Tooreen ambush

Last updated

Tooreen ambush
Part of the Irish War of Independence
Date22 October 1920
Tooreen, County Cork, Ireland
Coordinates: 51°47′16″N8°36′34″W / 51.78778°N 8.60944°W / 51.78778; -8.60944
Result IRA victory
Flag of Ireland.svg Irish Republic Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom
Commanders and leaders
Flag of Ireland.svg Tom Barry Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Lieut. William Alfred Dixon 
Irish Republican Army
(3rd Cork Brigade)
British Army
(Essex Regiment)
Casualties and losses
none 3 dead, 4 wounded
6 captured. IRA sources, 5 dead 4 wounded, 6 captured [1]

The Tooreen ambush (also spelt Toureen) was an ambush carried out by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) on 22 October 1920, during the Irish War of Independence. It took place near Roberts Farm, Tooreen, near Ballinhassig in County Cork. [2] The IRA ambushed two lorries of British soldiers, killing three and wounding four. The British surrendered and their weapons and ammunition were seized by the IRA. Later that night, British soldiers went on a rampage in nearby Bandon.



Up until the ambush the 3rd Cork Brigade had not before engaged the British troops stationed in County Cork in a proper battle. The Brigade had finished its training and to get it ready for combat it had to get in an engagement with the British soldiers.

The Essex Regiment of the British Army was deployed to West Cork and had a reputation for violently raiding the houses throughout the countryside and arresting people believed to be IRA volunteers. They were also alleged to have tortured their prisoners in order to get information on the whereabouts of the flying columns, so this made them a despised enemy to the West Cork IRA.

The Essex were known to travel on the road from Bandon to Cork City every morning and return in the evenings. The road went through the hamlet of Toureen which the Third West Cork Brigade was stationed at nearby and it was decided to ambush this column of the Essex Regiment as it made its way to Cork City.


Thirty-two ambushers, twenty-one being riflemen of the Third West Cork Brigade occupied ambush positions outside Toureen and lay in wait for the approaching Essex. The Essex normally went in two or three lorries to Cork City so the IRA placed a home-made mine on the road for use against them.

Scouts signalled the approach of two lorries which were coming down the road towards the ambush site. As the first lorry passed, the order to fire was given and a home-made three-pound bomb was thrown. The bomb landed inside the lorry but did not explode. The mine that was placed on the road also failed to detonate. As the volunteers opened fire, the second lorry stopped and the soldiers inside leaped out and returned fire, but the volunteers were hidden behind a large timber gate which gave them cover. The first lorry sped on to Cork Barracks and the men were found guilty of shameful desertion for not assisting the men in the second lorry (no evidence for this statement - at the inquest it was stated that this was as orders required). As the fight went on, the officer in command of the British troops, Captain Dixon, was shot in the head and killed as well as one of his men.

The British surrendered soon after and the IRA men ceased firing. The British were relieved of their weapons and ammunition, but otherwise unharmed. Fourteen rifles, bayonets, equipment, several Mills bombs, around 1,400 rounds of ammunition and a couple of revolvers were taken from them.


Two soldiers Lt Dixon MC, Suffolk Regt. [3] and Pte Charles William Reid, Essex Regt. [4] were killed in the ambush. Five were wounded, including Sergeant Thomas Bennett RASC died next day in Cork. [5] Six were unhurt except for shock. None of the IRA volunteers were killed or wounded during the ambush and aid was given to the wounded soldiers, while the dead were pulled away from the lorry and it was then set on fire by the volunteers. The two soldiers who were not hurt during the ambush were released along with their wounded and they returned to their barracks.

Location - farm wall 2014 Toureen Wall.jpg
Location - farm wall 2014

Later that night, the Essex went on a violent rampage through Bandon, destroying property and seeking out anyone they believed to be connected to the ambush. It is believed that at least some of the rampaging soldiers were those released unharmed by the IRA earlier in the day. (no evidence for this statement).

Military Court of Inquiry into the soldiers killed reported on 28 October. There are mixed references proceedings in the Irish TImes, [6] and the Irish Independent, [7] both of which have errors.

