Kilgobnet Kidnapping

On the 26th of April 1922 4 British Soldiers were arrested by the I.R.A. at Dick William's Hotel in Macroom, County Cork. The three Officers had left Ballincollig Barracks and were driven by a Private from the Army Motor Transport Corps, and they had a Newfoundland dog with them. They were arrested by the IRA and on the evening of the 29th of April the three officers and the private were taken to Kilgobnet a few miles west of Macroom and shot, the dog was also shot.

There is no real conflict between the final British version of events and the Republican version. The four men were picked up in Williams Hotel in Macroom, and were shot as spies. The British tried to avoid saying that they were Intelligence officers, saying that they were on a fishing trip, but eventually the Prime Minister had to admiot that they were Intelligence. The British knew that they had been interned in Macroom Castle, but did not know for certain that they were dead, and several attempts were made to gain entrance to Macroom Castle to seach for he men, but all efforts were repulsed by the IRA. Whether their execution was justified under the Truce is debatable, but equally debatable is whether they should have been involved in intelligence gathering in Macroom on that day.

The four solders were:

The sequence of events appears to be

The Free State Government later gave this vesion

Frank Busteed claims that he killed the four men in "Execution" by Sean Callaghan. in which the author interviews Busteed. Busteed recounts that his mother had been killed in an Auxiliary raid on her house when they were looking for him. He claimed that she was thrown dowmnstairs by two Auxiliares, and discovered the next morning when someone came to do the cleaning. Jut before she died she only regained conciousness once, but in that time she said "Tell Frank one of them was a man with one arm" Busteed then sets out to avenge his mother's death knowing that there was only one Intelligence Officer with one arm stationed in Cork - Capt Viney" And later he had it confirmed by a witness report that said "Capt Viney and Capt Dove came out laughing, they had thrown her downstairs" He then says he got the name of the 3rd man responsible for his mother's death as MacAllister. Busteed then goes on to say in detail he caught the 3 intelligence officers Viney, Dove and MacAllister and proceeded to shoot them. He obviously has the names wrong of the 3 Intelligence Officer, so does this mean that he is boasting and in fact had nothing to do with their fate? If one could establish that Hendy was one armed then it would be possible to view this tale more positively. Charlie Browne's tale below has more of the ring of truth to it and fits the facts better. However there is a Vining who was attached to the Manchester Regiment as their Intelligence officer. The raid on Busteeds House in which his mother died is claimed by Busteed to have been 12 March 1921, the day after Mrs Lindsay's murder. (Hanora Busteed death is in GRO aged 50 Jan/Mar 1921, but I can find no mention from press reports of her death, and find it difficult to see that she did die in a British raid with no report nor any inquest )

In "Green Tears for Hecuba" Twohig gives an account of what happened. Interestingly he say that he was approached in 1959 by Charlie Browne,the IRA man referred to below, who had heard that Twohig was writing a book, and asked him not to mention the affair. Browne's own book on the War of Independence ends in 1921 and makes no mention of this incident. Twohig says that an IRA policeman noticed a car without number plates parked in front of Williams Hotel. It had an English driver. This was reported to the IRA forces who now occupied Macroom Castle, where Charlie Browne was second in command of the IRA forces. Browne went down to Williams Hotel and inside at the bar there were 3 strangers. He recognised one of them as a "hard" man from his own days of being imprisoned by the British. Browne telephoned Brigade HQ and got permission to arrest the 4 men, and bring them back to Macroom Castle, which he did. The men were in civilian clothes, carried guns and they claimed to be on a fishing trip, but had no fishing gear. " Another report to Cork City brought an immediate and unequivocal reply from the Brigade Council accompanied by a firing squad. These were dangerous men in dangerous times and hopefully they died understanding" . Within two days of the arrest a detachment of British troops arrived looking for the men. A parley of officers in the square near the castle gates came to nothing. And in the next two weeks there were several more visits from the British


Finally the British came in force under Major Bernard Montgomey (yes that Montgomery). British troops took up positions on the wall of the park, machine guns were set up in the square, and two armoured cars faced the Castle gates. But the IRA were prepared with a detachment of their own troops on Sleaveen Hill overlooking the whole area, plus more men around the town, plus a strong garrison in the Castle itself, with a Vickers machine gun on the roof. Charlie Browne came out of the Castle and met Montgomery in the Square, the IRA say that all that was said between the men was that Browne delivered an ultimatum "Unless your troops are withdrawn within 5 minutes, my men have orders to open fire". Montgomery then withdrew his men.

The British Army claimed the Soldiers were on a hunting trip, the I.R.A. claimed they were in the area spying. The men certainly had the stamp of intelligence. They were were from different regiments and at least one Lt. R. A. Hendy, R. Warwick Regt was Gazetted with a Special Appointments Class GG (this is a reasonably senior grade of intelligence in Ireland). on 28th Jan. 1922.

The British Government did eventually admit that they were Intelligence, but it is unclear whether this alone justified their execution during the Truce. In other words was intelligence gathering of this sort outside the terms of the Truce.

