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08-03-2019, 22:18   #1
Ascendant
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Liam Mellows and the start of the Civil War, 1922

Article on Liam Mellows and the last few weeks before Civil War broke out (seventh in an eight-part series).

Rebel Schismatic: Liam Mellows on the Brink of Conflict, 1922 (Part VII)

Since its occupation in April 1922, the Four Courts in Dublin had served as the headquarters of the anti-Treaty IRA. In a mark of its importance, and a sign of the tensions pervading the country, the windows of the building complex had been reinforced with sandbags, behind which sentries with rifles and machine-guns watched over the city. It had been transformed, in the words of one of its garrison, into a "veritable fortress."


(The Four Courts, Dublin)

For all the show of strength, pressure was building up within as well as without. The IRA Executive was riven with factions. Liam Lynch, as Chief of Staff, was its nominal head, but his authority was increasingly challenged by Liam Mellows and Rory O'Connor, who saw the Corkman was insufficiently committed to the Republican cause. As a consequence, bemoaned Liam Deasy, an ally of Lynch's on the Executive, there were:

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…many unpleasant incidents reflecting badly on the elected Executive. Worse still it appeared as if a number of independent armies were being formed on the anti-Treaty side.
Even an old friend such as Robert Brennan urged Mellows to reconsider his course of action. But Mellows stood his ground.

"The Republic is being undermined," he replied. "What else could we have done?"

The solution, Mellows told Brennan, was to attack the British military still in Dublin before it could depart. By provoking the old enemy into resuming the war, he hoped to reunite the pro and anti-Treaty IRAs. When Brennan left the Four Courts, he was more depressed than ever at the insanity enfolding all around.


(IRA men, with rifles)

Things had changed a lot since he first met Mellows in 1911, when he found himself "looking into the blue eyes of Liam Mellowes [alternative spelling], full of good humour, enthusiasm, optimism and comradeship." Others were similarly charmed. "His whole personality seemed to radiate kindness," remembered Todd Andrews. "He was a dea-dhuine (decent man)."

Nonetheless, it appeared to many that the hard-line stance espoused by Mellows, where compromise was a dirty one and anyone who fell short of standards a liability, was leading them all into disaster. It was a sign of how topsy-turvy the world had become that a man whose efforts to free Ireland of foreign rule had been second to none was now, in all seriousness, suggesting the return of British soldiers for want of any other solution.

A glimmer of hope came in the IRA Convention of the 18th May 1922, when a proposal by Lynch to reunite the two IRAs into a single army was on the agenda. But Mellows, aided by O'Connor and Tom Barry, were to have very different ideas...
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09-03-2019, 22:26   #4
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Excellent article

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14-03-2019, 19:50   #5
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Article on Liam Mellows and the last few weeks before Civil War broke out (seventh in an eight-part series).

Rebel Schismatic: Liam Mellows on the Brink of Conflict, 1922 (Part VII)

Since its occupation in April 1922, the Four Courts in Dublin had served as the headquarters of the anti-Treaty IRA. In a mark of its importance, and a sign of the tensions pervading the country, the windows of the building complex had been reinforced with sandbags, behind which sentries with rifles and machine-guns watched over the city. It had been transformed, in the words of one of its garrison, into a "veritable fortress."


(The Four Courts, Dublin)

For all the show of strength, pressure was building up within as well as without. The IRA Executive was riven with factions. Liam Lynch, as Chief of Staff, was its nominal head, but his authority was increasingly challenged by Liam Mellows and Rory O'Connor, who saw the Corkman was insufficiently committed to the Republican cause. As a consequence, bemoaned Liam Deasy, an ally of Lynch's on the Executive, there were:

Even an old friend such as Robert Brennan urged Mellows to reconsider his course of action. But Mellows stood his ground.

"The Republic is being undermined," he replied. "What else could we have done?"

The solution, Mellows told Brennan, was to attack the British military still in Dublin before it could depart. By provoking the old enemy into resuming the war, he hoped to reunite the pro and anti-Treaty IRAs. When Brennan left the Four Courts, he was more depressed than ever at the insanity enfolding all around.


(IRA men, with rifles)

Things had changed a lot since he first met Mellows in 1911, when he found himself "looking into the blue eyes of Liam Mellowes [alternative spelling], full of good humour, enthusiasm, optimism and comradeship." Others were similarly charmed. "His whole personality seemed to radiate kindness," remembered Todd Andrews. "He was a dea-dhuine (decent man)."

