Geoffrey Ibberson, Border Regt


1897 Aug 1 Born at Dewsbury, Yorkshire

Royal Military College, Sandhurst

1916 Apr 7. Commissioned 2nd Lt

1916 Oct - Feb 1918. served the region of Greek Macedonia, Serbia, Bulgaria, European Turkey and the Islands of the AEgean Sea

1917 Oct 7. Promoted Lt

1918 Aug 8. Attached to Air Ministry

1918 Oct 31. served Egyptian Expeditionary Force (wounded)

1919 Jun 1 Ceases attachment to Air Ministry

1921 May 3. Platoon Commander, 2nd Battalion The Border Regiment (Ballinrobe, Co. Mayo, in the West of Ireland) [seriously injured in action with the South Mayo Brigade IRA. 03.05.1921]

Tourmakeady ambush when a South Mayo Brigade flying column commanded by Tom Maguire killed four RIC men. Two IRA men also lost their lives in the aftermath. Ibberson had pursued Maguire’s column into the Partry Mountains after the ambush. He shot dead Michael O’Brien, South Mayo Brigade’s adjutant, and was himself severely wounded. Patrick Feeney was killed later in Ballinrobe by other Border Regiment soldiers, most likely in retaliation for the deaths of the police.

Ibberson made a witness statement to Irish Bureau of Military History

In May 1921, 2nd Battalion, The Border Regiment was stationed in County Mayo in the West of Ireland. "C" Company was quartered in the Military Barracks at Ballinrobe. In early March of that year Captain H. L. Chatfield, the 0.C. "C" Company had been wounded near Partry whilst travelling in a Military Lorry on duty from Ballinrobe to Castlebar, the Headquarters of the Battalion. In consequence I, as senior subaltern of "C" Company was commanding on 3rd May. The Battalion was part of the Galway Brigade. The Brigade was to carry out a "Drive", i.e. an attempt to round up Sinn Feiners in North Galway, beginning in the early hours of the next day, 4th May, so that on 3rd the Battalion, which was to play a large part in the "Drive" was busy with its preparations. On the previous day, 2nd May, A Company, then commanded by Major O.C. Munby, had arrived from Castlebar in Ballinrobe Barracks to take part in the "drive". During luncheon, on 3rd May, in the Officers' Mess mention was made of some noise of firing during the morning from the direction of Loch Mask. Shortly after the meal, i.e. about 13.45 hours, this was explained by the arrival of a message to say that a Police Car patrol en route

from Ballinrobe to Derry Park Police Station had been ambushed at Tourmakeady. As Tourmakeady was in "C" Company' scarea of responsibility and I personally knew the country fairly well, Major Munby agreed that I should take action with "C" Company personnel. At this point I may mention that, as part of the training of "C" Company, I had selected about a dozen soldiers, mostly Lance Corporals, and had exercised them in hill climbing and other endurance training. We had climbed above Derry Park and above Gortbunacullin but not actually in the hills above Tourmakeady. Unfortunately, only two of these soldiers, Lance Corporal Bickley and another, were available on 3rd May to go with me. However, having a good general knowledge of the ground, I was able to make a quick plan. In any case a glance at the map would have shown that the most likely "get away" from Tourmakeady by the Sinn Feiners would be in a westerly direction into the Partry Mountains thus avoiding Derry Park Police Station and Srah. The transport available consisted of two Crossley Tenders each able to carry nine personnel besides the driver and one 3-ton lorry able to accommodate twenty to twenty-five. Two Officers, Lieutenants Smith and Craig, were with me and available for duty

My plan was as follows:- i. The two Crossleys, the first commanded by Lieutenant Smith, the second by myself, to move via Srah and to halt half a mile south of, i.e. beyond, Tourmakeady. The two patrols from these vehicles then to move, at 300 yards interval, west up the Partry Mountains. When at the summit these patrols to wheel right, i.e north and inwards towards the 3-ton lorry party. All ranks to carry rifles and bandoliers. ii. The party in the 3-ton lorry commanded by Lieutenant Craig with approximately twenty soldiers and two Lewis guns to proceed to Srah about three miles north of Tourmakeady. The party from this vehicle then to move in a westerly direction up the Partry Mountains to the Gortbunacullin area and then to wheel south and try to contact the patrols from the Crossleys. It will be understood that this plan entailed a limited pincer movement in the area of the most likely line of enemy retreat. Whilst Lieutenants Smith and Craig mustered the troops I hurried to the Ballinrobe Post Office where information about the ambush had been received and also to dispatch telegrams. There I was told that the story had come over the telephone from the Post Office at Tourmakeady. The wires, therefore, had not been cut. I dispatched the following telegrams :- (a) To 0.C., Military Barracks, Castlebar. Hellfire Tourmakeady AAA Ballinrobe Srah Tourmakeady AAA Castlebar Killavally Bohaun Bohaun Ravine Tourmakeady AAA. From: Military Ballinrobe. (b) To: 0.C., R.I.C. Barracks Westport. Hellfire Tourmakeady AAA Ballinrobe Srah Tourmakeady AAA Westport Winding Valley Tourmakeady AAA. From: Military Ballinrobe. Explanation of Telegrams: (a) Hellfire Tourmakeady Ambush at Tourmakeady.

