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Patrick H

The Essex Regt in Ireland

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Patrick H

Hi

I remember hearing somewhere, probably from my late father, that the Essex Regt were stationed in Cork shortly after the war and that they were hated by the locals. Being an Essex man of Cork descent I hope this isnt true. I would think that any of the Regt who had served in france would not wish to have been shipped over to Ireland. Does anyone have any idea of which Battalion(s) and where they were stationed etc

Patrick

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HarryBettsMCDCM

The 8th [Cyclist] Bn; The Essex Regt; TF; were in Enniskillen from February 1918;March 1918 to Curragh,Then on to Tulla Co.Clare,In October they were @ Naas Co.Kildare.

They had spent the War on the Essex & Kent Coast;HQ @ Wivenhoe;as part of the 73rd Division

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kildaremark

All I know is that the 1st Essex transferred from their barracks at Kinsale, Co. Cork to Carrickfergus in January/February 1922 with the partition of Ireland.

Tom Barry, the leader of one of the main IRA flying columns in Cork was involved in a major engagement with the Essex Regiment at Crossbarry, Cork in March 1921 which is legendary in Ireland. The Essex were particularly disliked as they were alleged to torture and murder suspected IRA men, so much so that when their former commanding officer Arthur Ernest Perceval surrendered to the Japanese in Singapore in 1942he got a message from Tom Barry to say "remember Cork".

Mark

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squirrel

Wasn't Tom Barry's ambush at Crossbarry used as "model" in training for some european armies?

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kildaremark

Tom Barry served during World War 1 with the British Army - served, I believe, in Messopotamia - I must check the online Medal index to see with what unit.

May other of the IRA also served in WW1 including Emmet Dalton who led a sea bourne landing at Cork during the Irish Civil War against the Irregular Forces holding the city.

Incidentally, The king's Liverpool Regiment also served in Cork but apparently members were not attacked when in civvies because they were a more honourable lot unlike the Essex Regiment - the Southern English mentality as opposed to the midlands and north? Barry had a sense of honour (Many might disput this however?)

Mark

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Patrick H
Incidentally, The king's Liverpool Regiment also served in Cork but apparently members were not attacked when in civvies because they were a more honourable lot unlike the Essex Regiment - the Southern English mentality as opposed to the midlands and north? Barry had a sense of honour (Many might disput this however?)

Mark

Thats a rather inflammatory and sweeping statement !!! I am half Irish and half Southern English (family back to at least 1600 in Essex !) Where is your evidence for both then and now ?

I would imagine having spent time in the trenches in France the last place the men would want to be is in Ireland at a time of unrest and demands for independance. This may not have put the men in the best frame of mind but the British attitude towards Ireland at the time was hardly fraternal, and of course there's the Black and Tans

Patrick (of dual nationality and proud of it)

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kildaremark

Mean't to be provocative...tongue in cheek!!

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GrandsonMichael

Hey guys,

Let's not get het up. Mark did use the word ‘alleged’ when he referred to the actions of the 1st Bn. Essex Regiment. The interesting thing here is, as Patrick quite rightly asked, where is the evidence for the allegations. What are the sources on which these ‘allegations’ are based?

Facts: the 1st Battalion Essex Regiment was stationed in Ireland from say January 1919 at Kinsale and took part in operations against the IRA. In February 1922 they were moved to Carrickfergus, Ulster in accordance with the treaty signed to evacuate the Irish Free State. (Source: Burrows, The Essex Units in the War 1914 – 1919, 1st Battalion The Essex Regiment, Volume 1, page 158.

I’ve come across the Tom Barry story more than once. This website states: “In October the West Cork IRA killed five British soldiers in an ambush at Toureen, including the leader of the Essex regiment, Captain Dickson, who ‘was shot through the head as he was firing his revolver’. In reprisal, the Essex regiment descended on the town of Bandon in Cork and smashed it up”.

Is this true or not? I don’t know. I invite anyone with well documented information to step forward now and share this with us.

Cheers,

Michael

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kildaremark

The Essex Regiment issue is a difficult one as I'm not aware of their view being portrayed anywhere.

The IRA in Cork were fairly successful in their guerilla campaign but by its nature it was a pretty dirty affair. The main source on Barry is his own biography which, surprise surprise, gives a different slant to some of the events most notably at Kilmichael in November 1920 when Barry's column killed 17 Auxiliaries (Ex British soldiers acting as Policemen) and a huge amount of controversy over whether the auxiliaries pretended to surrender resulting in some being shot at point blank range - this one is still running in the pages of the History Ireland magazine with one historian not to complimentary on Tom Barry's sense of honour.

Obviously the IRA view would be that they were fighting a legitimate campaign despite using guerilla tactics against soldiers who were used to WW1 tactics against a definite enemy. In Ireland, it was difficult to know who was friend or foe and therefore it is normal that there would be "brutality" against innocent or not so innocent civilians from harrassed soldiers. There were atrocities carried out by both sides but the Essex Regt seem to have got the reputation for whatever reason - I can't claim to know enough about the subject to give the reasons.

