The Black and Tans were not so bad after all it seems according to a new book.
That will come as disturbing news to millions of Irish Americans including, by his own account, Vice President Joe Biden, who were raised on stories of Black and Tans atrocities in Ireland during the War of Independence.
(The above picture is a still from the movie "The Wind that Shakes the Barley" on this very topic)
The Black and Tans were generally thought of as the scum of the British system, psychopaths released from jails and turned into an evil militia and sent to Ireland.
Not so says a new book by historian David Leeson entitled "The Black and Tans; British Police and Auxiliaries in the Irish War of Independence 1920-21." It is published by Oxford University Press.
The book was reviewed by Eunan O' Halpin in The Irish Times and he says it will open many eyes.
Among the major surprises I found reading his review was that many of the Black and Tans were actually Irish-born and that regular soldiers were far more likely to commit atrocities.
O'Halpin writes; "Leeson’s careful analysis of Black and Tan recruitment disposes of the widely aired charge that these temporary policemen were the sweepings of the British penal system. Rather, they were a miscellany of British and Irish ex-servicemen, almost none of whom had criminal records. "
"He also suggests that pre-First World War soldiers were more likely than younger Black and Tans to commit disciplinary and criminal offenses in Ireland, challenging the assumption that the chronic ill discipline of these temporary policemen was specifically a manifestation of the brutalizing effects of the First World War on impressionable youths."
He also notes that " While the Black and Tans were largely confined to service alongside regular RIC men, waiting for the IRA to attack them, the Auxiliaries were intended as an elite force tasked to take the battle to the IRA."
This they did with a vengeance and it is abundantly clear that they abused that power, even more than the Black and Tans actually did.
In another book about the era "1920-1922 The Outrages" by Pearse Lawlor, published by Mercier Press it is clear that the worse of all groups, including the Black and Tans were the Ulster Special Constabulary.
The book discusses the numerous atrocities they carried out, as indeed did the IRA at the time as Lawlor notes, citing especially the brutal murder of an 80-year-old helpless Protestant clergyman in Cavan.
He covers the pogroms against Catholics in at least three major towns led by off-duty Ulster Special Constabulary, later known as the 'B' specials and they leave even the Black and Tans in the halfpenny place when it comes to murder and mayhem.
Almost all revolutions are born in spilt blood and the Irish fight was no different.
What is interesting is how, as history unfolds,previously hard held facts and truths are questioned and re-examined.
It seems we are at that stage with the Irish War of Independence.
There are no choir boys in war we know.These books just make that fact even clearer.