Ballinrobe Srah Tourmakeady - the route by which the senders of the telegram, i.e. ourselves were to proceed to the scene of the ambush. Castlebar Killavally Bohaun Bohaun Ravine Tourmakeady - the route by which recipients of the telegram should proceed to the scene of the ambush. (b) Similar to the above. It might seem presumptious, to say the least, that I, a subaltern, should give directions to my Commanding Officer at Castlebar! It was then, however, the military practice that the first to receive information about the enemy should carry out such procedure. Action taken by the recipients of these telegrams is made the subject of comments at the end of this account. At about 14.30 hours Lieutenant Smith and I, with our patrols in the two Crossleys, set off for Tourmakeady. When near Srah Bridge my Crossley had a puncture. The wheel, however, was speedily changed. It was a glorious day and hot for early May. The scent of the gorse where we had our breakdown was, I recall, intoxicating. On arrival at Tourmakeady we halted for information. There I saw Captain Pococke, the District Inspector of the R.I.C. at Ballinrobe, who had arrived before us. He was unable to say in which direction the Sinn Féiners had withdrawn. So Smith and I saw no reason to deviate from our original plan. We saw one or two bodies of Constables with whom we had worked and whom we respected and I personally was filled with feelings of vengeance. It was confirmed later that four had been killed and two wounded. We went on a little way in the Crossleys, debussed and ordered the drivers to report back to Captain Pococke. Smith led his patrol orward 300 yards and we moved west towards the mountains. My patrol had to pass through what I took to be the southern part of Tourmakeady Lodge Estate. Previously we had found and arrested Sinn Feiners hiding in similar places and so, foolishly, I extended the patrol in this thickly wooded country being myself on the right and a Sergeant on the left. On emerging into open country I saw Smith's patrol well ahead on the left and beginning to climb the bare hills. Only two men, Lance Corporal Bickley and another, were with me. I sounded the rally on my whistle as a signal to the rest of my patrol but without success. I fired twice into the air to attract their attention, again with no response. After wasting a few minutes I decided to continue without them as we were losing touch with Smith's patrol. I hoped that, as we advanced, we would see them emerge from the wood and that I could signal them up. We never, however, regained touch with them. Very soon after resuming our advance we saw a man leading a farm cart moving across our front to the left at about 400 yards range. Thinking it wise to search this I first shouted out orders to halt and, no notice being taken, I fired a couple of shots "across its bows. This had the desired effect and we went up to search it. The cart contained only a little girl who was frightened and whom we tried to comfort for a few moments. The sun was unusually hot so after climbing some distance we three took off our jackets and puttees and slung our two bandoliers over our shoulders. I had my .32 automatic pistol in my right hand breeches pocket. The military uniform of those days was a handicap to free movement

On arrival at the summit of the climb we could see great distances to the west and south west but were unable to locate Smith's patrol. It was learned later that they had sighted two Sinn Feiners, had chased and captured them in Winding Valley, one of them being in possession of a shot gun. We turned right, i.e. North near the mountain crest. The ground was bare and boggy in parts and flat-going at first. We were rather exhausted after the climb but I had a premonition that at last we were to come to grips with our evasive enemy. After advancing a short distance in this direction a group of four men appeared ahead of us moving to our left, i.e. West. Some were carrying weapons. They had not noticed us and we were able to find a reasonable fire position from which we opened fire with 300 yards on our sights. They immediately vanished from view. We pushed on vigorously and on reaching the place where the men had beer seen we found that it was a gully. From here we could see to the north and east, i.e. along the crest contour and down towards Loch Mask and the Srah-Tourmakeady road. First we noticed the four men scampering away north across another gully and then to the north-east below and in front of us we saw a large number of men seemingly in flight. At first they appeared to be rather a rabble but eventually they adopted some formation. It appeared to me to be four groups of men in single file. At the time I estimated that the total number was about 60, but it is easy to exaggerate in such circumstances and 40 was probably nearer the correct figure. The leader of the column was in a controlling position apart from the groups and, therefore, easy to pick out

