Hampshire Band Murders 31 May 1921

On the 31st of May a group of soldiers, all with the band of the Hampshire Regiment were on their way to the rifle range at Youghal, County Cork when a road mine was detonated under them. Three soldiers were killed outright while 4 more died of wounds later. There were about 20 wounded.

The wounded were from Hamp. records

They were accompanying ‘X’ Company of the 2nd Hampshire Regiment, under Captain C.H. Fowler, M.C. The usual security precautions were taken by the British. The party was preceded by a strong advanced guard with flankers thrown back on either side and followed by a strong rearguard with flankers thrown forward. About half a mile from the range the road passed through a glen. In the glen the IRA planted a mine. The mine was a large caliber shell filled with high explosive and was placed against a roadside wall and covered with loose stones. The mine was to be detonated by a. electrical detonator to be activated by the IRA men

They used a 6 inch projectile that had been fired by the Coastal Defences in Cork harbour, caught in the nets of a trawler, normally used as ballast in trawlers but emptied of black powder by the IRA and refilled with their own "war flour" type home made explosives. Two  IRA men carried out the attack. The Youghal incident is described in BMH Witness Statement 1449 by Patrick Whelan. The two IRA were Thomas Power and Paddy O Reilly. Thomas Power joined the Free State Army and is reported in the statement as having been killed in an engagement during the Civil War in Bruree in Aug 1922. Interestingly Ted Shining emailed me I asked my colleagues in Military Archives to look up Thomas Power and they say that there is no record of his service, not to mind his death.

Paddy O Reilly went anti treaty, was arrested under arms and executed in Waterford. The Statement says Nov 1922 but there is a reference in www.irishmedals.org, Anti Treaty Killed, to a Patrick O Reilly executed at 8 am on 25 Jan 1923.

The bomb maker was Tom Hyde, who fought with the Irish Brigade in Spain, and according to the internet was killed by friendly fire. There are references and indications in the statement to Hyde refilling empty Coastal Defence Artillery cartridge cases with home made explosives but this does not make sense as you would not use empty brass cartridge cases as ballast in a trawler, as described, but you would use large 6 inch semi solid shot.

William Sheehan, A Hard Local War, the British Army and the Guerilla War in Cork 1919-1921, . Page 130, The Hampshire Telegraph and Post reported (17 June 1921) that " the mine would appear to have been a 5.9" shell exploded by electrical detonation". The use of a shell was supported by a British Officer, Cockerill, who noted that " the mine apparently was a large calibre shell filled with high explosive" ( NLI G.K. Cockerill Papers, MS 10606, Note of Hampshire bombing.

The soldiers guarding the right flank passed quite close to the detonator wire but failed to notice it. The column of Hampshires led by the band, then reached the position where the mine was buried. The mine was detonated when the fourth or fifth section of fours of the Band was opposite it. and the ambushers opened fire on the Hampshires. The band took the brunt of the explosion. The ambushers  escaped without any casualties.

A military funeral was held in Cork on the afternoon of the June 3rd, when the bodies of those seven, three having been killed instantaneously and four having died of wounds, were escorted to a boat for England by W Company, together with a Company of of police from the Royal Irish Constabulary and the Band of the 2nd Battalion The South Staffordshire Regiment. "Every instrument but four has been irretrievably damaged, and the strength of the Band in personnel has been practically halved."

In addition to the band casualties the diver of the local Parish Priest was killed when their horse and trap were caught in crossfire.

British Soldiers died in Ireland