballyvourney and Ballingeary. The River Lee then came under the control of the Eighth (Ballyvourney) Battalion and was kept by their Ballingeary company in the vicinity of Gougane Barra.[11]

It is probably from this period that the famous nickname was given to this ungainly war lorry. Jim Gray and his associates, by all accounts a gang of hard men, came back to Ballingeary with it. The fate of the final armoured car is unclear, lost to history in the general confusion of this chaotic time. Presumably it was hidden in a secret dump somewhere out west and was never brought into service again.

In the days after the National Army took over Cork, they quickly uncovered Jim Gray’s extensive network of commandeered engineering works across the city. They raided the Dairy Supply Engineering Company, and the accompanying Press were astonished at the extent of the republican munitions factory here. Following the careful disposal of live munitions, the unfinished chassis of A/C No. 2, the four-ton Dennis lorry, was seized along with components for revolving turrets, and all was scrapped.[12]


With the Republican Guerrillas in the Fight for West Cork


A National Army checkpoint at Rochestown.

By the end of August, all the towns in Cork were occupied by National Army garrisons. The First Southern Division officers resolved to fight on in a destructive guerrilla campaign, intending to force the Free State to call off the war or even withdraw, as the British had done the year before.

The brigades of the division were ordered to embark on a campaign against the pro-Treaty forces, which included hit and run attacks, sabotage and destruction of roads and railways, but also, on occasion, several large-scale attacks on the towns within their territory.

The first of these took place on the 30th of August, when Cork Fifth Brigade launched a major attack on Bantry. They managed to capture most of the town and a significant amount of munitions and prisoners, but at the cost of four of their men killed, including Brigade Commander Gibbs Ross.

Next to be attacked was the town of Macroom, by Cork First Brigade on the 2nd of September. The republicans had intended to use the River Lee to storm National Army posts at the Castle and the Union Workhouse, but it suffered a breakdown and could not be deployed.

The National Army’s Lancia armoured lorry meanwhile remained continuously in action throughout the attack, bringing troops in from outlying posts and patrolling the barricades that blocked the roads at the perimeter of the town. Its presence prevented republican columns from entering the town to launch attacks on the barracks. After eight hours of firing on buildings from the surrounding hills, the republicans withdrew emptyhanded.[13]

National Army GHQ countered the town attacks by sending south reinforcements and Lancia armoured lorries by ship from Dublin. On the 5th of September Brigadier-General Sean Hales from Bandon sailed into Kinsale harbour on a ship carrying a fleet of Lancia’s destined for the towns in West Cork, and these were later used extensively in the fighting against his former comrades.[14]

The importance of their last remaining armoured car was now recognized by the republicans, as it would be vital in any further town attacks to take on the enemy’s armour. However, it was not Free State armoured cars but the notoriously bad roads of West Cork that proved to be the undoing of the River Lee.

The ‘River Lee’ armoured vehicle broke down on the bad roads of West Cork

Kerry Second Brigade officers convinced the Cork Eighth (Ballyvourney) Battalion to bring the River Lee over to Kenmare for an attack on that town, planned for the second weekend in September. On the way to Kenmare it sunk down to its axles in a boggy road and had to be towed back to Ballingeary. The attack went ahead anyway on the 9th of September and was a major success for the republicans, though mainly because much of its garrison were away that day on a sweep towards Donaghmore.[15]

The following weekend Liam Deasy, First Southern Division commander, planned a large-scale attack of his own on Bandon. The Cork Third Brigade column were reinforced by columns from Cork First Brigade’s Third (Killumney) Battalion and Eighth Battalion, who were expected to bring their armoured car, but on the night of the attack it never showed up. By coincidence that very weekend large numbers of National Army reinforcements marched in to occupy new posts within the town. At the very last moment Deasy decided to call off the attack, in a demoralizing blow to his guerrilla campaign.[16]

The River Lee was despatched towards Dunmanway for another attack, but again became stuck in a boggy road near Coolmountain. Richard Langford and his unit, who were employed in printing a republican newspaper for Erskine Childers on the hills between Ballingeary and Ballyvourney, had to commandeer a Fordson tractor to drag it back to Ballingeary again. Belying its legendary status, the battle career of the River Lee had stalled in West Cork.[17]

Borrowing a familiar tactic from the British Army, on the last weekend of September 1922 the National Army’s Cork Command launched a major sweep of the remaining republican-held districts in West Cork. On the 28th of September units from Bandon, Clonakilty, Dunmanway and Macroom amassed at Inchigeelagh and on the following day a large column, commanded by General Sean Hales, began to advance towards Ballingeary along the winding road north of Lough Allua.

