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A Hard Local War: The British Army and the Guerrilla War in Cork, 1919-1921 [Hardcover]

William Sheehan
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 Mar 2011
Following years of discontent over Home Rule and The Easter Rising, the deaths of two Royal Irish Constabulary policemen in Soloheadbeg at the hands of the IRA in 1919 signalled the outbreak of war in Ireland. The Irish War of Independence raged until a truce between the British Army and the IRA in 1921, historical consensus being that the conflict ended in military stalemate.

In "A Hard Local War", William Sheeham sets out to prove that no such stalemate existed, and that both sides were continually innovative and adaptive. Using new research and previously unpublished archive material, he traces the experience of the British rank and file, their opinion of their opponents, the special forces created to fight in the Irish countryside, RAF involvement and the evolution of IRA reliance on IEDs and terrorism.

Using new research and previously unpublished archive material, including the letters of British soldiers and IRA men, official reports and period publications, he also reveals that the British Army was in fact winning the fight in Cork, partly owing to superior resources, but also because of the cooperation of the local people. This book successfully challenges the received wisdom of the events and outcome of the War of Independence, and sheds new light on a tumultuous period of Irish history.


Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: The History Press (1 Mar 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0752458825
  • ISBN-13: 978-0752458823
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 24.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 593,433 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Dr. William Sheehan is a military historian. He has published five books, British Voices from the Irish War of Independence (2005), Fighting for Dublin (2007), Images of Sarsfield Barracks (2008), Hearts and Mines: The British 5th Division in Ireland 1919-1921 (2009). His doctoral thesis was published in 2011 under the title, A Hard Local War: The British Army and the Guerrilla War in Cork 1919-22. He is one of the leading historians on the Irish War of Independence, and an expert on the British's army campaign in Ireland from 1919 to 1921. He is currently working on a book covering the entire period of the Irish Revolution for Gill and MacMillan

Product Description

About the Author

William Sheehan is a lecturer on military history. He serves in the Irish Reverse Defense Forces, and has been awarded a Limerick Literary Tradition Award and an Award for Outstanding Achievement from Mary Immaculate College, University of Limerick. He is the author of more than 20 books and articles, including "Trenchard: The Architect of British Airpower," " The Front: Irish Soldier and World," and "Warlike George, An Irish King in India."

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Customer Reviews

3.4 out of 5 stars
3.4 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fact over Fiction 21 May 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
As someone who is interested in Irish history it is sometimes hard to separate fact from fiction. Often authors wear their hearts on their sleeves and tend to have a bias one way or the other, but in this case I found Mr Sheehan was able to write a dispassionate factual based narrative, supported by reports and documents of the time, and not just from one side but from both. His research seems thorough and has cross checked most of it where he could. this book will not be to the liking of some who would prefer to look at this insurgency through rose coloured spectacles and believe it was a romantic straight forward fight between the Irish Republican Army and the forces of the British, but as this book shows there was more to it than that. I hope you enjoy this book as I did and this review was of some help to you...Z
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Different Perspective 12 Dec 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
William Sheehan has written a number of books about the the War of Independence and to my knowledge is the first author to have based his research and perspective on the British Army's side of things. His earlier books were a little tentative and tended to rely more on the documents he found rather than any great attempt to interpret them. However with this book he hits his stride and makes a wider use of the material and is not afraid to draw conclusions that some, more used to traditional interpretations, may find unpalatable. County Cork was a hotspot of the Revolution and presented the Authorities with some major challenges. The Book details how the British Army was drawn into the conflict and how its approach evolved. Both sides, as always with guerrilla warfare, moved to counter the perceived advantages and innovations of the other. The Author demonstrates that the Army showed considerable innovation and developed both small unit tactics and more strategic big sweep operations in conjunction with increasing air support. By the time of the Truce the IRA was under severe pressure in the area. Whether, without a truce, this would have led to its neutralisation or even destruction is a moot point. Whatever progress the Army may have been making it was always going to be subject to the agenda being pursued by the British Government and that was rarely either consistent or coherent.
I was particularly interested in the Author's section on what he describes as the "Myth of Crossbarry" which has long been lauded as a major battle success for Tom Barry and the IRA. The Author dispassionately analyses what happens and demonstrates that whilst there were casualties these were far lower than traditionally believed and that only a small portion of the British forces deployed in the area were actually involved in the action. I hope that works such as this will be taken into account in future histories of this period. Recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gritty and Interesting 8 Nov 2012
Format:Hardcover
This fascinating account of The Anglo-Irish War works on two levels - in the context of the 1916-1921 conflict and a wider comparisons between the current situation in Afghanistan and Iraq.

William Sheenan has carried out some extensive research, highlighting many complexities and varying facets, some of which, I'm sure, have never been considered (or ignored) by more 'traditionalist' historians. Tensions between ex-servicemen and serving soldiers in Cork, the army's involvement with reprisals (official or otherwise), the intelligence war (which throws up some surprising revelations), the army's relationship with the local community and the Royal Irish Constabulary, and the 'lot' of everyday officers and soldiers in what was generally considered to be a dangerous and unpopular campaign.

For those interested in more extensive research of the period, and greater understanding of context, I'd recommend that this volume be used in conjunction with William Kautt's 'Ambushes and Armour: The Irish Rebellion of 1919-1921' and even Gerard Murphy's contraversial 'The Year of Disappearances: Political Killings in Cork 1919 - 1922'.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning piece of work!!! 4 April 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I have just finished reading this book and i could not wait each night to read it. A hard local war is a great read!! It is the most well researched and best written books on this period of Cork's history. Where as Peter Harts The I.R.A. and its Enemies: Violence and Community in Cork, 1916-1923 and Gerard Murphy's The Year of Disappearances: Political Killings in Cork, 1920-1921 often are clouded and distorted by the authors' own strong beliefs and dubious extrapolation, William Sheehan sticks to hard facts throughout (no matter how painful for Corkonians to read). He does so by addressing a huge body of research. Each statement and assessment is back up and the book is truly remarkable in that there is no sensational revisionism as Harte often leaned toward. A Hard Local War: The British Army and the Guerrilla War in Cork, 1919-1921 is now, in my opinion, the definite book on this troubled but fascinating period in Cork's history. It's a stunning piece of work, with which William Sheehan should be very, very proud.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
As a Corkonian I'm an avid reader of Irish history particularly history involving Cork. This book obviously takes a different slant on things compared to other books on the subject. I found it very hard to take when reading about how advanced the British military were and especially how close the IRA came to defeat. I've known about the terrible situation the IRA were in for a long time however this book with it's excellent research really confirmed how bad things were. Thank God a truce was agreed when it was or my country would not have achieved what it has.

I really enjoyed reading about my home town of Fermoy and thought overall the book is an excellent read (even if the facts are hard to digest for Corkonians). I thought it was especially interesting that the author chose to look at the subject from the British perspective which provided me with a greater insight into the British military machine.

I recommend you read this book in conjunction with other titles on the subject to truly get a better understanding of the War of Independence. I personally purchase books from both sides in a conflict to ensure a fair and balanced assessment of the subject can be made and I recommend this to anyone interested in Irish history.
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