Attack on New Ross Barracks

The old RIC barracks (three story building left) on Priory Street in New Ross.

At 10 p.m. Thursday the 31st of March 1921 the evening silence in New Ross was broken when a bomb was dropped into the yard of Mr. D Evoy, situated near the rear of the town’s RIC barracks. The resulting explosion could be heard several miles away and tore a large hole in the yard. Splinters from the bomb damaged the surrounding walls and rear door of Mr. Evoy’s house. This was immediately followed by the sound of gunfire on the barracks and the garrison inside responded with machine gun from the front and rear.

Map showing IRA positions during attack on Barracks (Documenting and Recording Wexford’s War of Independence)

The Attack on New Ross RIC Barracks was undertaken by about 22 men from C company (Cushinstown) together with members of B company (Rathgarogue). Initially plans were set in place for Members of B company to attack a police patrol, while C company were to provide covering fire on the barracks from the high ground in front.

Position between two houses opposite Marsh Lane on South Street were IRA B Company were awaiting to ambush police patrol.
View of RIC barracks from the high ground in front where C company were positioned.

However, the police patrol failed to show and instead B company threw a bomb towards the rear of the RIC barracks. This was the signal for C company to attack and upon hearing the explosion they commenced fire on the building. Two outposts were also set up to prevent B company from becoming surrounded by the police or military. One was located on Henry Street and the other on Cross Lane.

Map from Brigade Activity Reports showing plan IRA positions (Credit: Irish Military Archives)

People had been out walking on the night and upon hearing the gunfire fled in all directions for cover. Some found shelter in the nearest building to them, while others lay prone on the ground. Bullets whizzed in all directions with some houses in Jones Hill and William Street being struck. Others found their way through windows and inside the homes. On the opposite side of the river Barrow people walking along the Waterford road reported hearing bullets passing close overhead with some striking the railway bridge between Rosbercon and Chilcomb. The barrack’s head constable had a lucky escape as shortly after he left his room it’s the light was smashed by a bullet. The gunfire lasted for about half an hour and no injuries were reported on the night. Afterwards the military and police proceeded down South Street and onto North Street, telling people to clear off the street, while men where held up and questioned

Row of houses (left) along Williams Street and Jones Hill which were hit by stray bullets

The old RIC building still stands on Priory street today and gun loops are visible on both gable ends. These would have allowed flanking fire down both sides of the street. Markers are said to have been positioned at set intervals along the roadside to allow the gunners at both ends determine their firing distance.

Gun loop on north gable Gun loop on south Gable

The high ground to the east of the barracks chosen for the attack today contains houses but in 1921 was a green field. Bullet marks can be seen at the rear of No.6, the building opposite the barracks, which would have been in the direct line of fire. This brief attack on the RIC barracks was the first in New Ross during the period. It was a daring operation to attack a barracks in such a large town and would have likely had a demoralizing effect on the garrison ,who up until this point had experienced little resistance there. At a meeting of the New Ross Harbour Board a few days later in April it was noted a new military regulation required people to go by the quay, instead of passing the police barracks from there on.

Bullet holes at the rear of No.6 Priory street, directly opposite the old RIC barracks.

Sources

South Wexford Brigade Activity Files

The Enniscorthy Guardian, 9th April 1921, p5

The New Ross Standard, 8th April 1921, p5

A special thanks to Myles Courtney from New Ross Street Focus for his vast local knowledge while touring the town. Check out the facebook page https://www.facebook.com/newrossstreetfocus/

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