Bloody Sunday was one of the most significant events to take place during the Irish War of Independence, which followed the formation of a unilaterally declared Irish Republic,and its parliament, Dail Eireann. The army of the republic, the Irish Republican Army waged a guerrilla war against the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC), its auxiliary organisations and the British Army, who were tasked with suppressing the Irish liberation movement. Some members of the GAA which owned Croke Park were confirmed Nationalists, but others were not.
In response to IRA actions, the British Government formed paramilitary forces to augment the RIC, the “Black & Tans” (a nickname possibly arising from their mixture of uniforms), and the Auxiliary Division (generally known as the Auxiliaries or Auxies). The behaviour of both groups immediately became controversial (one major critic was King GeorgeV) for their brutality and violence, not just towards IRA suspects and prisoners but towards Irish people in general. In Dublin, the war largely took the form of assassinations and reprisals on either side.
The events on the morning of 21 November were an effort by the IRA in Dublin, under Michael Collins and Richard Mulcahy to wipe out the British intelligence organisation in the city.
Since 1919, Irish Finance Minister, head of the secretive Irish Republican Brotherhood and IRA Chief of Intelligence Michael Collins had operated a clandestine squad of IRA members in Dublin (a.k.a. “The Twelve Apostles”), which was used to assassinate RIC and British Intelligence officers. By late 1920, British Intelligence in Dublin, including what was known as the “Cairo Gang” (the nickname came from their patronage of the Cairo Cafe on Grafton Street and from their service in British military intelligence in Egypt and Palestine during the first world war), eighteen high-ranking British Intelligence officers, had established an extensive network of spies and informers around the city. Mulcahy, the IRA Chief of Staff, described it as, “a very dangerous and cleverly placed spy organisation”.
In November 1920, Collins ordered the assassination of British agents around the city, judging that if they did not do this, the IRA’s organisation in the capital would be in grave danger. The IRA was also of the opinion that a coordinated policy of assassination of leading republicans was being implemented by members of the security services. Dick McKee was put in charge of planning the operation. The addresses of the British agents were discovered from a variety of sources, including sympathetic housemaids, careless talk from some of the British, and an IRA informant in the RIC (Sergeant Mannix) based in Donnybrook barracks. On November 20, the assassination teams, which included the Squad and members of the IRA’s Dublin Brigade, were briefed on their targets, who included 20 agents at eight different locations in Dublin.Collins’s plan had been to kill over 50 British intelligence officers and informers, but the list was reduced to 35 on the insistence of Cathal Brugha, the Irish Minister for Defence, on the grounds that there was insufficient evidence against some of those named.
Early on the morning of 21 November, the IRA teams mounted the operation. Most of the killings occurred within a small middle-class area of south inner-city Dublin, with the exception of one shooting at the Gresham Hotel on O’Connell street. At 28 Upper Pembroke Street, four agents were killed. At 22 Lower Mount Street, one British officer was killed and another narrowly escaped. The building was surrounded by Auxiliaries, alerted by the firing, and in the ensuing gun fight two Auxiliaries were killed and one IRA man, Frank Teeling, was wounded and captured. Future Irish Taoiseach, Sean Lemass was involved in the killing of a Captain Bagely, also on Mount Street, while in two further incidents on the same street three more British agents were killed. Only a few streets away, further shootings took place on Baggot Street, Fitzwilliam Street, Morehampton Road and Earlsfort Terrace.
In all, 13 people were killed and 6 wounded, including suspected agents and those with no connection to politics, and two Auxilaries. Four of the British casualties were military intelligence officers and another four were Secret Service or Mi5 agents. Only one Squad member was captured, Frank Teeling, and he managed to quickly escape from gaol.One more IRA man was slightly wounded in the hand. However, out of the 35 people on Collins’ hit list, only about a third had been killed. IRA man and future Irish politician, Todd Andrews recalled later, “the fact is that the majority of the IRA raids were abortive. The men sought were not in their digs or in several cases, the men looking for them bungled their jobs”.Nevertheless the action terrified and crippled British intelligence in Ireland, causing many other agents and informers to flee for Dublin Castle, and caused consternation in the British administration.
