Arming the IRA – Running guns into Waterford Harbour 1921
By early summer of 1921, the IRA was facing a crisis in its conflict with British forces – a severe shortage of arms and ammunition. This shortage was threatening to curtail operations by the active units and to hinder plans to extend the conflict to other, less active areas. In June 1921 the combined Waterford Brigades had a rollcall of 232 officers and 2,044 men. The total numbers of arms available to them was 56 rifles and 45 revolvers. Tom Barry estimated that there were only about 100 rifles available to his men in the Cork No. 3 Brigade, the most successful in the country, and it was this shortage of weapons that limited his operations, not a shortage of volunteers. It was the same in every other part of the country – weapons not men were the key factor. This shortage was getting worse as British forces became more successful at locating and seizing arms dumps. It is no wonder then that the thoughts of Michael Collins and other members of the IRA GHQ staff turned to the possibility of a large-scale operation that would bring in hundreds of weapons and transform the military situation. Three such operations were planned, from America, from Italy and from Germany. Only the one from Germany was successful. It landed arms in Waterford Harbour in November 1921.
In the comings weeks I hope to have a guest blog on the story from Conor Donegan. If time allows I also hope to do a piece on some research I have done into the specific location of the arms landing.