Shooting of Four British Soldiers on Eve of the Truce

(Irish War of Independence - First Cork Brigade)

The night of July 9 and 10, 1921 was the eve of the truce and with a cessation of hostilities only hours away, the military authorities at Cork city's Victoria Barrracks allowed leave to four soldiers to go on the town for the night. The four young men were Alfred Cannim (20), Albert Powell (20); Harold Daker (28), and Henry Morris (21). Two were from the South Staffordshire Regiment and two from The Royal Engineers based in the city.

Having wandered up the Western Road, they entered a shop on the Bandon Road at around 10.30pm. Just then crowds began to spill out from nearby Father O'Leary Hall where a function had taken place. Amongst them were four members of the local IRA brigade. The soldiers were taken by surprise and were frog-marched in the direction of the Lough district. Although some of the crowd which had gathered called for the release of the prisoners, the arrested men were led into Ellis' Quarry as darkness closed in. They were blindfolded and executed. All the shootings were carried out by one of the four IRA men.

The bodies of the four soldiers lie in a field near Ellis' Quarry on the edge of Cork city the morning after their execution.

Connie Neenan, the officer commanding the volunteers involved in the shooting, wrote of the tragic event as follows:- 'The night before the Truce, on July 10th . . . my mother brought me news about midnight that 4 young British soldiers had just been taken prisoner by our fellows. I felt alarmed. They were, I suppose, out for the first time in months with their guard down. One of them had gone into a shop to buy sweets. I gathered a group and we searched the fields from here to Togher. Around 2 am we met some of our lads who told us the news was bad. I was astounded. Surely no one would shoot anyone at a time like this? I crept into a house, exhausted and filled with remorse. We could not sleep. We just hung out there until noon the next day. The Truce had come'.

It is alleged, however, that Neenan was in the hall that night and that four ordinary volunteers would not assume so great a responsibility without some nod of approval from a higher authority.

There was widespread condemnation but also some justification for the shootings. It was excused in some quarters on the grounds that it was a tit-for-tat reprisal by men who had suffered a lot of British harassment over a number of years and who could not be expected to lay aside feelings of revenge so quickly. There had been a number of brutal killings by the Staffordshire Regiment about a year earlier. City walls then carried graffiti which read; 'Murdered by Stafford Regt. - Will be revenged tonight.'

The killing of four young men at Ellis's Quarry was, in some ways, a tragedy waiting to happen.