- Jim London. (JIM LSJ) ex soldier wants to be hangman. socialist. ———–
2. Vinny Conlan (Vinny Cochrane) actor. brainy. inquisitive. ———-
3. Gerry Nagle (G Nagle) insurance company salesman. conman.
4. William Hendricks. (Wesley Hendricks) builder. cousin killed in Easter Rising. ——–
5. Peter Lynne (Pearse Lynne) teacher——– Arrested.
6. Jonathan Wynn (Jonathon Roberts) painter and decorator. granny died in famine. hates blacks. ———————
7. Pascal Harrington (Causkey) labourer. arrested after riot.
8. Alex East (Alex Asgari) labourer. Pal murdered by UPA. ————
9. Damian Walsh (D W) farmer————————–
10. Roger Tooth (Roger Tooth) travelling salesman robber
11. Robert Johnson (J Roberts univ) chemist. Shot dead in grenade attack.
12. Laurence Dale. (aMpleforth ex soldier teacher) ex soldier. shot dead in grenade attack.
13. Sean Tussock (Zhangir T) coal importer’s son
14. Niall Tussock (Nurzhan) coal importer’s son
15. Henry Tussock (uncle Hal) coal importer
16. Gabriel Tussock (coal importer)
17. Charles Williams (Will Charles) solicitor’s clerk. Irish lang enthusiast——- arrested
18. Benedict Thompson (B Thompson) solicitor’s clerk. GAA——-
19. Kenneth Adams. ( A K ) farmer. religious reactionary——-
20. Michael English (Magnus) labourer. tags along. feeble. becomes informer
21. Seamus Simons (Simon I F ) barman————————-
22. Henry Brannock ( Henry W B) labourer.
R I C from Great Britain
- Tall Northern Irish sergeant. Ian North. Yorks.—————————————-
2. Short Londoner soldier – blond sergeant aged 40. George Short. Anti Irish anti everyone—————————
3. Davies. Benedict’s. Benjamin David. Scotland. Not sectarian. Rangers fan—————————
4. Watkins. John Watkins. Wales—————————————
5. Tavi Moise. Octavian Moses. Southampton. Anti Catholic——————
6. swimming pool guy from school. Alexander Brokenshire. Liverpool. ————————————
7. Major Neil. Edward MacNeil. Geordie. Half Irish Catholic but raised Prod. ————————————–
8. Col Olley. Oliver Sergeant. Berks.—————————————————
9. Mike Cunningham. Mark Cunningham. Newcastle.————————————–
10. Relu Marichenano. Richard March. Lancs. Catholic————————————-
11. Richard chemistry pilot. Older officer. Richard Dixon. Suffolk.——————————
12. Louis Limtay. Born 1890. protagonist.—————————————————-
13. Williams Bulkeley. William Bulkeley.
14. Blairmore teacher. Blair Teacher anti Catholic. Scots.——————————
PREPARING MICHAEL ENGLISH.
The prisoners had been released. Louis hoped he had dinned into Michael English the basics of being an informer. The rules had been repeated over and again. English had repeated them. He knew exactly what to say and what not to say. He knew where the dead letter drop was. Louis had been to the abandoned cottage and put paper and pencils there. Michael knew not to write a note until he got there.
Bulkeley invited Louis to his room at lunch.
”Limtay” said Bulkeley enjoying a tot of whiskey. ”Do sit down”
”Thank you sir” said Limtay pulling out a chair at the small table there
”Have a glass of whiskey” said Bulkeley
”Sir should I drink on duty?” asked Limtay feeling discombobulated.
”That is an order man” said Bulkeley chuckling; “Oh my word a man from the temperance movement!”
”Very good sir” said Limtay sitting down and sipping from the tumbler. He glanced apprehensively at the officer. Such familiarity could be some sort of trap. Was he about to be confronted about Something? Perhaps Bulkeley wanted him to tell tales on his comrades.
”I know strictly speaking we shouldn’t and I almost never do but we have cause for celebration. You have got us a spy inside the local IRA. By Jove we should have their organisation rolled up in a week” said Bulkeley.
”I think that is over optimistic sir” said Louis
”Well you have him well briefed?” asked Bulkeley.
”Very well briefed sir but there is no telling if he will stand up to scrutiny. He had no backbone. Agrees with the next person he speaks to. Might be gulled. When I go to clear the dead letter drop we need men to surround it – see he has not spilled the beans. They could turn it into an ambush” said Louis.
”Yes I see. My word you have prepared our mole thoroughly” said Bulkeley.
”And only you and I must know about this. I am worried it may reach Lumley’s ears. He is not to be trusted” said Louis.
”Oh come off it. The fellow who says that is a Protestant. You know Irish Protestants do not trust Catholics” said Bulkeley. “I know about the situation. I used to take the Morning Post you see.”
”Well Moore does not trust the fellow either” said Louis
”All right I will not let Lumley know” said Bulkeley.
”Or anyone else. In case they blab in front of Lumley. I would prefer he was off the force” said Louis.
”We cannot do that. He has rights” said Bulkeley. “Upon my oath I wish he did not.”
”At least transfer him to another station. Break his link with the local IRA” suggested Louis.
”I will consider it” said Bulkeley. His thoughts were a little obscured by slugs of whiskey. The juice of the barley was proving to be his one friend in Ireland.
Louis prayed they did not have any unwelcome visitors as both he and Bulkeley were not quite sober. They were still far from drunk.
A NIGHT ON DUTY
A couple of nights later Short and Limtay were on night duty. They had to man the ground floor as the others slept upstairs. Two men in the stables dormitory were also up and armed on sentry duty.
”I don’t feel good about what we are doing Short. I will fight my enemy but when we have them as prisoners they should not be beaten” said Limtay. He wanted to point out that it was Short who hit prisoners not him but Louis judged that would be impolitic. Besides he was complicit in it so almost as guilty as Short.
