On Thursday morning the 13th of May 1920 the R.I.C Barracks at Kilmore was burned by the Bridgetown company of the I.R.A. The New Ross Standard reported that about 2 a.m. the building was noticed ablaze and the fire was started with the aid of some straw soaked in paraffin. Afterwards only the burned walls remained. The building had been vacated by the police for some time before.
The Barrack building was rented from a Mrs. Francis Roche who was later awarded £680 compensation in the courts (New Ross Standard, 25th June 1920, p6). This was later increased to £850 following an appeal. (The Irish Times, 7th July 1920).
The exact location of the barracks is as of yet unknown, only that is was located near the coastguard station and post office.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
On Saturday night the 12th of March 1921 members of the Bridgetown company IRA attacked their local RIC barracks, situated on a staggered crossroads just south of the village. The New Ross Standard reporting on the incident stated that at around midnight many local people were awoken by the sound of gunfire, which lasted for 15 or 20 minutes. Trees had been cut down on most of the approach roads by the company to delay the arrival of any potential reinforcements. A particularly large tree was reported cut down at ‘Sleedagh’, completely blocking the road to all motor traffic.
The military and police undertook numerous raids in the week or so following the attack with some reported in the districts of Baldwinstown, Bridgetown, Kilmore and Murrintown . Two young men from Bridgetown, Joe and Moses Murphy were arrested at Oldhall while two other brothers, named Rowe, were arrested at Killinick. It was noted that the raids appeared to be undertaken in search for someone on the run.
Later that year on the 14th of May the barracks was attacked again at two in the morning. The incident lasted for fifteen minutes and the police reported no casualties.
The attack on Bridgetown RIC barracks was of a type which occurred throughout the War of Independence, consisting of a short period of concentrated gunfire. The aim of such attacks was not to necessarily capture the building but to haras it’s inhabitants. Such incidents are often reffered to as ‘sniping’. By early 1921 Bridgetown barracks was one of only a few still operational within county Wexford. Many others in similar ‘rural’ settings had been burned or sabotaged. It would most likely have been fortified with steel shutters placed on the windows and sandbags and perhaps barbed wire used also. The building today is a private residence and bullet holes are said to be still visible on the exterior walls.
On the 12th of May 1920 the R.I.C Barracks at Ballybrazil, outisde of New Ross, was burned by the Campile company of the South Wexford I.R.A. The Barracks had been vacated by the police previously on the 14th of November 1919 (Freemans Journal 8th July 1921) but Mrs. Flynn, the wife of Sergeant Flynn, whom was previously assigned to Ballybrazil, still resided in the barracks with their children. The Irish Times reported how on the night 40 masked men took part in the event (Irish Times, 14th May 1920). They were however courteous to Mrs. Flynn and her children and moved them to a neighboring house before setting fire to the barracks. They also removed every article of furniture from the building, to spare it from the fire. Included in this were ‘… 2 hatching hens and their eggs.’ which were ‘… in a small house near the main building and were transferred to a secure place’ (New Ross Standard 21st May 1920 p4). During a court case compensation claim for damages Mrs. Flynn recalled how 40 men were involved in the burning, arriving at 1 a.m. and had brought petrol with them (New Ross Standard25th June 1920).
There had been a barracks in Ballybrazil since 1880 with the building rented from a James Murphy for a yearly fee of £22 (Freemans Journal 8th July 1921). Following the burning James was awarded £420 compensation in the courts. In the same sitting Sergeant Flynn got £80 for damaged furniture and Mrs. Flynn £60 for damaged articles. James Murphy later sought an increase in the compensation he received to £2500, appealing the decision in court (New Ross Standard, 25th June 1920). However he would be unsuccessful in this attempt (Freemans Journal 8th July 1921).
The barracks at Ballybrazil was a two story building constructed of stone with neighboring outhouses and sheds. It would have had enough room to house several constables and possibly the sergeants family also. No attempt was made to rebuild the barracks after it was burned and its ruins can still be seen today.
At about 2:45 A.M on Saturday the 18th of December 1920 members of the south Wexford brigade IRA launched an attack on the R.I.C Barracks in Foulksmills, a small rural village located about 22km west of Wexford town.
Before describing the attack it is good to get an understanding of the building which was the target. Thomas Howlett of Campile, a member of the south Wexford Brigade IRA, in his witness statement to the Bureau of Military History gave the following description of the barracks.
