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The Black and Tans


Guest Mrbeancounter
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Guest Mrbeancounter

First post ! - Here goes...

I know that this is not a regular Army unit , but has anyone come across any records or soldiers' service history that include the "Black and Tans"? They were mostly former soldiers brought into Ireland by the government in London after 1918 to assist the Royal Ulster Constabulary in their work. The first unit arrived in Ireland in March 1920.

The make up of ex servicemen is shown by the Irish song ;

"Come out ye Black and Tans

Come out and fight me like a man,

Show your wife how you won medals down in Flanders.

Tell her how the I.R.A.

Made you run like Hell away,

From the green and lovely fields of Killeshandra"

My interest? My grandfather (Pte W H Williams, 2 Seaforth Highlanders) is alleged to have been one of the 2,000 ex serviceman who went over there for 10 shillings a day.

Any pointers greatly appreciated!

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Hello and welcome to the Forum,

Just a minor correction: the Black and Tans assisted the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) not the RUC. They became the de facto police force when the RIC could no longer operate due to attacks from Republicans. They were issued with a mix of uniforms and were nicknamed after a famous Galway Hunt which had black and tan foxhounds. They were widely feared and are still a touchy subject in this part of the world.

Regards,

Liam.

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Just picky but many Republicans didn't favour the use of violence so it is worth separating out those alternative groupings a bit. Also 400,000 plus Irishmen served in the UK Forces and the quote from this modern song probably doesn't give an accurate description of the complexityof the time.

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Guest Mrbeancounter

Patrick,

I take your point completely - And I should add that he was born in Curragh. The whole event was something he was never proud of very later, but the money was so good and he was planning to set up in South Africa with it.

I am not sure if the Black and Tans would be considered "mercenary" and if that is an appropriate term for them, but this is still an understandably painful area.

Dave,

Thanks for the link, oops, I didn't do my search properly!

Ta

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Patrick,

You are quite correct on the Republican issue - I should have been more careful. I considered writing Old IRA, but felt that this might cause some confusion! Absolutely right on the Irish men who fought in the British Army - it is rather ironic that two of the best leaders of the Old IRA (Emmett Dalton and Tom Barry) learnt their military skills in the British Army. I thought the figure for Irish men was closer to 300,000 with 50,000 KIA - quoted in Orange, Green and Khaki.

Regards,

Liam.

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This is a subject that I have become very interested in of late, originally inspired by my research on the 1st South Staffords*. I've just finished reading Calton Youngers's "Ireland's civil war", which - although Younger is clearly somewhat prejudiced in places - has given me a much greater, clearer understanding of those terrible times for Ireland.

*One of the battalion COs, William English-Murphy MC, later served as a senior officer with the National (Free State) army - as William Murphy. In the 1960s his house was destroyed in a fire and all his Great War memorabilia lost. His wife applied for copy medals and there was an awful lot of correspondence, along the lines of 'can you prove this, that and the other...and we'll think about it'. I have often wondered if this was due to his move to the Free State army, even though this was something effectively encouraged by the British.

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