History Military Politics

Weapons Of The Irish Revolution

During the latter half of the Irish Revolution two Volunteers-of the Irish Republican Army train with Thompson submachine guns during extensive manoeuvres in the Dublin mountains, Ireland

I thought these military-related articles would interest quite a few ASF readers (those of you who haven’t discovered the pieces for yourself, of course). First up is the always excellent Irish Story, an online history site that you should certainly add to your bookmarks or RSS feeds. It feature a two-part overview by the prolific John Dorney on the weapons of the Irish Revolution, starting with the Easter Rising and working its way through to the War of Independence. The initial post partially draws upon the examination of the 1916 insurrection by Kenneth Smith-Christmas and published on the American Rifleman magazine. Meanwhile Jonathan Ferguson for the Firearm Blog charts the 1921 purchase and importation into Ireland of the quintessential weapon of the Irish Revolution, at least in myth if not reality, the Thompson submachine gun. The magazine History Ireland has two related posts on the understandably secrecy-bound matter here and here. The Irish Volunteers website also looks at this most dramatic of weapons, and of course there is the well-established Thompson Gun In Ireland, the definitive online source for all your “Tommy Gun” questions.

Finally Brenda Malone at the Cricket Bat that Died for Ireland (yes, really) has a post on the now largely forgotten attempts by the Irish Republican Army to develop their own mortars for use against fortified British barracks and other positions during the War of Independence. In essence it would have been a less powerful early 20th century version of the far more powerful late 20th century mortars deployed by the (Provisional) IRA from the 1970s to mid-1990s (notably the so-called “barrack buster”). Had such weapons been successfully used back in the 1920s they would likely have been more psychologically damaging than physically destructive of the enemy, sapping the will of already isolated troops and police in stations around the country. Just as (P)IRA successfully discouraged the maintenance of local British garrisons in a number of rural areas in the “Occupied North” through a process of attrition, creating an amalgamation or clustering-effect of “security force” installations, so the “Old IRA” could have intensified the withdrawal of Britain’s visible presence from across the west and south-west of the country during the period of 1919-21. However that, like the hoped for impact of some 600 Thompson submachine guns from the United States or the would-be arms’ imports from Germany and Italy, will remain one of the great “what ifs” of the revolutionary period.

Two Volunteers of the Irish Republican Army, their faces masked, train with a Lewis light machine gun during IRA manoeuvres in the Dublin mountains, late revolutionary period in Ireland

On a non-military matter can I recommend this study by Pat Walsh on a frequently ignored point relating to the Easter Rising of 1916, one that played its part in shaping the thinking of those who participated in the proclamation of the republic. Namely that the then government of the “United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland” was in reality an unelected administration, the 1915 British general election having being suspended in May of that year with the formation of a “national government” (supported by John Redmond and the Irish Parliamentary Party, though not including them). So by April of 1916 Ireland, like Britain, was under the authority of a “parliamentary dictatorship” not an elected government; and certainly not one that the vast majority of Irish men (and disenfranchised women) had voted for or had any say in.

3 comments on “Weapons Of The Irish Revolution

  1. Very interesting.
    I never knew the IRA funded the development of the Tommy Gun.
    A very interesting weapon.
    Used by the Americans in W.W.2 in the Pacific the US needed the drum magazine
    to cope with the Japanese Banzai attacks and It saw Service in American hands in their war in Vietnam
    In fact IIRC the only problem with it in Vietnam was that it made too much noise in the jungle…just from carrying it around,,The Bullets would rattle in the magazines..
    Not sure if that applied to the drum magazines or the “stick” type magazines..or both.
    If they had of had a few more of them in 1919..Irish history would have been very different indeed.
    A case of what might have been.


  2. For anyone interested, part III is now up here. http://www.theirishstory.com/2015/05/21/weapons-of-the-irish-revolution-part-iii-the-civil-war-1922-23/ On the Civil war. Thanks for the mention by the way. John


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