Military Strategies of of the I.R.A. During the Anglo Irish War of Independence, 1919-21

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Assess the effectiveness of the military strategies of the Irish Republican Army during the War of Independence, 1919-21.

At the outbreak of hostilities it was apparent that the I.R.A. could not hope to win a traditional stand up military fight against a modern, well equipped army with the financial backing of The British Empire. In order to engage the crown forces in a guerrilla war, weapons and ammunition were required in large numbers. General Head Quarters (G.H.Q.) authorized smuggling operations and had sent volunteers abroad to procure arms. G.H.Q. sold arms to the individual units, many of which were hampered in their operational status due to lack of funding to purchase weapons and ammunition.

As the war progressed many Royal Irish Constabulary (R.I.C.) barracks and the Crowns Tax Offices were attacked and burned. GHQ issued a general raid order in September of 1920. The primary objective the Volunteers attacks on isolated R.I.C. barracks were to obtain arms and ammunition. Many of these barracks were poorly defended and usually consisted of terraced houses. In order to disrupt the governance of rural areas, tax offices were targeted. These targets allowed collection of funds from the local populace that were to be appropriated to the Crown.

These tactics were adopted by many units when news of the initial successes of these barracks and tax office attacks filtered out, throughout the country. The volunteers embarked on a campaign of Intimidation of R.I.C men and their families, and members of the general public who supported the crown forces, many of which were shot. This tactic was extremely effective at reducing the morale of the R.I.C. Recruitment dropped and resignations increased in the organization The R.I.C. retreated to larger towns after it was decided to evacuate may rural barracks. This tactic led to large parts of rural Ireland becoming ungovernable. This allowed the Dail to implement their much heralded Courts System, collect taxes and implement civil control.

Most units at the start of the war appeared to act independently without central command control. Attacks on Crown Forces were sporadic in nature and were badly planned. Inexperience of many of the men in these units led to many failed operations Many units operations amounted to sabotage by digging trenches in roads, de-railing trains, cutting of communications lines, snipping at barracks and personnel. Even the most poorly equipped and inactive units could engage in many of these tactics. The effectiveness of military actions conducted varied widely accordingly to geographic location. Areas like South Tipperary, East Limerick and Cork were particularly active, while areas such as Wexford, Mayo and Waterford had low turnout and low activity. Cite. Meeting and Drilling after the day’s work was done, amounted to the extent of some volunteers actions for the duration of the war cite The willingness of volunteers to risk their safety was also another factor which hindered operations in many units.

Volunteers who possessed weapons especially rifles were usually picked to partake in operations over volunteers who did not. The men who possessed guns gained experience on active operations and were given higher status within units. In many areas this led to a cycle of a select group of men getting more and more experience on active service, while men who had no weapons remained inactive were not gaining any such experience. To alleviate this some units introduced rotational systems were guns and ammunition were stored in a central weapons dump. Access to weapons dumps could only be gotten after permission from the units Quarter Master was given. Activity of units depended largely on the membership and the professionalism of their commanding officers. Traditionally commanding officers were elected and appointed by their members. Electoral decisions appeared to be based on the social standing of the officers, family...
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