The Phillside GI was open and they were moving towards Gortbunacullin where Lieutenant Craig and his Lewis guns had been directed. This was all very satisfactory from our point of view. Soon, however, it became clear that the Column was changing direction to the north-west, would avoid Gortbunacullin and escape the mountains towards Bohaun unless something was done about it. To prevent this it was necessary to reach a position above their line of advance and try to force them to continue towards Gortbunacullin. The matter was urgent. We had been gaining on their advance but now it was essential that our pace be fast. The Column was then perhaps 600 yards ahead of us but down the hillside. It soon became clear that Lance Corporal Bickley and the other man were unable to keep up the necessary pace so I ordered them to follow as fast as they could. Not having yet revisited the around but referring to the 6-inch Map Sheet 109 of County Mayo, I estimate that I ran about a mile near the 1,000-foot contour across Drumcoggy Mountain and reached a point about 300 yards west of a ring contour marked 700. From this point I was able to overlook the Sinn Féin Column which, if my map reading is correct, was crossing this ring contour feature. After firing three or four rounds at the leader he GI fell on the slope facing my position, whereupon the whole Column took cover. After about a minute a man came forward from cover. I fired one round at him before realizing that he had come to the aid of the wounded leader. He helped his leader back under cover and then came back to collect a weapon left where the leader had fallen.

got up to look for Lance Corporal Bickley and the other man but could not locate them. Shortly after a few bullets fell fairly near me. I had seen three or four men on a feature to the south which I now take to be the ring contour marked 800 some seven hundred yards south of my position and the shots appeared to come from that direction. Then, to my great joy, a Lewis gun opened up from the direction of Gortbunacullin. I could see bullet strikes about the enemy position. After a few bursts I rose, waved my arms, signalled "enemy in sight" with my rifle and shouted "Is that you, Borders? I thought they answered but the distance was great. All firing then ceased. After a short while, seeing no sight of movement at the enemy position, I feared that they might be withdrawing east down the hillside, In consequence I decided to reconnoitre the feature. To do this I did a right flank move coming up to the feature from the south and crawling the last few yards. On arrival at a viewpoint I saw about a dozen men in a small saucer of ground and about twenty yards away. A man was attending to the wounded leader. I looked to my rifle and found the magazine empty! As quietly as possible I charged with five rounds and then somewhat nervously added another three from another charger! Deciding to try to bluff them into surrender in the vain hope of disarming them and marching them to Gortbunacullin, I first shot one of the men. Then jumping up and moving forward I shouted "Come my Borders; Hands Up, Surrender". Several I could see did put up their hands. They had been surprised a second time, in this case at close quarters. The man, however, who was attending to the wounded leader picked up his rifle and had a snap GL at me. I dropped and he missed me. I then shot him and he rolled over. I again rose and was about to repeat the order when I was shot from the left through both arms and in the chest. Thus incapacitated I turned and set off down the hillside. After about twenty yards a bullet struck my left thigh. This tripped me and I fell amongst another group of Sinn Feiners who were flat on the ground. Scrambling up I had to pick my way in one place amongst them as they were so close together. Fortunately for me I was being shot at and these were taking cover, or maybe they thought the position was being overrun by British soldiers. In any case I got clear and, trying to avoid further injury, ran zig zag down the hillside. The Lewis gun fire opened up again. After about a mile I came to stone walls. My useless arms and hands made these difficult to cross. In two cases I recall having to take a running jump, land on my middle and roil over. Eventually I reached a lane (boreen) which runs north to south nearly parallel to the Srah-Tourmakeady road. On the way down I had seen what I took to be Craig's three-tonner beside the road south of Srah. With this objective in mind I turned left in the lane but then came near to collapse. Seeing a farm cottage on the right of the lane with a jaunting car in the yard and also a horse tied I entered the cottage. As I went in a scowling youth walked out. Inside were an old man and woman. I ordered the old man to harness up and take me to the main road in the car, and then sat down. He argued that the mare had only recently foaled and was unfit for harness. Then began my most trying experience of the day, and it seemed a long time before the old man was persuaded to take me. The fact that my automatic was in my pocket but that it was impossible to remove it to threaten him made it all the more aggravating,