‘Foulksmills R.I.C. barrack was a solidly constructed detached building, with a slated roof. It was about eight or ten feet from the side of the road. Dividing it from the road was a low wall, surmounted by a railing. In the center and projecting from the front of the building was an entrance porch. There were two windows in front, on the ground floor. These, of course, had steel shutters with loopholes. The barrack was of rather unusual design, as there were no front windows on the first floor; there was one window in each gable end, on the first floor. In the ground floor gable ends were loopholes but no windows. At the rear was a lean-to, extending ten to twelve feet from the main building. As part of the defensive arrangements, barbed wire had been placed on all sides of the barrack, from the eaves to the ground, and extending about eight feet from the base of the building. (p5-6)
By December 1920 many rural barracks in Wexford had been vacated by the police and were subsequently either damaged or burned by the IRA so they could not be reoccupied. Additionally, there had been an attack in April on Clonroche Barracks. This increase in hostilities towards the police led to any remaining barracks becoming fortified, as Foulksmills had become, with the addition of barbed wire and steel shutters.
The New Ross Standard reported that on the night of the attack the barracks was occupied by 2 sergeants and 7 constables. It would normally have been occupied by 15 men but on the night of the attack some were on leave or elsewhere. The garrison may have included several black and tans.
The attack itself was carefully planned; to isolate the barracks and delay the arrival of any unwanted reinforcements approach roads into the village were blocked with trees and the telegraph wires cut. Motor cars had be taken for the operation also to transport items and act as getaway vehicles. The New Ross Standard reported around 100 men were involved while the official military report estimated about 70. The IRA were armed with shotguns and revolvers but had no rifles at the time. The objective of the attack was to blow a hole in the roof using a mine. Once this was done grenades and bottles of petrol could be thrown through it into the building, while at the same time constant gunfire would be placed on the barracks. To get the mine onto the roof a rope was to be thrown over the building, one end of which would then be tied onto the explosive device. The other free end would then be pulled, levering the mine onto the roof, where it would then be detonated.
One man was to be given the task of throwing the rope over the barracks. This had to be done on the first go as they could not afford multiply attempts as it could alert the garrison inside the barracks. To ensure success the first time round the man given the task trained throwing a rope over a building in preparation. However, when it came to the night he failed to turn up and could not be located, despite a visit even to his homeplace. Instead, in a change of plan, the barbed wire surrounding the barracks was cut and the mine placed against the rear of the building. Once it exploded the firing began; men armed with shotguns that had taken up position behind a wall across from the barracks opened fire on the building and the police responded with their own. They threw grenades and sent up verey lights to illuminate the night darkness as well, in some attempt to help locate the attackers. Additional bombs were thrown onto the roof together with bottles of petrol. Fortunately for the garrison inside many of these failed to go off. With the failure of the bombs and supplies of ammunition beginning to run short the attack was called off just before 4 A.M.
The New Ross Standard reported that prior to the attack 3 men knocked on the house of ‘Richard Doyle’, who lived 50 yards from the barracks on the opposite side of the road. The House was commandeered by the men and Mr. Doyle and his wife and family went to the house of a ‘Annie Jones’ where they stayed until the following morning. It was suggested they may have used the upstairs window of the house as a vantage point to fire on the barracks.
The home of a ‘Mr. Twomey’, directly beside the barracks, had an adjoining yard were the IRA also took up position during the attack. Mr. Twomey was in his house together with his wife and six kids on the night of the attack and they had to seek shelter together in a single room.
No casualties were reported on either side and the following morning the police captured a quantity of bombs, arms and a motor car. Thomas Howlett in his witness statement told how after the attack himself and others returned to their motorcar only to find it hemmed in between two barricades and with the road blocking parties gone home. It then had to be abandoned. Interestingly the New Ross Standard reported that a Mr. Matthew Hart from Campile was arrested and brought by the military to Waterford after his car was found ‘…on the side of the road near Foluksmills on Saturday morning following the attack’. This was the same car that had to be abandoned as Thomas mentioned how prior to the attack they commandeered Hart’s car to transport bombs and bottles of petrol.
The failure to capture the barracks is due to several factors. Firstly the individual trained to throw the rope over the building failed to show up which meant an abrupt change of plan was required. Secondly, many of the bombs used failed to go off and breach the roof. Thirdly and last is the lack of experience as pointed out by Thomas as he said ‘I believe that if we had even one man with experience in barrack attacks we could have captured the barracks that night.’ (p7).
The Site today.
Many of the physical elements associated with that nights attack no longer exist ; the Doyle and Twomey houses no longer remain, neither those the concrete wall which the men hide behind. However the barracks, which is now a private residence, still survives. It remains much the same as it would have looked in 1920. The building retains its gable end loopholes from the period. Bullet holes are also visible on the front wall, likely associated with that nights attack in December 1920.
