Uniforms 1919-1923

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Re: Uniforms 1919-1923

Postby euryalus on Mon Sep 29, 2008 3:42 pm

Hello Padraig,

You have some excellent information! It will take me some time to absorb it all, but in the meantime I agree that formal regimental histories and museums tend not to have much information on the army in Ireland 1919-23. This is certainly the case with the Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, although I am starting to find some good stuff, including intelligence assessments on Michael Collins and captured IRA material.

This is what I have said so far on the Cratloe incident - it is more or less word-for-word from the official sources. Only two casualties are mentioned, which means that the third man may have been from another regiment?

"The next major incident involving members of the Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry took place on 18th November 1920, after an aeroplane had made a forced landing at Cratloe in County Clare, and the regiment was asked to protect the machine during the night. A platoon from ‘C’ Company, 1st Battalion was, accordingly, sent out under 2nd Lieutenant M.H.Last, but when the party reached Cratloe they were fired upon by Sinn Feiners, 5373641 Private A.Spackman being killed, while 5373574 Private M.F.Robins was severely wounded. The attackers having been driven off, ‘C’ Company subsequently carried out a ‘round up’ of known republicans in the Cratloe area.

Private Spackman, who had enlisted in the Regiment in April 1920, was the son of Mrs Spackman of Twyford in Berkshire. Private Robins, who never recovered from his wounds, died in Fermoy Hospital on 2nd March 1921. The regimental Chronicle reported that he had ‘enlisted in the Regiment on 12th February 1920, being just over seventeen years of age. He had previously lived at Wexham, near Slough".

The so-called "round-up" of republicans may be the incident to which you refer. If so, it would have been something ordered by the officers, rather than drunken soldiers going on the rampage. If uneccessary damage was caused to the locality it should certainly be mentioned in the article. I have already mentioned the Fermoy incident, which impinges on the OBLI story because the Kings Shropshire Light Infantry were transferred from Fermoy to Cork and thence to the Curragh shortly afterwards, which suggests that the authorities were (at that stage at least) trying to cool the situation.

I would certainly be interested in any details that you may have regarding members of the Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry who joined the RIC or RIC "cadets". I have not found any so far, although one of victims of the Macroom ambush is buried in nearby Abingdon (he was a member of the Northumberland Fusiliers). Regarding the Auxiliaries, I have raised the question of their uniforms on other forums, my suggestion being that some, at least of these individuals may have worn the badges and shoulder titles of their former regiments. I have a description of some Black & Tans and Auxiliaries who attended a Requiem Mass in Westminster RC Cathedral, which mentions rifle green RIC uniforms for the former and khaki uniforms for the latter. I can provide a transcription if anybody is interested.
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Re: Uniforms 1919-1923

Postby bannerman on Tue Sep 30, 2008 11:15 pm

Hello Stanley,
We seemed to be getting off the title which was uniforms so Ive sent you a private message detailing more information on the Ox and Bucks in Clare and Limerick but thanks for all the compliments on my research. :D

Now on the issue of Black and Tan "uniform" as much as they wore any type of standard uniform.
On the 25th of March 1920 Christopher O Sullivan a reporter with the Limerick Echo was returning by train from a meeting in Dublin. As he boarded the Limerick bound train at Limerick junction he encountered a group of R.I.C. constables wearing a poorly fitting mixture of very dark green, R.I.C. uniform and British Army khaki. The policemen spoke with pronounced English accents and in accent, dress and stature they seemed very different to the usual R.I.C. recruits. Writing in the weekend edition of the Limerick Echo O Sullivan described his meeting with the new R.I.C. recruits: "He measured up to about 5’6” and could scarcely weigh 10 stone. I would associate him with the Pallasgreen Scarteen Hunt, to judge by the colour of his cap and trousers.” The Pallasgreen Scarteen Hunt O Sullivan referred to were a famous pack of ‘coon hound’ hunting dogs, based on the East Limerick – Tipperary border, known by the colours of their coats as ‘The Black and Tans.’ O Sullivan’s name for the new R.I.C. recruits stuck and quickly became a popular description for them amongst the Irish people.

On the 27th of December 1919 the newly appointed R.I.C. Chief Constable T.J. Smyth authorised recruitment for the R.I.C in Britain. Six days later the first of a wave of new recruits joined the R.I.C., and the first Black and Tans were born. Between January 1920, and the forces disbandment in, 1922 fourteen thousand men were recruited to the R.I.C. In January of 1920 the R.I.C. recruited one hundred and ten ex-soldiers, they were sent to Ireland after their initial training that March. Almost all of these new recruits were sent to Cork with the remaining seven sent to Limerick. It was probably this first batch of Black and Tans that Christopher O Sullivan had encountered at Limerick junction.

