Letters confirm Auxiliaries led burning of Cork

Tue, Dec 14, 2010, 00:00

EVIDENCE THAT the burning of Cork city during the War of Independence was carried out by members of an Auxiliary Division of the RIC has been uncovered by a historian of the force.

Jim Herlihy has found letters from a member of K Company of the Auxiliaries that confirm the 55-strong contingent led the burning on December 11th, 1920.

According to Mr Herlihy, Temporary Cadet Charlie Schulze wrote two letters on December 16th, 1920, in which he confirmed that he and his colleagues in K Company had set fire to buildings.

The burning of Cork was carried out by K Company in retaliation for an IRA ambush on 20 auxiliaries at Dillons Cross on December 11th in which Temporary Cadet Spencer Chapman was killed, he said.

“Most of Patrick Street was burned as well as the City Hall and the Carnegie Library on Anglesea Street, resulting in £2 million worth of damage and the loss of 2,000 jobs,” said Mr Herlihy, a member of the Garda.

Chief secretary for Ireland Sir Hamar Greenwood denied crown forces were behind the burning and claimed civilians were responsible. However, according to Mr Herlihy, the letters remove any doubts as to who was responsible.

“In one letter to his mother, back home at Selkirk in Scotland, Charlie Schulze tells how he contracted a chill during the burning and looting of Cork,” said Mr Herlihy.

“He tells how the rest of K Company were enraged after the ambush at Dillons Cross and how some said that the punishment meted out in Cork was worse than anything they saw in Flanders.”

Mr Herlihy, who is writing a history of the Auxiliaries and the Black and Tans, has also found a letter from Brig Maj Bernard Montgomery confirming the involvement of K Company.

“In one letter written to his father, Montgomery, later Field Marshall Montgomery, said Cork was burnt by K Company of the Auxiliaries,” said Mr Herlihy.