”What is wrong with you? You a fucking big girl’s blouse or something?” said Short sneeringly. His facial expression was that of a beast of prey.
”No. It is not that.” said Louis. He looked at the disdainful expression on SHort’s face. Short’s snout was smeared across his face. It was a face that had taken a few knocks. There was a vapidity to Short that Louis found alarming.
”Was you in the army or in the Salvation Army?” asked Short scornfully.
”Come on the army – you know that. The Worcesters.” Louis did not think the question was droll. This was the first time Short had tried badinage.
”Well what is the fucking problem. Would you kill an IRA man?” asked Short. He then imitated a man in death throes.
”If he was armed? Sure” said Louis.
”So you would kill him but you would not punch him. Crazy.” said Short.
”No because when he is disarmed- in a cell and handcuffed he is no threat. I would not be hitting him to save myself and the other men” said Louis. “You frighten them half to death. I would not do that;”
”Yes you would. You hit the bastard so he talks. Then he tells us where them rebels got their guns so we can go and get them. That way his mates cannot kill us. For a clever bloke you are thick as pig shit you know that. ” said Short. Short’s savage propensities were becoming clearer.
”I am sure it is against the law beating up prisoners.” said Louis. He knew he had connived in this almost glafy.
”Well come on it happens a lot don’t it? Me mate was a burglar. When the police got him the knocked the living day lights out of him. Then he fessed up to what he done. It is a fair cop governor. What we is doing to these Irish is no worser than what the bobbies do to the ENglish in England.” said Short gaily. “If these Paddies become their own country you think their peelers aint gonna kick the shite out of naughty bastards? Course they is.”
”Well still does not make it right” said Louis. He had to acknowledge that not being able to get information out of detainees quickly would be inconvenient.
”Well I don’t like the Paddies, do I?. Ruddy thick Micks with their fucking potato faces. Coming to England to take our jobs and then they hate us. They takes us jobs and says we make them poor. A likely story. So far as I am concerned all them Micks in England can fuck off home to Paddyland if they thinks it so fucking special and all.” said Short. Louis disliked Short’s attitude despite giving Short full marks for candour.
”Come on are they any different to us? We have jobs in Ireland. Other Englishman have been coming here to work for hundreds of years.” said Louis tranquilly.
”Difference is we do not say that we want to cut us off from Ireland. Anyway I do not like the English either even though I is an Englishman. I don’t like people. What my fellow man ever done for me? Fuck all. War was best time in my fucking life. Got to kill bastards every fucking day and got paid for it. ” sAID Short.
”If you were Irish and a Catholic would you be in the IRA?” said Louis.
” Of course I would. Why the fuck not? They got guns just the same as us. They go out to fight. They got a better deal than us. None of this shit about uniforms and discipline. They can go and rob people. They don’t do much fighting us so far. They got it easy. Fucking cowards they is too.” said Short.
”Don’t you ever think about right and wrong?” said Louis
”Course I fucking don’t. I take what I can get same as any man with a brain. ” said Short. “Any man who is not out for hiself is a bledding half wit and all;”
Louis was enormously interested in Short’s attitude. He imagined that many IRA men were the Mirror image of Short.
” The thing is if I was an Irish Catholic I do not think I would back the IRA; Of course I cannot be sure; What if I was a Protestant?”
“Your problem is you fink too much. My brain hurts from all this talking. What is it a Catholic and a prostiture. Or what they called them other Paddies? Irish is Irish. All the ruddy same to me;” said Short.
Louis knew that even the gentlest man had viciousness in him. This could be brought out with enough provocation. He had seen it in the war. The most passive man turned into a ravening beast by seeing his friend blown apart. But Short had a supplement of viciousness. Louis wondered whether it was pardonable of him to acquiesce in all this. Perhaps he was worse than Short. Short at least had no qualms and no pretenstions to morality. Louis was trying to be legal and ethical. He was bending the rules perhaps beyond breaking point. Could he wrap this up in the greater good argument he asked himself?
DEAD LETTER DROP.
Two days later Louis was on patrol with 9 others. There was low white cumulus cloud blanketing the sky and the temperature was cool. They advanced as Bulkeley had ordered – with at least 10 yards between them. This was an anti ambush tactic. If they were tightly bunched it presented an easy target. If a gunman missed one RIC officer he might hit the RIC officer beside that one. There was another reason to be very spread out. Bulkeley taught them that an ambuscade was rarely more than 20 yards long. So even if a few of the RIC patrol were in the ambuscade most of them would not be. The IRA could ambush the front of the patrol or the tail or the middle but not all of it. Those police officers outside the ambuscade would run off the road and around the rear of the ambush party to force them to withdraw.
Louis signalled to the others to turn off the path and patrol across country. They proceeded over the broken ground with plentiful purple heather. Plenty of snowdrops could be seen on the damp land. Louis walked into the ruined old cottage. He went to the dead letter drop and he MADE A frantic grab for the brick that concealed the hidey hole. He pulled out a note – it was dated as he had told the informer to do. It was not signed. Michael had also remembered that lesson. The note read
” We has got mills boms. We plan to atack the baraks night after tomorrow night with mills boms over stable wall.”
Louis put that in his tunic. He checked that there were still pencils and paper there. He hurried on. Good old Michael – he thought. Louis pretended nothing had happened. He did not share the information with anyone. He was fretful that it might reach the ears of Lumley and then the IRA. Moreover, if others knew an Attack was planned they might mark their underlinen.
The patrol got back to the barracks. Louis went to Bulkeley.
”Sir, could we have a word in private?” Louis said in the dayroom.
”Certainly Limtay” said Bulkeley graciously.
They went into a small adjoining room.
”I cleared the dead letter drop and found this.” Louis handed it to Bulkeley who read it silently for a moment.