The old woman, who thought and said I was dying, knelt beside me and prayed for my soul to the Virgin. These old folk ware in a difficult position. To help me was likely to prove unpopular with Sinn Féin and for me to die on their hands would be equally unpopular with the Military. I think it was the old woman who influenced the man to take me. There was some difficulty in getting me up on to the car - always awkward affairs for the unathletic - and I was now in a weak state through loss of blood. At this the old lady helped and I hope that I adequately expressed my thanks. So the old man and I started off in the jaunting car for the lorry on the road beside the loch. Again referring to the 6-inch to 1-mile map Mayo, Sheet 109, the cottage of my good samaritans may well have been that almost half a mile and almost due west of Drimcoggy Lodge. If this is correct then I asked the old man to stop at a cottage about 500 yards further north on the west side of the lane. There ware some people at the door of the cottage whom I asked for a drink but this was refused. Eventually the old man brought me to the lorry. This turned out to be that of Craig's party as I had hoped. The strong arms of the Sergeant in charge of the lorry who helped me down from the car were an enormous comfort. I realized that I'd got through. There was also a soldier with a Lewis gun in position near the roadside. I was disappointed at seeing this as it would have been of greater service up at Cortbunacuflin. I told the Sergeant to take me to Tourmakeady so that I could report on the enemy's position. He, however, fearful of my life, insisted on taking me to barracks at once. Cold by now they wrapped me in a blanket and we drove to barracks with all speed. 11. Some Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders had arrived in barracks from Claremorris for the "drive" next morning and an officer friend of that regiment with whom I had served in the R.A.F. actually helped me from the lorry. I was, of course, adamant that information should be sent to Tourmakeady as to the whereabouts of the enemy column, and hoped that troops could be sent out from Ballinrobe to reinforce Craig. All this would have been easy but for the "drive" due to begin in a matter of nine hours. I spent the night my quarter in Barracks with Doctor Daly visiting me often, a shot near my heart causing him concern. Archdeacon Traynor also spent some time with me. My batman spent the night at my bedside and escorted me by train to Dublin and King George V. Hospital next day. There Sir William Taylor, the famous surgeon, took charge. A swan slug was removed from my chest and later the ulnar nerve, left arm, was sutured with unusual success for those days. The wound in the left thigh, which had just missed the femoral artery, left no permanent damage nor did the four shots which passed through the right arm.

COMMENTS: To the military man there are, I consider, some interesting tactical lessons to be learned from this story. Here, however, I do not propose to enlarge on such matters but to leave that to the reader. What, may be wondered, happened to the rest of my patrol? The Sergeant, (who had recently been posted to us from another regiment) and five men became lost in the woods and returned to Tourmakeady.Later this N.C.0. (the Sergeant) So I was infomed was courtmartialled on a civil charge and dismissed the Service. This may account for the mention of a Courtmartial in the report by O/C., Mayo South. Lance Corporal Bickley and the other man with him, I was informed, contacted Lieutenant Craig 's party near Gortbunacullin It should, however, be stressed that the great factor which limited the Battalion's success that day - apart from my own blunders - was that it was engaged in preparation for action the next day in the early morning in another county. The troops dispatched from Castlebar following the receipt of our telegram had orders to return there by 19.00 hours so as to give them a few hours rest before setting off for the operation in County Galway. In consequence the O/C. judged that there was insufficient time to climb over the hills via Bohaun Ravine to Tourmakeady. The Column, therefore, motored direct to Tourmakeady. So apparently did the police despatched from Westport. It must be realised that during the preceding months troops of the Battalion had been called out on several occasions with little result, the enemy having fled and dispersed. Some success, however, was achieved, the next day - 4th May a party of police under Mr. Goulden's father searched the area of the fighting and collected the following weapons left by the Sinn Féin Column :- Seven German Rifles near to the body of Brigade Adjutant Michael O'Brie Twenty assorted shot guns, one rifle and one revolver which had been captured in the ambush from Sergeant Regan who was killed. Secondly the Sinn Féin Column never fought again


Another take on the Ambush in The Mayo News 12 May 2008

Those accepted facts, however, have come under severe scrutiny in a new book about to be published and written by a Mayo author. ‘The Battle of Tourmakeady – Fact or Fiction’, from the pen of Captain Donal Buckley, is certain to raise serious debate about the entire episode and the conflicting versions of what really happened on that May day in 1921. Captain Buckley, a retired Irish army officer with service of 22 years, is nothing if not thorough in his research and field work. His conclusions raise serious doubts about our understanding of the War of Independence and, equally, of the reliability of the sources so often used as definitive records of what actually happened.

