Thomas Bernard Barry

The British Army Service File records the outline of his army career. He was briefly a Bombardier, but that was the highest rank he reached, He reverted to Gunner at his own request

An interesting article appeared in Irish Times recently - click for link - that gives details of Barry's putative British Civil Service career. The nuts and bolts of the article on that link in the Irish Times is

In Guerrilla Days in Ireland, his bestselling autobiography published in 1949, Barry wrote that his national conscience had been awoken when he heard of the Easter Rising while serving with the Royal Field Artillery (RFA) in Mesopotamia in 1916.

However, historian and former Irish army soldier Gerry White has discovered that Barry failed an examination for the position of male clerk in the Ministry of Labour in Ireland in 1919. His file in the UK National Archives in Kew reveal he also requested, unsuccessfully, to be posted to the British civil service in India in 1920.

Barry was prominent in the Bandon Branch of the National Federation of Discharged and Demobilised Sailors and Soldiers (NFDDSS) and addressed a large meeting of them in Cork in November 1919 in which he complained that jobs were being given to civilians who did not serve in the war when they should be been given to “discharged and demobilised men”.

Mr White, who has spent several years researching Barry’s life, writes in 1920 - War of Independence, published by The Irish Times on Wednesday, that it would appear he was not radicalised by the Easter Rising as he had claimed, but was among the tens of thousands of Irish-born British soldiers who returned to Ireland with no prospects of employment.


1897 Jul 1. Born son of an RIC man, and second of fourteen children, in Killorglin Co. Kerry.

1901 Census: At 35 Langford, Killorglin, Kerry. Aged 3. 

1911 Census: At 2 Fair Lane, Rosscarberry, Cork. Father (50), ex Constable RIC, shopkeeper. Mother Margaret Mary aged 36. Thomas (13) one of 9 children. (youngest born Cork, rest Kerry).

1911 Aug 12. He was educated for a period at Mungret College, County Limerick from 25 August 1911 to 12 September 1912. The reason for his short stay is indicated by a reference from the school register of the Apostolic School, Mungret College, ‘Went – Home (ran away) without knowledge of superiors – no vocation’. Mungret College was a Jesuit apostolic school and a lay secondary school near Limerick. The secondary school was relatively small, with around 225 boarders and 25 day boarders

1915 Jun 30. Enlisted in RGA . His address was given as The Arcade, Roscarberry, Co. Cork. His next of kin was his father, also Thomas Barry of Roscarberry. He stated he was nineteen years & 6 months old ie born about Jan 1896 - so he had added 18 months to his age, On discharge from the army in 1919 he recorded his correct year of birth as 1897.

1915 Jul 1.Posted to depot at Athlone

1916 Sep 18. Appointed Acting Bombardier.He was later (before Mar 1916) promoted to Bombardier, but date cannot be read on service record

1915 Oct 28. he was reprimanded for ‘when on active service being absent from 6 a.m. parade until 6.20 a.m.’ and ‘not complying with an order’.

1915 Nov 10. The Cork Examiner has a photo with the caption "VOLUNTEERED AT SIXTEEN. Bombardier T. B. Barry, RFA, Athlone, who has shown a very patriotic spirit by volunteering at the early age of sixteen. He was offered a commission in the Munsters but refused it. He is son of Mr T. Barry, Bandon.’ "

1916 Jan 21. Posted to Iraq as part of the Mesopotomia Expeditionary Force

1916 Mar 1. Posted to 4 Brigade Ammunition Column

1916 MAr 11 . 2 sections of Ammunition column moved to SENNA to supply 14 & 66 batteries.

1916 Mar 17. Posted to 14 Battery, 4 Brigade . Barry’s unit was part of the 3rd (Lahore) Division of the Tigris Corps. The 4th Brigade of the Royal Field Artillery consisted of the 7th, 14th and 66th Batteries, each battery consisting of six 18-pounder field guns.

When Barry joined the 14 Bty, they were in action at THORNY NALA targeting hostile infantry in trenches and open ground for the next few days.

1916 Apr 4. Their Captain Rutherford was killed in action while acting as a forward observation officer

1916 Apr 5. He was involved in one of the unsucessful attempts to relieve the British army besieged at Kut-al-Amara. He wrote in his autobiography that his unit was twelve miles from Kut in May 1916 when he heard about the Easter Rising in Dublin. At that point his unit was stopped by Turkish counter-attacks. The British suffered large casualties, and abandoned the relief effort, with the result that the Kut garrison surrendered on 29 April 1916..

