21 January 1921
On 21 January 1921, Bryan was amongst a group of young IRA men who set out to ambush Black and Tans as they travelled into Dublin city from Gormanstown. The youth of the men involved is worth noting - the youngest, Frank Flood, was a nineteen year old student from the National University - none were yet thirty years of age.
Dermot O’Sullivan, a surviving participant, recounted the events of that day in his Bureau of Military History Witness Statement:
On the 21st January, 1921, No. 1 Section was detailed to take up positions at Binn’s Bridge, Drumcondra, at 8.30 a.m. and to ambush a party of Black and Tans which usually came into the city at that time from Gormanstown ...
…The Section Commander’s instructions for the attack on the Tan lorry were that the lorry was to be allowed to pass through our first pair of men and when it came in line with the -pair located on the north side of Binns Bridge they were to open fire on it. We were all to fire simultaneously likewise when it came abreast of our positions. The entire Section remained in position until 9.30 and as no Tan lorry came our way within that time the Section Commander decided to withdraw to a position further down the Drumcondra Road in the vicinity of Clonturk Park.
The detection of the IRA men in the area by a passing police man created a dilemma, and the DMP man continued on his way, no doubt altering authorities. O’Sullivan recalled their decision to attack a military van which approached from the Whitehall direction.
O’Sullivan’s Witness Statement tells us:
Almost simultaneously with the arrival of the van we noticed that an armoured car and a few lorries of military were coming in our direction from the city and another armoured car and some lorries were also approaching our position from Whitehall direction. It was clear to us then that someone must have summoned the aid of the military and Tans as the place seemed to be surrounded. We saw there was nothing for it but to get out as quickly as we could, so we made our way down Richmond Road in the direction of Ballybough with the intention of cutting across country towards Clontarf. As we reached the junction of Gracepark Road we saw two tenders of Black and Tans approaching us from the Ballybough direction. We wheeled up Gracepark Road and into Gracepark Gardens. At that time Clonturk Park was open country. A Lewis gun which had opened fire at some of our section crossing Clonturk Park (which was not then a built-up area) could have brought us under fire. In fact, one of our men, McGee, was killed as he was trying to get away.
Hopelessly surrounded, most of the remaining men surrendered.