The next stage in the fighting moves towards Bruree.
Following the fall of Bruff back into Free State hands, it became the base for the next phase of their plan. This phase centred on the town of Bruree with W.R.E Murphy leading the columns and Tom Flood leading the Dublin Guards a well experienced band of soldiers. While there does not seem to be much focus on Bruree in terms of historical writing there was certainly a fascinating reciprocation of attacks, which clearly levelled up from the Bruff siege including racing armoured car chases and the involvement of the heavy artillery.
With plenty of in person correspondent accounts, we have an often blow-by-blow description of the events. One such reporter travels out from Limerick city with what he describes as a “huge convoy”. Supported by a number of number of armoured cars and an 18 pounder they made their way briskly out to Bruff where the “going” was uneventful. Once in Bruff they were organised in their “chara-a-bancs” the open top style army transport and requisitioned lorries heading towards Bruree with the armoured car “Danny Boy” bringing up the rear.
On reaching Dromin their presence was noted to be met with local astonishment by the locals however, they were hindered on realising the bridge had been since demolished which led to a stall and the troops having to fill in the gaps to continue. Following a rousing cheer as they eventually passed over it they had barely gone a number of yards when shots began once again. Troops ordered out of the vehicles began to inch along ditches and take up positions on hillocks as the bullets whizzed by. This time with “Danny Boy” leading the way. With more tree blocks being moved, a number of skirmishes took place leading to a number of captures by Clogher Hill.
Interestingly enough the young men who were all from Cork appear to take this in their stride with smiles. Another injured and being tended by red cross members smiles to the reporter stating he was from Ballyvourney and wasn’t “it a lovely war” and that he was well despite his injuries. One other interesting note is that the majority of these irregulars are found to be wearing Free State issued leggings. This is highlighted a number of times within the reports of the strong possibility of many of these young men having battled on the other side at some stage or another.
Once the troops were in sight of the town, the machine guns and heavy artillery were set up. This included access via walls having to be broken down to allow the gun access its line of sight of its Bruree targets. However, despite preparing, the artillery for its first shell to be directed a number of cows managed as they do, to walk directly in the line of fire – humorously breaking the tension for those few minutes, you can image young soldier doing their bit in scattering those cows out of the way only minutes later to fire a shell at a small little town here in Co. Limerick.
With both Limerick Dublin Guard troops, advancing in support of machine and artillery fire the republicans would seem surprised and quickly withdrew as their position was no longer sustainable and the National Army would appear to have taken the town with ease.
Liam Deasy however the anti-treaty IRA Commander knowing the importance of the town had other thoughts and would shortly set about launching his counterattack at the complete surprise of the Free State with armoured cars.