1916 May 21. The Division moved so the 14th Battery were out of action for a short while

1916 May 26 Reverted to Gunner at his own request.

1916 May 27. He was reprimanded for ‘irregular conduct’. I would think that the reversion and the irregular conduct were linked.

1916 Jun 7 He was found guilty of being late for parade, stating a falsehood and disobedience of battery orders. This got him sentenced to ‘field punishment No. 2’

1917 Jan 3 to Jan 17. 14th Battery at Chahela and Saffa. The fire 50 to 100 rounds a day.

1917 Jan 12. "Disobedience of a battery order" 14 days FP2 and 28days loss of pay

1917 Jan 17. His battery was in action at the east bank of the Hai salient, south of Kut, where they supported British assault on the Turkish trenches. The British continue to advance

1917 Mar 21. His battery were at Falluja and Baquba where they suffered casualties with 2 officers and 12 men wounded

1917 Sep 30 War Diary shows 5 officers and 205 men serving in the battery

1917. Late in the year his unit continued up the Tigris valley, north-east of Baghdad, attacking Samarra and eventually forcing the Turks back to Tikrit.

1918 May 20 He left Iraq bound for Egypt. The 33rd (Lahore) Division of which his battery was part, was sent from Iraq to Egypt.

1918 Jun 8. His record shows he arrived in Egypt. It had taken 18 days to sail from Iraq to Egypt

1918 Dec 19, Sentenced to 7 days FP2 for "creating a disturbance & improper reply to an NCO"

1919 Feb 19 Posted back to UK from Egypt

1919 Mar 4, Arrived back in UK

1919 Apr 7. Discharged from the army. In spite of his wartime disciplinary record his character was given as a "good hardworking man" who was "sober"

1919 Jul 2 to 31 Mar 1920 According to his own claim in his Irish Pension Claim , he was in Bandon IRA . But the Pension Referee did not accept that and allowed only 1 months service in the IRA for pension purposes before 1 Aug 1920. The Pension tribunal and his subsequent appeal are littered with letters from the good and the great of Irish Independence (including De Valera). But through it all, the final verdict was that BArry had done little in the local IRA before Aug 1920

1919 Sep 3. He was awarded a pension for 40% disability suffering malaria and DAH (Disordered Action of the Heart) for review in 66 weeks. His address on his pension file was given as Convent Hill, Bandon, Co. Cork.


1919 He enrolled at Skerry's College in Cork. Looking at their expertise, I would think it was to prepare for the Civil Service exams, which he later failed

1919 Nov 10. Barry was prominent in the Bandon Branch of the National Federation of Discharged and Demobilised Sailors and Soldiers (NFDDSS) and addressed a large meeting of them in Cork at which he complained that jobs were being given to civilians who did not serve in the war when they should be been given to “discharged and demobilised men”.

Barry however claimed that his actions with the ex-service men were to get intelligence for the IRA

Below is part of his testemony at his Pension Tribunal explaining what he did with ex-servicemen

1919 Dec 4. Rejected for a Irish Civil Service job. Failed the entrance exam

1920 Feb 9. Is turned down for an Indian Civil Service job. This was recorded both on hs service record and in British Civil Service results

1920 Jun 20 . Reported in Cork Eagle that TB Barry proposed the formation of an ex-Service Man's Association in Bandon, but failed to get a seconder

1920 Jul 20. Representing the ex-servicemens' organisation , he attended the funeral of James Bourke who was killed by British soldiers during a confrontation at the North Gate Bridge in Cork.. The Irish Revolution writes:-

In the funeral procession that followed Burke’s body from the cathedral to the family burial ground in Curraghkippane on 20 July 1920, nearly 5,000 ex-servicemen were said to have marched. Leading the way and ‘at full strength’ in the cortège were the members of the Cork branch of the Discharged and Demobilised Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Federation, ‘augmented by large contingents of the federation from Bandon and other centres in Cork County’. In addition, ‘the huge cortège passed with military precision through the streets lined by thousands of citizens who reverently saluted the remains.’ Among the ex-servicemen acting as pallbearers were representatives of the Bandon branch of the Discharged and Demobilised Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Federation, which included Tom Barry, who led IRA forces at Kilmichael a few months later. See CE, 21 July 1920;

1920 Aug 1. The date that the Irish IRA Pensions Board determined that Barry became a full time member of the IRA

1920 Nov 28. Is commander of the IRA column that ambushed the ADRIC patrol at Kilmichael


Kilmichael Ambush


Kilmichael Ambush