”Well this is useful to know. I wish he could have given us a time.” said Bulkeley. “There is an uncanniness in this coming so soon. I hope it is not a false alarm”
”I suspect they are not precise about timings” said Limtay struggling to hide his irritation. Should Bulkeley not be thankful for this tip-off? It was priceless. Without this some of the men would surely have been killed.
”I would guess that you are right. We will be ready for them. But in the mean time we should have a wooden extension built on the wall to make sure they cannot lob mills bombs over. Not with any accuracy” said Bukelely looking away in contemplation.
”Sir, the wall is already 7 foot high.” said Louis.
”I know. We can add another 3 foot.. That makes it very hard to get anything over and have any idea where it will land. Another thing – the chaps who want to throw a bomb over will have to stand several yards back from the wall. That will be a better angle for us. More exposed. More of a chance for our chaps to shoot them. When we hear the first bomb burst we send up a flare. I have got to say these IRA chaps had a good idea. They need to creep into town and wait silently. Just wait till they hear one of our chaps coming out of the outhouse – difficult to miss. The door to the stables is open most of the time in case we need to evacuate that when we are under attack. With luck they could chuck a Mills bomb in there. The upper windows have no bars. Why the hell didn’t I think of that? They could throw one throw the window. Probably not succeed the first time . After a few tries they would make it. Carnage in the dormitory. We switch on the gas lamps to see what the hell is going on. There men are out there. We are silhouetted. They can see us. We cannot see them. Our night vision is wrecked by switching on the lights. So build up the wall and put iron bars on the upper windows. ” said Bulkeley
”Brilliant. Trouble is sir – if we build up a wall then the IRA will know someone has tipped us off. ” said Louis
”Nonsense. It is a basic precaution we could have done it anyway. ” said Bulkeley
”Sir surely they will suspect someone has given the game away.” said Louis.
”Even if they do they might suspect someone else. That boy English is such an imbecile people would not think he is lying. ” said Bulkeley
Louis felt sorry for Michael – the milquetoast. He pictured him being tortured and shot.
”Sir, I don’t think we should do this.” said Louis.
”No we are doing it. You have a soft spot for your spy but sorry I would rather risk his life than ours. What am I supposed to do? Take no evasive action? No I am going to do what I can to reduce the chances of casualties from this attack. Right I am going to send Teacher and Moore to the carpenter. Commandeer some wooden planks and tools. One of the men here was a carpenter. He can do the work. ” said Bulkeley
Later Moore and Teacher went to the carpenter. Moore was immaculately groomed as always. Moore marched across the town square chest puffed out as if parading in front of Buckingham Palace and to the carpenter the planks and tools were being commandeered. There were misgivings from the carpenter but Moore was having none of it. The planks were commandeered and taken away.
Short and March were dispatched to commandeer iron bars from the staid elderly ironmonger. Both the carpenter and ironmonger were given IOUs signed by Bulkeley so they could claim expenses from the Irish Office. Would they write to Dublin Castle asking for recompense?
The carpenter was defiant when Moore and Teacher told him he was to hand over planks of timber and tools. ”I will not give them to ye. I am a proud Irishman” said the sallow skin black haired Brian Power.
”So am I. Now hand them over.” said Moore
”Some are fighting for Ireland unlike you Moore” Power said truculently.
”The IRA is fighting for Germany or America. Not Ireland. Now what you said sounded like sedition. You put those planks on the cart or you will be arrested and interned. ” said Moore
”All right all right I will do it” said Power.
The RIC got to work swiftly. Their patrol to Ahabeg had to be cancelled. By nightfall the wall was extended. Bulkeley briefed the men that they believed the IRA would attack that night. He doubled the night watch and told them to be extra vigilant. Lumley narrowed his eyes when he heard this. A peculiar thought was passing through his mind.
Bulkeley and Limtay stayed up at the west end of the barracks.
”Sir, I must admit I feel bad about prisoners being beaten” said Louis.
”Well Limtay that is jolly decent of you. I have doubts about it myself. We do not hit them too badly. I noticed you never beat them. Most men don’t. I don’t. It would be beneath my dignity. I was an army officer. Short is quite happy to do the dirty work.” said Bulkeley.
”Sir but I know Short is doing this. I use his interrogation techniques to help my interrogation. I am therefore an accessory to his crime.” said Louis
”Crime Limtay? Come off it. You are an officer of the law. You are fighting crime. ” said Bulkeley
”Sir but as an officer of the law we must obey the law.” said Louis
”Well we do – by and large. Laws were made for men not men for laws.” said Bulkeley
”We are better than the IRA. We wear the uniform of the Crown. So we must behave better” said Louis
”We do behave better even by wearing the uniform. We obey the Geneva Convention and they do not. They could be shot if taken under arms and not in uniform. ” said Bulkeley
”But the Geneva Convention says prisoners must not be beaten” said Louis.
”I just told you they do not obey the Geneva Convention. They do not benefit from its provisions. Most of the people they kill are unarmed. They are like those loyalist thugs in Ulster. Killing unarmed people because of their religion. The IRA are just marauders. They may mouth a few slogans but they are brigands. ” said Bulkeley
”Because we are on the right side we have got to stop hitting them.” said Louis.
”Oh stop trying to be a saint. We do not hit them much. It is not torture. I have heard what the IRA do to people the suspect of spying – pulling finger nails out. Burning them – drilling into bones. Dipping limbs into acid. What we do is child’s play by comparison. Listen fighting is never a clean business. I know some battles are cleaner than others. Considering we are fighting rodents our methods have been very pure indeed. The IRA are marauders like the Boers were. Should be shot without trial. Most of their victims are fellow Irishmen. The IRA are yellow bellies. They do not come and attack us properly. They prefer to rob old men.” said Bulkeley
”As you wish sir.” said Louis.
”But all right I will tell Short to go easy. If a threat can do the trick we stop at a threat. I notice he did not hit that Michael English at all.” said Bulkeley
”You are right sir.” said Louis.
