Killarney Deserters

Jeremiah Murphy in his memoir of Kerry 1902-1925 "When youth was mine" does say that several spies were apprehended in the spring and early summer of 1921 "Some of these pulled the old trick of pretending to be deserters. How they expected to get away with such a slim veneer baffles me. The authorities were desperate for information, or these fellows must have been overtly anxious to serve in that capacity. Either way it was suicide. Two of these strangers were seen riding on bicycle along the main road to Killarney. They were overtaken by Danny Reen and others from the Rathmore Company (IRA) and taken along for further investigation. They readily admitted being deserters. No charges could be held against them, but they were held and moved about from one company to another for some weeks afterwards. By this time they had become acquainted with a lot of places and people. The IRA reasoned that this might be their intended strategy. A little later they helped convict another spy and this only served to thicken the plot. They were you care-free, intelligent - typical middle class English. ....

This sudden rush of deserters implied to the IRA that there was going to be a big anti-IRA operation coming up, and that the British were gathering intelligence in advance of it "Otherwise why should so many deserters show upin this part of the country?" Sean Moyan : Rebel Leader says that the two deserters were sent to work to remote farms. However eventually information on a large scale round-up reached the local IRA

Our two young English "Gentlemen deserters" who had been arrested about a month before were now shot as spies. They were buried in a lonely bog, but their remains were given to their relatives by the Free State authorities. A rather tragic end to a mission which must have appealed to them when they took it on. Well someone had to get information but it is too bad when someone gets caught at it

Tans, Terror and Troubles, T Ryle Dwyer, tells that two British deserters confirmed that Thomas O'Sullivan, an 80 year old tramp, was a frequent visitor to the police. Old Tom was tried and shot by the IRA as a spy, with little against him other than he had been known to talk to the police. He was shot on May 3rd 1921 and his body used as a trap to lure the police. "The two deserters were subsequently shot after they were handed over to the IRA in Cork"

Gerald Murphy in The Year of the Disappearance says that over 100 soldiers appear in correspondence lists from British, but these lists were never made public, but are available in the archives. The Irish government appear to have established that only 5 were deserters. 26 of these soldiers were in Cork