Charleville Deserters

A Company, 1 Battalion MGC had detachments at Charleville and other places in north Cork from May 1920 onwards.

In May 1921, two British soldiers who had been captured by the IRA near Charleville in Cork, executed and secretly buried. They had deserted to join a travelling circus, according to the British army. A local man who was nearby when the photos of the grave were taken in 2011 said that the two were shot at and found in a wood just outside the town, he pointed in the direction of Mallow ie roughly south. Some deserters from 1 Battalion MGC in Ireland have surviving Part II Orders but the few whose service records have survived were all caught.  

WS 0754. During this month [Jan 1921] the M.G. Corps, stationed in Charleville, were sent to Ballyvonare and replaced by another contingent. Two of' the M.G. Sergeants, who had made themselves rather notorious during their time in Charleville, were being eagerly sought. These Sergeants were named Slack and Toohey - the latter was an Irishman and was easily the worst of the two. Resulting from information, Mick Geary and a few lay in wait for them, about miles from Charleville. Slack and Toohey were on their way back from Charleville and both were armed. Slack preceded Toohey by from 50 to 100 yards. Slack was captured and disarmed, but Toohey got away. Had Toohey been caught it was intended to, shoot him.......[Jun 1921] Two British soldiers, in uniform, were captured on the Newmarket road just outside Charleville - they had a map of the district in their possession. At their trial they admitted they were on intelligence duties. They were executed and died very bravely. Their one request was, if they were to be shot, to have the job done quickly.

1921 May 23. Local papers report that 2 MGC men missing since 23 May have still not been found "There is much tension locally"

Remembering the War Dead. by Fergus D’Arcy . 0n May 1921 two British soldiers from the Machine Gun Corps who had been captured by the I.R.A. near Charleville in Cork, executed and secretly buried – had according to the British Military deserted to join a travelling circus! They had been quartered in the RIC barracks and had become friendly with local girls. It was on returning from a visit to the girls that they were kidnapped one night. D'Arcy goes on to say that they were shot and buried two miles from Charleville, and that their bodies were discovered accidently by a local farmer in 1951and reburied without names in the grounds of Charleville Holy Cross Cemetery Extension, and a headstone put there for them in 1953

The bureaucratic process for declaring a man a deserter was as follows: man reported as absent; police informed; disappearance posted in Battalion /Corps Part II Orders, Court of Inquiry held where declared a deserter; declaration of desertion in Part II Orders; FGCM if caught. So regarding the two missing MGC men, if they did desert it would seem likely that the police were informed, their absence posted in Part II Orders and a Court of Inquiry held. However, this process did not always proceed in sequence

The Freeman's Journal of 26 May 1921 reports the men deserting on 23 May 1921. The Police Gazette for July 1921, reports two MGC men as having deserted from Kilmallock (near Charleville) on 23 May 21:

Presumably the results of Courts of Inquiry were passed to 6 Division for the Cork area and then Dublin: WO35/173/5 at Kew is a monthly return of deserters for February to April 1921 so perhaps later ones have survived. Other files containing information relating to Court Martials, etc, in Ireland are also to be found in WO141, WO213 and WO92: these relate in part to the Adjutant-General's office, presumably the final destination of Courts of Inquiry, etc. Most of these records were closed until very recently and perhaps were never consulted in 1951 when the bodies were found. All records kept by the MGC Records Office had long gone by then so there was no recourse to those records.


The grave in Charleville

British Soldiers died in Ireland