Collins justified the killings in this way:
My one intention was the destruction of the undesirables who continued to make miserable the lives of ordinary decent citizens. I have proof enough to assure myself of the atrocities which this gang of spies and informers have committed. If I had a second motive it was no more than a feeling such as I would have for a dangerous reptile. By their destruction the very air is made sweeter. For myself, my conscience is clear. There is no crime in detecting in wartime the spy and the informer. They have destroyed without trial. I have paid them back in their own coin.
Below is an article by Irish Volunteer member Chris Keane,
Great work Chris.
About 15 hits squads, each with on average 15 men, were ordered to attack their targets at precisely 9am on the morning of Sunday 21 August 1920.
At 8am Vinny Byrne assembled his team at St. Andrew’s Church, Westand Row, pictured below.
Bloody Sunday 21st November 1920,
38 Upper Mount Street
E. Coy. 2nd Battallion IRA
•Vinny Byrne •Frank Saurin(IRA inteligence) •Sean Doyle •Herbie Conroy•Tom Ennis •Tom Duffy •Michael Lawless •William Maher •John McDonnell •Sean Daly
Intended British targets
Lt. Peter Ashmun Ames
Lt George Bennett
Witness statement extract of Vinny Byrne
‘As I opened the folding-doors, the officer, who was in bed, was in the act of going for his gun under his pillow. Doyle and myself dashed into the room, at the same time ordering him to put up his hands, which he did. Doyle dashed around by the side of the bed, and pulled a Colt .45 from beneath the pillow. Right behind us came Frank Saurin and he started collecting from papers etc., which was his job. I remember looking into a drawer and seeing a Sinn Fein tie there and, if I am not mistaken, photographs of the 1916 leaders. I ordered the British officer to get out of bed. He asked me what was going to happen and I replied : ‘Ah, nothing.’ I then ordered him to march in front of me… I marched my officer down to the back room where the other officer was. He was standing up in the bed, facing the wall. I ordered mine to do likewise. When the two of them were together I thought to myself ‘The Lord have mercy on your souls ! ’ I then opened fire with my Peter. They both fell dead’.
Bloody Sunday November 21st 1920. Address no. 2, 22 Lower Mount Street.
IRA men involved
E Company, 2nd Battalion
•Tom Keogh the squad, assigned to Peel’s room
•Jim Slattery the squad
•Frank Teeling – who was captured, tried, later escaped from Kilmainham Jail.
•Billy McLean guarding front door
Lt Henry James Angliss(Used name of McMahon as cover) Executed.
Charles Ratsch Peel Survived.
Witness Statement extract of Col Jim Slattery IRA
Col. J.J.Slattery: On the evening of 20th November, 1920, the Squad, the Active Service Unit, and a lot of other Volunteers from individual units were ordered to parade at a house in Gardiner Street, I believe. We were addressed there by Dick Mckee, who told us that an operation had been planned for the following morning, Sunday at nine a,m, to eliminate a number of British Intelligence Agents and spies who were residing in houses throughout the city. He had the names and addresses of the men who were to be executed there were members of the Intelligence Section present.
I was assigned to 22 Lower Mount Street, where 2 enemy agents were located. One was Lieutenant McMahon, but I cannot remember the other mans name.
Tom Keogh and myself from the Squad, with six others from “E” Company of the 2nd Battalion, proceeded to Lower Mount Street, at the appointed hour on the following morning,21st November. We knocked at the door and a maid admitted us. We left two men inside the door to see that nobody would enter or leave the house, and the remainder of us proceeded upstairs to two rooms, the numbers of which we had already ascertained. We had only just gone upstairs when heard shooting downstairs. The housekeeper or some other lady in the house had seen a patrol of Tans passing by outside, and had started to scream. The Tans immediately surrounded the house and tried to gain admission.One of our young men, Billy McClean, fired at them through the door and eased the situation for us for a little while, although he got wounded in the hand himself. I think the Tans fired first.
We succeeded in shooting Lieutenant McMahon, but could not gain admission into the room where the other agent was sleeping. There was a second man in McMahon’s bed, but we did not shoot him as we had no instructions to do so. We discovered afterwards that he was an undesirable character as far as we were concerned, and that we should have shot him.