Buckley claims that while the undisputed facts of the Tourmakeady ambush speak for themselves, the accounts given by each side leave more questions than they do answers. The facts tell that a 60-strong Flying Column of the South Mayo Brigade, under the command of Commandant Tom Maguire of Cross, ambushed a police patrol in Tourmakeady. The patrol was a supply detail bringing provisions from Bermingham’s shop in Ballinrobe to the isolated Derrypark RIC Barracks, seven miles south of Tourmakeady. After the ambush, the Flying Column withdrew into the Partry mountains, where a further engagement took place with British troops. But it is from here on in that Captain Buckley finds it hard to reconcile the accounts of events as given by each side. Fact, fiction and propaganda were subsequently mixed to give conflicting and false pictures of the event.

Much of the misinformation, he says, is a result of deliberate spin. Dublin Castle and British Army GHQ were quick to issue statements that bore little reference to the facts. Citations for decorations awarded for action on the day were, Buckley says, conflicting , inaccurate and misleading.

But, controversially perhaps, ‘The Battle of Tourmakeady’ also examines the accuracy of statements issued by the IRA, and in many cases, it finds them equally wanting and questionable. “This is not to cast aspersions for the sake of it,” says Buckley, “but after 87 years it is good to look at these events with an open mind and, bearing in mind the intense propaganda war that was raging in those years, to separate the fact from the fiction.”

The main problems in studying the Tourmakeady ambush, he says, is that the available secondary sources are rarely definitive and are quite often contradictory. And it is in separating the fact from the fiction, the potentially inaccurate from the proven facts, that ‘The Battle of Tourmakeady’ strips away the veneer of nine decades to come face-to-face with the stubborn truth.

The conflicting accounts are sometimes so distorted as to defy belief. One British intelligence report on the engagement states that “the successful round-up of a large body of rebels in Toumakeady, in which two were killed and 13 seriously wounded, was the result of an agents’ information that the rebels were lying in ambush at the spot.”

Another author, Michael Hopkins, makes the totally inaccurate claim that the “West Mayo Brigade arrived too late to help anyone in the ambush.”

Even Ernie O’Malley recounted that a radio transmitter at Derrypark RIC Barracks had been used to summon reinforcements when in fact no such transmitter existed.

“To date, nobody has published an accurate factual account of the events of May 3, 1921, or has addressed the inconsistent versions that the published sources contain,” explains Buckley. “In the interests of presenting an accurate account based on the available evidence, I have outlined in detail the ambush in Tourmakedy and the subsequent action in the Partry mountains.

Buckley examines the sequence of events, the numbers and weapons involved, and the casualties that both sides suffered, as well as the number of reinforcements that were summoned.

“I also explain why various versions of these events emerged and why they were given a deliberate spin given the intense propoganda war which was also being conducted,” he says.

1921 Jul 25 MBE gazetted For an action he planned and took a prominent role in on 03.05.21 in Ireland

1921 to 14 Jan 1929. 5th (Cumberland) Battalion The Border Regiment (Territorial Army)

1923 Apr 25. Married at Holy Trinity Church, Brompton; Mary Dorothea Rochfort Turnly; two sons.

1927 Nov 1. Promoted Captain

1929 Jan 15 to 1 Jan 1933 Adjutant 5th (Cumberland) Battalion The Border Regiment (Territorial Army)

1930 Divorced from Mary Dorothea.

1933 Jun With 1st Battalion The Border Regiment (Holywood)

1937 Jan With 2nd Battalion The Border Regiment (Ferozep)

1938 Aug 1. Promoted Major

1939 Jan . With 2nd Battalion The Border Regiment (Calcutta)

1939 Sep. With 2nd Battalion The Border Regiment (India)

1940 Nov 18 to 1940 Dec 29 Acting Lt.Col

1944 Apr. specially employed

1948 Oct 26 Retired.

1950 Jan 16 Married at Salisbury, Wiltshire) Kathleen Vida Annan (1900 - 16.12.1960), of Idmiston Grange, Salisbury, daughter of Mr & Mrs R.T. Annan, and widow of Col. Robert Hillhouse Maclaren, OBE, MC, RE.

1977 May 8. Died at Winterbourne Earls, Salisbury, Wiltshire


Castle Intelligence