”Limtay you are good company. A cut above the others. You are intelligent. Could be officer material but your uniform is not in good nick” said Bulkeley
”I am an officer sir.” said Louis
”Yes a police officer. You know we are the army really. We wear half army uniform. Our role is military.” said Bulkeley
” Thank you sir but I have had my fill of fighting. Cannot wait to be out of here and back to England – do something else.” said Louis
”I do not know what the hell I will do. There is a family estate not doing too well after the war. My father was killed early in the war. Death duties almost finished us off. It is my brother Strespiades who inherited the farm. But he is a don – does not care a fig for farming. My other brother Jasper is a stockbroker. I am the Benjamin. I did not get the brains. Went into the army just before the war. I cannot believe I survived – only one minor wound. I tried to run the estate but such a struggle. Any here I am making a spot of money so I can then make improvements on the farm.” said Bulkeley
“Ah good for you”
“If you did not wish to see more fighting I suggest you came to the wrong place. But you have a wife and three children to support. Times are hard I know.” said Bulkeley “I know some of my brother officers have been reduced to running coffee stalls. Men are desperate. Chaps begging for a job. Scrounging around for a few pounds” said Bulkeley. “If you want to end the fighting then we have got to get these Shinner rotters to talk when we catch the blighters. By Jove Short is good at that”
Just then they heard an earsplitting bang – as a mills bomb exploded in the courtyard. It came from the east end of the barracks. The shock of this for Louis was not diminished by having been forewarned.
The police in the east end of the building opened the window and as ordered shot the flare up into the sky. A dog was yapping obstinately in a nearby house.
As the flare went up a second mills bomb landed in the courtyard and exploded shattering the glass in the windows.
Limtay and Bulkeley looked out the windows at their end of the building and saw no one. The usually vocally industrious Louis had no comment to make.
Teacher lay shivering in fear against a wall. There was a usual allowance of explétives from other policemen.
At the other end of the building RIC men looked out the windows and saw several IRA men on the street – two of them holding mills bombs.
Short opened fire with his rifle. He fired once, twice, thrice – missing each time. Some of the IRA made a break for it. With the fourth shot Short hit an IRA man in the back – he screamed but did not fall.
The IRA threw more mills bombs at the windows. The blast smashed the window and glass his FitzGerald in the face – wounding him slightly. There were frightened cheeps out of some of the others. They then breathed easy to see that Fitzgerald was not seriouslyinjured. He quickly reassured them that it was no more than a flesh wound.
An IRA man with a rifle aimed at Short who ducked down. The IRA man fired several shots at the window. Watkins who was firing out the window was shot on the extreme left edge of the chest. He yelled and pulled back from the window. Watkins soon recovered his composure. “It don t hurt” HE SAID IN astonishment; “It don t hurt hardly at all. ” He was getting over the initial horror of having been shot. He calmed a little when he realised his wound was far from fataL. After that he was no more inclined to be communicative. Morphine was applied to him and he spent the evening in narcotised bliss.
Another IRA man flung his mills bomb but not high enough. It hit the wooden wall and bounced back. The IRA dashed for cover but it exploded yards from them.
”My leg my leg” screeched a man.
Short popped up again as did David at another window. With rifles they fired several shots. The IRA did not reply and ran off. Down below two IRA men lay still.
Short then went to Bulkeley’s room. Bulkeley and Limtay were at different windows peering out with rifles in hand.
”Sir, we shot two IRA at least. Presume they are dead sir. Lying still in the street” Short.
”A good night’s work Short!” said Bulkeley jubilantly. Short was not averse to revelling in death but this time Louis could not but share Short’s satisfaction. It was their lives or ours Louis concluded.
”Want me to go down and recover the corpses?” said Short.
”No Short. Not till morning. Might be a few of the bastards lurking out there. That is why we are still on our guard. They might be waiting for you to go down and investigate. Leave them where they are.” said Bulkeley.
Short saluted and returned to his post. Bulkeley thought only a mad man would suggest going down into the dark to recover corpses when any number of IRA men could be lying in wait. But Short was not really sane it seemed to him.
FitzGerald and Watkins had their wounds washed and bound. Their bleeding soon abated and they were out of the danger zone. Watkins chased the dragon all night long.
The IRA limped back to their base. Eight of them had attacked. Nagle and Tooth had been among those ordered to attack. Nagle and Tooth had both been suddenly indisposed when duty called. London had had a fair idea where the two brigands might be lurking. He had dispatched a snatch squad to press these men into service. Nagle and Tooth had seen them coming and concealed themselves in the undergrowth near their hideout till the press gang gave up.
London gathered his men in a cow byre not far from Carter’s Orchard. He was wounded in the chest with splinters from a mills bomb. However, he maintained his dignity.
Conlan had been wounded in the calf by a bullet. He had only made it back because Walsh and East had supported him all the way.
Brannock was wounded in the buttocks with a bullet and in the face with mills bomb splinters.
”Fucking hell lads we lost Dale and Johnson” said London. He say on a hay bail as Hendricks tended his wounds. ”Both good men”
”They were not dead when we left ” said Conlan. ”We should not have left them”
”They were as good as dead. They will be dead now I would say” said London.
”We could have carried them. They will be dead now – the police will finish them off” said Conlan.
”They were badly wounded. You saw how they were bleeding. They could not be carried. Count yourself lucky that you were carried Conlan. I am the commander. I gave the order to leave them. This is war and that is the way it has got to be. Sometimes we have to leave a man behind for the good of the unit. This is about Ireland and not about being soft.” London chided Conlan.
”Where the fuck was Nagle?” said East.
”His son came to say he was suddenly sick before the attack” said London
”Fucking coward” said Conlan ”shirking as usual. Bastard is only there to rob”
”Those are midnight requisitions not robberies” said London. He was not joking.
