Battle of Kilmallock

Battle of Kilmallock

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Battle of Kilmallock
partof=the Irish Civil War

date=June 28 - August 5 1922
place=County Limerick
result=Irish Free State victory
combatant1=Irish Free State's National Army and Dublin Guard
combatant2=Anti-Treaty Irish Republican Army
commander1=Eoin O'Duffy
W.R.E. Murphy
commander2=Liam Deasy
strength1=1,500 troops (at start)
4,000 troops (by end)
artillery and armoured cars
strength2=2,000 troops (at start)
armoured cars
name=Irish Civil War
battles=DunmanwayFree State offensive - Dublin - Kilmallock

The Battle of Kilmallock (also Killmallock) took place between June 28 and August 5, 1922, in County Limerick. It was one of the largest engagements of the Irish Civil War.

The battle

The battle started when Republican forces under Comdt. Gen. Liam Deasy that had withdrawn from Limerick concentrated in Kilmallock and the nearby towns of Bruff and Bruree. This battle was the only 'line battle' of the war with the two sides facing each other along clear front-lines. The Kilmallock-Bruff-Bruree triangle would see some of the war's most intense fighting.

The main reason for this was that the Free State troops, most of whom were new recruits, were facing some of the best of the IRA forces without an advantage. General Eoin O'Duffy estimated that while his forces had about 1,300 rifles, the Republicans could muster over 2,000.

The Republicans knew this and were confident of success. Nevertheless, the Republican commanders had their own problems. Logistical support and co-operation between forces from different counties was poor and unreliable because troops were fighting in their own counties against advancing Free State forces.

O'Duffy drew up plans for the advance on Kilmallock with the assistance of his second in command Major General W.R.E Murphy who had been a Brigadier General in the Great War. His experience in the trenches had a major effect on his approach. On Sunday 23 July Free State forces, already controlling Bruff, began their advance on Kilmallock but were twice beaten back and the Republicans managed to retake Bruff. O'Duffy called off the advance for the time being and waited for reinforcements.

Free State forces quickly retook Bruff but things got worse as the week went on. On Tuesday 25 July a unit of the Dublin Guard under Tom Flood was ambushed on a narrow road. They fought their way clear but only after losing four men. Five days later Maj. Gen. Murphy launched an attack to take Bruree. Free State troops were supported by armoured cars and an 18 pounder field gun. The Dublin Guards attempted to take the town form the southeast. The Republicans held out for five hours until Free State artillery attacked.

Comdt. Gen. Deasy knew how important Bruree was to the defence of Kilmallock and drew up plans to recapture the town using armoured cars, trench mortars and machine guns. On 2 August Republicans captured Patrickswell south of Limerick city. The armoured cars then attacked Bruree taking Free State forces by complete surprise. One car even attacked Comdt. Flood's headquarters at the Railway Hotel. Flood and his men escaped through the back of the hotel but surrendered after a second armoured car attacked. Twenty-five soldiers were captured.

Free State reinforcements came form Comdt. Gen. Hogan who personally led his forces riding in the armoured car nicknamed 'The Customs House'. Having failed to secure the surrender of the town Republican forces retreated. 'The Customs House' arrived in Bruree but was followed by a Republican armoured car 'The River Lee'. It fled and Hogan and his car followed it. At a bend in the road 'The Customs House' was led to two more Republican armoured cars. Perhaps then it was lucky for him that the Vickers machine gun in 'The Custom House' jammed and he was forced to break off the engagement.

Final fights

Having held Bruree, Free State forces prepared once again to capture Kilmallock but knew there would be heavy fighting. Adjutant Con Moloney commented on 2 August, "Up to yesterday we have had the best of the operations there [the Kilmallock area] . There will, I fear, be a big change there now as the enemy have been reinforced very considerably." On Thursday, 3 August, Free State forces 2,000 strong backed up by armoured cars and artillery advanced on the town from Bruree, Dromin and Bulgaden. Seven hundred troops arrived the next day with an armoured car and a field gun. By Saturday the town was surrounded by Free State forces. The Dublin Guard were also on hand to prevent Republican forces from escaping. Three miles away Free State artillery was deployed and shelled Republican forces on Kilmallock Hill and Quarry Hill. The two hills were soon controlled by Free State forces. They then entered town but only found some Republican volunteers from Cork. Most Republican troops had departed for Charleville.

They had departed not because the Free State troops were much stronger but because more Free State troops had made seaborne landings in the so-called 'Munster Republic' on the coasts of County Kerry and County Cork on 2 and 8 of August respectively. The landing in Kerry forced Comdt. Gen. Deasy to release units from this area to return home. Although the landings in Cork occurred after the retreat from Kilmallock, the loss of Brigades from Cork added to Comdt. Gen. Deasy's problems.

ee also

*Irish Free State offensive

External links

* [ Large article about Irish Civil War] Main source for article.
* [ NY Times article, July 30, 1922: 'Stubborn battle goes on around Kilmallock']
* [ NY Times article, August 1, 1922: FREE STATE TROOPS CAPTURE TIPPERARY; CLOSE IN ON KILMALLOCK, But Defenders Still Occupy dominating Heights]
* [ NY Times article, August 5 1922: 'Irish battle rages around Kilmallock']
* [ NY times article, August 6 1922: 'Free State forces take Kilmallock]

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