Cumming Ambush - 3 Mar 1921


H R Cumming DSO was travelling in a touring car in a convoy of three tenders of the East Lancashire Regiment plus a Rolls Royce Armoured Car, when he was killed in an ambush between Killarney and Buttervant, killed in the same ambush were another officer and two other ranks. Those killed were

The IRA ambush group was about 100 men from Newmarket Battalion Column (under Sean Moylan), a section of the Kerry No. 2 Brigade Column (under Tom McEllistrim), a section of the Charleville Battalion Column (under Paddy O'Brien) and the Millstreet Battalion Column (under Con J Meany).  IRA land mines failed to explode and although ditched, the armoured car proved decisive protecting the British troops. The sequence of events was

Document By Denis Prendiville who was in the IRA attackers During the last days of February 1921, I was ordered with other members of our column to proceed to a place called the Bower which is just a spot on the road” between Killarney and Rathmore. We were informed that a lorry convoy was expected and it was proposed to attack it. We were joined by some men from the North Cork column. We remained in position for two days, being billeted in houses around.
The convey did not arrive and as we had been in the position so long, it was decided to move. The local men were disbanded and our party of 15 to 20 proceeded to Clonbanin. Clonbanin is a small village on the main road between Castleisland and Mallow. The road divided at Clonbanin, one road (the main road) going to Mallow and a branch to the right for Rathmore.  We were under Command of Thomas McEllistrim and when we got to Clonbanin we found we were on a big job. Sean Moylan (later became a TD for North Cork) with the North Cork column joined us. He took charge of the operation. The job was an attack on a British lorry convoy which was acting as escort to some high Ranking British Officers who were on tour of inspection.  Our party were allotted positions about 20 or 30 yards back from the main road coming from Mallow. Sean Moylan’s column was on the right of the road. We went into position on the morning of the ambush and after a wait of about three hours, the convey was sighted. It consisted of about five Lorries and a Rolls Royce armoured car. Our party was armed with rifles and revolvers. Sean Moylan’s column had a Hotchkiss gun in position in a haggard overlooking the road. The British officers were travelling in a touring car.  The convoy drove into the ambush position and the order was given to us to open fire.  The first shots put the touring car out of action and it swirled across the road out of control. The armoured car collided with the tourer, and the driver in attempting to avoid the collision, drove the armoured car on to soft ground at the side of the road where it got bogged. By this time all our men were firing.  The Hotchkiss was raking the Lorries with fire.  The British were called on to surrender, without result.  The Vickers gun in the armoured car opened fire, while Sean Moylan’s Hotchkiss went out of action.  It was then a case of rifles against the British troops and the armoured car.
The British were seeking cover be the roadside, an Officer who had being in the tourer Jumped for cover, but he did not reach it.  He was shot.  We learned later that he was Brigadier General Cummins.
The fight lasted about three hours.  We could not silence the armoured car, and our ammunition was running out.  We had to withdraw.  We retired with Moylan’s column to a place named Cullen, where we had a meal and changed our socks.  We left Moylan’s column there and returned towards the Kerry border. We stayed at Ballydesmond (on the Kerry side of the Cork\Kerry border) that night, and returned to the Cordal area the next day.  I cannot say how many of the British were knocked out at Clonbanin.

Major Charles Congreve, DLI was award OBE " It was largely due to Major Congreve's bravery and grasp of the situation that the entire convoy was not alialated. He proceeded for upwards of 800 yards under heavy fire, up and down the column, organising attacks on the rebels with entire disregard to his own safety. "

British Soldiers died in Ireland