”Same as Tooth” said Conlan ” he is only here to steal”
”Shut the fuck up. Stop saying steal. I will have you court martialed!” said London
”It was a useless attack” said Hendricks. ”Five casualties and none on their side”
”Ah no. ” said London ” we will have shot a few and got some with the grenades”
”Only if they were in the courtyard.” said Hendricks
”We must have killed at least five” said London. It was clear he did not believe that.
”How the hell did they know we were coming?”said Conlan ”See how they built up the wall. It was not there this morning. Then they were ready with men at the windows – sent up the flares”
”Good luck” said London ” they are unsleeping”
”I reckon there is a spy in the ranks” said Conlan
”Ah do not talk bullshit” said London
”Why was Nagle not here for the attack? Maybe he tipped them off. All he cares for is money. Would sell his own mother” said Conlan
”You do not insult the honour of the IRA!” said London furiously.
Conlan withered beneath his gaze. Conlan then began to wonder what honour there was in the IRA.
Hendricks said “Let s hit the English back; Ambus them tomorrow if they patrol to Slieve Dubh!”
“THERE are bare hillsides along that road you great amadan” said London ” No cover for us”
As the orange and purple dawn slid up over the horizon Conlan could still not sleep. The cold and grey was being banished but his macabre musings were not. Two decent men had just died. For what? WOULd they ever win? Were they right? Of course his cause was right : at least partly right. But was it fully right? Was it Worth men dying for? If a hundred died to win then that would be Worth it. If a thousand died that would still be Worth it. If ten thousand died then he was not sure. If a hundred thousand had to die to win then no that would not be Worth it.
The two wounded men had moaned for half an hour each. By morning they were head.
Bulkeley sent men down to recover the corpses. In their haste the IRA had not taken the arms off their wounded comrades. A revolver and a shotgun were recovered. “Astounding these knaves legged it without taking their arms; Anyone would think the Shinners want to lose;”
Johnson was shot once in the lower back and twice through the back of the chest. When he was rolled over his eyes were open. There was a placid expression on his face. For all the world he seemed alive. He made Bulkeley think of a gigantic doll.
Dale was shot through the thigh and twice in the lungs. He also had a mills bomb injury on his left arm. Bulkeley looked at the blackish stains on Dales lips. His glassy eyes leered at Bulkeley. Dales mouth was open. he had good fangs thought Bulkeley. Most people in Ireland seemed to have even worse teeth than the English.
Moore recognised Dale. He did not know Johnson. Johnson was laid out in the church for his family to claim. The word got around as to who was killed. The Johnson family then came to claim the corpse.
Once they knew who the families were the RIC decided to pay them a visit.
Bulkeley was accompanied by Limtay, Teacher and North. They marched through Clountreem – chests puffed out. Bullekely had insisted they black their boots and polish their buttons. They were buoyed up by their success. Some be-shawled old women stood nattering by the roadside. Some children push hoops with sticks along the street. Bulkeley thought he could convey some of the futility of fighting to the families. Then they might persuade other IRA men to desist.
In five minutes Bulkeley had come to the Johnson household. A black crepe was fixed to the door. He knocked on the door.
The old Mr Johnson came to the door. He opened the door with exasperating slowness.
”What do you want?” said a stooped man of 60 years. He was bald and his blue eyes were narrowd as his forehead was deeply furrowed.
”Mr Johnson, I commiserate you over your loss.” said Bulkeley.
”Is this a sick joke? Fuck off” said the Mr Johnson indignantly.
”Come now – I am being very decent about it in the circumstances. You brought your son up to try and kill me. I could have you sent to an internment camp on suspicion. But I am not threatening that am I? ” said Bulkeley.
”You are honestly sad for the death of my son – died defending Ireland?” said Mr Johnson.
”Whether he was defending Ireland is another matter. But on a human level of course you have my sympathy. Many of the men in my platoon were killed in the war. I have had to break such news to parents by letter – occasionally in parents. I know it is far from easy. Now – Mr Johnson could we please search your house?” said Bulkeley
”You can shag off!” said Johnson
”Very well. If that is the attitude you want to take. I can of course batter down your door. This is the Defence of the Realm Act at work. You may well have other armed men in there or weapons. Mr Johnson stand aside.” said Bulkeley
”I will not!” said Johnson.
Bulkeley took Johnson’s right hand – he twisted it deftly so he had his thumb in a lock. He then pressed the thumb in so it caused Johnson accute pain. Johnson involuntarily let out a wail. Bulkeley stepped forward. His lean 6 feet towered over the tubby 5’6” of Johnson. Johnson was forced in off his own doorstep – then left into the front room where the body was laid out for the wake. An old woman presumably the deceased s grandmother sat there ina chair oblivious to the scene.
Mrs Johnson was there. The three other police officers were there. They were scarcely geared for this. Intruding on private grief felt wrong.
”Men search the house” said Bulkeley
”Sir” they all replied – one went into the kitchen and two outside. It was a two bedroom house. Two of the Johnson teenage daughters were upstairs. The Mirror in their bedroom had a cloth over it.
There was also a small garden and coal shed to be searched. The men looked very thoroughly – rummaging through drawers, into bed sheets, under carpets. They looked for loose floorboards – up into the attic. The took garden tools and exhumed loose soil. They heard the swift current of the millstream babbling not far beyond.
Bulkeley carried on speaking to the Johnsons. They were all got up in mourning. Bulkeley felt the IRA s power was dwindling even as he sat there.
”You come in here when we are grieving?” said Mrs Johnson with tears in her eyes. She held a toddler girl dressed in mauve.
”Mrs Johnson I am trying to prevent other families going through what you are going through”
”Then get out of Ireland!” said Mrs Johnson.
”You know that will never happen. Before the English were in Ireland did you never fight amongst yourselves? Half of my men are Irish.” said Bulkeley thinking of his ill assorted unit.
