'Field of Fire: The Battle of Ashbourne 1916', the second book in the `1916 In Focus' series by Paul O'Brien, is a blow-by-blow account of the less well-known battle of the 1916 Rising that happened in Ashbourne, Co Meath. This battle took place between the 5th (Fingal) Battalion of the Irish Volunteers, under the command of Comdt Thomas Ashe and his 2i/c Lt Richard Mulcahy, and a superior force from the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC). It took place while attention was mainly focused on events in Dublin.
Paul's descriptions of the tactics used by the republicans during this battle are highly detailed: describing how the section commanders brought their men into battle, using flanking movements to overwhelm the RIC. Paul's definition of guerrilla warfare tactics (page 86) is one of the best you will read.
Most readers of this book will be amazed that all those involved in the Battle of Ashbourne were Irish except for one, RIC Inspector Harry Smyth, and, more importantly, would have known each other well as they all lived and worked in the Ashbourne and Meath area.
This book gives a brief account of Thomas Ashe's later punishment and the tragic ending of his hunger strike, which brought the republican cause back to the forefront of Irish politics and public sympathy.
Ashe's funeral in Dublin was the most prominent since Parnell's, with republicans brazenly carrying arms in defiance of the large British Army presence in the city. Members of Ashe's battalion rendered full military honours to their old commander with a volley of shots over his grave, while General Michael Collins famously paid tribute to this fallen son of Ireland, saying: "Nothing additional remains to be said. That volley which we have just heard is the only speech which is proper to make above the grave of a dead Fenian."
The author: Paul O'Brien MA is an Irish historian and author. He has published three other books on 1916 - `Blood on the Streets: 1916 and the Battle for Mount Street Bridge', `Uncommon Valour: 1916 and the Battle for South Dublin Union', and `Crossfire: The Battle of the Four Courts 1916'. His next book `Shootout: The Battle for St Stephen's Green 1916', is due out early next year. - paulobrienauthor.ie
As published in the December 2012 issue of An Cosantóir (The Defender) the Irish Defence Forces Magazine by Sgt Wayne Fitzgerald - dfmagazine.ie / military.ie
I was very impressed with Paul O'Brien's account of The Battle Of Ashbourne. It felt like I was there actually witnessing the incident. Such was his skill in describing it in great detail, which I like, of every aspect of the scene. Sadly it involved Irishmen on both sides except for the senior member of the Royal Irish Constabulary. Having initially some bias towards the Royal Irish constabulary as I have a historical interest in them ( I had Talbot ancestors in their ranks) I became interested in Thomas Ashe because my Grand Uncle Tomás Talbóid (1895-1980) was one of the townspeople keen to change Nelson Street in Tralee, County Kerry, and rename it Ashe Street. My relative, an Irish Volunteer, had owned a shop the the street when it was burned down by the ''Black and Tans."
Simple, accurate and well written. Quite concise at around 100 pages or so, but a valuable and accademicly credible work. Very useful for anyone wishing to learn more about the period under examination. Well referenced and a good bibliography.