Witness Statements – Military Archives – Defence Forces Ireland

In 1947, the Irish Government set up the Bureau of Military History to collect interviews and gather written statements from combatants during the period 1913 to 1921. The Irish Civil war was avoided for being too divisive. Some 1773 statements were compiled which gave an unprecedented insight into that formative period in Irish History.

The archive, now open to the public by appointment and soon to go on line mid 2012, accounts for 36,000 pages of living history. It was regarded as so dangerous it was placed in 83 steel boxes and locked away in a strong room. There it remained until the death in 2003 of the last person to testify. The collection is due to go online in 2012.


In this collection are various references to the Thompson Gun and the US Officers who arrived in Ireland to train the IRA in its use.

Statement of Vincent Byrne [no. 423]; “…we were given a demonstration in the Temple or Casino…on the Malahide Road....The following were present:- Michael Collins, Dick Mulcahy, Ginger O’Connell, two Americans named Cronin and Dinneen, Tom Keogh, Jimmy Slattery, Pat McCrae, and myself….It was Cronin who gave the demonstration. Standing back a few yards, he fired at a tin can. The first shot lifted it inot the air and he kept hitting it in mid-air. The Big Fella and Mulcahy were delighted at the results and our only wish was that we had plenty of them. These guns were not used by members of the squad later. I believe however that they were used by members of the A.S.U. at Ballyfermot

Statement of Vincent Byrne [no. 423]; “The First Thompson Machine Guns – When the first Thompson Machine Guns arrived at Moreland’s dump, the squad considered them to be great weapons. We gave them a thorough inspection and were itching to fire them. Tom Keogh started to load the drum, according to the instruction pamphlet, and when he had it fully loaded, he slipped it on to the gun. As we did not know what was going to happen, we all stood behind him in case of danger. He started to fidget around with it, when all of a  sudden there was  a burst of fire. In fact, he nearly drilled a hole through the brick wall. In my opinion, that was the first time the Thompson gun had been fired by one of our men”.

Statement of Vincent Byrne [no. 423]; “Attempted attack on troop train, Killester Station……in the autumn of 1920, there was a splendid celebration to take place in Belfast on the occasion, I believe, of the visit of the King and Queen. Our 5th Battn. Engineers were to mine the railway line…..I would estimate the number of volunteers on this job as between sixty and seventy men, including the Squad, the A.S.U. and members of different battalions. I was ordered to take a pony and trap…..the bottom of the trap was full of revolvers, hand grenades, two Thompson guns.   [This ambush was aborted with men in situ for whatever reason- date wrong given, State opening of N. Ireland with Royal visit 21st June 1921]

Statement of Bernard Byrne [no. 631]; “The standard of efficiency in relation to marksmanship was particularly high, despite the fact that we never had been given that one might call specialised training. The only time we ever received a direct lesson in any weapon was when the first Thompson machine guns were secured from the States and we were given instructions by two American gentlemen, one of whom was named Dineen. We were very proud of having been given control of two of these weapons”.

Statement of Oscar Traynor [no.340]; “The Thompson Guns were introduced in November or December 1920. The first introduction of these guns followed the arrival of two ex-officers of the American Army, one was major Dineen and the other whose rank I forget was named Cronin. These two men were available to the Brigade for the purpose of giving lectures and instructions in the use of the Thompson submachine gun.. The lectures, which were given to selected men of the Dublin Brigade, consisted in the main of taking the gun asunder, becoming acquainted with the separate parts and securing a knowledge of the names of these parts, the clearance of stoppages, as well as the cause of these stoppages. In the early stages it was not possible to give practical demonstrations of the shooting power of these weapons, but the handling of the guns, together with the method of sighting, made the men reasonably proficient……..During the Truce lectures followed on the practical use of these guns, and the quick clearance of stoppages was one of the features of an intensive course of lectures which took place in the training camp in Glenasmole, County Dublin. The two Officers continued to deliver these lectures, and their power and ability with these guns was always a cause of amazement to their pupils. They gave several demonstrations of firing these guns from various positions, always with tremendously impressive effect. Harry Boland, who was then representing the Government in the United States was, in the main, responsible for the importation of these Thompson Guns, as well as for the visit of the American Army officers mentioned……In Dublin the Brigade headquarters training camp was situated in a large house at Glenasmole , known as Cobbs Lodge….Actually as time went on it became more of a General Headquarters training camp as men were brought from various parts of the country to undergo courses of instruction, especially in the machine gun from the American officers who were engaged in that task.The course was brought to a conclusion in the late autumn of 1921 and was not resumed at any later date”

Statement of William Stapleton [no.822]; The first two Thompson machine guns were brought into Ireland from America by two Irish-Americans with military rank, whose names I cannot recall. One I believe was Colonel Dinneen. These guns were, I think, shortly after arriving here, brought to the Squad at Morelands in Abbey Street where I remember we had a very happy time dismantling and putting them together and learning their mechanism. The Colonel and his friend gave us instruction on them but we learned all about them very rapidly as we were in our own rights, something of specialists in the sue of small arms generally. In fact I was an instructor for the 2nd Battalion in small arms and automatics. It was decided to take the Thompsons to the Casino at Fairview, in which there were a number of tunnels, and one afternoon some of the Squad and myself and I believe Mick Collins and Oscar Traynor tried the guns out at the Casino. We fired live ammunition from the small vertical and large round magazines…..we succeeded in completely familiarising ourselves with these two guns.”