We went downstairs and tried to get out but found the British Forces at the front of the house. We went to the back of the house, and a member of “E” Co, Jim Dempsey, and myself got through by getting over a wall. We understood that the rest of our party were following us, but after going a little distance we found we were alone. What actually happened was that Teeling was the third man to scale the wall, and as he got up he was fired on from the house. We were all fired on, but Teeling was the only man who was hit. Teeling took cover in the garden.The other members of our party retired and got safely through the front door in the confusion. It was only hours afterwards that we discovered Teeling was wounded. Dempsey and myself went round by the South Circular Road, and got a wash – up in Goldens house, Victoria Street. We got home safely. Some time before the football match most of us met again, and it transpired that Teeling was on the missing list.
British account of the attack on no. 22 Lower Mount Street, and the fate of Cadets Morris and Garniss.
‘The maid opened the door at 22 Lower Mount St and twenty men rushed in, and demanded to know the bedrooms of Mr. Mahon (Angliss) and Mr. Peel. Mr. Mahon’s room was pointed out. They entered, and five shots were fired immediately at a few inches range. Mr. Mahon was killed. At the same time others attempted to enter Mr. Peel’s room. The door was locked. Seventeen shots were fired through the panels. Mr. Peel escaped uninjured. Meanwhile another servant, hearing the shots, shouted from an upper window to a party of officers of the Auxiliary Division who had left Beggars Bush Barracks to catch an early train southward for duty. These officers at once attacked the house, after despatching two of their number, Temporary Cadets Morris and Garniss, to their depôt for reinforcements. They chased the assassins through the house and captured one whom their fire had wounded, and three others, all of whom were armed. Reinforcements on arrival were asked the whereabouts of Morris and Garniss, but replied that they knew nothing, and that the cadets had never arrived at the depôt. The reinforcements had arrived, of course, after hearing the firing. Search was made, and the bodies of Cadets Morris and Garniss were found by a Red Cross nurse lying in a neighbouring garden of 16 Northumberland Road and shot. They had apparently been intercepted by the murderers’ pickets, taken to the back of the house, placed against the wall, and murdered. Both these officers had seen considerable service in the recent war in France’.
Bloody Sunday November 21st 1920. Address no. 3. 92 Lower Baggot Street
IRA men involved. 2nd Battalion B Co.
•Joe Leonard – In charge, member of The Squad
•William Stapleton – Member of B. Co.2nd Batt. Dublin Brigade
Captain William Frederick Newberry(Executed)
Witness statement extract of William Stapleton
On the Friday prior to Bloody Sunday my Company Captain, Tommy Kilkoyne, instructed me to report armed at Baggot St. Bridge on the following Sunday morning at, I believe, half past eight, and there I would meet Joe Leonard in charge of a party consisting of five members of my Company, including Jack Stafford, Eugo MacNeill, who was somehow attached to our Company and two or three others.I understood from Tommy Kilcoyne that on this particular Sunday a general effort was to be made in various parts of the city to liquidate members of the B. I. Service who resided in private houses and hotels throughout the city. I reported as instructed, and our party moved down to 92 Lower Baggot St., where the British agent we were interested in was residing. We knocked at the hall door, which was opened by somebody from upstairs, and entered. Our information was that this British agent occupied the ground floor flat, which consisted of the back and front parlours. We knocked at the door of the front parlour, and, receiving no reply, knocked at the back parlour doorAfter some hammering on the door it was opened a little. It was evident that the occupant of the room was very cautious and suspicious because he tried to close the door again, but we jammed our feet in it. We fired some shots through the door and burst our way in. The two rooms were connected by folding-doors and the British agent ran into the front room and endeavoured to barricade the door, but some of our party had broken in the door of the front room and we all went into it. He was in his pyjamas, and as he was attempting to escape by the window he was shot a number of times. One of our party on guard outside fired at him from outside. The man’s wife was standing in the corner of the room and was in a terrified and hysterical condition. The operation lasted about fifteen minutes.
Bloody Sunday November 21st 1920. Address no 4. 119 Lower Baggot St, Dubin.
IRA men involved:
3rd Battalion B Company.