Nonetheless, it appeared to many that the hard-line stance espoused by Mellows, where compromise was a dirty one and anyone who fell short of standards a liability, was leading them all into disaster. It was a sign of how topsy-turvy the world had become that a man whose efforts to free Ireland of foreign rule had been second to none was now, in all seriousness, suggesting the return of British soldiers for want of any other solution.

A glimmer of hope came in the IRA Convention of the 18th May 1922, when a proposal by Lynch to reunite the two IRAs into a single army was on the agenda. But Mellows, aided by O'Connor and Tom Barry, were to have very different ideas...


(IRA men, with rifles)





How come IRA men are always holding rifles?

I know that they got a few Lewis guns from raids a few hundred SMG's from America, but where they never able to get their hands on anything bigger like a Browning machine gun M1917 or M1919 or British Vickers or Hotchkiss guns or Fiat-Revilli & Darne guns which were all used and mass produced the during WW1 period?
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14-03-2019, 20:44   #6
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(IRA men, with rifles)





How come IRA men are always holding rifles?

I know that they got a few Lewis guns from raids a few hundred SMG's from America, but where they never able to get their hands on anything bigger like a Browning machine gun M1917 or M1919 or British Vickers or Hotchkiss guns or Fiat-Revilli & Darne guns which were all used and mass produced the during WW1 period?

I guess because:

1) machine-guns are heavy, ponderous things to use, and thus hard to manange effectively in guerilla warfare, which relies on speed and surprise.

2) lack of training, unless the company or ASU happened to have a man who had used them in the British Army.

3) difficulty in obtaining, which was always a constant pain throughout the Tan War.

Rifles were considered the crème de la crème of firearms used by the IRA, due to their long range, with most Volunteers making do with shotguns and pistols, whose range was limited.

That's the impression I get from browsing through the sources, anyway.
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20-03-2019, 22:42   #7
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I guess because:

1) machine-guns are heavy, ponderous things to use, and thus hard to manange effectively in guerilla warfare, which relies on speed and surprise.

2) lack of training, unless the company or ASU happened to have a man who had used them in the British Army.

3) difficulty in obtaining, which was always a constant pain throughout the Tan War.

Rifles were considered the crème de la crème of firearms used by the IRA, due to their long range, with most Volunteers making do with shotguns and pistols, whose range was limited.

That's the impression I get from browsing through the sources, anyway.
1. That's true but the Provos got a hold a of both M60 GPMG's & the M1919 Browning, it took two Volunteers to operate them at a time because of the weight. In the late 70's & early 80's a IRA ASU which included Paul Magee & Angelo Fusco, was nicknamed the "M60 Gang" because of their use of the weapon, and they shot dead a SAS captain during Antrim Road seige.

2. That's fair enough, but wouldn't they have needed training on the Lewis gun & the Thompsons as well?

3. Can't argue with that, but the raids the IRA went on from 1918 - 1920 in barracks, there was only ever rifles & the odd Lewis gun. Would the RUC & latter British bases not have the M1917 or M1919 stocked in these barrcks or similar models?
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20-03-2019, 23:02   #8
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1. That's true but the Provos got a hold a of both M60 GPMG's & the M1919 Browning, it took two Volunteers to operate them at a time because of the weight. In the late 70's & early 80's a IRA ASU which included Paul Magee & Angelo Fusco, was nicknamed the "M60 Gang" because of their use of the weapon, and they shot dead a SAS captain during Antrim Road seige.
Were they used all that often, though? I'm not an expert on the later/more recent period, but it sounds like heavy guns were the exception, not the rule.

Certainly, most of the ambushes in the Tan War were hit and run, so anything heavier than what one man could escape with would have been a burden.

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2. That's fair enough, but wouldn't they have needed training on the Lewis gun & the Thompsons as well?
True, but then, to what extent were either gun types used? The Truce happened before the imported Thompsons could be used, and they didn't seem to make much of an appearance during the CW.

Likewise for the Lewis - you hear of them used occasionally in the CW, particularly during urban combat like in Dublin or Limerick at the start, but the only notable thing the Free Stater Lewis gun at Beal na blath was jam.