Statement of William Stapleton [no.822];”The first time I think that the Thompson guns were brought into action was shortly after testing them at the Casino when we endeavoured to ambush the military train conveying troops from the North Wall to somewhere in the north of Ireland, on the Drumcondra main line. The first attempt was made on the Drumcondra Road…it appears information our Intelligence had in regards to the troop train movements was not correct. However two days afterwards ….we were instructed to plan an ambush on slightly different lines….our instruction was to select an open space between the houses and as the train passed to spray it with the Thompson guns…..we sprayed the train as it passed with the Thompson guns and I think with very good effect”. [14th June and 16th June1921]

Statement of William Stapleton [no.822];”The Intelligence Officers would identify the British Forces for elimination. My part in this job was to take a Ford van, which by the way had been captured from the British…..together with Charlie Dalton and two others……some spare guns and bombs and two Thompson guns were brought in the van. My instructions were to park the van in Dawson St. at the corner of Duke St. and when the shooting started to move the van gradually….and fight off any British reinforcements that might come along using my own discretion….”

Statement of William Stapleton [no.822];”The Squad and the A.S.U. unit were held together after the Truce…..arrangements made to set up a camp near Brittas for the unit. This camp was organised on strictly military lines and a full programme of training was also drawn up……We had visits and inspections carried out by members of the Dublin Brigade Council…… the Brigadier, Oscar Traynor , Messrs. Cronin and Dinneen who brought over the Thompson guns….”

Statement of Liam Daly [no.425];”…in August 1920, Sean (Russell) asked me to supply and fit an electric motor in a munitions factory he established in Percy Place. During the period I was doing the work, I had a Popular Mechanics Magazine in which a detailed description of the Thompson sub-machine gun was given. I gave the magazine to Sean and within three months (how he did it, I do not know) Thompson Guns and Instructors were over from America and were in the hands of the IRA….Certainly it is due to Sean that this gun which was so effective, was introduced into Ireland”.

Statement of Major General P. Daly [no.387];”It was around this time that we got our first Thompson Gun. Michael Collins was very keen on this gun and actually came down to 17 North Richmond Street…..where we were having a lecture on the gun. The lecturer was either Prout or a Kerryman named Allman who had both been in the American Army. I am nearly sure Allman was the lecturer……We afterwards went out to the Casino in Marino…..if we fired a few rounds we could do so in safety.”

Statement of Major General P. Daly [no.387];”Attempted train ambush at Killester….About April 1921, we got word from Intelligence of a train coming  from Belfast with heavy reinforcements of Black and Tans……we decided to mine the railway line…..Bill Stapleton had the Thompson gun on a small foot-bridge…I decided to withdraw our men from the position”

Statement of Captain Sean Prendergast [no.755]; “One of these was the appointment of two ex-American officers – Major Dineen and Captain Cronin to the IRA training staff. These officers had arrived from America and with our then Director of Training ‘Ginger’ O’Connell set in motion training company officers, classes being held in a room over Gogan’s in Marlboro Street by the two former officers in the use of the Thompson sub-machine gun in which they were particularly expert. It is noteworthy that about that time and from that time the Thompson came into prominence as a favourite weapon of the IRA “.

Statement of Joseph McKenna [no.575]; “After the truce in July 1921, I and other officers attended Lough Bawn training camp for a period of three weeks. Open and close order drill, lectures on musketry, and demonstrations on the Thompson machine gun and Lewis gun were given as part of the course of instruction”.

Statement of George Nolan [no.596]; ASU attack troop train at Ballyfermot…while this was being done one man of our party, armed for the first time with a Thompson machinegun was to spray the tops of the carriages with fire….Jimmy McGuiness with the Thompson machine gun which, incidentally, was the first time I had seen one….and Jimmy McGuiness with his machine gun fired onto the carriages…”

Statement of Mrs Sean O’Donovan (nee Kathleen Boland) [no.586]; “It was to our place in Abbey Street that the three or four American officers came, who brought the Thompson machine gun to show to Michael Collins……not long before the Truce. I had to get in touch with Joe O’Reilly to get Diarmuid O’Hegarty,  Gearoid O’Sullivan, Liam Mellows and other members of the Volunteer Executive to meet these officers in our shop one Saturday afternoon after closing hours, when everything was quiet.”

