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|Part of the Irish War of Independence|
Irish Republican Army|
(3rd Cork Brigade)
|Commanders and leaders|
|Tom Barry||Lieut. William Alfred Dixon †|
|32 volunteers||15 soldiers|
|Casualties and losses|
3 dead, 4 wounded|
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. 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 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 (possible but unsubstantiated).
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. and Pte Charles William Reid, Essex Regt. were killed in the ambush. Five were wounded, including Sergeant Thomas Bennett RASC died next day in Cork. 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.
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).
Lt. Dixon was buried with full military honours in St. Paul's Catholic Church Dover.
Sergeant Bennett was buried in St. Peter & St. Paul Church in his home village of Shorne, nr. Gravesend, Kent.. He was unmarried son of Christopher and Elizabeth Bennett.
- "Toureen ambush". homepage.eircom.net. Retrieved 19 November 2017.
- "William Alfred Dixon". www.cairogang.com. Retrieved 16 November 2017.
- "Private C W Reid 5998619 1st Bn. Essex Regiment". www.cairogang.com. Retrieved 16 November 2017.
- "Sgt Thomas Arthur Bennett , M/32520 Royal Army Service Corps". www.cairogang.com. Retrieved 16 November 2017.
- "Irish Times". Irish Times. 28 October 1920.
- "Report of Inquest". Irish Independent. 28 October 1928.
- "THE DOVER WAR MEMORIAL PROJECT - World War One". www.doverwarmemorialproject.org.uk. Retrieved 19 November 2017.
- "Thomas Arthur Bennett Casualty". www.cwgc.org. Retrieved 19 November 2017.