English scum which first came to Ireland in March 1920 was established to target the Irish Republican Army (IRA). Dating back from when the English came over to Ireland to rule. The soldiers they sent wore a mixture of uniforms – some military, some RIC. This mixture gave them the appearance of being in khaki and dark police uniform. As a result, these men got the nickname "Black and Tans", and it stuck. They went round Ireland to enforce English Rule, became notorious through its numerous attacks on the Irish civilian population, forbidding people to speak their native language Gaeilge and beating and battering those who opposed English law. For the Black and Tans, their primary task was to make Ireland "hell for the rebels to live in". Over 8000 Black and Tans went to Ireland and while they found it difficult to cope with men who used classic guerrilla tactics against them, those who lived in areas where the Black and Tans were based, paid the price.
What did the Black and Tans achieve? They served no purpose for the British government as they simply failed to stop what the IRA was doing. However, they did succeed in getting the republican cause a great deal of civilian support simply because of their acts – people may not have joined the IRA, but they were supporters of it and gave what financial help they could to the movement. The Black and Tans were pulled out of Ireland in ignominy.
The attitude of the Black and Tans is best summed up by one of their divisional commanders:
"If a police barracks is burned or if the barracks already occupied is not suitable, then the best house in the locality is to be commandeered, the occupants thrown into the gutter. Let them die there – the more the merrier.
Should the order ("Hands Up") not be immediately obeyed, shoot and shoot with effect. If the persons approaching (a patrol) carry their hands in their pockets, or are in any way suspicious-looking, shoot them down. You may make mistakes occasionally and innocent persons may be shot, but that cannot be helped, and you are bound to get the right parties some time. The more you shoot, the better I will like you, and I assure you no policeman will get into trouble for shooting any man."
Lt. Col. Smyth, June 1920