Statement of Mrs Sean O’Donovan (nee Kathleen Boland) [no.586]; “Paddy Daly – he was a daredevil – also brought a bundle of the little American machine guns out to our place in Marino Crescent and stored them in the hen house….”

Statement of Nicholas Smyth [no.721]; “When the Truce was declared…the first training camp I attended... …I also made the acquaintance of weapons which I had heard about, but never seen, such as the Thompson machine gun, the parabellum and Peter the Painter automatics. These weapons were new to the average volunteer and needless to say, we were all very anxious to learn all that we could about them.”

Statement of Charles Dalton [no.434];”Ambush of British troops at Drumcondra, 16th June 1921 – I accompanied a party from the Squad and the ASU in an endeavour to ambush a train containing newly-arrived troops in Ireland en route to the Curragh….we took up positions…..myself and another volunteer with a Thompson gun each….in a laneway covering the railway line…..My companion opened fire with his gun, but I did not get my gun into action as the target only presented itself for about one minute. Neither of us had ever handled a Thompson gun before this. As a result of the fire, several soldiers were wounded….This was the first occasion on which the two Thompson sub-machine guns that were in the country were brought into action. It may not be irrelevant to mention that two American ex-officers of Irish descent had come to Ireland to offer their fighting services to Collins. Their names were Dineen and Cronin. Before this train ambush, they had demonstrated that Thompson guns, of which two had been successfully smuggled into the country, at the Casino, Malahide Road to Michael Collins and some of his associates, but I was not personally present on this occasion and had not seen the gun in action before the train ambush. The two guns were brought to the rendezvous in a van….we had to keep concealed under our coats…However, I later made myself familiar with its mechanism and carried one in the encircling movement of Grafton Street later on.” (24th June 1921)


Statement of Major General P Daly [no.387]: “It was about this time we got our first Thompson gun. Michael Collins was very keen on this gun and actually came down to 17 North Richmond Street, Mrs Byrne’s house, where we were having a lecture on the gun. The lecturer was either Prout or a Kerryman named Allman who had been in the American Army, I am nearly sure Allman was the lecturer. We afterwards went out to the Casino in Marino….we were surprised when one of the Brothers out of the O’Brien Institute came and told us that we could be heard all over the place”.


Statement of Major General P Daly [no.387]:”Attempted train ambush at Killester – About April 1921, we got word from Intelligence of a train coming from Belfast with heavy reinforcements of Black and Tans, ……..and we decided to mine the railway line….about 100 yards on the Dublin side of Killester Bridge. Bill Stapleton had the Thompson gun on a small footbridge…..The bombs were to be sude first, and the Thompson gunner was to rake along the side of the train…..I decided to withdraw our men from the position…”.


Statement of Major General P Daly [no.387]:”The last big round up was to take place towards the end of June. We arranged to hit every Black and Tan visible on the streets of Dublin….at six o’clock on a certain Friday evening (24th June 1921)….That evening Joe Leonard had an old army van with a Thompson gun in it”.


Statement of Edmond O’Brien [no. 597];”…..dumped the stuff in the Carmelite Priory……There was also .45 and other sizes of pistol ammunition as well as .303 rifle ammunition, and a small supply of Thompson sub-machine guns, and ammunition therefor, began to become available at this time. The first small supply of the Thompson guns that I saw was, as far as I can remember, about May or June of 1920. There were of course larger supplies obtained later, and I do not know whether the first lot I saw had come to us by way of gift from some of our friends, or whether they had been purchased by our people in New York. It was just following this, perhaps a month or two later, that Sean Nunan sent me to Washington, DC to deliver to Joe Begley a large sum in dollar currency. This money was, as far as I know, for the purchase in bulk of the first large quantity of Thompson sub-machine guns. Begley was staying in Washington at that time and was in touch with some member of the frim which manufactured the Thompson guns. Begley was to hand over the money to this man, and delivery of the guns to our people for shipment to Ireland had been arranged”.

Statement of Edmond O’Brien [no. 597];”…I was associated with a group of young Irishmen in Chicago who had been in the United States for some time. Some of these men had served with the American Forces in World War 1….They put a proposition to Harry Boland as a means of helping the arms fund, and a number of them contributed their own money and guaranteed the purchase of a field which was called Gaelic Park….all the money taken at the gate was contributed to the Irish arms fund. ….Some of the young men whom I met during that period came over to Ireland afterwards to teach the IRA on the use of the Thompson sub-machine gun. Two of these men whose names occur to me were Dineen and Cronin. I was there in Chicago the night they were being seen off for Ireland. Some time while I was in Chicago …..I got word from New York that there were big purchases of Thompson guns taking place….One consignment of these guns was captured by the American authorities on board the vessel that was to bring them across. This was probably the first big consignment of Thompson guns. Other Thompson guns had gone in small lots….”