Bureau of Military History Witness Statement: Thomas Howlett (IRA) #1429
On Monday evening the 20th of December 1920 members of the South Wexford Brigade IRA arrived in the village of Carrig-On-Bannow, planning to destroy the RIC barracks. During the operation an altercation occurred between an IRA member and a civilian, the latter of whom was shot and killed.
Background to the event
In December 1920 the South Wexford Brigade IRA planned to destroy the RIC Barracks in Carrig-On-Bannow. A shop and pub, belonging to a Mr. James Walsh, was attached to the barracks building. At the time the police had also commandeered the area above these to accommodate additional personal. Francis Carty in his witness statement describes how they had planned to ‘…place a large quantity of gelignite in the public house against the inner wall of the barracks. The charge was calculated to be sufficient to destroy the barracks and its contents completely.’ (p6). A man called Tom Traynor, whom was the county engineer, had calculated the amount of explosives required for the job.
The Barracks Building
The RIC barracks was located on the northern end of the village, along the main street, The ‘Wicklow People’ on reporting the incident described the barracks as ‘strongly fortified and regarded as impregnable’. By Dec 1920 many rural barracks in Wexford had been sabotaged, burned or attacked. Foulksmills barracks had been attacked just 2 days before the incident in Carrig-on-Bannow. Subsequently as result of these events many had become heavily fortified, including Carrig-On-Bannow barracks. The newspaper report makes reference to ‘… a loophole window’ indicating the barracks possibly had steel shutters with loopholes attached to its windows. Mr. James Walsh, as well as owning the shop and pub, also owned the barracks building, which the police rented from him for a fee.
Attempt to blow up barracks
Francis Carty states in his witness statement that 12 men were involved in the operation. Before the operation telegraph wires were cut to stop the police calling for aid and delay the arrival of any potential reinforcements. Explosives had been hidden in a graveyard near the village and were picked up en route on the day. At around 6 in the evening, under the cover of darkness, 2-3 cars arrived and stopped outside the village, having come from Wexford town. The IRA had been informed that Mr. Walsh would not be in the shop at the time and instead there would be a young man assisting him that would not offer any resistance. This was John Walsh, a nephew of James Walsh. A donkey and cart was commandeered from a man outside the village to place the explosives into. This was to be led up to the barracks and the explosives placed inside the adjoining shop. The ‘Wicklow People’ reported how two men, armed with revolvers, approached the owner of the donkey and cart and took it, but reasurred thrm that they would return it after the operation.
The Military Enquiry reported in ‘The Wicklow People’ told how John Walsh left the shop at about 6:45 p.m. after his uncle, James Walsh, had arrived and relieved him. It was unexpected to the IRA that James Walsh would arrive, but they decided to continue with the operation. At about 7 p.m. two men entered the premises. Francis Carty identifies one of these men as ‘Davy Sears’ and how when he attempted to buy cigarettes Mr. James Walsh became suspicious of him. The Enquiry told how after a brief exchange of words a struggle broke out between Davy Sears and James Walsh. The ensuing struggle escalated from the shop to just outside the property when two shots rang out and James was wounded. The IRA decided to abandon the operation and fled the scene, heading northwards out of the village. Meanwhile, upon being awoken by the noise one of the police officers in the adjacent barracks took position upstairs and fired two shots at a wall opposite the building on the other side of the street. Having heard the commotion he likely assumed the barracks was under attack and fired where he thought any attackers may have been positioned. Francis Carty describes how he had been observing the incident nearby and upon hearing the shots from the police intended to fire back with a ‘parrabellum pistol’ he had. However, he mistakenly pressed the magazine release and it with its store of bullets fell to the ground. These were later retrieved by the police.
Following the attackers retreat James Walsh lay wounded outside his store calling for his nephew saying ‘John I’m shot’. Twenty minutes later the parish priest, a Canon Mortimer O Sullivan administered the last rites (Irish Times, 22nd Dec 1920, p5) and within a half hour of the shooting James died (New Ross Standard, 21st Dec 1920, p5), The cause of death was given as a result of two bullet wounds, both shot at close range.
James, most likely becoming aware of the IRA men and their intention, attempted to interfere and halt their actions. Knowing that the police were nearby he probably anticipated that his struggle would alert them and they would then render assistance. He was aged 50 years at the time of his death and was unmarried with no children. His remains were interned in Ambrosetown Graveyard.