From positions on the surrounding hills the republicans mounted a heavy defence with rifles and machine guns, and then sent into the fray the River Lee, now armed with a powerful Vickers machine gun in addition to its Lewis guns. National Army Lanica armoured lorries swept up to defend their troops and desperate running battles developed along the road between the rival armoured vehicles.

Three times the River Lee was driven away and three times it rallied again for another fight. Finally, with some of its armoured plating badly damaged by gunfire, it retired to Kealkill. After eight hours of fighting the National Army troops finally reached Ballingeary, but by now the enemy were long gone, having melted away into the mountains to fight another day.[18]


The Fall of the River Lee

Tom Barry on IRA active service c. 1921.

The Cork Fifth Brigade took in the River Lee and kept it at their headquarters near Kealkill, a hilly redoubt about ten kilometres northeast of the strategically important port town of Bantry, intending to use it in another major attack on that town. Their column commander, Mossie Donegan, had fought in it at Limerick and Cork. Just a few days later, on the 1st of October, they sent it into action against a National Army unit that had set an ambush a few kilometres outside Bantry.

On the way to the fight, the River Lee got bogged down yet again. Its machine guns were hurriedly stripped out and used to drive away the National Army ambushers. The Fifth Brigade had damaged all the main roads around Bantry and since the River Lee couldn’t travel on back roads, they decided to retire and dismantle the vehicle. Its guns ended up with a divisional column, the armour plating was hidden in the river under Carriganass Bridge and the chassis was concealed in a hidden dump.[19]

On the 30th of September Tom Barry returned to First Southern Division headquarters at Kilmichael, having escaped from Gormanston Prison Camp three weeks previously.[20] He soon assembled a large column of over two hundred of the best fighters from the brigades in West Cork, planning to carry out more large-scale town attacks.

On the 4th of November his column attacked the twin villages of Ballineen and Enniskeane, between Bandon and Dunmanway. Their main aim was the capture of munitions and the Lancia armoured lorry stationed at Ballineen. The National Army headquarters in that village was quickly overrun, but not before its Lancia escaped to Dunmanway to raise the alarm.

After this attack, Barry’s column came under immense pressure from National Army mobile columns based in the towns along the River Bandon, each equipped with their own Lancia, and retreated to Kealkill and Ballingeary. From here, Barry planned his next attack on the National Army garrison at Inchigeelagh. Conscious of the importance of armoured support, he ordered Jim Gray to bring the River Lee out of retirement.

This was done, but some of its iron plating had disappeared from the hiding place and had to be replaced with heavy baulks of timber. The legendary war vehicle must have looked quite a sorry state in this late phase of its career. Around the 15th of November Jim Gray drove it into action again, but while travelling along the Ballingeary-Inchigeelagh road he was flagged down and informed that the National Army had mined the way ahead.[21]

The attack on Inchigeelagh was called off. According to a National Army intelligence report of the 17th of November, Tom Barry and the River Lee armoured car remained on in Ballingeary village. These two icons of republican resistance were intimidating enough to keep the National Army well away from the district.

In November 1922, its rear axle damaged, the River Lee was hidden by republicans and not heard from again in the Civil War.

However, by the 24th of November Gray had informed Mossie Donegan that the rear axle of the River Lee was badly damaged and some time would be required to get it operational again.[22] After this, the legendary republican battle wagon was never heard of again. Presumably it was abandoned and forgotten in a secret dump, for events moved swiftly against the republicans over the following two weeks.

Before deciding to recommission the River Lee, Barry and Gray had tried and failed to steal the Rolls-Royce armoured car ARR2 Slievenamon, then stationed in Bandon. Another opportunity to seize it presented when its gunner, Jock McPeak, contacted a member of Bandon Cumann na mBan asking to defect. The republicans agreed to take him if he would bring the Slievenamon with him.

On the evening of the 5th of December, Billy Barry, a former driver of the River Lee, disguised himself in a National Army uniform and walked into Bandon Barracks. He drove off with McPeak in the Slievenamon, bringing it triumphantly through West Cork to Kealkill that night.[23] The very next day it was used in a major republican attack on Ballyvourney. The National Army garrison there surrendered and their Lanica, Pride of Dublin, was captured.

The Slievenamon and the Pride of Dublin sped off to hideouts in Gougane Barra and Kealkill respectively. Fearing the threat to their West Cork garrisons from the armour newly acquired by the republicans, the National Army’s response was immediate and overwhelming.  On the 8th of December large numbers of their troops moved on Ballingeary by land from the towns of West Cork, and on Kealkill by a sea from Snave Pier near Ballylickey.

