On Saturday, 11th., December, 1920 a six-man IRA squad from the 1st. Battalion, consisting of Captain Sean O'Donoghue and Volunteers James O'Mahoney, Michael Baylor, Augustine O'Leary, Sean Healy and Michael Kenny, ambushed a convoy from K Company of the Auxiliary Division at Dillon’s Cross, not far from Victoria Barracks in Cork City. One Auxiliary died, Spencer Chapman, and twelve were wounded. The IRA squad suffered no casualties.
Most military convoys to or from the Victoria Barracks went past Dillon’s Cross. The IRA men hid behind a low stone wall only a few hundred metres from the barracks. The field behind the wall gave them a good line of retreat. Five men took up position behind the stone wall. Michael Kenny was at Harrington Square, on the opposite side of the road. Kenny wore a overcoat, scarf and cap to give the impression that he was an off-duty British soldier.
Schulze had a letter home intercepted by the IRA (which may well have been doctored as the original does not exist). The letter said he was Orderly Sergeant and dispatched 20 men on a raid. The burning and sacking of Cork followed immediately on the ambush of our men. I, as Orderly Sergeant had to collect 20 men for a raid and they left the barracks in two motor cars. I did not go as I was feeling sickly. The party had not gone 100 yards from the barracks when bombs were thrown at them from over a wall. One dropped in a car and wounded 8 men, one of whom has since died. [note the wounded were in fact split between the two lorries, about 6 in each lorry and about 12 in total, and this is an indication that this might be an IRA addition to Schultze's letter]
At about 19.20 p.m (according to De Havilland's evidence to the Strickland Enquiry), the two lorries, each containing about 12 Auxiliaries from K Coy, left the barracks and drove towards Dillon’s Cross. They were on their way to meet Latimer at the Bridewell, to carry out a series of raids and arrests to try to catch the ambusherers. They had been ordered to meet Latimer at 19.30
As the first lorry approached Harrington Square , Michael Kenny stepped out onto the road and put up his hand to get the driver to stop. The leading lorry slowed down and Kenny he gave two blasts on a whistle, to signal that there were two lorries on the road. Kenny then made good his escape to an IRA hideout in Rathcooney.
Interestingly Sparrow comments to the Strickland Enquiry that on hearing the whistle, and assumed that it was the other Auxiliary lorry blowing it as a signal for his lorry to slow down and wait. I am 2nd in Command and Adjutant of the Company at Victoria Barracks, Cork. On December 11th about 17.00 hours I received written orders from Colonel Latimer to send two car loads of Cadets to report to him at Union Quay at 19.30 hours. I detailed one car load from No.3 Platoon under Acting Platoon Commander De Havilland. The other car load was from No 1 Platoon under a Section Commander. I had need to see Col Latimer so I went down in the leading car. We left barracks at about 19.15 hours . On arrival at Dillons Cross a whistle was blown, which used to be the signal to halt should a car be in difficulty. We halted and as the other car came up , three bombs were thrown. As a result 12 men were wounded. As the senior officer present, I took charge. I picqueted the roads, collected the wounded and searched the houses. Meanwhile a soldier who was present volunteered to go back to barracks for help and to get an ambulance. Having cleaned up the situation and made certain arrests. I sent De Havilland. on with one car load to Union Quay. [note, this appears to be incorect, De Havilland says he helped at Dillons cross and went back to Barracks at 21.30] And returned myself to Barracks to make the necessary reports and see to the wounded. Very roughly I would say that it was about 20.30 hours.
The ambush party then were able to throw grenades into the lorries. Michael Baylor and Augustine O'Leary threw a bomb each towards the first lorry. James O'Mahony, Sean Healy and Sean O'Donoghue each threw a bomb at the second lorry. The bombs exploded, fired a volley of revolver shots into the lorries, before escaping. Both lorries suffered casualties, with roughly half the men in each wounded - hardly surprising if a grenade landed in a lorry
Of the wounded W Longhurst , EWJ Bence, CM Cautley, SR Chapman, EC Cummings, EL Wells were in one lorry (from my analysis of Platoons). And FHH Miles, DBC McMonagle, CM Berington, JL Emanuel, WM Moore, CA Worrell (in the other lorry). Also wounded were PF De Havilland, T Sparrow, RA Maloney who were the officers and NCO's on the lorries
I cannot be certain, but circumstantial and indirect evidece leads me to think that DI2 T Sparrow (from his Strickland evidence) and S/L VA Hart (from his trial on the murder of Canon Magner, seems to have been in the ambush) were in the leading lorry which was from men in Wigan's platoon, and the De Havilland and his men were in the second lorry
The consequences of Dillon’s Cross was the burning of a large part of the city centre. Following the ambush, a number Auxiliaries and perhaps troops left Victoria Barracks for Dillon's Cross, where they forced the occupants of the houses onto to the street. The houses were then set on fire.
The official British account of the incident was issued as follows: Twelve cadets were wounded, and one has since died of wounds. Bombs are believed to have been thrown from houses at Dillon’s Cross, in the north district of Cork, into lorries containing cadets as they were leaving Cork military barracks. And it is suggested that the bombs used were supplied to the assailants from the bomb factory which was discovered in Dublin , and in connection with which four men have been arrested. The ambush took place at 8 p.m. So far as can be ascertained, the attackers of the ambushed cadets escaped.