1922 May 23. Hansard gives one of the questions asked of the Government "Has the right hon. Gentleman received a strong opinion from a source not likely to be misinformed, that there officers were murdered immediately after they were taken? " So that word had obviously come through that the men were dead

1922 May 24. Churchill answered questions in Parliament in London and conceded "that the British authorities in Ireland who had been trying to trace them had sustained a growing desperation of hope"

1922 May 25. A newspaper reports that Dove's father has received a letter from the Colonel of the 2nd Hampshires which told him that there was no doubt that the soldiers had been taken to the mountains in West Cork and murdered

1922 Jun 14. Hendry's father writes to the Times expressing his concern that nothing can be done to bring his son's killers to justice

1922 Jun 22. Doves parents put a notice of his death in the Times

1922 Jun 23. Henderson's parents inset a Times death notice.

1922 Jul 19 Another father writes to the Times and quotes the disparities in various government statements as to whether the 4 men were on duty or not, and in uniform or not. The Secretary for War confirms that "they were proceding by car in the ordinary course of their duties. This letter was was said by Chamberlain to have been written by Mr Henderson, who later denied being the author.

1922 Jul 20. Hendy's father inserts a notice of his son's death

1922 Jul 20 The Prime Minister, Chamberalin, is stung to make a personal explanation to Parliament. He goes out of his way to pass the blame for any errors in his previous statements onto others. He claims that he had merely re-told to Parliament, the information given to him. However on closely questioning the various British Governmant departments, he could now say "The officers, I am informed, were Intelligence officers.

1922 Jul 24 Chamberlain writes to Macready hoping that the matter is at an end.

However it is not left there. Chamberlains statement to the House prompted an immediate response from "father of a murdered soldier" who ends quite reasonably "Let us have an end to this word juggling"

1923. Dec 12. The bodies of the 4 men are recovered and repatriated to England for burial. An account is given of the deaths of the 4 men, but it is difficult to know from where this account originated. It certainly could not have come from a British source, and I would be surprised if the IRA would have released such a report. The Cork Examiner carried a report of a "little frail old man, "who came over from England and stood leaning on his stick while his son's body was removed from a bog hole in Clondrohid, which is a small village 4 miles north of Macroom. The Times says that the only relative present was Dove's father.

The bodies were exhumed from bog land belonging to a Mr Daniel Herlihy. Griffiths gives a "William Kerlihy" holdong land at Clondrohid, Kilgobnet, which I would think was the family. The were buried in "marshy, swampy land" surrounded by similar land. A local paper, Southern Star dated 15 Dec 1923 has the fullest report and describes the true horror of the exhumations.

It was no easy matter to find the bodies, for the field, if it might be so called, where the bodies were buried in marshy ground of similar nature, and full of drains and mounds. The road which passes by this field, though under contrat, is little better than a borheen; a bleak unfrequented lonely laneway, serving the few farmhouses scattered far apart in that isolated district. It is about two and a half miles from the the main road and at the furthest part of the field from the laneway the bodies were discovered. The land belongs to a Mr Daniel Herlichy ...

A tragic figure beside the grave, pacing up and down restlessly, but without showing a trace of emotion, was Dr Dove, the father of one of the dead men. He smoked incessantly as the soldiers dug, looking into the grave intently and at frequent intervals, but otherwise giving no sign of what the tragic occurence meant to him.... At 3.45 the bodies were touched. They were about three feet deep, and the moment they were reached, soldiers were despatched for the coffins, which were in the lorries at the roadside. When they were brought, the first body was lifted out of the grave. Ropes were used for the purpose. The Burberry overcoat which the deceased wore was quite sound, and when some of the bog stuff had been cleared away, civilian clothes were revealed. When the corpe had been placed in the coffin, members of the Civic Guard made a search of the pockets. A pipe, practically new, was the only thing found. A gold stud and a gold tie pin were taken from the shirt and handed to Dr Dove,who expressed the opinion, judging by the length, for the deceased was very tall and that the body was that of Lt Henderson. Gloves were on the hands, but the boots were missing. The body was then wrapped in a white sheet and placed in the coffin, the lid of which was at once fastened.

A moment later the soldiers were engaged in transporting the second body from the pit to the surface. It was very much more decomposed than the first and the head came away. But there was little difficulty in identifying it for the blucher boots worn by British Privates, told that it was that of Driver Brooks. There were still two empty coffins on the field and two bodies in the grave, The soldiers resumed their gruesome work and soon had the third body out. It was more decomposed than the others and parts of the arms and other portions had to be heaped onto the trunk when it was being placed in the woollen sheet before being transferred to the coffin. Dr Dove said that this was the body of Lt Hendy. The fourth body was in a still more advanced state of decomposition. The skull was brought out of the grave in a shovel. In this case the boots were missing. His trench coat was intact but his hands and one foot were gone, they had fallen from the body. The soldiers looked at the skull and pointed out a bullet mark in the forehead. Then the clothes were searched, and a pipe and a tie pin were found. They were handed to his father, for this was Lt Dove who was identified by his prominent teeth, his pants and his long stockings..

The coffins were brought to Macroom, were placed in Macroom castle on Tuesday night, taken to Cork on Wednesday afternoon, and from there by boat to Fishguard

1923 Dec 14. And so the funerals took place in Aldershot,England


Incidents during War of Independence