At the Old Fort MacArthur Days military re-enactments, I always enjoyed stopping over to visit with the West Cork Flying Column, named after one of the most active and successful Irish Republican Army (IRA) units during the struggle for independence between 1919 and 1921. For one thing, they always had the best music; for another, this era has always been one of the biggest gaps in my historical knowledge.
This time, I picked up a list of recommended books from the group and proceeded to read Tom Brady’s Guerilla Days in Ireland about his command of the actual West Cork Flying Column in combating British regular army units, as well as the Auxiliary Division and the much-hated Black and Tan mercenaries.
Brady’s unit was perhaps the largest, most active, and most successful unit of the IRA fighting against the British-led units. Where many other parts of Ireland were relatively quiescent, the West Cork Flying Column conducted large scale attacks on barracks, burning houses of British loyalists in retaliation for British burnings of IRA sympathizer houses, attacks on patrols, as well as sabotage of railroads and bridges. And this with a maximum armed strength of approximately 150 men against the thousands fighting under the Union Jack.
Unlike many guerrilla leaders today, Brady cared deeply for the welfare of his men. He was always careful to identify and praise the fallen both in the description of the action fought and in a lengthy Appendix at the back of the book where he lists them alphabetically and identifies their origin.
Now my appetite for more background on recent Irish history has been whetted, and I plan to read more.