Mrs Johnson was stumped. Mr Johnson sat down and folded his arms before turning his face to the wall.
”Now Mr and Mrs Johnson is there anything else you can tell me which might prevent another tragedy?” said Bulkeley. He was impressed by their mourning garments. This family plainly did not have a barrel of money but they had gone to much expense to tog themselves out in a fashion befitting the death of their son.
”There is nothing else we can tell you” said Mr Johnson ”If we do anything we would never tell you.”
”Sir, I happen to know you have another son aged 24. Where is he now?” said Bulkeley.
”He is working in Sligo” said the Johnson
”You sure he is not in the IRA?” said Bulkeley.
”Sure – he is not republican. He does not care about politics.” said Johnson.
”Well Mr Johnson I have heard different.” said Bulkeley bluffing.
”No you have not you just made that up to scare us” said Johnson
”We have many sources of information” he said with a twinkle in his eye. ”You would not want him interned? We can easily find him and have him locked up” said Bulkeley. Mrs Johnson felt a quick shiver of fear run through her.
”We have nothing to tell you Englishman now get out.” said Johnson
”Very well have it your own way. Do not be surprised if your son comes to be a bad end. If you want to reconsider you know where to find me.” Bulkeley then lit up a cigarette and smoked ostenatiously.
The couple sulked and looked away.
A couple of minutes later the men came down with nothing to report.
Bulkelely went to the Dale household. As they left the Johnsons they heard a shrill wail start up in the parlour. That was keening. Bulkeley wondered if questioning this next family would also be a vain endeavour.
Mrs Dale was there – he grey hair tied back in a bun. She was a woman in her middle 50s. She was slender and her skin was drawn taut over her cheekbones. She was already wearning mourning.
”Good morning Mrs Dale” said Bulkelely lifting his hat and trying not to smile.
”Good morning” Mrs Dale said sombre and bewildered.
”Mrs Dale I am sorry for your loss. You have suffered a very heavy blow.” said Bulkeley
The woman stared back at him speechless.
”May I come into the house?” said Bulkeley.
”All right then” she murmured and nodded. She was too shattered to refuse. The black clad figure led him in.
His three subordinates followed respectfully. He turned to them and whispered ”search the house” they nodded and efficiently got on with their work.
There was no front room – only a kitchen cum dining room.
”Where is your son?” Bulkeley endeavoured to ask this while sounding sympathetic.
”Laid out up in the room he shared with his brothers.” Mrs Dale said wanly.
”Ah I see. Yes, I saw on the file he has some brothers. Remind me how many it is.” said Bulkeley.
”Three. He is the second. Aged 22. I have five daughters two but two are away married. I am widow you know.” said Mrs Dale.
”Yes Mrs Dale I know. Now I do not want any more widows in this town.” said Bulkeley.
Mrs Dale could not believe she was speaking to the man who might well have killed her son. Speaking to him in an almost friendly tone. What had she done?
”Me neither” Mrs Dale heard herself murmur. She sounded resigned.
”Now Mrs Dale – is there anything you can tell me to prevent any more men being killed.?” said Bulkeley
”What do you mean?” asked Mrs Dale.
”You knew that he was in the Irish Volunteers. You know who else is in it and where they are and where their arms are?” said Bulkeley
”I do not know anything” Mrs Dale said and rubbed her nose energetically. It was the first vigorous action she had performed since Bulkeley had seen her.
”Mrs Dale come now – that is not true” said Bulkeley
”It is true!” Mrs Dale said weakly and looked away.
”Mrs Dale – your other boys might well be involved in the IRA.” said Bulkeley
”They are not . Sinn Fein though” said Mrs Dale
”Same thing – that is the way we see it. ” said Bulkeley
” It is not. Please leave them alone.” said Mrs Dale. Bulkeley could see that bereavement had lowered her resistance. With others it made them more belligerent.
”Mrs Dale – I cannot do that. They might kill one of my men. I have a responsibility to their mothers. Now you have got to prevent people getting killed. If not well I will have to arrest your sons and have them interned on suspicion of being in the IRA. ” said Bulkeley.
”No please don’t – don’t you take my boys away from me” Mrs Dale wailed.
”Mrs Dale I do not want to but I am going to have to if I think they may kill my men” said Bulkeley
”No don’t take them – don’t take them” Mrs Dale wept.
”Well what can you tell me so I do not have to take them.” said Bulkeley
”You know all their old hiding places. You have been searching all the old haunts for the last week he said. Now they are holed up in Goravaugh. You know the far side of the valley?” said Mrs Dale
”Gorovaugh?” asked Bulkeley
”Yes – in the bog behind Spillane’s farm.” said Mrs Dale
”Behind Spillane’s? ” Bulkeley confirmed. He got a notebook out and noted it quickly.
”Yes – you know old Columba Spillane? His place. The bog is meant to be impassable except to them that know the way.” said Mrs Dale
”Mrs Dale – this is all true isn’t it?” said Bulkeley
She looked at him and verity was etched on her face. ”Yes it is true. A woman in my state cannot lie.” She looked so distressed.
”Mrs Dale do not breathe a word of what you have said to me. For your own safety. I beg you do not tell even your children. Understand?” said Bulkeley
The gravity of what she had just said was dawning on her. A new look of terror came over her.
”Oh God now the IRA will get me too? First my son killed by you and now me killed by them?” said Mrs Dale
”So long as you say nothing no one will ever know. I am not going to endanger you. If we find what you said is true then no harm will ever come to you or your sons. If we find you are lying then your sons will never see daylight again. ” sAID Bulkeley.
With that Bulkelely got up. ”Finished up there men?”
”Yes”, they cried and ran down the stairs.
“Don t hurt the IRA they are just boys” she pleaded. This fell on deaf ears. The RIC quick marched off.
Bulkeley felt that his initiative had paid off. Soon there would be a few more IRA headstones ; a mémorial to Dale supplied by his mother.