Captain Geoffrey Thomas Baggallay(Executed)
Extract from Matty MacDonald witness statement:
‘We knocked at the front door a maid came along. We have a letter from the Castle, will you deliver this note to Captain Baggallay, a one legged man. The maid pointing and in we went in. We tapped at the door, opened it and walked in. There were 3 of us. Baggallay was in bed. Lemass, Jimmy and I. I was kind of scared. ‘Captain Baggallay ?’ ‘That’s my name.’ ‘ I suppose you know what we came for. We came for you.’ He was the Judge Advocate General. ‘ I suppose you’ve come for my guns’ he said. One of us, Jimmy Brennan hid it under the bed and he reached behind for it… Slugs and a little more was our reply. ‘Get up.’ He was in pyjamas. Lemass and Jimmy and I fired 2 in the head from the 3 guns. I heard maids screaming afterwards but I was told she was alright. On the ground floor was Jack Foley. A fellow came out with a towel in pyjamas for a bath and Jack stuck him up and he was balls naked. Thinking he was a lodger but he was another British army officer and how we didn’t know about him, we hadn’t any orders about him’
‘I was mobilized for 35 Lr Gardiner St together with the remainder of the Transport men. It was between 8 and 9 o’clock when I arrived there and received instructions from Dick McKee and Peadar Clancy. They were together in the hall. I was told what was to take place on Sunday morning, each car with two drivers was allocated a certain street or area. I was told to assist the unit that was operating at 28 Lr. Baggot St. As well as I remember, the men on that job were a couple of members of the squad – P. Griffin, Eddie Byrne and Mick Fleming. Mick Fleming was in the army later.
The British agent in Baggot St., listed for elimination was, as far as I know, Captain Baggally, who was believed to have been one of Kevin Barry’s torturers. On that Sunday morning I left home about 7.30 o’clock and made my way to the dump in North Great Charles St. I met the remainder of the men there – at least some of them. We collected our guns and got out the car. We timed ourselves to be in Baggot St. about five minutes to 9 o’clock. We arrived there up to time – I think it was two or three minutes to p – and within three minutes another man, who was on the job, turned up. We parked the car a little to the rear of the house on the opposite side of the street. when our men arrived there was no delay, as arranged. Three or four men entered the house, leaving one man on each side of the building outside as a guard for the men who had actually gone into the house. They had particulars of the agent’s bedroom. When the room was entered he tried to escape through the window, but before he reached the window he was put out of action. The job was completed in the space of a few minutes. We got away without incident. We left Baggot St and we came down Merrion square and Westland row. When we came into Merrion square we picked up a few men coming off the Mount St. job – one was Herbert Conroy. We arrived back at the dump without any interference from anybody. We replaced the car and dumped our guns. Headquarters that morning was at 6 North Richmond St – Byrnes – in case of casualties, and for the purpose of making our reports. I think we were about the first unit to arrive there. After a time the other units came in. Sean Russell was there. I think he was quartermaster of the Dublin Brigade at that time’.
Bloody Sunday 21st November 1920, 117 Morehampton Road, Donnybrook.
IRA unit, 3rd Battalion K Company(not sure of names, if anyone can add please?)
•Lieutenant Donald Lewis MacLean an intellegence agent.
•Thomas Herbert Smith(landlord)
Six IRA men arrived at 117 Morehampton Road, Donnybrook. Thomas Herbert Smith died along with Lieutenant Donald Lewis MacLean,and MacLean’s brother-in-law, John Caldow. Caldow survived his wounds and fled to his home in Scotland.
The men were shot in a spare room at the front of the house.
Mrs Smith testified that to the inquiry I saw some men coming up the stairs, who appeared to number about 20, with revolvers in their hands. They then told me to put my hands up and my husband came out on the landing and asked for a little time to put on some clothes, which they granted. I then asked if I could go into my baby in the next room and they pushed me roughly into it. I then heard about 8 shots. A minute or two later I heard John Caldow (who was staying with us) call out Kate (meaning his sister) run for the doctor. I then came out and saw John Caldow in [the] entrance to the room, lying on his back wounded. I passed him and saw my husband lying very badly wounded and Mr MacClean dead. My husband had no regular occupation and owned property. His age was 47. He did not take part in politics, but was very friendly with Captain MacLean who had just resigned from the army.