Statement of Matthew Barry [no. 932];”…Attempted attack on troop train Celbridge 2nd July 1921 …..there was also a man with us who carried a Thompson gun  -  a weapon that was new to us….as these thoughts were racing through my mind, and all thoughts of danger disregarded for the moment, I heard a burst of Thompson machine gun fire. It seemed to come from somewhere half left of the British position but further away. …I understand now that the Thompson gunner, as he was getting away, fired a burst in the air – a very foolish thing to do, but it saved our lives. Our opponents must have thought they were being attacked in the rear because immediately all fire ceased on our position”.

Statement of Daniel Ennis [no. 1132];”In September 1921, I went to a training camp at Kilmovee, County Waterford together with other officers of the Waterford City Battalion. Here we received instruction in the use of the Thompson machine gun, grenades and rifle and revolver practice”.

Statement of John O’Connor [no. 1181];”During the Truce I attended a training camp at Castlemaine where I received instruction in the Thompson machine gun section…..”.

Statement of Tadg McCarthy [no. 965]; appendix included G.H.Q. Training memo number 14 dated 7th November 1921 Team Drill for Thompson Machine Gun crew.

Statement of Patrick Moylett [no. 767];”Immediately Dail Eireann was former it was arranged that a company would be registered to carry out the operations outlined here. The result was that the National Land Bank was brought into existence, also a limited company called ‘Irish Overseas Shipping and Trading Company’…..Our transactions concerned the importing of ammunition and guns. The guns were consigned to us, not bought by us, and they arrived here in cargoes. The biggest consignment consisted of Thompson machine guns. We got an official order from the Dublin Corporation for 5000 tons of coal, and this coal was to cover 500 cases of Thompson guns.This was eraly in 1921, about January or February, and there was a longshoreman’s strike in New York…This action in itself drew attention to our cargo. These were the first Thompson machine guns to be sold by Thompsons; they were late for the first war. The guns arrived at the pier in new York and 396 cases out of a total of 500 were leaded on the ship….the Customs Officers discovered them…..the net result was that the Salvage Corps salvaged 104 cases of Thompson guns. These guns ultimately arrived in Kerry three weeks after the Truce. They arrived during the first week in August 1921”.

Statement of Michael Stack [no. 525];”The last engagement of the Squad was carried out by no.3 and no.4 sections on the Friday before the truce. This was the ambushing of a military train at Ballyfermot bridge. Jim McGuinness took up his position at the corner of the bridge with his Thompson gun…McGuinness opened fire with the Thompson gun as the train emerged from the tunnel…the casualties were heavy on the British that day”.

Statement of Denis Lordan [no. 470];”Approximately two weeks before the Truce, the Brigade OC Liam Deasy and the Column OC Tom Barry and myself proceeded to Cronin’s Hotel ….having received orders…..About a week later I received orders to report to Divisional Headquarters for training in the use of the Thompson gun. A number of these weapons had reached the country just previous to this period and it was understood that a large number would become available as soon as sufficient instructors were trained in their use. Before the time arrived for me to report to Divisional Headquarters, the Trice intervened”.

Statement of Sean Nunan [no. 1744];”As well as being in charge of the Bond campaign….I also had charge under Harry Boland of a special fund of about $100,000 for the purchase and shipment of arms. This included many small lots shipped by individual seamen with whom I was in regular contact , and a large consignment of Thompson machine guns. This consignment was unfortunately captured by the Federal authorities on the ship on which they were stored”.

Statement of Sean Boylan [no. 1715];”After the reorganisation, I met Mick Collins by appointment at 6 Harcourt Street, Dublin; I was accompanied by Michael Lynch. Mick asked me to make arrangements  for the landing and distribution of a cargo of Thompson machine guns from the USA due to arrive off the East coast in the vicinity of Loughshinny in the month of May. At this period there were a number of coastguard stations along the coast between Dublin and Drogheda. We three discussed the possibility of landing the guns under the eyes of the guards. I eventually said “ we will have to burn the lot” and decided they would have to be burned down simultaneously….at least ten stations went up in flames that night. Unfortunately the American Government stepped in and did not let the ship leave dock.  The cargo of Thompson guns was seized and taken ashore in America”. [18th June 1921]

Statement of Sean Boylan [no. 1715];”In June 1921 I was ordered to report to Barry’s Hotel Dublin. I met Mick Collins, Gearoid O’Sullivan, Dick Mulcahy and I think Eamon Price. A few days earlier two troop trains had been sent from the Curragh to Belfast for the opening of the Northern Ireland Parliament by the King of England. One of these trains carried 700 men and the other 250. GHQ decided those trains be ambushed on their return journey….When everything was ready, members ……were mobilised …They numbered 100 men and were all armed with rifles and a couple of Thompson machine-guns …the mobilisation took place on the night of 1st July 1921”.

