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Clonmult ambush
Part of the Irish War of Independence
Date 20 February 1921
Location near Midleton, County Cork
Result British victory
United Kingdom British Army
(Hampshire Regiment)
United Kingdom Royal Irish Constabulary
(Auxiliary Division)
Republic of Ireland Irish Republican Army
(1st Cork Brigade)
 ? Jack O'Connell
initially one infantry company, reinforcements arrived during the action 20 volunteers
Casualties and losses
2 killed (at least) 12 killed, 4 wounded, 4 captured, 2 later executed
6 suspected civilian informers executed by the IRA in the following week

The Clonmult Ambush (Irish: Luíochán Chluain Molt) took place on 20 February 1921, during the Irish War of Independence.

Irish Republican Army (IRA) volunteers occupying a farmhouse in Clonmult, County Cork were surrounded by a force of British Army, RIC and Auxiliaries. In the action that followed, twelve IRA volunteers were killed, four wounded and four captured. It is alleged that many of the IRA casualties were killed after they had surrendered. The IRA suspected that an informer was to blame and a spate of shootings of suspected informers followed. A total of 22 people died in the ambush and subsequent executions - 14 IRA members, 2 Black and Tans and 6 civilians.



The 4th battallion of the IRA First Cork Brigade, under Diarmuid O'Hurley and based around Midleton, Youghal and Cobh, had been a successful unit up until the Clonmult ambush. They had captured three RIC barracks and carried out an ambush in Midleton itself.[1] In January 1921, the unit took possession of a disused farmhouse overlooking the village of Clonmult. O'Hurley planned to ambush a military train at Cobh Junction on Tuesday 22 February 1921 and at the time of the Clonmult action was scouting a suitable ambush site. However, according to historian Peter Hart, they "had become over-confident and fallen into a traceable routine".[2] An intelligence officer of the British Army Hampshire Regiment traced them to their billet at the farmhouse in Clonmult.

The ambush

The British troops, a company of the Hampshire regiment, surrounded the house. Two IRA volunteers noticed the advancing troops and opened fire. Both were killed, but the shooting had warned those sheltering in the house.

A sortie from the house was attempted in the hope of gaining reinforcements from the local IRA company. The acting IRA commander, Captain Jack O'Connell, managed to get away but three other Volunteers were killed in the attempt [3] Despite his efforts, O'Connell was unable to bring help in time. The volunteers trapped inside made a desperate but unsuccessful attempt to escape through a narrow opening in the gable. British reinforcements arrived instead, regular RIC police, Black and Tans and Auxiliaries, who set the thatched roof of the farmhouse alight. With the farmhouse burning around them, an attempt was then made by the IRA to surrender.

What happened next is disputed. The British claimed that the IRA indicated a willingness to surrender, only for the two Black and Tans who emerged to take them prisoner to be shot dead. The IRA claimed that their men surrendered in good faith. However, both sides agreed that when the surviving IRA volunteers came out of the house, without their weapons and with their arms raised, the British - specificially the RIC and Black and Tans - opened fire, killing seven of the surrendering fighters.

A total of twelve IRA volunteers were killed in the action, with four more wounded and only four taken prisoner unscathed.[4] According to Hart, only the "[British] Army officers got the enraged policemen under control" and prevented them from killing all the prisoners. Two of the IRA prisoners (Maurice Moore and Paddy O'Sullivan) were later executed in the military barracks in Cork on 28 April.


The IRA suspected that an informer had led the British to the billet of the column wiped out at Clonmult, and over the following week, six alleged spies were executed by the IRA in the surrounding area.[5] Mick Leahy, a local IRA officer, commented that "things went to hell in the battallion" after Clonmult.[6]

Diarmuid O'Hurley, the commander of the battallion, was not at Clonmult but was later killed on 28 May 1921.[7].


  1. ^ Peter Hart, The IRA and its Enemies, p 97
  2. ^ Hart, p97
  3. ^
  4. ^ Hart 98
  5. ^ Hart p98
  6. ^ Michael Hopkinson, The Irish War of Independence, p111
  7. ^

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