It is worth noting that the British began to use the tactic of small mobile units to counter the IRA columns with a lot of success while the IRA on a few occasions attempted to engage the British army in conventional warfare unsuccessfully and at great cost.

Mark

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GrandsonMichael

Hi Mark,

Thanks for your additional information. I'm somewhat baffled though. You state: “ The Essex Regiment issue is a difficult one as I'm not aware of their view being portrayed anywhere”.

You also state that your main source is Barry himself, hardly an objective source (whatever ones position is regarding the parties involved in the conflict/war). I would like to know what the secondary sources are to back up a statement about the reputation of the Essex Regiment.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that whatever regiments involved in this conflict are white as a lily.....all I’m interested in is confirmation through other sources regarding the alleged actions of the Essex Regiment. Regardless of the view of the Regiment itself, which I’m not familiar with either, but that’s besides the point here in my view.

Cheers,

Michael

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squirrel

Can give you what I remember of some stories I was told when I was in Ireland, Cork, in the 70's regarding the Essex Regiment if anybody is interested.

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rob elliott

Patrick/Michael, It is true that the Essex regiment did have a bad reputation with Irish Republicans,but this was possibly because they were effective in operations against the IRA. It is recorded that they were firm in their dealings with suspected rebels [language of the time],and i suggest that if you wish to learn more about the war against the IRA in Cork,both British Regiments and Black and Tans that you read 'The IRA and its enemies' by Peter Hart. It is very detailed in its analysis of actions by the Crown Forces and the IRA and debunks a lot of myths-Tom Barry for one [this is the historian refered to by Mark].

Hart is a Canadian and has done very detailed research into the IRA,without a slant for or against,but giving facts. At present there is corrospondace on-going regarding his latest work which again states that Tom Barry made up the story of a false surrender by Auxillaries prior to having them murdered [one was persued for miles then shot down].

Regarding the Essex regiment there is a very sad case of the murder of Lt Col Warren John Peacocke DSO, in 1921 for supposedly helping search parties of the Essex capture IRA men. Lt Col Peacocke was one of the best officers of the Ulster Division [9th Skins] and rallied the men in the Schwaben redoubt on the afternoon on the 1st of July,having been in reserve in the morning. It is believed he was murdered for being an ex-British officer. Some weeks later the IRA returned to his home and burned his widowed mother out. Tom Barry bragged of this action in his 'memoirs'.

There is a very sad letter written Mrs Peacocke about her son's murder that was published in a newspaper that could have been written yesterday.

Major Percival's papers relating to this period indicating some actions of his men are held in the Imperial War Museum.

Not sure if it is still there but on the old Pathe News photo site there were photos of British soldiers [not B&T's] making Sinn Fein supporters parade around a village with the Union Flag singing the National Anthem. Don't think that would have endeared them to the locals.

Rob.

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Martin B

The Essex regiment were disliked as far as I can see because they were effective in their counter terrorism role ...

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GrandsonMichael

Squirrel,

Thanks for your offer. I bet there is some very interesting information you could provide, but I’m really looking for written historical sources...Oral history is very important but in this specific case I think 50 years later is rather dicey.

Rob,

Thanks as well. I’ll try to get my hands on Peter Hart’s book (and a few hundred other books). Though after doing some extensive ‘googling’ I realize that this is not a matter of ‘ongoing correspondence’ but more like a raging controversy amongst researchers!

I don’t understand that you refer to Tom Barry as a ‘historian’. Did he have a degree in History?

You state that “It is true that the Essex regiment did have a bad reputation with Irish Republicans”. I get the impression that this is once more a statement not based on clear source material and get the distinct impression the Essex Regiment was compared to other regiments? Please correct me if I am wrong.

I found myself that the 3rd Bn. Essex Regiment was also stationed in Ireland for a while before they were replaced by the 1st Bn. (Burrows, Volume 4, The Essex Militia, pages 188 & 189.) This means that there were at least three different Battalions of the Essex Regiments stationed in the conflict area at different periods of time. So what exactly is the definition of Essex Regiment in this context?

Martin B:

“ The Essex regiment were disliked as far as I can see because they were effective in their counter terrorism role ...

Same question, on what sources do you base this statement, or is this a conclusion of the postings in this thread up till now?

Trying to differentiate facts from fiction,

Cheers Michael

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rob elliott

Michael,

50 years later? surely that tells you something. If a particular battalion can be remembered it must be for something they did [or were believed to have done]. Irish Oral history is very strong and is usually a good source to start from as there will be elements of truth in it.

The Cork IRA were one of the most [if not the most] written about units and there are plenty of histories to read from.

Not being an Essex buff i can't say which battalion it was but as the CO was Percival it can't be too difficult to find out.

It was Hart who is the historian talked about. Having said that Tom Barry was there. We weren't so i think he is a bit more of a historian on that subject than me.

A degree doesn't make you an historian either.

Hart quotes from interviews with a man who joined the IRA after an incident with the Essex regiment. However as this is oral history i don't suppose it counts.

Does it being written down make it more factual than it being spoken,i don't think so.

This is the point of the ongoing discussions about Tom Barry. He wrote a report on the Kilimichael ambush shortly after,but in his later 'written' memoirs he changed it.

