On the morning of the December 16, 1920 during the Irish War of Independence, an eight man Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) foot patrol under the command of Sergeant Thomas Bray, leaves the barracks at Kilcommon Cross, County Tipperary, to retrieve mail from the Post Office in Kilcommon village, a mile away.
As they approach the crest of a hill on the narrow road between the Cross and the village, approximately twenty men of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) 1st Tipperary Brigade open fire on them. The object of the attack is apparently quite simple – to kill members of the police, and in particular Sergeant Bray.
The ambush, although triggered early, is successful, with the deaths of four of the constables and the serious wounding of one other. The remaining three policemen are able to take cover and return to the barracks, including the Sergeant. Two RIC rifles are lost and there are no casualties on the IRA side.
The dead constables are Patrick Joseph Halford (27) of Meath, Ernest Frederick Harden (21) of Essex, Albert Holman Palmer (24) of Surrey, and Arthur Smith (22) of London. Constable Alfred Edwin Bundy of Gloucestershire is seriously wounded and requires hospital care. He is pensioned out early, in June 1921, as a result of his injuries.
There is some suggestion that the local IRA units are not at all keen on an ambush in their area, for fear of retribution. The brigade commanders push ahead with it however, and the inevitable ‘unofficial reprisals’ are carried out, with the killing of some livestock and the burning of some dwellings, including the home of one of the IRA volunteers.
The total strength in Kilcommon RIC Barracks at this time was around 16 police. Most of them are British recruits – Black and Tans – and under the control of only one Sergeant. Immediately after the ambush a further six men are drafted in as replacements.
Two of the eight police involved in the incident that day remain to be identified. But present in Kilcommon barracks during the period are two constables who are later to have careers in the Palestine Gendarmerie, Arthur Charles Howard and Arthur Fisher. Fisher becomes an officer in the Arab Section of the Palestine Gendarmerie and later the Transjordan Frontier Force (TJFF).
(From: “The Kilcommon Ambush, 16 December 1920” by Peter Mc, The Royal Irish Constabulary Forum, irishconstabulary.com | Pictured: The vicinity of the ambush site)