And in The Strickland Report into the Cork Burning, there is some more on Dillons Cross as follows:-
A statement to the Strickland Enquiry by DI2 and Adjutant Thomas Sparrow, K Coy Auxiliary Division RIC.
I am 2nd in Command and Adjutant of the Company at Victoria Barracks, Cork. On December 11th about 17.00 hours I received written orders from Colonel Latimer to send two car loads of Cadets to report to him at Union Quay at 19.30 hours. I detailed one car load from No.3 Platoon under Acting Platoon Commander De Havilland. The other car load was from No 1 Platoon under a Section Commander. I had need to see Col Latimer so I went down in the leading car. We left barracks at about 16.15 hours . On arrival at Dillons Cross a whistle was blown, which used to be the signal to halt should a car be in difficulty. We halted and as the other car came up , three bombs were thrown. As a result 12 men were wounded. As the senior officer present, I took charge. I picqueted the roads, collected the wounded and searched the houses. Meanwhile a soldier who was present volunteered to go back to barracks for help and to get an ambulance. Having cleaned up the situation and made certain arrests.
I sent De Havilland. on with one car load to Union Quay. And returned myself to Barracks to make the necessary reports and see to the wounded. Very roughly I would say that it was about 20.30 hours. Later it was reported that Col Latimer was in Barracks and that he was collecting all available men to take down to the town. I was kept very busy with my administrative duties inside the Barracks until 02.30 hours on Dec 12, when I went to bed. I slept on the floor in the Gymnasium with the Cadets. When I went to bed my impression was that most of the men were back. Roll Call when we were in Cork was held nightly at 22.00, but on the night in question, owing to the circumstances such a Roll Call was impossible and was not held. At about 10.00 on the 12th a Platoon Commander reported to me that the company were then present.
This particular Company was raised on paper on 22nd Nov. I myself arrived in Cork on Dec 8th with the final party. These men, to the best of my knowledge, certainly as regards the majority, had not been in Ireland more than a fortnight. On the 11th the Company strength was as follows. 67 Cadets including officers, and 16 Constables. Passes were issued to men in numbers dependent on work and duties anticipated. In the day in question, not more , if as many as, a dozen were issued. The Temporary Constables are not a good stamp of man and unless closely ? and unreliable. This evil was aggravated by the fact that from force of circumstances the Temp Constables were accommodated with the cadets. The means of punishment given to the CO of the Company for a Temp Constable is limited to the imposition of a fine of £1. On the night in question one Temp Constable, a Sergeant , and six Temp Constables were on duty all night.
A statement to the Strickland Enquiry by P F De Havilland.
On Dec 11th I was in temporary command of No3 Platoon - the strength of my platoon that day was 22 men roughly. In pursuance of orders received from Headquarters of the Company, I left in a lorry with about 11 of my men at about 19.20 hours to proceed to report to Colonel Latimer at Union Quay. This was the ordinary procedure. Shortly after leaving Barracks we were ambushed at Dillon's Cross. As a result 6 of my men were wounded. I carried out a search at the local houses and attended to the wounded, and returned to Barracks at 21.30 hours. I looked for Col Latimer to get further orders, and finally to get my men and march them down to the Bridewell. I did so leaving the Barracks at 22.00 with about 11 men
A statement to the Strickland Enquiry by "Section Commander" Rees Maloney
I am a Section Commander of No.3 Platoon. On Dec 11th I left Barracks in a lorry about 19.15 hours with my Platoon. Shortly after leaving Barracks there was an ambush. I was slightly wounded in the eye. I stayed to assist with the others - eventually returning to Barracks, when I went to hospital and had my wound dressed. I was feeling a bit jolted, and feeling that I could stick it , I went out with the rest of my platoon at 22.00 under Mr De havilland. I have read the evidence of Temp Platoon Commander De Havilland given today before the Court of Enquiry and I corroborate the statement of the happenings between 22.00 hours on the 11th and 02.30 hours on the 12th
A statement to the Strickland Enquiry by a civilian, an ex-soldier living at Dillon's Cross
At about 19.30 hours on 11th December, I heard two or three bombs explode. Shortly afterwards the house door was opened and I was told to put my hands up. The man who told me to put my hands up were about 5ft 10in in height, wearing a British warm overcoat and Tamoshanter cap. He had a queer sort of a flat nose. I could identify him. In addition I saw two men behind him - one was wearing a black, stiff RIC cap and another in soldier's uniform with 3 medals. He had 2 badges on his left arm. They were all armed with revolvers. They told me to get the furniture out of the house as they were going to burn it. This I did and they assisted me in doing so.
After depositing furniture in the road, one went and brought some petrol, the petrol was in a square tin. They sprinkled petrol over the furniture and set it alight. They went into the back yard and got some 30 chickens, wrung their necks and threw them on the fire - I spent the night in the field with my wife
At 06.30 the next day I returned to the house and found the man with the black RIC cap still there. He told me to get off the street and stay in my house, which I did