Essex Deserters in Cork

There was an incident in which 3 IRA men were shot dead on 3 Dec 1920. There is a lot of evidence to show that two deserters from the Essex Regt were shot by the IRA as a result. The IRA believing that their 3 men were killed as a result of the two deserters setting up a "sting" to trap the IRA men

John L. O'Sullivan CURIOUS JOURNEY: An Oral History of Ireland’s Unfinished Revolution, by Kenneth Griffith and Timothy O’Grady, BBC web site

During the height of the war, two members of the Essex Regiment were seen wandering around Bandon. At that time every stranger was under observation and people reported them to our command and they were captured. They claimed to be deserters, and while they said they were prepared to join our column and fight with us, they said they’d rather be sent back to England. Now we couldn’t be sure what they were and they were taken to column headquarters to be interrogated. During the interrogation one of them said that he had a brother in the barracks in Bandon and that this brother wanted to get out too. This fellow thought the brother would be willing to work with us, and the idea of getting arms from Bandon barracks was discussed. So arrangements were made Well they went to the rendezvous and they were immediately pounced on by a section of the Essex Regiment. And they were given a terrible time, before they were shot through the head. [these IRA men - Captain John Galvin, Lieutenant Jim Donohue and Section-Commander Joe Begley were surprised by soldiers from the Essex regiment and shot dead. 2 Dec 1920 just outside Bandon]

Now all during this time, the two others, the fellows who said they were deserters, were being held here in this house, my house here. They stayed here during the day and we had to shift them to another place at night. One of them was only nineteen or twenty and the other was older, maybe thirty or forty.... And we got on well with them too. We used to play cards with them at night. ...Then after this murder of our people the order came through that the two prisoners were to be executed. They knew too much .. They were shot there, anyway, the two of them together and buried on the spot...

Tom Barry, in Guerrilla Days in Ireland, He says he interviewed the 2 deserters on 25 Nov 1920 (Thurs before Kilmichael is how he remembers the date). Barry wanted to get into Bandon Barracks in force and remove all the guns. He set up the meeting with the Essex Sergeant, said to be one of the deserters brother. ‘One of the oldest ruses in war is to send spies, posing as deserters into enemy lines. The classic example is, I think, the American Civil War, when hundreds of these pseudo-deserters were discovered as spies by both armies and dealt with as such…. The two British spies (from the Essex Regiment) were brought to Kilbree, Clonakilty, and there they were executed.

I tend rule out an intelligence sting by the British, as the men involved would have known that they faced certain death by setting up a meeting at which they knew the IRA men would be shot. The balance of probability is that the 2 men the IRA picked up were genuine deserters and that one did indeed have a brother who was in the Essex Regiment at Bandon. An IRA account suggests that the letter setting up the meeting between Taylor's brother (serving in Essex Regt) and the IRA was delivered to the wrong Taylor in the Essex, and that the wrong Taylor told his superiors. This explanation makes sense, delivering the letter would have been fraught for the messenger, who presumably asked for "Taylor" and was pointed to the wrong man.

Then I found this article in Southern Star of 1971 that actually names the men as Watson and Taylor, and that Taylor was the man with the brother.

In 1922 after correspondence between the British and Irish governments, a list found in the Collins Papers in Dublin show

There are on the records of the Essex Regiment two men who fit this description. Percy Taylor (who had a brother in the Essex in Bandon) and Thomas Watling .

The balance of probability is that is is Percy Taylor And Thomas Watling who are given in the Essex records as having deserted on 30 Oct are the two men murdered by the IRA over this incident. They exist in the Essex records, and also the IRA named "Watson" and "Taylor" as the two men that they shot, and Collins Irish government records post truce in 1923 names them as "Tyler and Wattles". And an ex-IRA man wring in the Southern Star article above of 1971 names the men as "Watson and Taylor", and that Taylor was the man with the brother.

British Soldiers died in Ireland