Black and Tans. Chapter 24. Showdown.

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IRA

  1. Jim London. (JIM LSJ) ex soldier wants to be hangman. socialist. ———– shot in ambush

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2. Vinny Conlan (Vinny Cochrane) actor. brainy. inquisitive. ———-

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3. Gerry  Nagle (G Nagle) insurance company salesman. conman. shot in ambush

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4. William Hendricks. (Wesley Hendricks) builder. cousin killed in Easter Rising. (shot dead by London in a row) ——–

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5. Peter Lynne (Pearse Lynne) teacher——– Arrested.

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6. Jonathan Wynn (Jonathon Roberts) painter and decorator. granny died in famine. hates blacks. ——————— shot in groin in ambush

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7. Pascal Harrington (Causkey)  labourer. arrested after riot.

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8. Alex East (Alex Asgari) labourer. Pal murdered by UPA.  Arrested ————

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9. Damian Walsh (D W) farmer.  arrested ————————–

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10. Roger Tooth (Roger Tooth) travelling salesman robber. shot as he deserted in ambush

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11. Robert Johnson  (J Roberts univ) chemist. Shot dead in grenade attack. 

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12. Laurence Dale. (aMpleforth ex soldier teacher) ex soldier. shot dead in grenade attack.

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13. Sean Tussock (Zhangir T) coal importer’s son

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14.  Niall Tussock (Nurzhan) coal importer’s son

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15. Henry Tussock (uncle Hal) coal importer

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16. Gabriel Tussock (coal importer)

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17. Charles Williams (Will Charles) solicitor’s clerk. Irish lang enthusiast——- arrested

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18. Benedict Thompson (B Thompson) solicitor’s clerk. GAA (blown up by own bomb)——-

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19. Kenneth Adams. ( A K ) farmer. religious reactionary (shot dead holding off RIC in Fisherton Woods) ——-

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20. Michael English (Magnus) labourer. tags along. feeble. becomes informer

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21. Seamus Simons (Simon I F ) barman – wounded in final attack. ————————

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22. Henry Brannock ( Henry W B) labourer. killed in ambush

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reinforcements – ambush

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More RIC reinforcements.

Davey Dew. 30s. (David Dew). Northants.

Thomas Westcott. (T R Forshaw’s dad). 40s Devon.

Jock  Mackay. 20s (v tall Scotsman with moustache from Baku).

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WARNING

The weekly army convoy came through. Three more RIC men stepped out.

Habgood whispered into Workman’s ear ”They captured an IRA man up at Kingstown in Dublin. Courier with a letter from this district. IRA here are trying to work out a way to ambush your lorry.  There is about ten new IRA moved into your district. Be very careful”

Workman nodded sagely. He gulped – this was grave news.

The three new RIC lined up in the dayroom. ”Who are you?” Workman asked them in a formal tone.

”Dew, Sir” said a man in his 30s. He was 5’9” and spare. His hair was thin and prematurely grey. His face was very smooth as though he had no facial hair. He wore thick rimmed glasses.

”Right Dew – where you from?” asked Workman

”Northamptonshire sir. Served in the war sir. Royal Artillery.” said Dew. He was very upright and seemed a born soldier. Dew had an old scar above his right eye all across his forehead. It caused his eye to be slightly out of kilter.

”Next – introduce yourself” said Workman

”Westcott. sir” said another man. He was 5’10” and had dark brown hair – cut very short. His cheekbones were extraordinarily wide. He had a huge chin and very powerful shoulders.  Westcott was very heavily built though not fat. He looked comically ugly and almost simian but you would not have dared tell him that. Wescott looked to be in his mid 20s.

”Where you from Westcott?” asked Workman.

”I am from Devon Sir. I served in the Dorsets though in the war sir” said Westcott. His West Country burr became apparent as he spoke.

”And you man?” Workman looked at the third man.

”Mackay, sir” said a moustachioed man with a tic in his eye. He was in his 30s, stood 6’3”  and was slim without being weak.

”Mackay – what regiment did you serve in?”

”Black Watch sir” he said.

”Where you from Mackay?” said Workman

”Scotland sir. Aberdeenshire” said Mackay.

”Good to have another Jock around. We have one here. We have some Aberdeen Angus for you to eat too” said Workman. ”Know this men I run a very tight ship. We are here to thrash the pants off the IRA. This is no easy ride.”

Later Workman conferred with Limtay in his room. ”Over in Kilstrewery there is a new RIC head constable from England. Jeremy Sheard is his name – knew him in the army. Local IRA big cheese is called Jeremiah Hannway so they say. It is Jeremy against Jeremiah” he quipped.

