Tooreen ambush

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Toureen ambush
Part of the Irish War of Independence
Date 22 October 1920
Location Tooreen, County Cork
Result IRA victory
Flag of Ireland.svg Irish Republican Army
(Third West Cork Brigade)
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland British Army
(Essex Regiment)
Commanders and leaders
Flag of Ireland.svg Tom Barry United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland Captain Dickson 
32 volunteers 15 soldiers
Casualties and losses
none 5 dead, 4 wounded
6 captured

The Tooreen ambush 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 Tooreen, County Cork.


Up until the ambush the Third West 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 known to torture 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 Tooreen 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 riflemen of the Third West Cork Brigade occupied ambush positions outside Tooreen 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. As the fight went on, the officer in command of the British troops, Captain Dickson, was shot in the head and killed as well as several 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.


Five soldiers from the Essex Regiment were killed in the ambush, four were wounded and 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 six soldiers who were not hurt during the ambush were released along with their wounded and they returned to their barracks.

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.