Bloody Sunday 21st November 1920,address no 6, 28 Upper Pembroke St, Dublin
IRA members involved:3rd Battalion C Company.
•Charles Dalton – Intelligence man on the operation
•Capt Price -Killed
•Major Dowling – Killed.
•Lt Murray – wounded but survived
•Colonel Montgomery – wounded and later died of these wounds
•Captain Keenlyside – wounded but survived
•Colonel Woodcock – wounded but survived.
Lieutenant Donald Lewis MacLean of General List (Former service with the Rifle Brigade) aged 31, killed 21/11/1920 at Morehampton Road. Described in a nationalist report as “the chief of intelligence at Dublin Castle.The police investigation (CO 904/169) says ” Captain MacLean was belonging to the Rifle Brigade and was attached to the Intelligence Department, Headquarters Staff, The Castle”. His army record shows he was on “special duries” and on weighing all the evidence, I conclude that he was involved in Intelligence operations. Smith (the landlord) and Caldow (his brother in law, fresh from Scotland) were probably collateral damage. The Mid Clare Brigade of the IRA claim that they had supplied intelligence information to I.R.A. headquarters which led to the assassination of Captain Mc Lean who had been captured by the I.R.A. in Ennistymon, interrogated and released on the undertaking that he would leave Ireland immediately. Mc Clean ignored this instruction and was shot dead at 117 Morehampton Road on Bloody Sunday. It is not known what became of Captain Collins who had been captured and interrogated with Mc Lean in Ennistymon and whether or not he kept his promise to the I.R.A. to leave Ireland immediately.
Bloody Sunday 21st November 1920, address no. 7
Eastwood Hotel, 91/92 Lower Leeson St.
IRA members involved
4th Battalion F Company
•Ned Bennett – was in charge of the raid
•Christy Byrne – Coy V/Commander, WS 642
•Joe McGuinness was among the men who entered the Eastwood Hotel in Leeson Street
•Jimmy McGuinness – different man to above
•Jim Donnelly – recced the site earlier with Christopher Byrne
Lt-Colonel Jennings survived as he was not at the address when the IRA struck.
Bloody Sunday 21 Nov 1920 Addresses Part 2.
7 Ranelagh Rd, Dublin.
IRA members involved
•Joe Dolan – one of the leaders and presumably one of the 2 men not known to Kenny. A Coy, 1st Battalion
•Dan McDonnell – one of the leaders and presumably one of the 2 men not known to Kenny. A Coy, 1st Battalion
•James Kenny – 4th battalion Dublin Brigade, went round the back to block escape route.
•Francis X Coghlan
Lt William Noble
Noble had supposedly caused the death of an IRA man called Doyle in the Dublin Mountains.
Todd Andrews was part of the IRA group that caried out this raid. He recalls walking a mile from Brighton Square to the Charlemont Street Bridge at the canal. Here he met Francis X Coghlan, Hubert Earle, and James Kenny at about 8.55am. Joe Dolan and Dan McDonnell led the team. Their mission was to kill Noble, and his lady, who were both believed to be responsible for the death of an IRA man called Doyle in the Dublin Mountains.
When they got to the targeted house at Ranelagh Rd, Kenny was instructed to go to the back of the house to block of that escape route. Others took up covering positions on doors and corners of corridors.
They pushed past the teenage girl who opened the door and walked straight up to the front first floor room where they expected to find Noble. He was not there but they found a “half naked” woman alone in the double bed. She is described as Noble’s mistress. Noble had left on a mission at 7am, and they had no orders to shoot the woman if she was alone, so they left.
They nearly shot another lodger on the way out, but luckily for him Coghlan recognised the man as the source of their intelligence from that house.
Dolan beat the woman with a sword scabbard, and set fire to the room in his frustration. It took the IRA squad half an hour to put the flames out
Andrews believed that there were at least four abortive raids in the 4th battalion area.
Todd Andrews later said he could not decide whether he felt ‘glad or sorry ’ that Noble had not been there.
Noble had supposedly caused the death of an IRA man called Doyle in the Dublin Mountains.
All information courtesy of http://www.cairogang.com/