The argument being which is the true account. Peter hart has obtained interviews with IRA men that dispute the later accounts.

Hart doesn't only refer to the Essex regiment,there are 5 or 6 others but it is the former that are remembered,mostly i believe due to newspaper reports of the time.

This sort of thing occured in the latest troubles.Certain battalions were thought to be brutal,like the paras and others easier going.Same with the Black and Tans,got a lot of blame for regular soldiers work. Biased press will always give bad reports of one side or the other.

As to their effectiveness,even Tom Barry acknowledged that they were beginning to adapt their [Essex] tactics so as to be a serious threat. The excuse posted by the IRA for killing Lt Col Peacocke was that he led the Essex on successful raids.Hence it is reasonable to assume they would be despised more than a less pro-active regiment.

Rob.

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GrandsonMichael

Rob,

I’m not very clear at times. What I meant to say is that there is a clear difference between oral history written down using certain interview methods and let’s call it for arguments sake ‘hearsay’. Memories of things heard 35 odd years ago about a period now 85 odd years ago is in my view not really oral history, well dicey to say the least unless the information can be corroborated by other sources. (No offence meant Squirrel)

I whole heartedly concur when you state: “Does it being written down make it more factual than it being spoken, i don't think so”.

I also see the logic in your reasoning regarding one regiment being more ‘despised’ than another. I wanted to get clear what unit of the Essex Regiment was involved as so often people write about a regiment in general terms, which doesn’t help to clarify what we’re discussing here.

Burrows, in his Essex Units in the War 1914 – 1919, 1st Battalion The Essex Regiment, Volume 1, 1923 doesn’t provide much information: “ A few weeks later the Essex were ordered back to England for duty in Ireland, being stationed at Kinsale and taking part, under Lieut.-Col. F. W. Moffitt, D.S.O., in the operations against the Irish Republican Army in that district”.

I’m not sure when Major Percival entered the picture but have understood from several internet sites that he led the 1st Bn. as a Captain (?)and a Major (?)and was stationed in Bandon.

I heard from one of our Forum members the other day that there is more information about this period in a second edition of Volume 1, but sadly I do not have this.

Any pal/Essex Regiment buff here who does? (He asked keeping his fingers crossed)

Cheers,

Michael

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Guest stuck in a rutt

Hello there,

You Gentlemen all seem to be very up on the Essex Reg.

Could someone possibly help me? I am trying to find out the history of Pvt Edward Hale 1st Essex Reg 1917-1927.

He could be listed somewhere as Lance Corp or Lance Serg, he kept being naughty promoted and demoted. Bless him!

I have his service book but that actualy holds damn all in it.

He was apparently in India at some point as my Gran refused to go ou there with him, and he sent a photo to her from there, but no record in service. Also he went to Ireland while he was still with the Regs, but again no information.

Could any body tell me if there is any mention of Edward Hale in any book 1st Essex Reg that would confirm he did go on these posts. Actually any info at all would be great.

Thank you x

Cassie

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rob elliott

Michael,

It looks like it will be the first Battalion as Bandon and its district were where a lot of the troubles occured with Tom Barry.

The town was sometimes refered to as 'Orange Bandon' as it was an area with a large Protestant population which were classed as Loyalists by the IRA.

It wqas near here that Lt Col Peacocke was murdered.

Can't help with the Essex Regiment at all i'm afraid.

It seems that the Percival papers are very detailed from what i have read about them,including photos,so this would be the prime source to go for.

Rob.

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squirrel

GrandsonMichael,

No problem with this but the stories were told to me by family members of the people involved in the presence of one who was there at the time the incidents occured.

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GrandsonMichael

" It seems that the Percival papers are very detailed from what i have read about them,including photos,so this would be the prime source to go for. "

Sure looks like that's a good idea Rob, a shame I live in Holland :(

Squirell, I'm starting to feel rather dogmatic and daft if I now say I'm not interested! Mind if I P.M. you about this?

Cheers,

Michael

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squirrel

GransonMichael,

no problem with a pm.

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GrandsonMichael

Thanks Squirrel.

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GrandsonMichael
I am trying to find out the history of Pvt Edward Hale 1st Essex Reg 1917-1927.

Cassie,

Hope you don't mind but to 'disentangle' your question from this thread I've repeated it and posted my reply here.

Cheers,

Michael

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Martin B

Michael,

Many of the books I've read about this period refer to the Essex Regiment's reputation as an efficient anti - IRA unit. How this is viewed now of course very much depends on your overall view of the 'Irish question'. In my experience very few of the texts available are truely impartial - all being written from one standpoint or the other with the 'facts' hiding somewhere in between. Good luck in your search for the truth ...

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C.TIERNEY.

There was a tv documentry on RTE TV about 3-4 years ago (?)covering the Kilmichael ambush and Tom Barry.

I wonder if any of the Irish members can cast some light on it's title etc. It threw up little snippets (if my memory serves me well) like the background of Barry's service in Iraq, and that as he raised the Union Flag on Rememberance Day 1919 he was considered suspect by the local IRA when he volunteered his services to them.

Am I dreaming that all this was on tv?

Help!!

C.T.

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