Lt. Dixon was buried with full military honours in St. Paul's Catholic Church Dover. [8]

Sergeant Bennett was buried in St. Peter & St. Paul Church in his home village of Shorne, nr. Gravesend, Kent. [9] He was unmarried son of Christopher and Elizabeth Bennett.

Location - plaque on farm wall 2014 Toureen Plaque (Date incorrect).jpg
Location - plaque on farm wall 2014
Location road past farm Toureen Road.jpg
Location road past farm

Related Research Articles

Ballinhassig Village in Munster, Ireland

Ballinhassig is a village in County Cork, Ireland, situated 10.6 km south of Cork City just off the N71 Bandon road and near the source of the River Owenabue.

Tom Barry (Irish republican) Irish soldier and guerrilla leader

Thomas Barry was a prominent guerrilla leader in the Irish Republican Army (IRA) during the Irish War of Independence, when he was commander of the 3rd West Cork Flying Column. During the Irish Civil War, he was a leader of the Anti-Treaty IRA.

Carrowkennedy ambush

The Carrowkennedy ambush was an ambush carried out by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) on 2 June 1921, during the Irish War of Independence. An IRA flying column, commanded by Michael Kilroy, ambushed a mobile patrol of the Royal Irish Constabulary including Black and Tans recruits at Carrowkennedy, near Westport, County Mayo. It resulted in the deaths of eight of the RIC, including some who were killed by their own rifle grenade. After two hours the RIC surrendered and their weaponry and ammunition were seized by the IRA.

Timeline of the Irish War of Independence

This is a timeline of the Irish War of Independence of 1919–21. The Irish War of Independence was a guerrilla conflict and most of the fighting was conducted on a small scale by the standards of conventional warfare.

Ambush at Drumnakilly

The Ambush at Drumnakilly was a military confrontation that took place at Drumnakilly in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland on 30 August 1988 during The Troubles, when a detachment of the Provisional IRA (IRA) was ambushed by the British Army.

Warrenpoint ambush IRA attack on British forces in 1979

The Warrenpoint ambush, also known as the Narrow Water ambush, the Warrenpoint massacre or the Narrow Water massacre, was a successful guerrilla attack by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) on 27 August 1979. The IRA's South Armagh Brigade ambushed a British Army convoy with two large roadside bombs at Narrow Water Castle outside Warrenpoint, Northern Ireland. The first bomb was aimed at the convoy itself, and the second targeted the incoming reinforcements and the incident command point (ICP) set up to deal with the incident. IRA volunteers hidden in nearby woodland also allegedly fired on the troops, who returned fire. The castle is on the banks of the Newry River, which marks the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Crossbarry ambush

The Crossbarry Ambush or Battle of Crossbarry occurred on 19 March 1921 and was one of the largest engagements of the Irish War of Independence. It took place near the small village of Crossbarry in County Cork, about 20 km south-west of Cork city. About a hundred Irish Republican Army (IRA) volunteers, commanded by Tom Barry, escaped an attempt by about 1,200 British troops to encircle them. During the hour-long battle, ten British troops and three IRA volunteers were killed.

Kilmichael Ambush

The Kilmichael Ambush was an ambush near the village of Kilmichael in County Cork on 28 November 1920 carried out by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) during the Irish War of Independence. Thirty-six local IRA volunteers commanded by Tom Barry killed seventeen members of the Royal Irish Constabulary's Auxiliary Division. The Kilmichael ambush was politically as well as militarily significant. It occurred one week after Bloody Sunday, marking an escalation in the IRA's campaign.

Charles Hurley was Officer Commanding of the 3rd Cork Brigade of the Irish Republican Army during the Irish War of Independence (1919–1921)

This is a timeline of the Irish Civil War, which took place between June 1922 and May 1923. It followed the Irish War of Independence (1919–1921), and accompanied the establishment of the Irish Free State as an entity independent from the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.

Coolavokig ambush

The Coolavokig ambush was carried out by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) on 25 February 1921, during the Irish War of Independence. It took place at Coolavokig, on the road between Macroom and Ballyvourney, County Cork. A 60-man flying column of the IRA's 1st Cork Brigade under Seán O'Hegarty, ambushed a 70-man convoy of the Auxiliary Division under Major Seafield Grant, sparking a four-hour battle. Ten Auxiliaries were killed, including Major Grant, and others wounded. The IRA column left the area when British reinforcements arrived. After the ambush, British forces stopped carrying out raids and patrols in the area.

