They were sent over here to break the people and they were a far more dangerous force than the Black and Tans. - Commandant Tom BarryIn 1919, Ireland was plunged into a brutal guerrilla war. Although unconventional warfare made the British government uncomfortable, senior politicians realised a specialist unit was needed to fight the insurgency. In July 1920, a paramilitary corps of former soldiers was deployed in a supportive role to the police. Trained for swift, surgical assaults and sent into a war zone with little or no understanding of the conflict or the locals, the Auxiliary Division of the RIC trailed a wake of death, hatred and destruction in incidents such as the Burning of Cork, the Limerick Curfew Murders and the Battle of Brunswick Street.Inaccurate reporting and IRA propaganda also influenced the impression of these soldiers as bogeymen. As long as operations and personnel records remain unexamined, their legacy will be mired in hearsay.Drawing on archival material from the bloody annals of British imperial policy, Paul O'Brien reconstructs the actions of the Auxiliaries, providing a balanced examination of their origins and operations, without glossing over the brutal details. By capturing key insights from their manoeuvres, he gives a controversial account of a side of the War of Independence rarely studied from an Irish perspective.
Paul O’Brien, a military historian, works for the Office of Public Works at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham. The author of ten books, he has written extensively on the military strategy of the 1916 Rising, as well as the British army in Ireland. Two of his books, Blood on the Streets and Crossfire, were turned into the critically acclaimed drama-documentary A Terrible Beauty. He lives in Santry, Dublin, with his wife, daughter and two cats.