Statement of O’Brien [no. 1647];”At that time, July 1921 my rank was that of vice-Commandant of the 6th Battalion, East Limerick Brigade. I attended the Brigade training camp at Sunville, and the divisional training camp at Galtee Castle during the Truce. The late Commandant Billy Walsh was the O/C Training. Our instructors included two ex-American army Officers  Colonel Prout and Captain Quinlan, and an ex-British Army Officer Lieutenant Delaney. Jack Kennedy, formerly of Tipperary town, brought us our first Thompson machine gun from Dublin and instructed us in its use”.

Statement of John Gaynor [no. 1447];”I think nearly a thousand soldiers was due to pass down the line about 1pm on its way back from Belfast to the Curragh and we were to ambush this train. ……We were now ordered by Mooney to leave our positions and we moved southwards along the railway and extricated ourselves without being seriously engaged. We had with us at the time a man from Dublin who was armed with a Thompson machine-gun and I had also seen another man with one that morning”.

Statement of Colonel Padraig O’Conchubhair [no. 813];”The supply of ammunition was running very low - .45 ammunition  particularly. A large quantity of .45 rifle ammunition had been shipped from America in mistake. There was only a few rifles in the country to fit it. The Ordnance department decided to experiment in the cutting down of this .45 ammunition to suit revolvers. The tests were successful with the result that the Ammunition Department decided to cut down the full supply of .45 ammunition with the least possible delay. The cutting down however was not as successful as the original tests had proved. Due to the technical mistake in the cutting down process, however the ammunition proved faulty. The first time that we fired it at an ambush in Thomas Street, it put all the guns out of action. I believe that a mistake had been made originally by the Purchasing Committee in America when they asked for .45 ammunition. It must not have been clearly specified that it was .45 revolver ammunition that was required”.

Statement of Padraig O’Conchubhair[no.813 ];”Ambush of troop train at Ballyfermot – Information was received that a party of troops with stores would be travelling on the 1 o’clock passenger train from Kingsbridge on Friday 8th July 1921. Plans were made to attack the train at Ballyfermot …..We were also using a Thompson gun for the first time …Jimmie McGuiness was the gunner….The main party in the ambush opened fire on the military part of the train and McGuiness with the Thompson gun opened an oblique fire from the side of the bridge…..a larger ambush was planned for the Crumlin Cross that evening, where we intended to use two large mines and the three Thompson guns was cancelled on orders of the President on account of the close proximity of the Truce”.

Statement of Catherine Rooney [no.648 ];”When the first Thompson gun was brought into Dublin, it was transferred to our house to be examined and assembled. Those present were Michael Collins, Emmett Dalton and Paddy Daly….After some time, the men left and went out to the Casino in Marino where they tried it out. Some of the Christian Brothers warned  them that they could be heard all over the place. They said they did not care – they had a Thompson gun”.

Statement of Frank Saurin [no.715 ];”We had Thompson guns and we intended using them at Jammets. In through a laneway in Grafton Street, Jammets had a bar and we intended going in there and firing with the Thompson guns at the Auxiliaries standing along the counter. That job was not called off but it was interfered with because no one turned up to do it…..That operation was again planned to take place a week before the Truce , but it was called off by the Government in case it would interfere with the peace negotiations”.

Statement of Thomas Ryan [no.783];”The first statement deals with an expected landing of arms in the south coast and as far as I can remember, took place some time around April 1921: South Tipperary columns 1 and 2 were ordered to proceed to the Nire valley for the purpose of digging dumps to receive a cargo of arms that was expected to be landed on the Dungarvan coast….about a dozen dumps were made and lined with heather. We worked in two parties constructing two dumps at a time. These dumps were constructed according to a set plan in concealed positions in the hills and consisted of holes dug about ten feet square and ten feet deep, the bottom and sides lined with heather and the top covered over with timber carrying sods and heather. These dumps were never used for the purpose for which they were intended as, owing to the vigilance of the coastguards, the cargo could not be landed near Dungarvan but was as I understand landed further down the coast by arrangement with the Brigade Commander Pax Whelan….I knew little or nothing at this time about the details of this cargo of arms that was expected but in a very private and confidential conversation between the O/C of the Column, Sean Hogan,  and myself with one or two others, we learned from Hogan that the arms expected consisted of Thompson guns , which were then a novelty to us, and that these guns were coming from America.This was all we knew about it at the time and when in fact the cargo did not land there, we heard no more about it at the time.

Statement of Mary Cremin [no.924];”I remember another occasion when with some volunteers and other Cumann na mBan members I went to Tilbury Docks to collect guns and ammunition off a boat from America. These were Thompson guns and we brought them by train to a London station and then by taxi to a a flat in Waverly Mansions which was used as Headquarters by O/C Britain”.

Statement of Edward Fullerton [no.890];”The first incident of note during the Truce period was attending the Divisional Training Camp at Killeavy, Co.Armagh. As far as I can remember, this camp started a few weeks after the Truce. In all I was about four weeks there. We received a very intensive course of training in the use and care of all types of firearms, including rifle, revolver and Thompson gun.