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STRENGTHENING THE CAUSE

The IRA was encamped some miles south of Clanrolla. A sheer mountain on one side and a bog on the other ensured there could be no rapid attack on them.

London was conferring with his chaplain Fr Downy.

”Father would you not mind letting one or two of the boys stay in the presbytery? We have more men coming in. Too many volunteers to camp here without attracting attention. It is difficult to get rations to this remote spot.”

”Commandant” began Fr Downy exhaling heavily ”No sorry. I am afraid that is not possible. I cannot let a volunteer stay in the house. If the bishop found out I had IRA men staying in the house I would be defrocked. I can hide arms – that is it”

”Fr Downy but Benedict Thompson used to sleep in the presbytery.” said London

”Ah he was not really in the IRA then. Only Sinn Fein. He was a close friend of Fr Meagher. If more came Fr Meagher might even tell the RIC” said Fr Downy.

”Tell the RIC? Fr Meagher? An Orange Catholic!” said London in disgust.

”I know – tis shockin’ . Every day he is speaking up for the English. More loyalist than King George” said Fr Downy.

”Nothing a bullet in the back of the head would not cure” said London.

”Ah no. He is a priest. No matter what a priest has done a priest must never, ever be punished in anyway. We are God’s annointed” Fr Downy chided London

”Yes, forgive me father.” said London bowing.

”After this war is over maybe we can have him drummed out of the county” said Fr Downy.

Just then a scout approached leading ten volunteers. Half were unarmed. They were men in grey, beige, dark blue and black clothes. Brogue shoes and boots. One had wellington boots on. They had tweed or coarse clothes on. Most wore caps.

”Commandant” said a boy scout ” these are volunteers sent by the other brigade”

”Ah very good. Welcome lads. I am commandant London” eagerly.

”How ye doing bwoy?” said a chubby, round faced man with thinning brown hair.

”It is commandant!” said London sternly ”I welcome you but do not forget your place man. This is the army!”

”Oh sorry commandant” said the porky man making an attempt at a salute.

”What is your name volunteer?”

”Ryan sir, Donal Ryan”

”Volunteer Ryan – remember yourself in future. ”

The volunteers were given a briefing on the district. They then sat down to a meal on the ground. Some of them complained about the absence of trip and drisheen. Ryan remarked ”I would murder  for half a smile”

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AMBUSH

Workman reasoned that he had better not let the IRA attack the barracks. They would only do that if confident of victory. That would mean they had huge numbers or mines that actually worked. They would have tested some. Besides from the barracks there could be no retreat. He wondered whether the IRA would tunnel in from a nearby derelict house. He had such houses checked regularly. But with 18 men in the barracks the IRA would find it hard to mount an attack.

Wokrman bought solid rubber tyres for the truck. He purchased them out of his own pay packet. They were a life saver. Ordinary tyres could be shot out. With solid rubber tyres the bullets bounced off – becoming a danger to the enemy. The disadvantage of solid rubber tyres is they were heavier. The truck moved slower and used more fuel.

Head Constable Workman had his men turn metal sheets into wall inside the canvass cover of the lorry. He also had peep holes built in which could be moved back to fire.

In the front of the lorry an extra set of pedals was installed. If the driver was killed the man beside him could drive. Metal bars were put behind the windscreen. If the windscreen was shot the glass would fall out not in.

A machinegun turret was built in the back of the lorry. It would turn 360 degrees. The man manning the gun had a metal contraption to keep him stable as he stood manning the gun – in case the lorry hit bumps. If the enemy manged to shoot him through the observation slit he could easily be removed and replaced.

The lorry seemed to be impregnable. Workman only wanted to tempt the IRA to attack it.

 

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AMBUSH

Workman drove the lorry out of the barracks. He had ten men aboard. There were two with him in the front. These men only carried revolvers – two each. There was no space to manouvre a rifle in the front. Their rifles were in the rear section of the lorry. There was an open space between the cab and the rear. Three men sat on the left bench and three on the right. One man was manning the machinegun turret.

Workman had briefed them and drilled them on what to do in an ambush. He had also broken his own golden rule. They patrolled the same route five days in a row at roughly the same time. He did not want their to be exactitude to the timing otherwise the IRA might suspect they were being drawn into a trap. No need to make it seem too easy.

Capture boy scouts had revealed that there were a lot of new IRA men in the area. The IRA was having trouble getting enough food to these men. They could not linger too long. They must attack or disperse.