Scramoge ambush

The Scramoge ambush was an ambush carried out by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) on 23 March 1921, during the Irish War of Independence. The IRA ambushed a lorry carrying British troops and Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) officers at Scramoge, near Strokestown in County Roscommon. Three British soldiers and an RIC officer were killed, while two RIC 'Black and Tans' were captured and shot dead shortly after.

Sheemore ambush

The Sheemore ambush was an ambush carried out by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) on 4 March 1921, during the Irish War of Independence. It took place at Sheemore near Carrick-on-Shannon, County Leitrim.

Burning of Cork

The burning of Cork by British forces took place on the night of 11–12 December 1920, during the Irish War of Independence. It followed an Irish Republican Army (IRA) ambush of a British Auxiliary patrol in the city, which wounded twelve Auxiliaries, one fatally. In retaliation, the Auxiliaries, Black and Tans and British soldiers burned homes near the ambush site, before looting and burning numerous buildings in the centre of Cork, Ireland's third-biggest city. Many civilians reported being beaten, shot at, and robbed by British forces. Firefighters testified that British forces hindered their attempts to tackle the blazes by intimidation, cutting their hoses and shooting at them. Two unarmed IRA volunteers were also shot dead at their home in the north of the city.

Headford Ambush

The Headford Ambush was carried out by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) on 21 March 1921, during the Irish War of Independence. The IRA's 2nd Kerry Brigade ambushed a train carrying British troops of the Royal Fusiliers at Headford Junction railway station near Killarney, County Kerry. This sparked a battle lasting almost an hour, in which at least 14 people were killed – nine British soldiers, two IRA volunteers and three civilians. The IRA withdrew after another train carrying British troops arrived.

Clonmult ambush

The Clonmult ambush took place on 20 February 1921, during the Irish War of Independence.

Upton train ambush

The Upton train ambush took place on 15 February 1921, during the Irish War of Independence. The Irish Republican Army (IRA) mounted an attack on a train carrying British soldiers at Upton, County Cork. The action was a disaster for the IRA; three of its volunteers were killed and two wounded. Six British soldiers were wounded, three seriously. Six civilian passengers were killed and ten wounded in the crossfire.

Rineen ambush

The Rineen ambush was an ambush carried out by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) on 22 September 1920, during the Irish War of Independence. It took place at Drummin Hill in the townland of Drummin, near the hamlet of Rineen, County Clare.

Clonoe ambush

The Clonoe Ambush was a military action between the British Army and the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) that occurred during The Troubles in Northern Ireland. On 16 February 1992, an IRA unit attacked the Royal Ulster Constabulary security base in the village of Coalisland in County Tyrone, and was ambushed shortly afterwards by the Special Air Service (SAS) in the grounds of a church in the village of Clonoe whilst attempting to make its escape, resulting in several IRA fatalities.

Holywell Ambush Ambush during Irish War of Independence, August 1920

The Holywell Ambush was an ambush on the Ballyhaunis to Claremorris road near Holywell in the early hours of Monday, 2 August 1920 carried out by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) during the Irish War of Independence. Approximately 20 local IRA volunteers commanded by Patrick Kenny attacked a British Military outpost that was guarding a broken down lorry.


  1. Tom Barry: Guerrilla days in Ireland pg.63
  2. "Toureen ambush". Retrieved 19 November 2017.
  3. "William Alfred Dixon". Retrieved 16 November 2017.
  4. "Private C W Reid 5998619 1st Bn. Essex Regiment". Retrieved 16 November 2017.
  5. "Sgt Thomas Arthur Bennett , M/32520 Royal Army Service Corps". Retrieved 16 November 2017.
  6. "Irish Times". Irish Times. 28 October 1920.
  7. "Report of Inquest". Irish Independent. 28 October 1928.
  8. "THE DOVER WAR MEMORIAL PROJECT - World War One". Retrieved 19 November 2017.
  9. "Thomas Arthur Bennett Casualty". Retrieved 19 November 2017.