However when the first of these recruits joined the force, the R.I.C. were unable to equip them with regular dark green R.I.C. uniforms. The new recruits were not subject to the R.I.C.’s physical regulations and many were too short to fit the existing stick of police uniforms. Due to the republican boycott of the R.I.C., tailors refused to make more uniforms for the new policemen and they had to supplement their dress with khaki or tan coloured British Army uniforms. Their peculiar dress and behaviour immediately set the Black and Tans apart from the regular R.I.C in the minds the Irish public and serving R.I.C. men. Shortly after the arrival of the first Black and Tans in Ireland the British Government began another recruitment campaign to enlist ex-British Army officers as members of the Auxiliary Division of the R.I.C. The Auxiliaries or ‘Auxies’ as they became known were created at a conference of the British cabinet on the 11th of May 1920.

The Auxiliaries held the rank of ‘Temporary Cadet’ and were in effect police sergeants. Like the Black and Tan’s the Auxiliaries were supposed to be regarded as regular policemen but unlike the Black and Tans they had their own separate command to the R.I.C. headed by Brigadier General Crozier.The Auxiliaries were affected by the same uniform shortage which had seen the R.I.C.’s new ‘Temporary Constables’ dressed in black and tan. Initially the Auxiliary’s wore the same mixture of police and military uniform as the Black and Tans, except that they wore Scottish Tam O’ Shanter hats and the letters TC on their epaulettes witch stood for ‘Temporary Cadet’ but which the Auxiliaries quickly re-interpreted as ‘tough cunts’. When the shortage of uniforms was amended late in 1920 some Auxiliary Companies were issued with dark blue British police uniforms but still retained their Tam O’ Shanter uniform hats.

Like the Black and Tans the Auxiliaries were armed with Lee-Enfield rifles, Webbly and Scott .45 revolvers and Mills Bomb hand grenades. The Auxiliaries were usually armed with two .45 webbly and Scott revolvers one strapped in a holster to each thigh. Auxiliary Bill Monroe remembered that a mixture of bravado, drunkenness and horseplay with these revolvers often resulted in accidents: "Some of us were influenced by western films and wore our revolvers in holsters low slung on the thigh which looked very dashing but which were the cause of quite a number of shot off toes – as the enthusiasts attempted to emulate the cowboys of Texas.”

One of the only Black and Tans to publish a memoir of his time in Ireland Douglas V Duff author of "Sword For Hire" described the chaotic uniform situation at the R.I.C. training camp at Gormanstown: "According to R.I.C. regulations, we recruits were ordered to report at the Quartermasters stores for kit and equipment. I received a dark green constabulary cap, a tunic of similar colour and a pair of khaki G.S. trousers, together with a regulation overcoat and mackintosh. Some were not so lucky, in fact the only article of police clothing that a few possessed was the Constabulary cap, being entirely clad in Khaki otherwise. We marched to another store and there received our arms and equipment. S.M.L.E. rifle of regulation pattern, .450-calibre revolver and bayonet together with ammunition and handcuffs."

Unlike Duff most of the Black and Tans had served in the First World War and had their kept own G.S. (General Service) issue uniforms which they added to their kit in Ireland. Hence as stanley points out some of the members who wore British Army G.S. tunics may have had regimental insignisa still on them, but these would proably not have been added to R.I.C. tunics. Some of the earliest phtographs of Tans and Auxies in Ireland show them clad entirely in Kakhi British Army Uniform with only police issue R.I.C. leather gear to set them out as policemen. So Basically the Tans and Auxies wore any mixture of uniforms from early March 1920 including, Royal Navy, R.F.C (WW1), R.A.F., British Army (WW1), British Army (Post War issue), R.I.C., British Police Uniforms and any amount of civilian clothing to boot. But by late 1920 the shortages in uniform supply had all been made up and the Black and Tans dressed in ordinary issue R.I.C. uniforms with usually only their accents to tell them appart (Usually not always rember 14% of the Tans were Irish) :oops: however the auxies still seem to have worn many variations in uniform but all Auxialliary Companies kept wearing the trademark Tam O Shanter hat.

By late 1919 the I.R.A had succeeded in making it impossible for the R.I.C. to police the country. British imposed law and order was collapsing throughout Ireland, the Sinn Féin organised Dáil courts and the I.R.A.'s republican police force were filling the vacuum. The British Government needed to act quickly to regain control of the situation in Ireland. Thousands of British soldiers had already been sent to Ireland to suppress the republican rebellion, but if the British Army replaced the R.I.C. as the main force fighting the I.R.A, the British Government would have to admit that they were fighting a war, and that the I.R.A were a legitimate army and could no longer claim that the I.R.A were a criminal gang of murders and thugs. The R.I.C. had always prided itself on being a semi-military force and this made the complete militarisation of the force a rapid process as the previous distinct roles of soldier and policeman became fused. The policemen of the R.I.C. became soldiers, British soldiers became policemen and ex-soldiers became a strange new hybrid.

This should account well enough for the Tans - again ordinary British troops wore ordinary British G.S. issue kit with few alterations or additions. If ye have any queries please post photographs and or questions!
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