Thursday, June 07, 2007

The Michael Collins Gambit

What American Patriots need to consider IF the situation moves toward a martial law or a martial rule condition, ARE the strategy and tactics of Michael Collins.

1. Intellegience - KNOW YOUR ENEMY - Who are they, where do they live, work, shop, attend public events, church. Who are their neighbors, family, friends.

2. Supply your needs - food, weapons, ammunition, hide-outs, Communications ability with your comrades and the general public.

3. Strike the Root not the branches - Hit the top people, not the drones.

4. Leaderless Resistance - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leaderless_resistance - No central planning, no central head to hit. Individuals committed to the strategy of seizing liberty with different tactics independent of each other but united by a common belief in the Creed of Freedom. http://www.freedom-force.org/freedom.cfm?fuseaction=creed

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Throughout Irish history, rebellions were always failures because of cowardice, drink, and most ominously, informers. Returning from Frongoch Prison in Wales with the other survivors of the failed 1916 Rising, Michael Collins realised this. Britain had always been able to either place spies in rebel parties or else succeed in enticing Irishmen to ‘rat out’ their colleagues for money and protection. With his own intelligence network, he took on, and beat, Britain at its own game.

Building up the Network

“For the first time in the history of separatism we Irish had a better intelligence service than the British… this was Michael Collins’ great achievement and it is one for which every Irishman should honour his memory.”- Todd Anders

Michael Collins was appointed the Director of Intelligence of the Irish Volunteers in January 1919. By this time, he had already laid much of the groundwork for his intelligence network.

Collins had penetrated the Irish and English postal, telephone and telegraph systems. Letters and dispatches could be moved to various contacts by certain train inspectors. The railway workers were organised so effectively that the military frequently had to move troops and stores by road, which would play into the hands of the IRA ambushes as the war intensified. The trade unions were mobilised to hamper police and military movements by road, rail and sea. For many months the army had to tie up thousands of men on the major ports as the dockers had paralysed all attempts to land stores.

One of Collins’ key activities was gun running. He established a network of agents across the British Isles using his IRB (the Irish Republican Brotherhood) connections. His secret channel was dubbed the ‘Irish Mail’. Gelignite from Wales and England came carefully packed in tin trucks, rifles came in wicker hampers, revolvers and ammunition in hand luggage. In December 1918 a munitions factory was set up in the cellar of a bicycle shop in Dublin, with Collins taking over the operation of it several months later.

The Squad

“I am a builder, not a destroyer. I get rid of people only when they hinder my work.”- Michael Collins

“Our only way to carry on the fight was by organised and bold guerilla warfare. But this in itself was not enough. England could always reinforce her army. To paralyse the British machine it was necessary to strike at individuals outside the ranks of the military. Without her Secret Service working at the top of its efficiency England was helpless… robbed of the network of this organisation throughout the country, it would be impossible to find ‘wanted’ men.” - Michael Collins

Collins set up ‘the Squad’, a small band of Dublin Volunteers attached to the Intelligence Department, in July 1919. It was a full-time assassination team, made up of clerks, tradesmen, and general workers, who were paid £4.10 a week. According to Bill Stapleton, one of its members-

“Our chief function was the extermination of British spies and individuals.”

Strict rules were laid down for Squad shootings. Assassinations were a last resort, coming after repeated warnings to the target. Once the order to shoot was given, the Squad would study the locale carefully and work out where and when the shooting would take place. After a job the guns would be dropped in the pockets of ‘the Black Man’, a former boxer who perpetually walked the streets of Dublin.

On July 30th, Detective Sergeant Smith of the ‘G’ Division was shot dead by the Squad on the authority of Dail Eireann. On September 12th, Sergeant Daniel Hoey was shot dead outside of Police Headquarters at Brunswick Street. Both Smith and Hoey had disregarded several warnings from Volunteers. As a result of these killings, political detectives became less inclined to go beyond the letter of their duty, or taking any risks in its execution. Collins explained his strategy in 1922-

“Without her spies England was helpless… Spies are not so ready to step into the shoes of their departed confederates as are soldiers to fill up the front line in honourable battle. And, even when the new spy stepped into the shoes of the old one, he could not step into the old one’s knowledge… We struck at individuals, and by doing so we cut their lines of communication, and we shook their morale.”

The other main result of these killings, and Volunteer activity in Munster, was the banning of Sinn Fein and Dail Eireann. This created a fertile climate for Collins’ tactics, allowing him to assassinate more British police and agents without being restrained by moderates.

