Higginson Enquiry - the first British Enquiry into the Burning of Cork


1920 Dec 13. A military court of enquiry ordered by Brigadier General Higginson, Commander Cork Garrison, started to take evidence. It was chaired by Major L.C. Morley of 2nd Hants Regt, and with Major C.S.Reid and Capt F.U.Atchison (I think that he is probably F A Atchison)

The 1st witness, a Lieutenant of South Staffs, who commanded a patrol through the night from 03.00 onwards. Before going out on patrol he noticed a crowd of Auxiliary police and soldiers inside the Barracks. He heard one of the Auxiliary Police say " We are going out to burn the place down" or words to that effect. Shortly afterwards one of the Auxiliary police approached me and said " Are you coming with us, there is a good crowd in this platoon ? " I sent all the soldiers away

Later on patrol he reported seeing among other things, 2 ADRIC men firing revolvers at buildings, but could not catch either of them. Also "I saw a few Auxiliary Police from time to time who did not appear to be under control. I saw one under the influence of drink" The Lieutenant also refers to firemen and civilians being drunk.

The second witness was a Captain in charge of a Curfew Patrol of 2nd Hants Regt. He was on duty in the city centre from 22.00. "At about 23.00 I went along the Grand Parade. I heard noises as if shutters were being pulled down and saw several parties of Auxiliary Police in front of shops. I came upon one Auxiliary policemen standing in front of a jewellery shop. The shutters had been pulled down. I asked him what he was doing and he replied that he was about to break the glass in order to set fire to the shop. When I spoke to him I was by myself . As there were several of his companions close at hand I could not take any action except search him and warn him and ordered him back to Barracks. At about the same time and near the same place I met a party of Auxiliary Police about 30 strong. I stopped them and told them that if they attempted to make any trouble in the town, my men would fire . Until the incident outside the jewellers shop I had no reason but to suppose that Auxiliary Police were in Cork City on duty. ...... I stopped two Auxiliary policemen..who were carrying silver mounted dressing cases and furs. I took possession of them and brought them back to the Bridewell. I could not take any other action as I had no troops with me and there was a large party of Auxiliaries close at hand....the parties of Auxiliary police, with the exception of a few individuals appeared to be more or less under control... To put it in context, he did also say the the chief fire officer, several firemen, many civilians and even two of his own men, were drunk.

The 3rd witness was a Lieutenant of 2nd Hamps Regt, also in Curfew Patrol. At 22.15, in Patrick St, he passed a party of Auxiliary police marching under control and in military formation. At about 23.00 he was back in Partick St and saw a crowd of about 30 Police and Auxiliary Police opposite Mangan's Jewellery shop. "The shop had been forced open and I saw several Auxiliary Police coming out of it. Several members of the crowd were carrying suitcases. I did not see any silver articles or jewellery. ....I also noticed two Auxiliary Police who were keeping order among the civilians who were standing in the neighbourhood of fires. ...At about 05.00 when I was returning to Barracks with the Curfew Party I noticed an Auxiliary Policeman stop a civilian who was carrying loot. This policeman made the civilian hand over the loot and threw it back into the shop and ordered the civilian to clear off.

The 4th witness was a Lt with the South Staffs Curfew party. He noticed at Patrick's Bridge, shortly after midnight, "a party of Auxiliary police coming from Patrick St, they were not under any control. I noticed that they were carrying dressing cases and bundles." He too noticed drunk firemen.

The 5th witness, a 2nd Lt in Hants Regt, was on Curfew Duty. "Shortly after 22.00 I was passing Grants shop which was on fire. I noticed an Auxiliary policemen come out of Grants shop. He cheered us as we passed on a lorry" ..."shortly after midnight as I passed Cash's shop, I noticed a crowd of Auxiliaries outside it. The shop had just been set on fire, and some Auxiliary police were heaping empty boxes on the flames. At the same time I heard one Auxiliary policemen say "I only used half a tin of petrol". I asked if anyone was in charge and one replied that he was. I ordered him to march his party way and he did so. A party numbering about 20 did not go away with him. They appeared not to be under control. ...While I was in Mangan's shop, a party of Auxiliaries passed me on their way to Patrick Bridge. They were not under any control and were carrying bundles and cases. While I was in Mangan's shop searching it, one of the sentries I had posted, reported to me that one or two members of the Auxiliary Police had attempted to force him and enter the shop.

6th witness was an RE Lieutenant on curfew duty and in charge of the mobile searchlight."About 22.30 I was in the Court House in Workington St, when I saw four Auxiliary Police cross the road, and a few minutes later I noticed a fire burning behind the court house. I went to the scene of the fire and I noticed that a bicycle shop had been broken into and a pile of bicycles burning in the middle of the road. There was no one in sight. At about 23.30 I noticed two Auxiliary police on the Grand Parade carrying bundles and at 01.00 I saw a drunken Auxiliary police outside the GPO."

