During the spring of 1920 a crowning insult had been inflicted upon a harassed and poverty-stricken Ireland, when English jails provided ‘soldiers’ considered suitable to deal with the Irish question. These misfits of society were of a low mentality and largely unemployable and dangerous. What an ironic solution it was to give them a free hand in Ireland, thus relieving the pressure on the overburdened British prisons.
Training was unnecessary, since discipline was neither expected nor required. Not even the tradition of a conventional uniform was important. In their thousands they came, a motley crew of murderers, the ‘Black and Tans’, some wearing black trousers and tan jackets, others khaki trousers and black jackets. They looked, and indeed many proved to be, material for the hangman’s noose.