Following on from the incident those involved managed to escape before any military cordons were set up on the area. They arrived back in Wexford town, leaving the cars a distance outside from it and walking in via separate roads. The Brigade Activity Reports tell how one telegraph wire was left uncut and the police actually wired for assistance. Fortunately for the IRA though a man named ‘Aidan Cullen’, whom was on duty in Wellingtonbridge post office, intercepted this message and prevented the capture of the men returning to Wexford.
The site today
The building has changed little from the exterior. The portion which served as the barracks is now a private residence while the former shop and pub section of the building retain their commercial fronts and in 2019 was used as a takeaway. There is no marker or memorial on the site to indicate that the incident ever occurred.
Irish Times, 22nd Dec 1920, p5
New Ross Standard, 21st Dec 1920, p5
South Wexford Brigade Activity Reports
The Wicklow People, 23rd Dec 1920, p5
Cover Photo: Former RIC Barrack (Right) and commercial premises of James Walsh as it looked in 2019.
In the early morning of the 13th of May 1920 a dwelling house occupied by Henry Tomkins, which was formerly the village’s RIC barracks, was sabotaged. The Irish Times reported that 20 armed men gained entry into the premises, causing much destruction, breaking windows, doors, the stairway, ceilings and roof. A gun found inside was taken away also. Patrick Ronan in his witness statement to the bureau of military history states the Ferns company of the IRA were responsible.
Ballycanew barracks had been vacated by the police for some time before the 13th of May. It was one of many vacated or closed barracks in the county that were burned or sabotaged so they could not be reoccupied. This reduced the capabilities of the British authorities in those areas, as they had now lost buildings in which they could have placed garrisons of men. It had the opposite effect for the IRA however as it allowed them more freedom to operate without a military or police presence in the area. Although Ballycanew barracks was closed the IRA were likely fearful that it maybe reoccupied by the newly arrived black and tans, brought in to reinforce the RIC.
The barracks building still stands in Ballycanew today and has remained much the same since the war of independence period.
Bureau of Military History Statement, Patrick Ronan #1157
On the 21st of August 1920 the RIC barracks in Hollyfort was burned by the Crannford company of the IRA. It had been vacated by the police earlier that month on the 14th and was one of many barracks burned or sabotaged in the county during the period to ensure it could not be reoccupied. This reduced the capacity of the British authorities to operate in the area, while increasing that of the IRA. The building had been let to the RIC for a yearly fee of £28 since 1892. After it was burned the owner was awarded £800 compensation.
On the 14th of August 1920 the RIC barracks in Kilmucridge was burned by the Kilmuckridge company of the IRA. It had been vacated by the police earlier in the month. Laurence Redmond in his withnes statement describes the event as follows;
‘In August, 1920, the R.I.C. evacuated Kilmuckridge barracks. We got orders from Battalion Headquarters to destroy the building. On the 14th August Joe Quinsay, who was in charge, myself and five or six others at about midnight forced an entry into the barracks. We spread hay and anything that would burn and sprinkled it with paraffin oil, and then set fire to it. The barrack was completely destroyed’ (p5)
It was one of may barrcks burned or sabotage in the county to ensure ithey could not be reoccupied and reduced the capacity of the British authorities to operate in many areas, while allowing the IRA more freedom. The barracks was located near to and on the lands of Litterbeg House and the two likley had an association. This is a common theme regarding the location of many barracks at the time. The building was later rebuilt and today is a private residence.
Bureau of Military History Witness Statement, Laurence Redmond #1010
On the 12th of May 1920 the Castlebridge company of the IRA sabotaged the RIC Barracks in the village which had been vacated previously by the police on the 14th of November 1919. The Irish Times reported that about midnight a party of men, numbering 20 upwards, entered the building and caused considerable damage; ‘doors and windows were broken, the partitions were demolished and a large portion of the roof was dismantled’ (The Irish Times , 14th May 1920 p5).
The building had been used as a police barracks since at least around 1839, being visible on the ordinance survey maps from then. It was rented from a Mrs. Jump, whom later was awarded £280 compensation in the courts. During the session a sergeant Cullen who gave details of the damage said ‘ The place was generally a wreck.’ (New Ross Standard, 23rd June 1920 p7). Today nothing remains of the former barracks with a petrol station now on the site. A photograph below, taken sometime presumably in the late 20th century, shows the building in a dilapidated state.
The Barrack was one of many sabotaged during the period in Wexford with the aim of ensuring they could not be reoccupied or used by the British authorities, therefore reducing their operational capacity, while increasing that of the IRA. Unlike most barracks Castlebridge was damaged rather then burned. Most likely because it formed part of a row of several buildings along the main street and the chances of a fire spreading to these would have been high. Consequently the barracks was heavily sabotaged instead.