The Auxiliary Police at Croke Park - 21 Nov 1920

In the afternoon of 21 Nov 1920, Crown Forces converged on Croke Park. There had been the morning news of the shooting in their houses of a number of British officers, RIC and civilians totaling 14 deaths. There were soldiers from Collinstown who were under independent command. In addition a force of about one hundred Black and Tans in dozen Crossley tenders from Phoenix Park who drove to Beggars Bush where they linked up with a smaller force of auxiliaries, riding in another six Crossleys, who fell in behind the RIC convoy. This amounts to about 50 T/Cadets

In addition, an unknown number of auxiliaries in plain clothes climbed onto the leading cars of the convoy, and sat among the Black and Tans. These men later explained that they came along for "identification purposes." Their own identity is uncertain, but a number of names have emerged. T/Cadet Knight was in the second car and T/Cadet Thomson in the 4th car. However David Leeson wrote to me . When I researched my article on this topic, I discovered that most of the witnesses to the military courts of inquiry were anonymous. Rather than refer to them as AA, AB, AC, or something like that, I decided to give them alphabetical pseudonyms--Anderson, Bartlett, Clarke, Daly, Evans, etc. I mentioned this procedure in the footnote on p. 56, and distinguished which names were pseudonyms and which were not in the tables on pp. 66-7. I mention this because the names I gave for the Temporary Cadets involved in the Croke Park shootings--Anderson, Knight, and Thompson--were all pseudonyms. To the best of my knowledge, these were not their actual names, and I have no idea what their actual identities were. Though I would speculate that they were members of the group of men from L Company who had been involved in the Mount Street shootout in the morning.

An auxiliary officer, company commander Major E L Mills, was in overall command of this mixed force. Another auxiliary, Major G V Dudley, was in command of the Black and Tans. Major Dudley sat in the lead car of the convoy, Major Mills was back in the thirteenth car at the head of the auxiliaries. The police left Beggars Bush at 3:20 p.m., headed for Croke Park. The route they took is uncertain, but a pedestrian saw them driving fast up Sackville Street (now O'Connell Street).

The evidence collected by the courts generally corroborates the version of the massacre given by the newspapers. Once the police convoy arrived at the Canal Bridge, it halted, and the men in the leading cars debussed. Major Dudley got out of the leading Crossley and directed six tenders of police to proceed up Jones' Road. While Major Dudley was directing traffic, the Black and Tans from the leading cars rushed down the passage to the Canal End gate, forced their way through the turnstiles onto the field, and started firing rapidly with rifles and revolvers.

Sergeant Clarke was riding in the box of the leading Crossley. "My men rushed through the gates and commenced firing," he told the Mater Hospital Court. "The people were told to put their hands up. On this being done firing ceased." His testimony to the Jervis Street Hospital Court was equally terse. "My men ran through the gate and at once opened fire, the order was given for everybody to hold their hands up on this being obeyed firing instantly ceased."

Only two men admitted shooting at the crowd. Both men were plainclothes auxiliaries, riding at the front of the convoy with the Black and Tans. Cadet Knight (not his real name) was in the second car, behind Major Dudley's. The cadet said a shot from inside the park hit the wall beside his head as he was climbing over the turnstiles. The auxiliary landed on his hands and feet inside the park and looked for the shooter. "I saw young men aged between 20 and 25 running stooping among the crowd, away from me between the fence and the wall. I pursued and discharged my revolver in their direction," he said. Having been fired at I used my own discretion in returning the fire. I fired at individual young men who were running away trying to conceal themselves in the crowd. I used a .450 revolver and service ammunition. I chased them across the ground nearly to the wall on the East side.

Cadet Thomson (not his real name) was in the fourth car and told a similar story. "On approaching the ground," he said, "the lorry pulled up and I heard two or three shots fired from the direction of the grandstand.". I heard an officer give an order to double into the field and take up positions. I ran down to the turnstiles where I had to be on duty for identification purposes. The turnstiles were locked, and we climbed through the openings. As we climbed through we were fired at. I returned the fire, firing 3 rounds at a party of men who I thought fired at us. I was armed with a .450 revolver. I saw a party of men running towards the crowd who were collected in a body near the gate. I was close to the fence round the playing field near the main gate. I heard someone say "The Military are coming." Almost immediately afterwards I saw three men in civilian clothes standing in the grandstand near the front: they fired several shots from revolvers into the air. There was a panic at once and I left the ground as quickly as I could over the railings in the North West corner of the ground. After I got over I heard shooting.

Major Mills was towards the back of the convoy in the thirteenth car. In his report, he wrote that "as no shots were coming from the football field and all the RIC constables seemed excited and out of hand, I rushed along and stopped the firing with the assistance of Major Fillery who was in the car with me. There was still firing going on in the football ground."

Major Dudley stopped the shooting inside the park. Constable Healy, DMP was standing on the bridge when the RIC arrived. "During the course of the firing," he said, "an Army officer came on the top of the bridge and said 'What is all the firing about? Stop that firing.' He ran down the passage leading into Croke Park. Then the firing stopped." Constable Patrick Harten, DMP was on the bridge with Healy, and he told a similar story. "I saw an officer of the Auxiliary Police at the bridge before the firing started," he said. "While the firing was on I saw him going down the passage. He was asking 'What is all the firing about'?" Inside the park, James Evans watched as Dudley got his men under control. I saw the Officer in charge. He was in Uniform, that is to say, an Officer's Khaki Uniform and a bonnet. He was not firing to the best of my belief. I did not see any men in this Uniform firing. The Officer gave orders for the firing to cease. Dudley's own testimony was . "After getting the six cars away," he said, "I went into the grounds and told everyone within hearing to put their hands up and keep still. From that time there was no shooting from my side of the ground."

The inquiry concluded that shooting lasted only ninety seconds. The police fired 114 rounds of rifle ammunition, and an unknown amount of revolver ammunition as well. In all fourteen civilians died

 

Incidents