British Cabinet Papers  1920-1923 – recently released - marked SECRET




Report on Revolutionary Organisations 16th June 1921: Special branch wrote, “Through action taken on information from the Irish Intelligence, 600 Thompson sub-machine guns with spare parts have been seized in New York…… There being reason for believing that the IRA were arranging for the importation of a considerable number of Thompson sub-machine guns, a new and rather deadly weapon, this Directorate reported the matter confidentially to the American Embassy and entered into relations with the local agent for the guns in London, with the result that yesterday 600 of these guns were seized by the American Customs, together with 160 magazines and hundreds of machine gun parts. They were consigned to Belfast”.”

Report on Revolutionary Organisations 23rd June 1921: Special branch wrote; “An attack was made on a train near Drumcondra conveying troops just arrived from England. The Commander in reporting this attack, refers to the use of two Thompson sub-machine guns of which a large number has recently been seized by the American authorities in New York. One of these failed to come into action and the other  checked……This is the first time that the use of these guns by the rebels has come into notice and it is satisfactory to note that the damage done in this case was not serious.. Enquiries are being pursued but there seems little doubt that only very few of these guns have reached the rebels…….Sinn Fein leaders are greatly perturbed on account of the seizure by the American authorities of Thompson sub-machine guns destined for Ireland. They have put forward a sympathiser to claim the guns as his property, alleging that they had been stolen from him: the purchase of these weapons must have cost Sinn Fein a considerable sum of money which can ill be afforded….”

Report on Revolutionary Organisations 30th June 1921: Special branch wrote; ”The rebels in Ireland continue to burn, destroy and murder, but the rebel commanders find it difficult to keep their men together. The Thompson machine gun, of which a large number was seized in New York, was used for the first time in the Drumcondra ambush. A report on this ambush was found in the possession of De Valera when he was arrested….. “

Situation in Ireland week ending 6th August  1921 CP3219; G.O.C. Macready wrote; “IRA activities consist in….Importing arms into the country, training….Reports of importations of arms come from various parts of the country and there is little reason to doubt their accuracy. The precautions taken in the English ports are ludicrously inadequate and ineffective and unless the control and searching at the ports is greatly improved there is no reason why the IRA should not bring in as many rifles as they are able to buy”.

Report on Revolutionary Organisations week ending 18th August 1921 CP3252; Special Branch wrote; “There are indications from more than one source that arms are much in demand for use in Ireland. It is reported that a young man who is stated to be well supplied with money has arrived in London in connection with this work. Sinn Feiners are also said to be endeavouring to purchase arms from young soldiers….In the meantime preparations to keep the Irish Republican Army in good condition for war continue and there seems no doubt that an impetus to the smuggling of arms and ammunition has been given owing to the idea that the authorities are not troubling to search ships and persons during the armistice”.

Situation in Ireland week ending 24th September 1921 CP3357; G.O.C. Macready wrote; “A notorious rebel, Moylan by name, who is Commandant of the North Cork Brigade IRA was seen in Newmarket, Co. Cork carrying a Thompson machine gun under his coat.”

Situation in Ireland week ending 22nd October 1921 CP3452; G.O.C. Macready wrote;”At Kanturk, Co. Cork on 6th October a Thompson machine gun course was held in a  Public house”.

Situation in Ireland week ending 29th October 1921 CP3464; G.O.C. Macready wrote; “It has been reported by an informant that at Bamba Hall, Dublin 50 Thompson machine guns and 40,000 rounds of ammunition were delivered from Londonderry”.

Situation in Ireland week ending 19th November 1921 CP3414; G.O.C. Macready wrote; “On 5th November at Scariff, Co. Clare a rebel was seen carrying two Thompson machine guns”.

Situation in Ireland week ending 26th November 1921 CP3521; G.O.C. Macready wrote;“Reports of the landing of arms are still being received; a case at Kenmare and Waterville,  Co. Kerry……The vacated Police Barracks at Ballinacargy, Co. Westmeath are occupied by rebels who are in possession of a Thompson Machine gun……At Stonestown, Kings County on November 3rd an Officer saw a large unknown type of machine gun mounted just inside the house which is occupied as a training centre by IRA…….At Killaser, Co. Mayo where  a rebel camp exists, a machine gun of an unknown pattern has been seen”.

Report on Revolutionary Organisations dated 8th December 1921; Special branch wrote; “On the 29th November the Customs Authorities in Liverpool seized 10 Thomson (sic) sub-machine guns and 11 automatic pistols on board the S.S. ‘Baltic’ on her arrival from New York”.

Report on Revolutionary Organisations dated 19th January 1922; Special Branch wrote;“On the 9th January a seizure of arms, which included 8 Thompson sub-machine guns, spare magazines and ammunition was made by the Customs Authorities at Liverpool. These guns were concealed on board the S.S. ‘Celtic’ and it is obvious that they were intended for Ireland. No trace of the sender or their destination has so far been obtained”.

Situation in Ireland week ending 29th April 1922 CP3955: G.O.C. General Macready wrote, “From a statement by Liam Lynch (late commanding 1st Southern Division IRA) who is acting as Chief of Staff to Rory O’Connor (the leader of the mutineers) it appears that a considerable quantity of arms and ammunition (30 Thompson machine guns with 8000 rounds .45, 75 rifles and 10,000 rounds .303 ammunition) were despatched at the request of the Provisional Government from North County Cork area for use in the North of Ireland ; these arms however appear to have been retained by the authorities at Beggars Bush. Two points are significant in this – (a) that at some time recently the Provisional Government were responsible for ordering the despatch of arms to the North or at any rate Northern border, though this order may have been subsequently cancelled, and (b) that from one Divisional area it was possible for the IRA to spare apparently without demur, no less than 30 Thompson machine guns. This to some extent confirms the reports that large numbers of these weapons have been smuggled into the country since the ‘Truce’ of July 11th.”

Situation in Ireland week ending 23rd September 1922 - CP4250: Colonel Brind wrote, “Commandant Griffin……considers that the Republicans (or ‘Die-hards’ as they are now generally called by the Provisional Government troops) are now short of arms…..In Kerry there are plenty of Thompson machine guns but…..very little ammunition for these guns”.

Report on Revolutionary Organisations dated 17th May 1923; Special branch wrote; “…Liverpool police raided No. 15 Neston Street in that city……and found therein approximately 3,500 rounds of .45 automatic revolver ammunition contained in three canvas carriers, with the exception of 150 round which were in cardboard boxes, 76 screws, nuts or caps for Thompson machine guns; and 76 Maxim gun silencers……..documents , the more important of which are;….’to O.C. Liverpool – Send to Dublin the remaining Thompson locking pieces in your possession, send 2000 rounds Thompson to Cork, divide remaining Thompson rounds between Sligo and Dublin – 1500 rounds each, for the present avoid sending north of the border anything that you can send south of it….”