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3. Can't argue with that, but the raids the IRA went on from 1918 - 1920 in barracks, there was only ever rifles & the odd Lewis gun. Would the RUC & latter British bases not have the M1917 or M1919 stocked in these barrcks or similar models?
The police barracks taken were at the start of the war would not have been particularly well-equipped save for standard rifles and pistols - British sources were scathing in their estimation of the RIC as having gone to seed as a military force.

And, with one exception (in Cork, I think), no BA bases were captured - indeed, Mulcahy made that fact into a point during the Treaty debates.

BA gear would have been captured in fights like Kilmchael and Clonfin but, then, again, what use would a flying column really have in anything less agile than a rifle?

For the most part, IRA units avoided head-on confrontation with Crown forces unless it couldn't be helped, as the British - and later the Free State - had the numbers, training and armour to overwhelm most units. An extra Thompson or Lewis would not have made a real difference to a force designed to be a guerilla one.
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21-03-2019, 03:45   #9
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Were they used all that often, though? I'm not an expert on the later/more recent period, but it sounds like heavy guns were the exception, not the rule.

Certainly, most of the ambushes in the Tan War were hit and run, so anything heavier than what one man could escape with would have been a burden.



True, but then, to what extent were either gun types used? The Truce happened before the imported Thompsons could be used, and they didn't seem to make much of an appearance during the CW.

Likewise for the Lewis - you hear of them used occasionally in the CW, particularly during urban combat like in Dublin or Limerick at the start, but the only notable thing the Free Stater Lewis gun at Beal na blath was jam.



The police barracks taken were at the start of the war would not have been particularly well-equipped save for standard rifles and pistols - British sources were scathing in their estimation of the RIC as having gone to seed as a military force.

And, with one exception (in Cork, I think), no BA bases were captured - indeed, Mulcahy made that fact into a point during the Treaty debates.

BA gear would have been captured in fights like Kilmchael and Clonfin but, then, again, what use would a flying column really have in anything less agile than a rifle?

For the most part, IRA units avoided head-on confrontation with Crown forces unless it couldn't be helped, as the British - and later the Free State - had the numbers, training and armour to overwhelm most units. An extra Thompson or Lewis would not have made a real difference to a force designed to be a guerilla one.
Yes they were used a lot from the late 70's until 1994, especially in South Armagh and on border posts. Like the Derryard attack in 1989 they used two 12.7mm DShK heavy machine-guns.

The Battle of Newry Road in 1993, & the Lynx shoot down in 1988.

In a IRA ambush near Crossmaglen on a 8 man British Army patrol at Xmas 1978 and British soldiers were cut down with the M60.

Or the Glasdrumman ambush when the IRA picked out a weak link in a a Britsh Army COP & used the M60 & several AR 15's from high ground.

Not many cases tho of them being used during 1996 - 97 campaign

The Old IRA didn't have much of a chance of beating the British in 1920's. I believe theProvos had a much better chance, people in South Armagh & Tyrone wanted to form Flying Columns, as the cell unit strategy was a blunder, the RUC & Army could easily find IRA volunteers and question them whenever they wanted, it would have been much harder to find IRA men if they were on the run, a bit like Francis huges unit who was only caught by chance.

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21-03-2019, 13:39   #10
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Yes they were used a lot from the late 70's until 1994, especially in South Armagh and on border posts. Like the Derryard attack in 1989 they used two 12.7mm DShK heavy machine-guns.

The Battle of Newry Road in 1993, & the Lynx shoot down in 1988.

In a IRA ambush near Crossmaglen on a 8 man British Army patrol at Xmas 1978 and British soldiers were cut down with the M60.

Or the Glasdrumman ambush when the IRA picked out a weak link in a a Britsh Army COP & used the M60 & several AR 15's from high ground.

