January 4th, 1957

FROM THE ARCHIVES: The best-known incident of the 1950s Border campaign was the raid on Brookeborough barracks on New Year’s…

FROM THE ARCHIVES:The best-known incident of the 1950s Border campaign was the raid on Brookeborough barracks on New Year's Day 1957 which left two IRA men, Fergal O'Hanlon and Seán South, dead and several others wounded. This is an extract from the report of the inquest. – JOE JOYCE

A SURGEON said at the inquest in Enniskillen yesterday on 20-year-old Fergal O’Hanlon, who died after a raid on Brookeborough police barracks on Tuesday, that if he had received medical attention in reasonable time his life could have been saved. An inquest was later held on John South, whose body was found at the same spot.

The witness, Mr JW Wilson, FRCS, a relief surgeon, who was giving evidence at the inquest on O’Hanlon in the recreation hall of Fermanagh County Hospital, told the coroner, Mr JR Hanna, that he had conducted a postmortem on Fergal O’Hanlon.

Death, he said, was due to shock and hæmorrhage following a gunshot wound and fracture of the left thigh. There was no indication that either of the wounds had been caused at close range. Had O’Hanlon received adequate medical attention in reasonable time, in his opinion, his life could have been saved.


The coroner, in an address to the jury, said that the evidence was pretty clear. It might be wondered, the coroner added, that a comparatively slight wound should cause death. It was reasonably clear, however, that his body had been taken from the village of Brookeborough by his comrades and left in the unoccupied house .

Sergeant Kenneth Cordner, of Brookeborough police station, describing the attack on the barracks, said that at 7pm, as he was leaving the barracks by the front door on to the main street, a volley of shots rang out. A number of bullets hit the door.

He slammed it shut and gave orders for his men to fire on the raiders. There was an explosion outside from the Roslea direction, and police fire was directed towards the spot from four sides. Nothing could be seen outside, but more explosions were heard.

After five minutes of intense firing, a lorry moved off towards Roslea. Its revolutions were very bad, and the gears clashed. The police concentrated fire on it.

Head-Constable CH Rogers, of Clogher, said that after the attack on the barracks he arrived at Altawark crossroads on a lonely stretch of road a number of miles outside Brookeborough and found an abandoned lorry.

At the back of the lorry were six haversacks, a large quantity of spent ammunition and a Thompson sub-machine gun. There were also large pools of blood in four or five places. He followed a track of blood across the road to the dwellinghouse of Mr John P Baxter, and on the back door saw large prints made by a bloodstained hand.

A trail of blood also led to a byre at the rear of the building, and there he found the two men, South being dead. There was a faint sign of life in O’Hanlon’s body, but the young man was dying, and he died within minutes.