I have always been a huge fan of Irish history. Luckily for me I also grew up there.
And history was everywhere I looked. Ancient history, medieval history, recent history.
I recently read a firsthand account of the armed struggle of the IRA against the British empire in 1920-1921.
It’s called Guerrilla Days In Ireland. The book was written by Tom Barry, a legendary Irish revolutionary leader.
It’s a riveting story of how everyday average people can be turned into killers if they are oppressed enough.
It’s also a riveting story of how a much smaller, much more thoughtful force can defeat a much bigger force simply by making every bullet count. By simply out-thinking your opponent to an extent that renders their superiority in resources null and void.
The embryonic IRA volunteers of the 1920s Ireland lacked guns and military training and supply lines.
But they were highly motivated, and they had the support of the people.
Their much better supplied and better armed foe, the British Army, lacked both motivation and any support from the locals. This was ultimately to be their undoing.
The occupying British army was suddenly faced with a force as ruthless as itself that had the support of the people.
The British army was bound by procedure and training and they didn’t quite know how to respond to this new guerrilla style warfare.
So the British government brought in a band of mercenaries, called the Black and Tans, to mete out unmerciful rage on the rebellious IRA. Killing many innocents in the process. The Black and Tans were battle-hardened WW1 veteran English army officers who didn’t give a fuck basically. They would kill anyone given half a chance. They were very well paid for this work.
This only served to further enrage and energize the insurrectionist IRA movement. Who fought fire with fire and atrocity with atrocity. One of these sides had the option of leaving Ireland and going home, and one didn’t.
And ultimately the British army did leave. Out of sheer fatigue and bewilderment I suspect. Who needs this??
What struck me about this story was how a passionate few, with very few bullets, could defeat a behemoth competitor and next door neighbor.
Remember, this was years before Gandhi pulled his peace thing from a comfortable distance of thousands of miles away from England i should add. Not to diminish his achievement in any way but we were right next door. Gandhi was weeks away by ship. We were an hour away.
The IRA were always perilously close to running out of bullets — and because every man was limited to a handful of bullets, guess what — they made every bullet count.
But the reason they made every bullet count was they had passion.
The average British Army Tommy was blissfully unaware of the IRA’s ammunition deficiency.
A single bullet was enough as far as he was concerned. That was what he worried about. The bullet with his name on it that could come from anywhere at any time.
And that’s the essence of terrorism.