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|Part of the Irish War of Independence|
| Irish Republican Army
(1st Cork Brigade)
| Royal Irish Constabulary
|Commanders and leaders|
|Seán O'Hegarty||Major Seafield Grant †|
2 Lewis Guns
|Casualties and losses|
|none||3 dead (RIC sources)
14–16 Auxiliaries dead (IRA sources)
The Coolavokig ambush (Irish: Luíochán Chúil an Bhuacaigh), also known as the Ambush at Ballyvourney and Poulnabro ambush was carried out by the Cork no.1 brigade (IRA) on 25 February 1921, during the Irish War of Independence. It took place at Ballyvourney village (on the road between Macroom and Ballyvourney), County Cork. 1st Cork Brigade under Seán O'Hegarty, laid in wait for a unit of the Auxiliary Division under Major Seafield Grant, who was one of the casualties.
The IRA Column had been attempting to ambush the Auxiliaries for two weeks but had always missed them. As they occupied the ambush position over a few days their position became known and a force of 70 Auxiliaries and 7 RIC constables moved against them, heavily armed with rifles, machine-guns and grenades. The sixty-two IRA gunmen included units from the 1st, 7th, and 8th battalions of the 1st Cork Brigade, and was divided into four sections. Apart from Seán O'Hegarty the main IRA officers were Dan "Sandow" O'Donovan and Dan Corkery. The IRA was armed with sixty rifles, several shotguns and revolvers, and two Lewis guns, but significantly no grenades. The British forces, travelling in eight lorries and two cars, also carried four Irish hostages with them.
Around 8am on 25 February, scouts signalled the approach of the British force. They were forewarned about the IRA position however, and approached with caution, when a republican leaving his post, turned to run back, and was seen from the leading lorry. When half of the lorries came into the ambush position the IRA opened fire. According to An Cosantóir, one lorry immediately turned around speeding back to Macroom.
Rifles and a Lewis machine-gun from no.1 section engaged fire, and ten rifles from no.4 section, were the only republican units that had a field of fire on the lorries, as they dropped to the ground to avoid return fire. Sections no.2 and no.3 of the Cork brigade swung round to the east, on a hillside, in an attempt to encircle the British northern flank. But they could get no closer than 500 yards.
The Auxiliaries were quickly losing ground and taking casualties. Major Grant was killed while rallying his forces. The British forces retreated into two nearby cottages. The IRA closed in and as they were preparing to bomb the cottages, large numbers of RIC reinforcements approached and began encircling the area. After fighting a half-hour rear guard action the flying column retreated towards the north-west. The engagement at Coolavokig lasted four hours.
It later transpired that the Auxiliary forces were just part of a large round-up operation planned for that day which included 600 British Army troops from Cork, Ballincollig, Bandon, Clonakilty, Skibbereen, Bantry, Dunmanway, Millstreet, Macroom, and Killarney. After the ambush British forces ceased raiding and patrolling the area west of Macroom, effectively handing it over to IRA control. They were reluctant to enter the area, and only did so later with a strong force of 2,000 men.
The IRA suffered no casualties. However, the number of British casualties has been disputed to this day. The British claimed that only Major (Auxiliary Commandant) James Seafield-Grant was killed during the ambush, and that two other Auxiliaries later died of their wounds (see ). The IRA claimed that between 14 and 16 members of the British force were killed.
- Micheal O'Suilleabhain (1965), Where Mountainy Men Have Sown
- Browne, C, (ed.) T O'Reilly, Our Struggle For Independence (Cork 2009)
- Mr C Brown in (ed.) T O'Reilley, "Our Struggle For Independence" (Cork 2009), pp.40-49.
- Our Struggle, p.41.
- Our Struggle, p.45.
- Detailed account of the Coolavokig ambush
- Info on the Coolavokig ambush
- Activities of IRA's Ballingeary Company