Bulkeley quick marched his men back to the barracks. He was tingling with excitement but knew better than to let on to the men what he had just been told.
Once they reached the barracks Bulkeley hurried in. They men were in relaxed attitudes – sitting smoking and only occasionally glancing out the window.
”Right – March, Lumley and Moore you come with us. We are off to Gorovaugh – attack the IRA. ” said Bulkeley.
”Yes sir” they cried as they sprang to their feet. Helmets were donned and rifles were grabbed.
The quick marched through the town square. The sense of purpose on Bulkeley’s face told them that something must be up. The RIC appeared to be at the very leasy buoyed up by their success in fending off and IRA attack. Some surmised this was the RIC bouncing back. The police were eager to project power. It was in keeping with Bulkeley’s policy to see and be seen. In that was he re established control. He was pleased to have a strapping man like Moore at his side. In spite of everything the RIC would succeed Bulkeley told himself.
*A florrid faced middle aged man stumbled out of the pub. He seemed astonished to see the RIC marching so boldly across the scare. Even a man in an Advanced state of inebriation could tell that Something was up.
They marched out of town along the unpaved road. It was a cloudy day and a brief shower did not dampen their spirits. Bulkeley felt gleeful ; it was like hunting with a pacK. He had a presentiment that they were going to smash the IRA;
* Bulkeley told them to march in close file.
”Not anti ambush form sir?” asked Limtay.
”No because we know where the IRA are. They are not coming to get us. We are seeking them out. ” SAID Bulkeley.
”Are you sure we can trust that woman?” asked Limtay.
”Trust me she was in no fit state to lie. I learnt this in the war. On the Western Front we sometimes captured prisoners. The thing to do was to interrogate them right then – as the battle raged. Not always possible of course. But anyway if it was right away the information was fresher. Also they were very shaken. They were so shocked and disoriented about being captured that they just blabbed. Leave it a few hours or days and they get used to it. They firm up. Get them minutes after they have seen their mates killed and some of them will tell you everything. I cannot speak German but I have seen it done. Occasionally we got German officers in the bag and they could speak English. So with those mothers I thought question them as soon as they find out their sons are dead. They are so bleary they will tell us all they know.” said Bulkeley.
It was not half an hour before they were well outside the small town and heading up the hill on farm tracks. The land was uneven and verdant. There were hedgerows and rocky outcrops. The odd shack and cattle trough punctuated the rumpled topography. There were two boys both aged around 10 on the far side of a rough field. They saw the police coming and the scampered off.
”This is Gorovaugh all right” said Bulkeley – ”just behind Spillane’s”. He tried to get his bearings then pointed “over there”
”Sir there is an impassable bog” said Lumley looked fiercely agitated.
”Yes I heard that. That may well be just something they say to keep us away. Quite clearly there is a way across otherwise the IRA could not be hiding out on that fold in the ground in the middle of it.” said Bulkeley.
”No one knows that path across.” said Lumley looking very stressed.
”Someone must know. We will find a local and have him show us” said Bulkelely not making eye contact. Determination was etched on his face. He gritted his teeth. This was it – his big chance.
”Sir, if we force a civilian to show us the way that person will be killed by the IRA.” said Lumley.
”No that man will not. I am going to clear the IRA out of here if it is the last thing I do. My brother officer from the regiment was killed last week by the IRA in Limerick. Time to get even” said Bulkekely.
Limtay heard that and feared that emotion was occluding Bulkelely’s judgment. Bulkeley felt that Lumley was making excuses : trying to have the operation called off.
They saw a small white washed cottage surrounded by gorse bushes.
”Surround it” said Bulkelely. They did.
Then Bulkelely said ”open this door! ” no one did. He repeated his order. He waited three seconds and noticing the door was unlocked he kicked it open
Bulkelely burst into the two room cottage to see only a toddler girl sitting on the bed crying. He turned to Teacher who was behind him ”Search the place”; The child turned pale as beetroot to see the men.
Teacher made a quick search of the place. Bulkelely felt deflated. He walked outside and saw the men – ”press on” he ordered.
Teacher ran out and after them a minute later ”Found nothing sir. Whoever lives there left the child behind!”
”That is a sign they are up to no good. Fled when they saw us coming” said Bulkeley. ”No doubt those two little boys in the field were look outs – run off to tell the IRA we are coming.”
”Sir should we surround the bog?” said Limtay
”No it is half a mile by half a mile. Way too big. I will not divide my forces. ” said Bulkelely.
The land was growing damper. As the ground became soft underfoot they began to sink slightly. Bulkeley strove to find some fairly stiff ground; without success.
”No where is this damn path?” asked Bulkeley. ”Spread out men – left and right. See if you can find it.”
It was tiring plodding through the mud. They got wet and their sodden trousers slowed them down. There were no more hedges to take cover behind. It felt aimless to some of the men to trudge through this very wet soil. As there was no hard ground to push off from it was wearing on the thighs to keep pulling a leg up again.
The men rapidly obeyed orders. There were but a few bushes and trees on the bog. The land stretched up and dipped down out of sight. There were a few raised clumps of earth and many waxy plants. The bright moss was the wettest. The men found themselves sinking in mud up to their knees. It made a great sucking sound as they tried to extricate themselves.
”Keep your rifles up above your heads” shouted Bulkekely ”don’t get them wet”
Limtay caught sight of some figures 400 yards away. One of them was clearly holding a rifle. They were running to and fro clearly worried. They were diving down into a hollow. Did they have earthworks or a dugout? Louis had heard the IRA built dugouts Under pig stys and such. He was almost glad to see theM; it had not been a wasted Journey. But what a fool he was. Fear hit him; He could die!
”IRA” shouted Limtay pointing.
Just then shots ran out from 400 yards distant. More and more shots. The IRA were in full cry almost in a blind panic.
