Irish soldiers fighting for the British Army in India went on strike after hearing
Of British war crimes in Ireland on June 28, 1920, 93 years ago.
The Connaught Rangers were organized I 1881 as the county regiment of Galway, Leitrim, Mayo and Roscommon. Their two battalions were merged into one in 1914 following heavy losses at Mons and Marne. They also fought at Aisne, Messines, Armentienes and Ypres that year. They were moved to Mesopotamia in 1916 and Palestine in 1918 before being separated again into two battalions, the first being sent to India in October 1919. Nearly all the men who mutinied in 1920 were veterans of the Great War.
The Connaught Rangers were well known for the marching song, It’s a Long Way to Tipperary. The 2nd Battalion sang this song on August 13, 1914 as they marched in parade order through the streets of the French port of Boulogne on their way to the front. War Correspondent George Curnock witnessed this incident and his report of it was printed in The Daily Mail on August 18, 1914. From that day, that music hall song, written by Jack Judge in 1912, gained popularity amongst all the troops during the Great War.
On Sunday night, June 27, 1920, Joe Hawes, Paddy Sweeny, Patrick Gogarty, Stephen Lally and William Daly met in the canteen, Jullunder Barrcks, NE India, in the foothills of the Himalayas. They were veterans with twelve years’ service. Joe told the others of his experiences in Clare were he had been on holiday the year earlier and where the British authorities were stepping up repressive measures, theoretically against the republican movement, but where they proved elusive, beating and even killing likely looking young men. Newspapers and letters that had arrived the previous day told of the atrocities being committed by the “Black and Tans”.
“B” Company (200 men) arrived at the barracks and hearing the singing halted at the guardroom rather than march past. Their commanding officer, Col. Deacon arrived and told “B” Company to wait while he addressed those inside. He was about to make a serious mistake, in his belief that regimental pride would solve the developing problem. He had those in the guard room come outside and form a line in front of him. He made an improvised, and to his own mind, very moving speech in which he appealed to his own 33 years with the Rangers, their great history, the honors on the flag. Just at this point Joe Hawes stepped forward, interrupting him and said all the honors on the Connaught Flag are for England. There are none for Ireland, but there will be one after today and it will be the greatest honor of them all. One of the mutineers, Pat Coleman, overheard the adjutant mutter to the Sergeant Major,” when the men go, put Hawes back under arrest.” Coleman shouted out “you won’t get the chance of Hawes, we are all going back. Left turn! Back to the guardroom lads!” Col. Deacon was in tears as over a hundred members of “B” company ran over to the bars of the guardroom windows to talk excitedly with those inside These soldiers were armed and they urged those inside to come out. This was a critical moment. A personal decision made by four soldiers to leave the army became a fully blown mutiny of some 150 soldiers. Those inside poured back out to cheers.
61 men were sentenced, with 14 getting the death sentence, the ret term of imprisonment from 1 to 21 years. Helped by the situation Ireland, where British policy was changing from repression to negotiation, the C.I.C. of India commuted all the life sentences except for that over J.J.Daly. He was shot on November 2, 1920 by a firing party of London Fusiliers. There was a rumor that the local Indian population would attempt to storm the jail so several miles around the jail was put under curfew Daly gave his few belongings and a last postcard to Hawes. It is available in the Military Bureau and is nearly indecipherable with very many crowded scrawlings that seem to oscillate between real dread and comforting thoughts about the cause of Ireland. Daly was the last British soldier shot for mutiny, but his was not quite the last execution. August 1948 witnessed the hanging of three Indian mutineers and in January 1943 a British soldier was executed after being convicted of war treason.
After negotiations between the Provisional Government of the Free State and the British Government, all prisoners were released January 9, 1923. The mutineers were later honored and given pensions by the Irish State.
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Frank Darcy Ken Egan