D Branch - Dublin Police

When Britain's Government Committee on Intelligence decided to slash the Special Intelligence Bureau budget and staff and subordinate MI5 under a new Home Office Civil Intelligence Directorate led by Special Branch's Sir Basil Thomson in January 1919, the powerful MI5/Special Branch partnership that admirably managed counterintelligence and subversives during the war was suddenly thrown into disarray. These bureaucratic intrigues happened at the very moment that the Irish abstentionist party, Sinn Féin, and the Irish Republican Army (IRA) were launching their own independence campaign. With MI5 reduced to a skeleton staff of just 28 officers and relegated to the sidelines, and with Thomson unable to contain or penetrate the revitalized IRA with a series of clumsy and hastily organized police intelligence operations, it fell to Smith-Cumming and SIS (then MI1(c)) to organize a new espionage unit in Ireland, based on continental lines and called the Dublin District Special Branch, in mid-1920.

The DDSB consisted of some 20 line officers drawn from the regular army and trained by Smith-Cumming's department in London. Beyond that, however, Smith-Cumming began importing some of his own veteran case officers into Ireland from Egypt, Palestine and India, while Basil Thomson organized a special unit consisting of 60 hastily vetted ethnically Irish street agents managed via impersonal communications from Scotland Yard in London.

By 1920, the considerable success of the Intelligence Department of the IRA under Michael Collins, was causing concern in Dublin Castle. In January 1920, the British Army Intelligence Centre in Ireland was comprised of a special plainclothes unit of 18-20 demobilized ex-army officers and some active-duty officers to conduct under-cover operations against the IRA. The officers received training at a school of instruction in London, probably under the supervision of Special Branch, which had been part of the Directorate of Home Intelligence since February 1919. Army GHQ, Dublin, hoped these officers could eventually be deployed to the provinces to support its Divisional intelligence staffs, but it decided in the end to keep it in Dublin under the command of the Dublin District Division, General Gerald Boyd, commanding. It was known officially as the Dublin District Special Branch (DDSB) and also as "D Branch".

d branch organisation

1920 May, Lieutenant Colonel Walter Wilson took command of D Branch. He does not appear to be in command by the end of the year. Wilson was a GSO1, the British Record of the Rebellion in Ireland states that by summer of 1920 the staffing of Dublin District Intelligence was

1921 Jan D Branch was transferred from the command of General Boyd to the command of Brigadier-General Sir Ormonde Winter. Several D Branch officers were assassinated on Bloody Sunday which seems to have precipitated the reorganisation, Winter was placed in charge of a new police intelligence unit, the Combined Intelligence Service Winter had been working in Dublin since May 1920, and his charter was to set up a central intelligence clearing house to more effectively collate and coordinate army and police intelligence. The several members of D Branch who survived Bloody Sunday were very unhappy to be transferred from army command to CIS command, and, for the next six months, until the Truce of July 1921, D Branch continued to maintain regular contact with Army Intelligence Centre while undertaking missions for Winter's CIS.

However, the IRA Intelligence Department (IRAID) was receiving information from a number well-placed sources, including Lily Merin, who was the confidential code clerk for British Army Intelligence Centre in Parkgate Street, and Sergeant Jerry Mannix, stationed in Donnybrook. Mannix provided the IRAID with a list of names and addresses for all the members the British undercover squads. Another IRA mole meeting regularly with the D Branch men at Cafe Cairo, Rabiatti's Saloon and Kidds Back Pub was Detective Constable David Neligan, one of Michael Collins's penetrations of G-Division (secret police) of the Dublin Metropolitan Police.

Quite bizarrely some of Michael Collins senior intelligence staff—Liam Tobin, Tom Cullen and Frank Thornton—were meeting with several D Branch officers nightly, pretending to be informers.

After Harper Shove left, Boddington was in charge, with Hyem and Thorp working on the admin in the office. The section leaders on the streets were Attwood, Carew, Noble and Carpenter. Boddington also led raids himself. Noble and (one other no longer there) were the first to man the department. Harper Shove then came and chose the named seven for his staff. Carew was the last to join them, in June 1920

The Police Advisors Office was under the Charge of D H M Boyle and in it were were Thomas P Ryan, C E Barrow . All 3 were ADRIC

Report of a raid on 198. Parnell St11 - 12 - 20
I have to report that this raid was carried out by this Company under the command of 3rd. D.I. FLOREY at about.01.00 hours the 11th inst.
About 03.00 hours 3rd D.I.  FLOREY reported to me that he had raided the above place, and had there found a place used for the construction of bombs.
I immediately proceeded to the premises and found that the presence of an explosive expert was necessary before the articles could be removed. I left a guard under Section Leader Beard, on the premises with instructions to secrete themselves inside to await the arrival of the owners of the shop in the morning, to endeavour to effect their capture, and further detailed a party of six men in plain clothes to assist from the street.
About 08.30 hours the following morning I went to Parnell Street with five others, and took up position in the vicinity of the shop. No persons approached the shop until about 09.30 hours when two men walked to the front door, and endeavoured to push it open. They stepped back from the door as if to run away, and I ran into the road from the place where I was concealed, when two shots were fired in quick succession from the interior of the Cycle shop through the closed door which is glass panelled.
I saw one man stagger and I held up the other one. I had them both taken in the cycle shop and interrogated, when it transpires that they were salesmen awaiting the opening of a wholesale Toy Factory in the vicinity.
They had previously been interrogated by 2nd D.I.  LUXTON, who not being satisfied with their replies sent them to the cycle shop, so they could be questioned by the S.S.Man.
They gave their names and addresses as JOHN PURCELL ,111 LEINSTER ROAD and JOSEPH LYNAM  38  FONTENAY  Salesmen
JOSEPH LYNAM was suffering from a slight flesh wound in the thigh.
The guard inside the shop naturally thought as I did, that these two men were connected with the place.
This unfortunate incident ruined any chance of getting the owners of the shop, and I decided to proceed with the removal of the contents.
The Military, and an Armoured Car who were standing by for orders, were telephoned for, also an expert in explosives. The wounded man was sent on an Armoured Car to a Hospital.
Major ( or Capt ) PURCELL subsequently arrived and took charge of the premises stating that he had this authority from the Police Advisors Office.
Some hours later LIEUT. KING of the R.E.;s arrived and took over from this officer and shortly afterwards the work of removal was commenced

The office of the Chief Of Police seems to have had Lt Cdr Fry and Spenle