Tom Barry had already left the district early that morning with the core of his West Cork column fighters for a new campaign in Tipperary. The Slievenamon was eventually found hidden in a farmyard near Gougane Barra, and after major fighting in the hills around Kealkill, the Fifth Brigade column was driven off and the Pride of Dublin was recovered burnt out near the Pass of Keimaneigh.[24] After this sudden and demoralizing reversal of fortune, the republican guerrilla campaign in West Cork scaled back considerably, and the last vestiges of the anti-Treaty Republic faded from its hills.


An early example of improvised armoured warfare

Free State troops outside Wellington Barracks, Dublin in an armoured car

It has long been acknowledged that the use of motorized vehicles had a major influence on the course of the Irish Civil War.[25]

By the early 1920s, civilian motorized vehicles were commonplace in Ireland and both IRA factions used them extensively for transporting personnel. It was Michael Collins though, while building the Free State’s new National Army, who capitalized most effectively on the latest technological developments in military hardware, establishing an air corps, an armoured car corps and supplying his infantry battalions with modern artillery.

The anti-Treaty IRA, despite controlling the city of Cork with its international port and extensive industrial facilities, including the huge Fordson Tractor Factory, neglected the development of military vehicles until it was far too late. They remained fundamentally an underground guerrilla army, and despite prior warlike rhetoric from the Four Courts garrison, when war did break out, they were completely unprepared.

Their efforts in the middle of the war to build a conventional army from their guerrilla units, supported by improvised military vehicles and artillery, proved unsuccessful and superior National Army equipment (if not their undertrained troops) prevailed on the battlefields.

One of the great tragedies of the Irish Civil War is that the young republican revolutionaries decided to fight on in a lengthy but ultimately hopeless guerrilla war, leaving a legacy of bitterness in Ireland for a generation. 

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MSP: Defence Forces Military Archives Military Services Pensions Claims

MA/CW: Defence Forces Military Archives Civil War Records

[1] MSP 34REF57155 James Gray; O’Malley Interviews: M. Donegan, JJ Rice

[2] MSP 34REF10242 Shaun Cody; MSP 34REF2469 Daniel Healy

[3] Ó Ruairc, The Battle for Limerick City, Ch. 5

[4] O’Malley Interviews, Johnny O’Connor; MSP 34REF2469 Daniel Healy; MSP 34REF2406 John O’Driscoll; O’Connor, An Only Child, p152-156

[5] Cork Examiner 08-Aug-22 ‘Attack on Bruree’

[6] Lankford, The Hope and The Sadness, Ch. 18; Pinkman, In the Legion of the Vanguard, p44; O’Malley Interviews, Bertie Scully; MSP DP6258 Charles O’Hanlon

[7] O’Malley Interviews, Maurice Donegan

[8] Evening Herald 14-Aug-22 ‘Resistance Breaking Up’; MSP 34REF2469 Daniel Healy

[9] Dr. Lynch Garryduff, The Battle of Douglas; MSP 34REF30332 Kathleen O’Callaghan

[10] Cork Examiner 15-Aug-22 ‘Ballincollig Visited’

[11] MA/MSPC/RO/36 p104

[12] Cork Examiner 17-Aug-22 ‘Munition Factory Discovered in Cork’

[13] Southern Star 09-Sep-22 ‘Macroom Conflict’

[14] Cork Examiner 09-Sep-22 ‘National Army At Kinsale’

[15] O’Malley Interviews, JJ Rice

[16] MSP 34REF26639 Margaret Galvin

[17] MSP 34REF31293 Robert Langford

[18] Cork Examiner 03-Oct-22 ‘Ballingeary Occupied’

[19] Poblacht Na hÉireann War News 24-Nov-22 ‘Two Days With the Cork IRA’; MSP 34REF57155 James Gray

[20] MA/CW/CAPT/Lot 4 O/C 1SD to C/S 03-Oct-22

[21] MSP 34REF57155 James Gray

[22] MA/CW/OPS/04/17 DIR 17-Nov-22; MA/CW/CAPT/Lot 4 Mossie Donegan to Adj. 1SD 24-Nov-22

[23] Irish Independent 20-May-71 ‘Why Gunner McPeak joined the Republicans’

[24] Poblacht Na hÉireann War News 18-Jan-23 ‘A Cork Battle’; O’Malley Interviews, Ted O’Sullivan

[25] Walsh, The Irish Civil War 1922-1923, NYMAS

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