”Three I can see at least three” said Limtay.
”Don’t count them shoot them” said Bulkeley. ”Open fire”; He was elated to have caught his quarry. It was like riding to the hounds.
The RIC began to take aim. They were mostly standing up right. Some went down on one knee for a firing position.
The IRA exchanged fire but had dropped down and were mostly out of sight.
”Shit – they can lie on the ground and we cannot” said Limtay. Louis looked at Bulkeleyes face the relief was unmistakeable/ Bulkeleyes real fear was not being killed but the enemy getting away.
”The IRA cannot shoot for shit” said North. It was true that after two minutes the IRA had fired easily 20 rounds and not come close to hitting anyone. The others were getting accustomed to the idea that the IRA could never find their mark;
The RIC were having no luck – they could not see the enemy. But the IRA’s marksmanship got better. They were getting closer – finding their range. Their bullets threw up mud.
Limtay found himself spattered by mud as an IRA bullet his the ground six inches in front of him. He decided he better take cover. With great difficulty he pulled his sodden boots out of the glutinous mud. He waded over to an island of solid ground. It was not before time. Louis felt scared and worried he might soil his undergarments. He heard a faint noise of impact.
”I’m hit” cried March. He held his rifle with one hand and put his left hand on the wound on his stomach.
”Get down” shouted Bulkeley.
March attempted to lower himself to the mud. As he did so a couple more bullets whizzed past him. Just then he was struck by another bullet in the mid section.
”They got me again” said March plaintively lowering himself into the mud. He thought the better of putting his wound in the dirt and rolled onto his back.
Limtay broke cover and ran for March.
”March you all right?” asked Louis idiotically.
”Could be better” March quipped ” doesn’t hurt/ I have been shot before. Just numb”
Limtay took a bandage out of his uniform and wiped March’s wound clean. He bandages them as best he could – the blood soaked the bandage before the task was complete. He could see March turning pale and the smile fading.
”Am I done for?” said March.
”No you are not” Limtay did his best to lie. He knew that stomach wounds are usually fatal.
”We are not breaking off the attack” said Bulkeley. He turned back to the fray. He remained standing up right.
Limtay knelt and looked back towards the IRA positions. He could not see anyone. He aimed towards the centre of a bush and fired. Keep their heads down at least.
Just then he say Bulkeley’s torso reel and the man gasped.
”Ah bastards got me” said Bulkeley. He fired on defiantly. Then he stooped down.
Limtay ran over ”Is it serious sir?”
”No not serious here – where the shoulder meet the neck. Just a flesh wound. Press home the attack – we must move forward. ” cried Bulkeley urgently.
”Sir, with respect we are 400 yards from the enemy. 2 out of 8 are wounded already. March is dying. There is no cover between us and them. ” said Louis.
”We will press our advantage and finish them off. We are not breaking off the attack because I am wounded.” said Bulkeley
”Sir by the time we get there they will have gone and all of us will be shot first. ” said Louis.
Limtay saw the emotion drain from Bulkelely’s face. His expression became pensive
”You are right. All right – this has been a disaster. My fault. Men – retreat.” Bulkeley shouted ”retreat.”
The men echoed the order.
Bulkelely said ”Limtay you and Teacher take March. I will cover your retreat – be back in a minute.”
Bulkelely was not bleeding heavily. He fired another ten rounds to keep the IRA from getting to cocky. The kick of his rifle caused his wound to bleed more. He then hurried after his men. Bulkeley had found it hard to distinguish IRA figures at that distance ; they mostly kept down.
Teacher and Limtay took March between their shoulders. His rifle was carried by North.
The IRA fire slacked and then stopped.
Bulkeley caught up with them. ”Bastards will have got out the other side. I am sorry – I was rash to try that without a guide. I thought we had fresh information – better press the advantage.”
March grew ever more pallid and stopped talking. Despite the bandage he bled freely. It was clear that he had lost consciousness.
”How is March doing?” said Bulkeley.
”He is not doing at all” said Limtay tersely.
”Oh God. Carry him while we can” said Bulkeley.
They came down off the hill. They found a cart track. The stopped a passing haycart and commandeered a lift. They passed a half naked Traveller child laughing at them. Bulkeley had half a mind to question the child to see if she had useful information but he decided time was of the essence. They must get the wounded seen to. In all probability the rebels had fled that encampment now.
Within ten minutes they were back in barracks.
Dr Laws happened to be there tending wounds. The disheveled patrol spilled into the day room.
”Dr Laws” said Bulekely his uniform drenched in blood ”Just the man we need to see. Please – my man March. Badly wounded in the stomach.”
Limtay and Teacher laid March on the table.
”It is you I had better have a look at” said Laws.
”Ah no I am fine” said Bulkeley. The pain was written on his face ”Tend to March please he is badly hit by two bullets.”
Laws put his hand on Bulkelely’s left forearm. ”That man is dead”
”He is not he was shot only 20 minutes ago”
”That man is dead. It is plain as the nose on my face I must treat you. You will live if I get to work now.”
”I am fine treat March” said Bulkeley almost angrily – he looked at March’s grey face and flaccid body.
”Sir sit down in the chair” said Dr Laws getting something out of his medical bag. Bulkelely did as he was bidden. ”Open your tunic.”
Laws took of his jacket and undid his shirt. Laws injected him with morphine and cleaned the wound.
Bulkelely looked at March and noticed that he was no longer bleeding. His eyes were open and seemed to be made of glass. A macabre smile was fixed on unmoving features. His lips were turning blue. Bulkelely was resigned to it – March was dead.
The men looked aghast. They were no strangers to violent death but they had grown accustomed to death not being a daily occurrence.
Only Lumley looked relieved.
The IRA had been listless in their base until the RIC s sudden apparition. They had fired nearly all their ammunition. They were just as relieved when the RIC began to retreat. The IRA had sustained no losses.