Raids and Ambushes - Patterson's Mills

I was in charge on one occasion later, early in July, 1921, when another attack on the Corofin Auxiliaries was arranged to take place at Willbrook, about three miles west of Corofin. The Auxiliaries had started to come out there a few times a week to Patterson’s mills for water, travelling in one or two lorries and varying in strength from about twelve to twenty men.

For this engagement, I had got reinforcements from 3rd, 4th and 6th battalions, and the total I.R.A. strength as we took up positions about four o’clock in the morning was up to sixty men, the greater part of whom had rifles and the remainder shotguns. The men were divided into three sections, a section on each side of the road around the entrance to Patterson’s avenue, and another section of about seven men on a piece of high ground on the left-hand side, two hundred and fifty yards or so from the cross where the road branches off for Kilfenora. Each of our men had rations with him for the day.

After waiting until half-past seven in the evening, there was no sign of the enemy, and, as it was then too late to expect him, I gave orders to vacate the position and to assemble on a piece of high ground overlooking Patterson’s yard and at the back of it, three hundred yards or so from the avenue. This order was just complied with, when two lorries of Auxiliaries came round the crossroads towards Patterson’s. It is my own opinion that we were seen by the enemy because, when the lorries got into the avenue, the occupants jumped off and at once opened fire. We were in an exposed position at the time, and the heavy growth of bushes and briars into which we had to retreat for cover considerably hampered us. Anyway, none of the I.R.A. party was hit.

The Auxiliaries made no attempt to leave the avenue, but sent a lorry back to Corofin for reinforcements. This move was counteracted by the action of a few men whom I had placed on the Corofin side of the crossroads who had orders to erect a barricade as soon as the lorries had gone down the avenue. These men had carried out their job alright.

A position of stalemate had more or less then arisen. The enemy would make no move without reinforcements and, owing to exposed ground surrounding the avenue, we could not advance to where we might hope to inflict losses. In the avenue, the Auxiliaries had splendid cover and could easily hold out until after nightfall. After some return fire by our men, I decided to send them off in sections towards Killmore where they dispersed.

I think the only casualty in this encounter was myself. While covering off the retirement of the sections, I had some men with me. One of these had a shotgun which discharged, through an accident, wounding me in the heel. I was taken to Ballymurphy, Noughaval, where I was attended by Dr. Pearson of Lisdoonvarna. In the same house where I was kept was another wounded I.R.A. man named Gerald Griffin, a native of Limerick. It was some weeks after the Truce before I was able to properly walk again.

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