Statement of PJ Paul [no.877];”…I was brought to another room in the University which I remember had the name on the door saying that it was the room of Owen McNeill. There I met Emmet Dalton and a man named Cronin, an American and another American with him. I was shown a specimen of the Thompson sub-machine guns which I learned were being smuggled in from America in some quantities. The two Americans were the experts on the gun and they demonstrated how it worked and explained its mechanism. I mention this point because Tom Barry has given the impression in his book that he was the only one from the South of Ireland who was shown the Thompson gun at this stage. I cannot remember the date of this incident precisely but I think it was probably sometime during May 1921.

Statement of Sean Gibbons [no.927]; “On a Sunday about the 24th June……we decided sorrowfully and reluctantly that the time had come to disband the column …and that some of the officers of the Brigade staff should go to Dublin for a course of special training and if possible induce Headquarters to give us some Thompson guns to reinforce the Lewis gun that we had captured……The Brigade staff went to Dublin mainly to report on their stewardship and if possible to get lectures on the Thompson gun about which there was a great deal of talk at the time.”

Statement of Laurence Nugent [no.907];”…on Paddy Fleming’s return form the USA in 1921, he was able to have a consignment of Thomson (sic) guns landed in this country. These guns were used for instruction purposes during the Truce in various Battalions (Shaun Budd was the instructor in the 3rd Battalion) and in a short space of time we had a number of men competent to use these guns and capable of instructing others in their use. In the enterprise for the importation of these machine guns Harry Boland and other IRA men in the USA took a leading part”.

Statement of Laurence Nugent [no.907];”Various episodes of the Civil War ….when PJ Fleming was about to return from the USA, he arranged for a shipment of Thomson (sic) guns and ammunition. These guns arrived safely as could have happened had the proper attempt had been made in earlier years. And even at the period of the arrival of these arms there was an agreed ban on the importation into Ireland of arms between Mick Collins and the British Government”.

Statement of Daniel Flynn [no.1240];”I was interned until the general release of internees in December 1921…On release from Bere Island I rejoined my unit and and was sent to a camp at Freemount to learn how to use a Thompson gun”.

Statement of Dan Guiney [no.1347];”During the Truce I attended a Battalion camp which was held at Freemount. This would be about early August 1921. Officers from all companies in the Battalion attended this camp. We undertook a course of training in the care and use of arms, especially the Thompson gun. In addition, all aspects of military activities were covered. The camp continued for two weeks and was in charge of Sean Nunan. The training Officer was Tom Roche”.

Statement of James Crenigan [no.1395];”Orders were received from General Headquarters that all Coastguard stations between Donabate and Laytown, Co. Meath, were to be destroyed or burned down. These buildings were occupied by men of the British coast-watching service and their families. They were generally retired British Navy men and it was believed that they were armed. The capture of such arms was not however the object of our operation. I understand that our General Headquarters had made plans to land a consignment of Thompson sub-machine guns and ammunition which had been procured in the Unites States on the East coast north of Dublin. Loughshinny a few miles south of Skerries, was I believe the place selected. As the coastguard stations were strategically situated along the coast all in visible signalling distance of each other, it was necessary to destroy them on a wide front , both north and south of the selected point…..Incidently the Thompson guns never arrived as they had been seized on board ship by the American customs officials in the Unites States”.

