As the trouble of King Edward VIII.'s refusal to abdicate and the dishonourable purging of the Guards regiments in May 1937 plunges the United Kingdon into chaos and starts to inflame a severe civil war, an old slogan from 1914 begins to fullfil itself again in Ireland: "England's difficulty is Ireland's opportunity!"
The new Irish Citizen Army (ICA), formed by the left wing Irish Republican Congress, acts in the socialist tradition of its original founder James Conolly and its army command includes prominent left wing republicans like Peadar O'Donnell, George Gilmore, William X. O'Brien and the children of its founder Roddy Connolly and Nora Connolly O'Brien. To achieve their aim of liberating Northern Ireland from British rule and establish a workers' republic, they used contacts to the Comintern to negotiate a contract for weapons, black green uniforms and supplies from the Soviet Union, including Nagant rifles, Mortars and Maxim HMGs.
To start their invasion of Northern Ireland in 1937 the ICA assembled at Dundalk and planned a campaign into County Armagh. They chose the historic date of July 12, because the protestant community would be to busy commemorating the Battle of the Boyne to care for events happening in the countryside near the border. The border between the Irish Freestate and Northern Ireland was heavily fortified and guarded by elements of the Ulster Home Guard and the newly formed 1st (Experimental) Royal Parachute Regiment under command of the slightly insane scotsman Lt.-Col. Simon Fraser, 15th Lord Lovat.
|Lord Lovat's 1st (Exp.)RPR Command|
|Para HMG and artillery observers|
To have a realistic chance of setting foot into and establishing a bridgehead in Ulster, the ICA's plan was to launch a mock attack at Checkpoint Meigh on Dublin Road to distract the elite paras. Meanwhile, the majority of the ICA People's Assault Column was bypassing the checkpoint to march on their real target, the border town of Crossmaglen. The party to execute this disversion was lead by ICA captain Ita Feeney, a veteran of the 1916 Easter Rising from Belfast, who fought with Connolly himself.
|Ita Feeney's ICA column hiding in the woods near Meigh|
Their false attack caught the attention of the Para garrison guarding the checkpoint, which immediately mobilized forces to point of the suspected attack. After some minor skirmishes, the ICA retreated as planned and having suffered only 2 casualities form the British howitzer bombardment.
|The Paras mobilize to keep the border|
|The 'lucky shot' Para howitzer|
As the distraction of the dangerous 1st (Experimental) Royal Parachute Regiment worked perfectly, the possibility for them to intervene in time at the massive ICA attack on Crossmaglen were very limited and the ICA hoped to have the same success there.