Auxiliary Division - Counterinsurgency

Counterinsurgency

The elite ex-officer division proved to be much more effective than the Black and Tans especially in the key area of gathering intelligence. Auxiliary companies were intended as mobile striking and raiding forces, and they scored some notable successes against the IRA. On 20 November, the night before Bloody Sunday, they captured Dick McKee and Peadar Clancy, the commandant and vice-commandant of the IRA's Dublin Brigade. That same night, they caught William Pilkington, commandant of the Sligo IRA, in a separate raid. A month later, in December, they caught Ernie O'Malley completely by surprise in County Kilkenny: the IRA officer was reading in his room when a Temporary Cadet opened the door and walked in; "He was as unexpected as death," said O'Malley. In his memoirs, the commandant of the Clare IRA, Michael Brennan, describes how the Auxiliaries nearly captured him three nights in a row.

IRA commanders became concerned about the morale of their units as to many Volunteers the Auxiliaries seemed to be 'super fighters and all but invincible'. Those victories which were won over the Auxiliaries are among the most celebrated in the Irish War of Independence. On 28 November 1920, for example, a platoon of Auxiliaries was ambushed and wiped out in the Kilmichael Ambush by Tom Barry and the West Cork IRA. A little more than two months later, on 2 February 1921, another platoon of Auxiliaries was ambushed by Seán MacEoin and the Longford IRA in the Clonfin Ambush. On 19 March 1921 the 3rd Cork Brigade of the IRA defeated a large scale attempt by the British Army & Auxiliary Division to encircle and trap them at the Crossbarry Ambush. Later still, on 15 April 1921, Captain Roy L. Mackinnon DCM MM, commanding officer of H Company, ADRIC, was assassinated by the Kerry IRA.

Successes required reliable intelligence and raids often brought no result—or sometimes worse. In one case, they arrested a Castle official, Law Adviser W E Wylie, by mistake. In another, more notorious case, on 19 April 1921 they raided the Shannon Hotel in Castleconnell, County Limerick on a tip that there were suspicious characters drinking therein. The "suspicious characters" turned out to be three off-duty members of the RIC: both sides mistook the other for insurgents and opened fire; three people, an RIC man, an Auxiliary Cadet and a civilian, were killed in the shootout that followed.

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