Statement of Seamus Finn [no.1060];”On my return to Div. HQ at Dunboyne the O.C. informed me that Mick Collins had spoken to him about a very important job which was due to take place in the Fingal area. I was sent to meet Mick. I met him in Vaughan’s Hotel and explained that Boylan had sent me in. Mick lost little time in telling me what was on. One thousand Thompson guns had been purchased in America and were about to be sent to this country. They were being met at sea by a yacht and I was deputed to visit Fingal and choose a suitable landing place. Fingal is the ancient name of North County Dublin….Loughshinney had been suggested and I was to scout this place very carefully….all this time I had my own job of scouting the coast to do and I brought along Mick Rock as a guide. I could not divulge what the job was until G.H.Q. permitted me. Having looked over most of the coastline I went back to Mick Collins with my report. I pointed out to Collins that there was a line of coastguard stations which completely guarded all approached and a good sized one right on the harbour at Loughshinney. All these stations were connected by telephone and according to our information the occupants were armed with rifles as well as being supplied with Very Lights…..the obvious reply from Mick “ well wipe them out”….the next night other areas did their work and we now had a line of coast from Dollymount (which had been done by the Dublin Brigade) to Annagassan with one solitary coastguard station at Balbriggan which we had failed to destroy….we were surprised to see huge headlines in the daily papers telling the world of our work…..our main task now was to keep a close eye on the coast, particularly Loughshinney. Transport for moving the guns had to be looked to also. All of this was done satisfactorily. Then we had to fix on temporary dumps, as only a small percentage was being left in the 1st Eastern. A fairly large supply was going to McKeon in the Midland Division and also to the 1st Western. Dublin were getting some too. All of this was arranged and we seemed to have overlooked nothing. Just then Mooney and I received a message to go to town and report to a small place called the Plaza in Gardiner’s Row. We went there and found a big gathering of officers from all over Ireland. We were all brought upstairs to a large room where we met two American ex-officers who without any preamble, started giving us instruction on the Thompson sub-machine gun. They had two of them and after some hours we had been given a complete run through on it. They certainly were very efficient men, and they knew their guns. We spent a few days at these lectures and then returned to returned to camp feeling very snug about matters. We spent  another week in Fingal and then received orders to report back to Div. HQ at Dunboyne. This surprised us but back we must go. Reaching there we learned that there would be no Tommy guns as they had been seized on board the ship on which they were coming, in New York. This knocked the bottom out of us…….We were to attack a troop train bringing 1000 troops from Dublin to the Curragh…..our party was four strong and comprised Cullen, Mullanney, a man who had been lent to us by G.H.Q. (and who was armed with a Thompson gun) named McGuinness and myself…..before we parted company with Mullanney who resided in Leixlip, he called me one side and asked if there was any possibility of McGuinness lending him the Tommy gun until the next day. After a good deal of coaxing he got it, promising to have it back at Dunboyne the following night. McGuinness was waiting over with us for a day or two. That night, with the country packed full of enemy troops, Mullanney and some of the Leixlip Company made a daring attack on Lucan R.I.C. Barracks which lasted over half and hour.

Statement of Padraig O’Cathain [no.1572];”A Brigade training camp was opened at Duckett’s Grove, a big estate four miles east of Carlow town………..Two Irish ex-American army  officers spent a week with us on machine gun training with special attention to the then new Thompson gun”.

Statement of Sean O’Driscoll [no.1518];”…On 28th May 1921…..I passed on the information regarding the enemy knowledge of the landing of arms to Collins and then took a course of instruction in the maintenance and handling of the Thompson gun from two yanks for one week”.

Statement of Patrick Daly [no.814];”In connection with cargoes sent from New York, we later on, instead of bringing them ashore to a dump in Liverpool, carried them directly to a B&I boat that was due to sail for Dublin. This particular type of cargo was mostly a consignment of Thompson guns with suitable ammunition. It was an awkward consignment to handle….The Irish organisation in New York were not satisfied with the relatively small supplies which they were succeeding in getting across the Atlantic on liners to Liverpool and considered that if a boat with a sympathetic crew could be procured to sail direct Dublin or some other Irish port a consignment of arms could be forwarded in that way. …..A Moore-McCormick boat was eventually chartered in New York and a suitable crew employed. When all arrangements had been made for sailing about 480 Thompson guns with ammunition sewn up in sacking in different lots were put on board. Their delivery on board took place on Sunday morning and Boland and Pedlar watched the procedure from a safe distance as they didn’t wish to be associated with the venture or be seen nearby in case of British Secret Service agents having them under observation. In the early hours of the next morning Pedlar was rung up and informed that that the Federal Police had discovered the arms. I think even today the explanation of this misfortune is not fully clear. The arms were eventually recovered by them from the police and the original purchasers were able to get them back again. From then thence onwards it was necessary to revert to the old system of smuggling arms across the Atlantic in small quantities. ….I was in the habit of visiting the liners myself to collect ant parcels, guns or munitions. One such visit to the Celtic, I remember was connected with the first Thompson guns which came into Ireland – numbering seven. They came from New York in the care of Billy Humphries……Thompson guns were awkward and bulky and as I have previously recorded we later decided to transfer them direct to the Dublin boats without taking them out of the docks at all “.

Statement of Michael O’Donoghue [no.1741];”…One serio-comic incident I remember. A young green IRA section commander reported to Brigadier Lehane for instructions. He carried a Thompson sub-machine gun and a drum of ammunition (these were just then very new to the IRA as they had only come in a few months before from the USA). He looked a very martial figure with belts, haversack, bandolier and what have you. Lehane ordered him to join the IRA party on protection duty at the bottom of Barrack Hill and then resumed his talk with us. Minutes later, he noticed the same IRA man loitering around the door. “Well, what’s keeping you?” said he. “Who is coming with me, sir?” says your man. “Oh, Holy God” swears Lehane, “You’re a nice republican soldier with a Thompson gun and you’re afraid to go by yourself”. It was true. The lad was in a sweat, and no wonder! He had never handled a firearm before and had been sent with the Thompson to the Brigadier”. [British leaving Kinsale Barracks in 1922]

Statement of Thomas McNally [no.410 ]; “About twelve midnight I wakened hearing what appeared to be loud knocking on our door. My brother Joe was stationed at the bedroom window with a Thompson Gun. On looking out I saw a number of soldiers and a tender with RIC, some in uniform and some in civvies. Needless to say we feared the worst.”

