The Irish War of Independence

In the aftermath of World War I, Irish nationalists resumed their struggle with the British forces, now widely seen as an army of occupation. Acting as the military arm of the newly proclaimed Irish government, they embarked on a campaign of harassment and guerrilla activity.

What happened in Dublin?

Map from Bloody Sunday

In July 1919 Michael Collins, the head of IRA Intelligence, set up a special unit called "the Squad". Their job was to kill British intelligence agents, particularly those nicknamed G-men. These were a small group of plainclothes policemen (from G Division of the Dublin Metropolitan Police) who operated a network of spies within the IRA. Despite their adoption of bullet-proof waistcoats, many of the G-men and their informants were eliminated by the pistols of the Squad, who were irreverently nicknamed Twelve Apostles. Bloody Sunday, map above, was one of the most tragic altercations during the War of Independence.

What happened in the countryside?

Selection of Grenades

In a guerrilla war there are no large battles — instead there are many small skirmishes, raids, and minor fights involving a few men on either side. The assorted items in the case suggest the difficulty of providing effective weapons to the rural fighters during the War Independence. Most farmers owned a shotgun — thus in the countryside they were the most common IRA weapon. When the proper ammunition was not available, cartridge cases would occasionally be refilled with gelignite, leading to accidents. Simple weapons were made to order, including hand grenades (above).

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