HC Deb 11 July 1922 vol 156 cc1067-8W

asked the Secretary of State for War, with reference to the capture of three British officers and a Royal Army Service Corps driver at Macroom, what orders were given to the strong military force despatched a few-days after this outrage to Macroom in order to release these officers and the private; in what capacity was a representative of the Provisional Government present with this military force; and why this force retired without making any efforts to release the officers and man captured?


asked the Secretary of State for War what steps were taken by the nearest military force to effect the release of the three officers and privates who were kidnapped at Macroom on the 27th April?


On the 26th April the three officers and the Royal Army Service Corps driver did not return to Ballincollig or Cork. A military search party was sent that evening from Ballincollig to see if any breakdown had occurred on the road, but no information could be obtained. On the 27th, a military search party was sent to Macroom. General information obtained by piecing together various scraps of evidence showed that the three officers and the driver had been kidnapped there, but the Irregulars who were in occupation of Macroom Castle said that no officers had been arrested in that place. On the 28th, information obtained showed definitely that the officers had gone to Macroom and had arrived there at about 1 p.m.; another search party therefore was sent out. The Irregulars were again visited, but denied that they had any information. Two officers of this party were shown over Macroom Castle, and they were told that there were three prisoners, who were shown to them. These prisoners were not the officers or the driver. On the same day the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief made representations to the Provisional Government in Dublin. On the 29th further inquiries were made in Cork in various directions, but no further information could be obtained.

On the 30th April a staff officer with a military escort was sent to Macroom to pursue the inquiries. He succeeded in finding out that the party had been seen in Macroom, but the Irregulars again denied that they had kidnapped them or knew anything about what had happened to them. On the 1st May the investigations were continued on the 2nd May the same staff officer with officers of both section, of the Irish Republican Army (Regular and Irregular), went to Macroom with an escort of four armoured cars and eight Crossleys to make further investigations, but he could obtain no further information. In the opinion of the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, the representative of the Provisional Government was genuinely anxious to ascertain the fate of the missing officers and man. This was the last search party which was sent out, but inquiries were continued and rumours of all sorts were followed up immediately, the balance of evidence pointing steadily to the conclusion that the party had been murdered.

In all cases the parties- of troops which were sent as escorts with the search parties were sufficient for the purpose of overawing small bodies of rebels and protecting themselves in cases of attack by a large body. The last party, that of the 2nd May, was the strongest and consisted of about 60 men. It is not correct-to say that this force retired without any efforts to rescue the officers and man captured; their orders were not to attack Macroom Castle bur, to obtain information. Any attack on Macroom Castle would have increased the danger to the party if they were still alive, and it was not thought that it would lead to their release, as previous experience made it practically certain that they would have been removed from Macroom immediately into the hills. There is no truth in the suggestion which has been made in some quarters that these officers were out for their own pleasure: they were proceeding by car in the ordinary course of their duty.

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