In my research at the National Archives in Kew a number of years ago, I obtained a full copy of the report of the Intelligence Branch of the Chief of Police from May, 1920 to July, 1921
The report was written by Colonel Ormonde de L, Epee Winter, known as " O ", Chief of British Intelligence in Ireland, 1920 - 21 and runs to well over 105 pages, the report was for his peers and the British Cabinet and, in my opinion, biased, which is understandable, nevertheless, the Report, ( as I will now refer to it ), is a very important document as regards to Intelligence and the Secret Service and I intend , over the coming months to serialise it in parts.
I do not confess to be an expert on the subject, but an interested researcher and I hope members and visitors to the forum will be able to understand the British Intelligence Branch better and be able to add or discuss the different parts of the Report as it unfolds
REF - WO 35/214 JOB NO.264203
PRO - A REPORT ON THE INTELLIGENCE BRANCH OF THE CHIEF OF POLICE FROM MAY,1920 TO JULY, 1921
Two broad fundemental facts have to be taken into consideration in dealing with the Intelligence Service in Ireland, they are that, first, Ireland is an island, and, second, that there are no physical characteristics to distinguish the loyalists from the rebels. The rebellion was self - contained, and appertained only to Ireland. The activities outside Ireland were confined to
The importation of arms and munitions.
Obtaining financial assistance from other countries.
Demonstrations of an operative nature in England, with a view to intimidation and as a counter - blast to the so - called policy of reprisals
During the progress of the late European War practically no man or woman of pure English extraction was convicted of espionage, and hostile countries had to resort to the employment of aliens as agents for Intelligence purposes. This, to a great extent, applied also where England itself was concerned.
It followed, therefore, that any alien living in or visiting a country might be looked upon as a potential spy, whilst the Aliens Restrictions Act and the Passport system enabled the authorities to exercise a certain supervision over his movements. Morever, the spy, having gathered his information, had to transmit it to his employers, and with the restrictions imposed on travel, he was thrown back on the postal and telegraphic services, which in turn, were controlled by the Censorship organisation.
In Ireland, the work of counter - espionage was heavily handicapped in the absence of any of these controls.
There are no means of distinguishing the potential spy from any other Irishman.
The spy is able to convey his information by word of mouth, and certainly does not have to employ the postal service. The arrest of a suspect and the discovery on him of documents relating to Intelligence is , practically, the only method by which a spy can be convicted.
As applied to Intelligence in ordinary war - time, an increase in the difficulties of counter - espionage would tend to decrease the difficulties in espionage, but, as will be developed later, one fact is clear and that is, that a war - time Intelligence system cannot be employed in dealing with the class of political crime now under consideration.
The information required by the War Office Intelligence Service is , to a great extent, of a different nature to that required under the circumstances under discussion.
It is, morever, more easy to obtain, and, once obtained, the information is easier to tabulate.
The passing of troop trains, the counting of guns, the estimation of forces and questions pertaining to the resources of a country can be unobtrusively obtained by casual observation : the plans and intentions of an under - ground organisation, information as to acts of violence committed by individual assassins, and even the order of battle of improvised guerrillas dressed in the garb of peasantry cannot be obtained by onlookers or by the ordinary commercial traveller.
On the other hand, each reinforcement to the Army or Police can be counted as it arrives on the Irish shore.
Our organisation is well known, and, scattered as the Crown Forces are over the map of Ireland, their movements can be observed by the rebels and their plans foretold.
The only correspondence necessary between the rebel organisation and other countries is that which concerns the four classes of activities above - mentioned, and, of these, the third is the only one for which the ordinary post is employed, couriers being used for communications relative to the other three.
In Ireland, the vast number of sparsely populated mountain districts and the extensive expanses of uninhabited bogs help to secure a certain immunity for the active service units that have been operating as roving guerrilla bands whilst the numerous banks, hedges and sunken roads afford every route with an ideal site for an ambush on the Crown Forces, who were compelled, by reason of dispersion, to travel from place to place.
The large number of islands, creeks and harbours have greatly fascilitated the landing of arms, and the paucity of large towns renders it difficult for any agent who is a stranger to the place to remain " perdu "
The Irishman is of an intensely inquisitive nature, and the advent of a strange face in any village is a matter of comment from the hour of his arrival.
A captured document shows that, at a meeting of six Brigade Commandants in Co. Cork on the 6.1.21, it was decided " to arrest all strangers appearing in Areas, and make them prove their identity. In the case of a Volunteer he will be sent back to his own Area unless he either has his transfer or a note of permission from his O.C. "
It has been said that no European can fathom the mind of an Oriental, and it might equally be said that no Englishman can fully grasp the inner psychology of the Irish rebel character.
Two things tend to make this rebellious movement remarkable : one is that it has, up to the present, produced no great man, and the other is that, for the first time in history, the Irishman has not succumbed to the temptation of gold.
The former is, possibly, due to the fact that, with one or two exceptions, the heads of the rebel organisation are recruited from a low and degenerate type, unequipped with intellectual education, and the latter to the fact that a surfeit of terror has replaced an appetite for gain.
Un - quote - to be continued.
What a statement to make in the last paragraph, a complete lack of understanding of his enemy and the men he was trying to bring to justice. They did not belong to the " officer, hunting and shooting class ", many of these " low and degenerate types " went on to be great public figures in the new government of Southern Ireland.
I look forward to any comments