1920-1939 | Ireland



A vehicle full of Black and Tan auxiliaries – February 1921
The National Museum of Ireland. No known copyright restrictions.

[ 4 September 1920 ]

On 4 September 1920, the Daily Herald cited a warning on its front page from a Plymouth businessman to all English visitors to Ireland, at a time when the British Army was waging a brutal counter insurgency campaign against Irish rebels.  The danger to travellers didn’t come from the Irish Republican Army or other republican dissidents, but from undisciplined British auxiliary forces, known as the ‘Black and Tans’, engaged in an indiscriminate campaign of pacification.  The Plymothian related to a Herald Journalist how, on the previous Wednesday night in a small Irish town, he and several other English visitors had been ‘standing in a bar when a party of Black and Tans approached.’

‘Without any warning or provocation of any sort,’ he recalled, they ‘opened fire with their rifles, the bullets smashing the glass and the woodwork of the bar.’ Only moments later, ‘one of them threw a hand grenade, but by this time everyone had fled.’ The witness explained that the entire town’s population lived in terror of the trigger happy auxiliaries who had shot at the bar on two previous occasions, adding that they had routinely demanded to be offered drinks without payment.  So the journalist asked if he thought English travellers were in any danger in Ireland, to which the reply came: ‘Yes, but only from the forces that represent our government here.’1


  1. ‘Bomb in a Bar: Englishman Describes the Black and Tan Terror,’ The Daily Herald, 4 September 1920, p. 1.

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