7th witness was a Lt on Curfew duty wit the South Staffs. "Shortly after 22.00 I noticed a fire which had recently been started in Grant's shop. An Auxiliary policemen came out through an opening in the shop front. He waved his rifle at us and cheered and immediately afterwards I heard two shots go off. At about 02.00 I was in Patrick St and I saw a party of Auxiliary police attempting to break into a shop with rifle butts. I took measures to send them away"

8th witness was a Corporal in South Staffs " At about 04.00 I was in charge of a patrol. When I was in Patrick St I met a party of 4 Auxiliary police. One of them offered me some whiskey. I refused. He brandished his revolver and said to his companions "Shall I loose off one or two here" One of his companions replied "No we have loosed off enough in the back streets. There is an officer down the road and we shall get into trouble if we do. Afterwards I was ion duty near the GPO and I heard and Auxiliary policemen using filthy language to a woman"

9th Witness was a CSM in the Military Foot Police. At 20.30, while checking up on his own patrols, he came across a box of bombs left there by some Auxiliaries, and while he was there Auxiliaries came back for them. And at 2100 he was outside the Empress Place Police Barracks when about 15 Auxiliaries stopped outside and shouted to some RIC recruits near him "Come on down we are going to send the place up tonight", or words to that effect. Some of the Auxiliary Police were under the influence of drink and one at least was in civilian clothes.

10th Witness was a Sergeant in Military Foot Police. stated that at 21.15. "I saw a party of Auxiliary police advancing up King St in ?? marching order from the direction of Summer's Hill. They were shouting and discharging firearms at the same time. One of them came up to me and discharged two shots at me, but missed me and broke a plate glass window behind me. I said to him "Don't you recognise a soldier?" He replied "How the hell do I know who you are, nor do I care". The witness then collected together the women living in the street, and when he had done this one of the Auxiliaries came up to him and said " What the hell are you doing now?" I replied " I was trying to protect these females from this wild conduct" He replied "Take them to Bloody Hell, I shall shoot them as well as you" I got the women away safely"

11th witness, a sergeant in Military Foot Police, was at 19.30 a crowd of Auxiliary Police near the butchers shop in Ballyhooly Rd discharging firearms. 6 Auxiliaries then passed his house and fired a shot at him. 2 men in civilian cloths then set fire to number 32 at about 22.30 and the same two returned with a group of Auxiliaries to extinguish the fire.

12th witness was a L/Cpl in 2nd Hampshire Regt. and was an NCO in charge of one of the curfew patrols. Shortly after midnight he was at Cash's shop which had just been set on fire. " Inside the shop I saw several Auxiliary Police, they were looting the shop and at the same time they were feeding the flames by throwing card boxes onto them. I ordered them out One of them came up to me jokingly and said that they were trying to put the fire out. They refused to obey my orders ... at about this time an officer of the Auxiliary Police came up and said "Fall in no 1 Company of the Auxiliary Police" All the Auxiliaries fell in and marched off and took their loot with them in the direction of the GPO . The witness said he also saw RIC and civilians looting and under the influence of drink

13th witness was a sergeant in 2nd Hants Regt in command of the main gate guard. He stated at 20.30 a party of Auxiliaries marched out of the barracks in the direction of Dillons Cross, and that at 22.45 the same group returned, some under the influence of drink, and carrying dressing cases, overcoats, blankets and ladies underwear. From this time onwards until about 01.45 there were continually parties of Auxiliaries passing into the barracks and nearly every one was carrying something. At about 01.45 I received orders to stop any of the parties of Auxiliaries coming into the barracks"

14th witness wa a Lt in the RFA who was on duty in Cork City centre. At about 04.30 he implied that some RIC members started the fire there.

15th witness was a Private in RAMC who at 21.45 was in his ambulance at Dillons Cross. He saw some Auxiliaries take some meat from the Butchers Shop at Dillons Cross. They put it in his ambulance and threatened to shoot him unless he took the meat back to Barracks. They were under the influence of drink

16th witness was a Private in RASC who at 21.00 was with an ambulance at Dillons Cross treating wounded Auxiliary Police "I actually saw Auxiliary Police setting fire to houses" He goes on to give details of locations and events

17th witness was a QMS in South Staffs, who gave evidence of drunken civilians and drunken firemen

18th witness was a L/Sgt in 2nd Hants who was responsible for collating any absentees from regt at 22.00. There were no absentees at that hour.

19th witness was orderly sergeant of 2nd South Staffs. Reveille roll call showed only 1 man absent.

20th witness, an RE sergeant stated that 33 Coy RE were all present at tattoo roll call

21st witness , an RASC sergeant stated the the 1155 Coy RASC MT was present at tattoo roll call

22nd witness stated that 6th Armoured Car Coy was present at roll call at 22.30

In their conclusions the Court of Inquiry could not point the finger at any individual, but came to the opinion " that the outrages in Cork City were organised and carried out by the Auxiliary Police ....and that certain members of the RIC assisted them...and that no evidence has been produced to connect a soldier with any of these outrages but on the contrary the evidence indicates that the soldiers did their utmost to stop them"

As a result of this first inquiry which showed some Crown Forces to be responsible for the outrages in Cork, the decision was made by the government to hold a second Court of Inquiry. The C in C requested that a senior police officer should sit on the second Inquiry. The panel was composed of 3 military officers, one District Inspector of RIC and a legal advisor. It examined 38 witnesses - 5 RIC, 6 ADRIC, 9 civilians and 18 soldiers. Although summoned, the Lord Mayor of Cork did not attend the court.


Cork Burning