Black and Tans: Who were they, and who were they not?

Two other police groups incorrectly called Black and Tans were involved in policing

I am particularly mindful of all of the atrocities committed collectively by the Black and Tans in 1920 and 1921 without impunity. It has always been my objective in compiling this new book to search for the truth of what happened in each incident and present the evidence, exclusive of mere argument.

It is my hope too that this book will assist researchers as a genealogical research tool in finding the real evidence of culpability. In this regard I have endeavoured to keep my focus on remembering all members of the “old” or “regular” Royal Irish Constabulary killed in the line of duty, to whom the Black and Tans did a great disservice.

The greatest challenge in compiling this book was in trying to identify the distinction between the “regular” or “old” RIC and those who enlisted from January 1920 as members of the RIC Special Reserve (RICSR), as Temporary Constables and as members of the Veterans and Drivers Division from September 3rd, 1920, who were collectively called Black and Tans.

Two other police groups incorrectly called Black and Tans were involved in policing Ireland during the War of Independence, the Auxiliary Division of the Royal Irish Constabulary (ADRIC) from July 27, 1920 and the Defence of Barracks Sergeants enlisted between May 18th, 1920 and July 11th, 1920.


The ADRIC were a strike force with a different command structure and billeted in separate accommodation throughout Ireland, whereas Defence of Barrack Sergeants, totalling 49 in number, were effectively “health and safety men” who advised on the additional security required in RIC barracks and requisitioned ADRIC Company headquarters. Thirty-three Defence of Barrack Sergeants were subsumed into the ADRIC.

In addition, the British Army were acting as an aid to the civil power in what was effectively a war situation, all of which, collectively, including the Black and Tans and Auxiliaries, were called Crown forces.

Another confusing term used at the time was auxiliary police, which sometimes meant a combination of ADRIC, RICSR and temporary constables.

More than 30 years ago I accessed the original RIC Registers of Service for the first time in the then Public Records Office (now the National Archives) in Kew, Surrey. The 42-volume Home Office 184 series of the General Register of Service contains the names of every member of the Irish Constabulary who was in the service from August 1st, 1816 and serving in 1836 when it became a national police force and then serving when the prefix Royal was granted from September 1867 up to disbandment on August 31st, 1922, the total being 85,028 and includes the names of cadet officers. Each member, with the exception of cadet officers, was allocated a unique sequential number on the registers on enlistment.

The RIC training sub depot in Hare Park Camp, the Curragh, Co Kildare, which had been used to train members of the RICSR from April 23rd, 1920 and the ADRIC from July 25th, 1920, closed in September 1920 and the ADRIC moved to and formed a headquarters in Beggars Bush Barracks, Dublin. The temporary constables were in addition RICSR constables who were allocated to individual RIC barracks and under the supervision of the RIC barrack sergeant or, at RIC district headquarters, the RIC head constable. A total enlistment of members of the RICSR was 7,684.

Also, from September 3rd, 1920 there was a third group known as the Veterans and Drivers Division of the RIC. They were also headquartered in the RIC sub depot in Gormanston Camp, Co Meath. Their main role was to provide drivers, mechanics, fitters and fatigue staff to the ADRIC. Several of the veterans were aged 35 years and upwards. I was able to identify all 1,069 members of the veterans and drivers’ division by means of the allocation register (HO.184/76) which gives the veteran’s surname, Christian name or initial(s), veteran’s RIC number, veteran’s individual number and the name of the ADRIC company to which they were deployed.

Policing the island of Ireland (with the exception of Dublin city and its environs, which was policed by the Dublin Metropolitan Police), between January 1920 and the Truce on July 11th, 1921 was maintained by the Royal Irish Constabulary and its ancillary police groups which I have defined in this book as follows -

1. ‘REGULAR’ or ‘OLD RIC’ ie Irish-born recruited in Ireland in the normal way, applying through the local station, examined and recommended by their local District Inspector and trained for six months at the RIC Depot, Phoenix Park, Dublin. 332 casualties

2. RIC SPECIAL RESERVE: 7,684 (381 Irish-born / 4.96 per cent) recruited in Britain, primarily in London and through 83 recruiting offices from January 6th, 1920 & July 7th, 1921, trained initially in Hare Camp, The Curragh and later Gormanston Camp and generally called Black and Tans. 143 casualties (1.84%).

3. TEMPORARY CONSTABLES: 2,189 (312 Irish-born / 14.25 per cent), recommended by the Inspector General from September 3rd, 1920 and September 7th, 1921 (Temporary Constable on their service records) were comprised of ex non-commissioned officers of the British army, headquartered in Gormanston Camp from September 11th, 1920 to March 25th, 1922 with their conditions of employment as advertised on recruiting posters and employed at 10 shillings a day. A total of 575 of these were seconded to the Veterans & Drivers Division. 8 casualties (.365%).

4. VETERANS & DRIVERS DIVISION: 1,069 (189 Irish-born / 17.77%) recruited from Britain from September 3rd-7th, 1920 as regular RIC, veterans and Temporary Constables but on arrival in Ireland employed exclusively as drivers attached to the Veterans & Drivers Division based at Gormanston Camp. They suffered only one casualty.

5. TEMPORARY CADETS of the Auxiliary Division of the RIC (ADRIC), 2,264, (182 Irish-born / 8.03%) comprised of ex-commissioned officers of the British Army, trained initially in Hare Camp, The Curragh and headquartered in Beggars Bush, Dublin and attached to various alphabetically formed Companies countrywide and billeted separately with a different command structure from the regular RIC and employed at £1 a day, rising to a Guinea (£1.1s.0d.) a day. 43 casualties (1.899%)

6. DEFENCE OF BARRACKS SERGEANTS, comprised of ex-Army officers with the same rate of pay as members of the ADRIC, recruited from Britain between May 18th, 1920 and July 11th, 1920. A total of 49 (13 Irish-born / 26%) were recruited and allocated to RIC barracks throughout the country, 33 of which later joined the ADRIC and five of which were killed (10%).

Other than ‘regular’ or ‘Old RIC’, the total additional policemen was 13,255 and of these 1,076 (8.13%) were Irish born.

The Black & Tans, 1920-1921: A complete alphabetical list, short history and genealogical guide by Jim Herlihy (Four Courts Press) is available now from all good bookshops and online via