Statement of Thomas McNally [no.410 ];”In support of this I should like to state that I only stayed in my home twice over a particular period. I was ‘on the run’ and on each occasion the house was obviously  under notice. On the first occasion I had just come back from Dublin and I had two Thompson guns which I had received from general McMahon, Q.M.G. and was during the later part of the Truce”.

Statement of Thomas McNally [no.410 ];”An arrangement had been made in the early stages of the Truce whereby some of the Southern Divisions would exchange their own local rifles for an equivalent number handed over from the British and those handed in my these Divisions would be handed over to the Northern Divisions so that they could not be identified if subsequently captured in the North when operations subsequently recommenced there……General O’Duffy, who was Chief of Staff, agreed after representations made by OC Division (Colonel Seamus Woods) to give us six hundred rifles and sixty thousand rounds of ammunition and two Lewis guns. The numbers were obliterated from the rifles before being handed over to us. In addition, general McMahon gave me five Thompson guns as the Lewis guns were not so suitable for our type of action as Thompsons. I swapped the Lewis guns for Thompsons with Major General D Hogan, OC 5th Northern Division. I brought these guns home by rail and was met at the G.N.R. terminus in Belfast by Joe McKelvey (RIP) and some other armed volunteers. Luckily I escaped search en route and the guns were delivered safely”.

Statement of Robert Purcell [no.573];”The first was an attack on a troop train at Killester. The A.S.U. turned up in strength for this operation of which Paddy Daly was in charge. I cannot remember what time of the year this ambush took place. A troop train was expected to arrive from Howth direction. We took up positions on both sides of the embankment some distance from Killester station. We were armed with hand grenades. A man with a Thompson gun took up position on the bridge crossing the railway. Our instructions were that we were not to attack the train until the Thompson gun first went into action. . This was to be our signal for the attack. As the train approached, a member of the ASU got a bit excited and without waiting for a signal from the man on the bridge with the Thompson gun, he fired his grenade.”

Statement of Joe McGuiness [no.607 ];”Attack on troop train at Ballyfermot; On the 8th July – two days before the Truce – Nos 3 and 4 sections of the ASU took part in the last engagement, an attack on a troop train at Ballyfermot. …….Nos 3 and 4 sections were to proceed to Ballyfermot railway bridge at one o’clock……armed with bombs, revolvers and one Thompson gun, and take up position there to await the arrival of the train. …The Thompson gun was to be mounted on the parapet of the bridge, and a sack steeped in paraffin oil and petrol was to be thrown on top of the second carriage as the train passed under the bridge. I was instructed to light the sack snd throw it on to the second carriage. Another man was to take up position on the other side of the bridge and empty a drum of petrol on to the carriages. Simultaneously with this happening, the men on the left hand side of the embankment were to throw grenades on the train, and the men on the right hand side on top of the bridge, Jimmy McGuinness was to open fire with his Thompson gun…….After about twenty minutes in position, the train arrived and the signal was given that it contained troops. Fire was opened on it immediately. As the train passed under the bridge, the petrol form the drum was poured down and the soaked petrol sack was thrown on top of it…….It pulled up at Clondalkin station where I believe the wounded were removed. I believe the casualties were fairly heavy”.

Statement of Pat McCrea [no.413 ];”Train ambush at Ballyfermot – It was reported that a troop train was to leave Kingsbridge for the Curragh at 12.50pm on the 8th July 1921. It was decided to carry out an ambush on the train at Ballyfermot Bridge. I was detailed by Oscar Traynor, OC Dublin Brigade, to accompany James McGuiness with a Thompson gun and the van known as “Green Lizzie”. This car was taken from the enemy some time previous. Although open in front, the sides and back were armour plated on the inside and camouflaged as a delivery van. We had several two-gallon tins of petrol, hand grenades, each man armed with a revolver and ammunition, and Jimmy McGuinness with a Thompson gun. …At the other side of the bridge, when the train emerged, a couple of men had old sacks soaked in petrol which they ignited and dropped on the train, setting the carriages on fire. The hand grenades and the Thompson gun then came into action…..Jimmy McGuinness and myself had the job of getting back to the north city dump….As we approached close to the railway entrance there were a couple of companies of A Auxiliaries lined up beside the station. If they tried to hold us up, the Thompson gun was loaded and ready for action. McGuinness had intended to pour the full contents of the Thompson gun into them and we hoped to have a sporting chance of getting through with the protection afforded by the armour plated sides and back of the car. We knew the alternative if we fell into the hands of the enemy, in possession of a machine gun. …..we got through safely to the dump…….when we came out on the street, the newsboys were shouting “Stop Press”. We bought a paper thinking it was giving an account of the ambush that morning, but to our amazement, it announced the Truce.”