Not many cases tho of them being used during 1996 - 97 campaign

The Old IRA didn't have much of a chance of beating the British in 1920's. I believe theProvos had a much better chance, people in South Armagh & Tyrone wanted to form Flying Columns, as the cell unit strategy was a blunder, the RUC & Army could easily find IRA volunteers and question them whenever they wanted, it would have been much harder to find IRA men if they were on the run, a bit like Francis huges unit who was only caught by chance.
The WoI and later CW were fought using smallarms because only that type was available, mainly through capture (RIC Lee Enfields) or robbery (shotguns & stalking rifles). Most of the small volume imports came by courier from Glasgow, etc. Even then ammunition supply was an issue, both in quantity, quality and because of mixed calibre. ‘Republican’ imports matter little, in 1913/14 they imported about 1500 rifles and 30k rounds of ammunition, all obsolete Mausers from the Franco-Prussian war of 1870/1. FWIW in the same era the ‘Loyalists’ imported about 40,000 rifles and 3 million rounds.
Most of the ‘Republicans’ had no idea of firearms beyond a cursory knowledge of shotguns; very few would have been able to strip, clean and reassemble the action of a rifle or pistol.
Anyone with even a superficial knowledge of the BMH statements would realise that drawing comparisons between that era and post-1970 events in NI is stupid and worthless. It also shows a complete lack of understanding of the very obvious differences in the arms procurement and training processes available in the two periods. Also, the Old IRA people I knew had zero tolerance for the Provo's etc and their antics in NI.
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21-03-2019, 22:54   #12
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22-03-2019, 00:24   #13
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The WoI and later CW were fought using smallarms because only that type was available, mainly through capture (RIC Lee Enfields) or robbery (shotguns & stalking rifles). Most of the small volume imports came by courier from Glasgow, etc. Even then ammunition supply was an issue, both in quantity, quality and because of mixed calibre. ‘Republican’ imports matter little, in 1913/14 they imported about 1500 rifles and 30k rounds of ammunition, all obsolete Mausers from the Franco-Prussian war of 1870/1. FWIW in the same era the ‘Loyalists’ imported about 40,000 rifles and 3 million rounds.
There's a story from the Carlow Brigade where a bag of shotgun cartridges was lost from being buried in the ground and subsequently swollen beyond use by the damp. This was seen as a noticeable enough loss to be recorded years later in a BMH Statement.

Sometime in early 1920, the Longford IRA sent a man to Dublin, hoping to buy six rifles and a hundred rounds of ammo. Instead, all they received was six revolvers, which they had plenty of already.

For the most part, just keeping the companies and battalions armed to a minimum degree was a hardscrabble existence. After seizing the shotguns from farmers in their areas, the various IRA units were reliant on robbing Crown forces after ambushes, which relied on them having the arms to try in the first place.

Which created a situation where the most successful units, like the ones in Cork, went from strength to strength, re-equipping themselves after successful engagements, while the weaker ones continued to stagnate.
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22-03-2019, 11:21   #14
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^^ agreed.
Sadly lots of witnesses were not recorded and stories omitted from the BMH statements – my grandfather, his brother and two sisters were ‘active’ and are mentioned by Treacy, Breen, etc. One sister ran a safe house in Dublin and on the few occasions she mentioned that era she would say " A nice man, he stayed with us for a few nights" - about anyone from Collins to O'Malley. However only the brother made a statement in which he covers arms procurement. He was very friendly with DP Walsh and knew Mellows as he was one of those who regularly went to Glasgow. Because General Headquarters could provide little or nothing by way of arms/ammo, DPW had set up a supply centre there. Back in Ireland their main clearing depot for arms was Phil Shanahan’s pub in Dublin, and there was a very good network out of Kingsbridge Station, both for messages and arms/ammunition. He had a story about his group robbing a goods train of military stores. They discovered that the consignment was empty brass cases – they didn’t know what to do with them but took them anyway. The cases were for eighteen pound field gun rounds!
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25-03-2019, 00:51   #15
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^^ agreed.
Sadly lots of witnesses were not recorded and stories omitted from the BMH statements – my grandfather, his brother and two sisters were ‘active’ and are mentioned by Treacy, Breen, etc. One sister ran a safe house in Dublin and on the few occasions she mentioned that era she would say " A nice man, he stayed with us for a few nights" - about anyone from Collins to O'Malley. However only the brother made a statement in which he covers arms procurement. He was very friendly with DP Walsh and knew Mellows as he was one of those who regularly went to Glasgow. Because General Headquarters could provide little or nothing by way of arms/ammo, DPW had set up a supply centre there. Back in Ireland their main clearing depot for arms was Phil Shanahan’s pub in Dublin, and there was a very good network out of Kingsbridge Station, both for messages and arms/ammunition. He had a story about his group robbing a goods train of military stores. They discovered that the consignment was empty brass cases – they didn’t know what to do with them but took them anyway. The cases were for eighteen pound field gun rounds!

Seems like Phil Shanahan's contribution has not gone unremembered:





Phil Shanahan’s Monto Pub.
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