That September afternoon the lorry slowed as it climbed a steep hill. There were trees on one side as the hill sloped up. There were dense bushes on the other. There was a hairpin bend at the top of the slope. Workman has spotted it as the ideal ambuscade.

London had got his men in position an hour before. Ten men were in the trees to the east of the road. They were the main party to attack the lorry. Five men were in the bushes to the west in case the police chose to take shelter there. The IRA to the west of the road were to stay back – at such an angle that they could not accidentally shot by the men on the eastern side. London had positioned five men 100 yards north of the ambuscade – in case the RIC tried to run away in that direction. There were five men hidden 100 yards south of the ambuscade in case the RIC tried to escape that way. Another five men were put in various positions to the rear of the IRA positions and looking away. London wanted to prevent a counter ambush. He was fearful of being outfoxed by Workman. Workman might have cavalry coming up behind for precisely this scenario. There were also ten unarmed scouts. These boys were there to alert London to the approach of the lorry or of any civilians. As usual London did not want too many scouts lest they draw attention to themselves. There was a risk a scout would be arrested and induced to spill the beans.

The men in the back of the lorry were singing as they often did. It passed the time on long and tedious drives. It also kept their spirits up. The trouble was the public had decided that the police must be in a crapulous state to be singing so much.

The lorry growled as it made its way sluggishly to the hairpin bend. It was a blind corner. Workman started to turn the wheel. He was half way around the corner. In the rear view mirror. He just caught sight of two men quickly hauling a huge log across the road. What was that about? He instantly clicked.

”Men. Attention! COuld be an ambush” Workman shouted. As he said that the lorry rounded the corner. There in front of him was a pile of five large logs – they completed barred the road. There was a huge boulder to the right and a steep drop of 5 yards to the left. There was no way around it.

As Workman slammed on the breaks firing broke out. ”Battle stations” shouted Workman. He need not have bothered. The men had immediately got to their positions.

The IRA had opened a furious fusillade from the east. London had taught his men to shock the enemy with the volume of fire. Then the RIC would surrender instantly.

The IRA were perplexed to hear the metallic pinging noise their bullets made when they pierced the canvas covering of the lorry. ”Fire low” London shouted to remind them. When fire was opened the RIC would hit the floor – that was the theory. No sense in firing at where their heads would be if they were standing. If the IRA fired at just above floor level they could hardly miss.

Some of the sharpshooters among the IRA had been assigned the task of shooting out the tyres. They fired and fired. They could not believe their eyes. The tyres did not burst. Bullets appeared to ricochet off.

The RIC had flipped back the metal spy holes built into the metal hull. The cover of the spy holes was held in place. These spy holes were at different levels – head height, kneeling height and lying height. There were nine on each side of the lorry and six at the rear. The RIC in the cab opened the side windows and shot out with their pistols.

There was not much for the RIC to shoot at. A few saw some dark shapes.

The gun battle had been going on for a minute. The IRA had fired 30 shots and the RIC only 20 when first blood was drawn.

An IRA man cried out in pain. It was Simons – shot in the groin. He threw down his rifle and clutched at his wound.

The RIC saw another dark shape and fired intensely at it. The porcine volunteer from Cork – Ryan – was hard to miss. He took two bullets through the navel. He bravely fired what was left of his magazine. He was then overcome by exsanguination and passed out.

”This is not working” London whispered to Brannock who was beside him. ”Right send in Nagle.”

Nagle had his hands tied and was some yards behind London. He had only been inveigled to come to an IRA parade as he had been persuaded that a robbery was in the offing. Nagle”s hands were untied and he was given a Mills bomb.

”You know what to do and no funny stuff!” said Brannock  pushing his rifle at Nagle.

Nagle nodded. He breathed deeply and rushed out of the trees as fast as his plump little legs could convey him. He headed for the cab as he had been ordered. The windows were rolled down as the men in the front fired with their revolvers. In any case most of the glass had been shot out.

Nagle saw to his horror that the iron bars in the window made it almost impossible to get a Mills bomb in there. Nagle was three steps out of the bushes when fire began to concentrate on him. Two shots missed from a distance of only 20 yards. Then he was hit in the thigh. Another missed. Before he had time to fall he was shot in the stomach. He fell and was hit in the chest and again. A final shot in the head sealed his fate.

”Shit” said London  ”well the world is one thief short. Send in Tooth” he ordered Brannock.

