Locket commemorating soldier killed in Rising fetches £850 at auction

Wed, Feb 23, 2011, 00:00

A GOLD locket commemorating a British soldier killed in Dublin during the 1916 Rising was sold at auction yesterday for £850 (€1,003) – more than double its estimate of £400.

Sworders Auctioneers in the southeast of England said the “incredibly poignant” locket had been made to commemorate Guy Vickery Pinfield.

He was a rugby-playing, University of Cambridge student commissioned into the 8th King’s Royal Irish Hussars – a British cavalry regiment – at the start of the first World War.

Assigned to Dublin, the 21-year- old soldier was on duty on the first day of the Rising, Easter Monday, April 24th, 1916, when he was fatally wounded by rebel gunfire at Dublin Castle.

The locket was bought in a telephone bid on behalf of an unnamed “private Irish collector” by James O’Halloran of Adam’s fine art auctioneers in Dublin.

Its discovery has highlighted one of the 1916 Rising’s unresolved mysteries. Why did the bodies of five British officers lie, apparently unclaimed and forgotten, in waste ground in central Dublin for 46 years?

Second-Lieut Pinfield’s body was wrapped in a winding sheet and hastily buried in a temporary grave in the grounds of Dublin Castle along with dozens of other soldiers who died that week. Some of the soldiers who died were English and some were Irishmen who had joined the British army.

Families came to Dublin Castle in May 1916 to reclaim the bodies and funerals were arranged. Bodies which were not claimed were given military funerals and reinterred in the British military cemetery at Blackhorse Avenue, Grangegorman. The bodies however of Second-Lieut Pinfield – and four other officers – were neither claimed nor taken to Grangegorman.

Their “temporary” graves were discovered, by chance, 46 years later in May 1962 on a patch of waste ground near Dublin Castle.

Granite slabs recorded the names, regiments and dates of death for Second-Lieut Pinfield and four other officers: Godfrey Hunter (26), Algernon Lucas, (37), Phillip Addison (20) and Basil Worsley-Worswick (35).

The bodies were exhumed and taken to Grangegorman for reburial on May 17th, 1963. A question remains as to why they were not claimed nor given proper military funerals in 1916.

The puzzle is compounded by proof that Second-Lieut Pinfield was clearly not forgotten – as evidenced by the locket and a plaque in his memory erected in St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin. He is also commemorated in a church – and on the war memorial – in his home town of Bishop’s Stortford.

The episode is especially odd given the British army’s reputation for meticulous record- keeping and tradition of honouring its war dead.

Diarmaid Ferriter, professor of Modern Irish History at University College Dublin, described the story as “baffling and very unusual”.

The British embassy in Dublin said it had no records relating to the discovery of the graves in 1962 and that any documents which might exist would have been sent to the public records office in London.