Following the suppression of Dail Eireann, the Dail and the Volunteers (by now popularly known as the IRA) agreed that the IRA should intensify its campaign. With the demise of the DMP in Dublin, the British authorities decided to bring down Mr. William C. Forbes Redmond from Belfast to reorganise the detective force. But his assistant in Dublin Castle was one of Collins’ agents. Redmond was identified and his movements were recorded. On January 20th 1920, Redmond was shot dead by members of the Squad as he returned to his suite in the Standard Hotel in Harcourt Street. According to a Squad member, Joe Dolan-

Following Redmond’s death, his own undercover detectives pulled out and returned to Belfast, and thereafter ‘G’ Division “ceased to affect the situation”, according to British military intelligence. By the following month, a Secret Service Branch of the RIC no longer existed.

It may be wondered how Collins and his intelligence officers went about seemingly unhindered during this time. The remaining DMP men were generally too afraid to go after Collins, even though many of them were able to identify him. The twin evils of spies and raids remained however. Many of Collins’ office and hiding places, dotted throughout Dublin city, were turned over during the War of Independence. He usually got forewarning from one of his agents and was able to be elsewhere. It also helped when one of his ‘friendly’ detectives was leading the raiding party. In November 1919 Collins’ financial offices on Harcourt Street were raided. Nothing important was discovered because the detective in charge of the search simply didn’t bother looking. What he actually did was-

“I went upstairs and counted the roses on the wallpaper until the raid was over.”

It is believed that up to half the Cairo Gang may have escaped assassination, but ‘Bloody Sunday’ (as it became known afterwards) was overall a huge success for Collins’ intelligence network. Spies and their wives flocked to Dublin Castle in despair, and Collins’ intelligence team were able to jot down the names of those they didn’t already recognise. Bloody Sunday had a crippling effect on British intelligence in Ireland. One of Collins’ agents wrote-

“The effect was paralysing. It can be said that the enemy never recovered from the blow.”

Collins himself wrote-

“My own intention was the destruction of the undesirables who continued to make miserable the lives of ordinary decent citizens… If I had another motive, it was no more than a feeling such as I would have for a dangerous reptile… There is no crime in detecting and destroying in war-time, the spy and the informer. They have destroyed without trial. I have paid them back in their own coin.” -
Michael Collins and the Organisation of Irish Intelligence, 1917-21

Towards a Truce

“The tenacity of the IRA is extraordinary. Where was Michael Collins during the Great War? He would have been worth a dozen brass hats.”- British civil servant Tom Jones writing to Bonar Law

On December 20th, Eamon de Valera returned from America. De Valera argued that it would be better to change from hit and run guerilla tactics to having a series of battles with the British, mainly for propaganda purposes. This resulted in the burning of the Customs House on May 25th 1921. It was a publicity success worldwide but resulted in many of the best IRA men in Dublin at the time being captured. As the summer reached its peak, Collins had been preparing to assassinate around sixty fresh agents sent in from Britain, as well as groups of soldiers who were based in Dublin. Half an hour before this operation was due to begin, it was called off. Lloyd George had sent word that he wanted peace.

Britain had been facing growing worldwide pressure, especially from America, to negotiate a settlement. The Anglo-Irish Truce came into effect on July 11th 1921. As the peace talks were going on in London, and the guns were silent across the country, things were still going on in the murky underground war. The IRA were all coming out into the open, including intelligence officers, and the British Secret Service were noting their appearance and their various whereabouts. Collins ruefully admitted-

“Once a truce is agreed, and we come out into the open, it is extermination for us if the truce should fail… We shall be like rabbits coming out from their holes.”

This didn’t stop him continuing to run his intelligence office as the truce was maintained. A truce it had in no small part brought about.

Conclusion

Several things forced the truce of July 1921, of which Collins’ intelligence network is only one. But it is arguably the most important one. One of the key reason that the War of Independence of 1919-1921 actually achieved a tangible result (the Anglo-Irish Treaty), unlike scores of previous rebellions, was intelligence.

British spies and informers were wiped out by the Irish. People were now afraid to be seen supporting or passing information to the British administration. Spies were routinely shot. British intelligence lines were intercepted and used against them. The State became effectively paralysed by Collins’ network. This is acknowledged by British historians, none more so than Lawrence James in The Rise and Fall of the British Empire. As he looks at the reasons behind the British agreeing to a truce in July 1921, he notes-

“The British army had still not overcome many of its operational problems, not least the lack of a competent intelligence-gathering service. In fact, by early June, the two sides were facing deadlock.”