Tooth was also tied up and under guard. He too had been convinced to show up on the promise of loot.  Tooth’s hands were untied he was given the last remaining Mills bomb and he rushed out of the woods. He was ordered to head for the cab but then darted left not right – he ran down the road to get away from the skirmish. Tooth had reasoned that the fire fight was the ideal time to make a break for it. London was having none of it. When he realised that Tooth was deserting he opened fire. He missed once and again. But then he hit Tooth in the calf. Tooth was sent hopping. London found his mark shooting Tooth in the lower back and then through the lung. Tooth fell bleeding onto the rocky road. London decided it was not worth expending ammunition in finishing him off. He could be put out of his misery with a rifle butt later.

The fighting had been going on for two minutes. The IRA had sustained four casualties and the RIC none.

All of a sudden the RIC firing slackened and then stopped. ”Ah shit no more ammunition head constable”

”Out of ammunition” another voice shouted.

”Anybody got any bullets?” said another.

”Sir – we got no more ammo”. So they voices cursed.

London had been on the point of breaking off the attack. This was too good an opportunity to miss.

”Men – charge” said London standing up and waving his rifle

Several men rose and charged towards the lorry. They would fire into the can or break open the rear door. Maybe fetch the Mills bombs to throw in too.

Even some men on the west of the road could not resist joining in.

12 IRA men were visible when Limtay in the machinegun turret opened up. He sprayed the IRA men advancing from the east.

Brannock took a chest full of bullets and died instantly. London was hit in the stomach and thigh. He fell down swearing.

The Tussock brothers had been the last to rise. Both were hit in the legs. They fell to the ground  bleeding. They left their rifles and tried to crawl away. The blood loss meant they were unable to.

Henry Tussock was hit in the head but did not die instantly Gabriel Tussock was hit in the groin and fell to the ground in agony. The few who had not been hit on the western side ran off.

Limtay swivelled to the east Lorcan Malley was shot in the face and fell dead. The others had dashed back into the bushes.

”Keep firing” shouted Workman. Limtay sprayed the bushes from side to side and then he turned back to the trees – he sprayed left and right. No one could live through that hail.

”Right – out clear the road. Mackay and Westcott!” said Workman. The two newbies were assigned the dangerous task. They hopped out without their rifles. They dragged the five logs across. Adrenaline meant they did it in only 30 seconds.

The Lorry then sped down the road. The men were jubilant but nervous. They had won but were not too sure of their victory. Could there be more.

One IRA man up the road was meant to stop them. He stood in the middle of the road unable to believe the ambush had been an ignominious failure. He thought one or two police might be able to bolt but not the whole lorry. He stood in the middle of the road and courageously fire and fired at the cab  to kill the driver. Workman put his head below the steering wheel and pressed his foot to the floor. As the accelerator revved the lorry smashed into the IRA man – his body was sent flying into the air. He then landed to the rear of the lorry as it sped past. He died of a broken neck.

”Anybody wounded?” shouted Workman agitated.

The men checked themselves. In their high spirits they might not notice pain.

”No”, ”No”, ”No” they shouted

”Not a man wounded?” said Workman ” We must have taken out a dozen of the blighters and not one man of ours wounded?”

The RIC sped back to barracks. They informed their colleagues. There were whoops and bearhugs all around.

Workman was always one to follow up an advantage. He returned to the ambuscade an hour later. The last logs were cleared. They found eight dead bodies. Some of them had died only minutes before it seemed. They also recovered ten firearms.

Pools of blood revealed at least another four wounded. Follow up raids found the four wounded men and a further eight IRA men who had not been wounded. The IRA in Clountreem was smashed.

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EPILOGUE.

Limtay resigned from the RIC a month later. He returned to England and divorced his wife. He became a Fleet Street journalist and Liberal councillor. He married a French actress ten years his junior and had two more children.

Workman returned to Chester and opened a car dealership.

FitzGerald was forced to leave Ireland after the Troubles. He became a policeman in Sussex.

Moore joined the Royal Ulster Constabulary and served the rest of his career in Tyrone becoming a head constable.

Sergeant later joined the Palestine Police.

Short joined the French Foreign Legion. He was killed in the Rif War.

Fr Downy later committed suicide in disgust at his crimes.

Fr Meagher found another young lover and lived out his days as a bishop.

Conlan became a Labour Party TD in Ireland.

 

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About Calers

Born Belfast 1971. I read history at Edinburgh. I did a Master's at UCL. I have semi-libertarian right wing opinions. I am married with a daughter and a son. I am allergic to cats. I am the falling hope of the not so stern and somewhat bending Tories. I am a legal beagle rather than and eagle. Big up the Commonwealth of Nations.

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