Sunday, 5 July 2020

DI Percival Lea-Wilson

Percival Lea Wilson was appointed a Cadet in the Royal Irish Constabulary in July 1910

In the 1911 census, he has become a District Inspector 3rd Class and is stationed in Galway:

District Inspector Percival (Perceval in many documents) Lea Wilson appears to have been commissioned as a Captain in the Royal Irish Regiment in January 1916 without having to go through the steps of 2nd Lieutenant and then Lieutenant :

There are references to him having been in France and returning to Ireland as a result of wounds. I've not seen a Medal Index Card yet to confirm that he set foot in France before the Easter Rising.

Following the Easter Rising, Captain Percival Lea-Wilson, 3rd Battalion Royal Irish Regiment eventually went to France in 1917. Again, no Medal Index Card yet to confirm this.

His performance as a field officer appears to have been poor and he was sacked by this battalion Commanding Officer according to the records seen by Eithne Hand and discussed on the RTE History Show:

He returned to the RIC Depot in Dublin as a District Inspector on the 17th July 1917 and is assigned to Gorey District in County Wexford from the 1st August 1917.

While he does get involved in some work to stem Sinn Fein activities during the November 1918 election campaign, he seems to have been unmolested by Michael Collins and the IRA. Some stories suggest that Collins tracked Lea-Wilson but it is difficult to understand how he would have done so.

In February 1921, members of the Irish Volunteers at The Ballagh, County Wexford conducted a raid for arms. The raid went wrong and a 60 year old woman, Mrs Ellen Morris (nee Murphy) was shot and killed :

As this falls in DI Lea-Wilson's district, he is active in the investigation and subsequent arrest of those involved.

Elaborate measures are taken to imprison the suspects and to transport them to and from the court. The British Army and Royal Navy were involved in the operations.

At some point, it appears that the Irish Volunteers in Enniscorthy decided that DI Lea-Wilson was to be shot. This is mentioned in the Witness Statement of Thomas Doyle, Weafer Street, Enniscorthy :

Thomas Doyle Witness Statement, page 62

At some point, I suspect the Enniscorthy Volunteers spoke to GHQ and someone made the connection between DI Lea-Wilson in Gorey and Captain Lea-Wilson from the Easter Rising and made the decision to use men from The Squad to assassinate DI Lea-Wilson.

Of the Irish Volunteers in the raid on Mrs Morris's, all were originally charged with Murder. Later, 18year old John Lacey was charged with manslaughter while the others involved were charged with Unlawful Assembly.

The sentences appear to be quite light for a murder at the time (Kevin Barry was hung in November 1920 for an arms raid that went wrong)

Sunday, 28 June 2020

Mutiny 1920

As we reach the 100th anniversary of the Connaught Rangers mutiny, it's worth remembering that this was not the only mutiny or issue to affect Britain and the British and Imperial forces during WW1 and in the immediate aftermath.

The Empire was riddled with racial prejudice, wages during WW1 increased but Police and military lagged behind, post war unemployment skyrocketed while few "Homes fit for Heroes" were materialising, and for many the demobilization process was slow while the Empire dabbled in Russia, Turkey, Silesia, Iraq, Palestine etc after the end of WW1 and tried to contain the independence movements in Ireland and India. The revolution in Russia, the near civil war in Germany and the race riots in America were also part of the background.

Singapore saw Indian troops mutiny in February 1915. There are references to similar mutinies in Rangoon, Burma but clear information is hard to come by. 103th Baluchees, 24th Punjabi and 22nd Pahari seem to get mentions but little else seems available. Empire troops were certainly in action in Burma fighting against Kachin rebels in early 1915.

In December 1915, after serving in France, over 400 Indian troops of the 15th Lancers were arrested in Basra for refusing to fight the Turks, fellow Muslims.

Shoreham saw mutinies in July 1917, November 1918 and January 1919.

Etaples saw soldiers mutiny in September 1917. Conditions and the brutality of the camp regime the core issues.

Early1918 saw a mutiny of the Machine Gun Corps based at Pirbright.

August 1918 saw a Police strike in London following the dismissal of PC Thomas Thiel for trying to improve pay and conditions

In September 1918, white soldiers at the military hospital at Belmont Street in Liverpool attacked 50 black soldiers in the hospital. A number of white soldiers came to the aid of the black soldiers. Several of the black soldiers had amputated limbs.

January 1919 saw race riots with Trade Unionists and ex-service personnel targeting black and colonial sailors in what has been referred to as Red Clydeside.

January 1919 also saw members of the RAF mutiny at RAF Biggin Hill. 20000 troops are also reported to have mutinied in Southampton. The mutiny was put down by "father of the RAF" Trenchard.

Folkestone saw several thousand troops mutiny in early 1919. The mutiny was then supported by troops in Dover.

North Wales saw Canadian troops rioting at Kinmel Parl in March 1919. delays in demobilization, poor conditions, poor rations and being used as forced labour. 3 mutineers/bystanders were killed as well as two guards.

Sapper William Tarasevich

Private David Gillan

Private William Haney

Cpl Joseph Young

Gunner John Hickman

In February 1919, the British Government started repatriation of black and arabs living in the United Kingdom. This intensified after the June 1919 race riots.

May 1919 saw 9000 reservists being recalled owing to industrial unrest in England and the growing unrest in Ireland. The soldiers demonstrate their "enthusiasm" by rioting.

In June 1919,Canadian troops rioted in Epsom, leaving one policeman dead - 51 year old Station Sergeant Thomas Green.

Victory/Peace Parades in July 1919 saw ex-servicemen riot in Luton and Swindon and a boycott by many ex-service personnel in Dublin.

Summer 1919 saw troops mutiny in Kantara, Egypt.

August 1919 saw a Police strike that had generally limited support but saw rioting in Liverpool. All the Police who took part in the strike were dismissed and their pensions lost.

June 1919 had seen a race riot in Liverpool in which Bermudan Charles Wotten was murdered. He was thrown into the dock and the crowd threw rocks and called for him to drown.

Charles Wotten's Royal Navy record describes him as "A Man of Color".

Cardiff saw race riots in September 1919, with troops joining in the lynch mobs

One that is particularly disturbing is the December 1918 mutiny by troops of the British West Indies Regiment in Taranto, Italy. The Base Commander dismissed legitimate complaints from soldiers in the regiment with the racist comment

"The men were only niggers… no such treatment should ever have been promised them …they were better fed and treated than any nigger had a right to expect…"

Private Samuel Pinnock was killed during the mutiny and is buried in Taranto,-samuel/

In Ireland, the actions of the Black and Tans and Auxies did little to "restore law and order", with the RIC quite able lend support to murdering ex-British soldiers on a sectarian basis. "Murders embellished with all the glory of authority" as Devlin referred to the British death squads operating in Ireland just weeks before the Connaught Ranger mutiny.

Just over a year before the Connaught Rangers mutiny, troops fired on a peaceful crowd on Indian civilians - the Jallianwala Bagh/Amritsar Massacre.

Captain Patrick Heenan, an officer in the Indian Army, was arrested as the British fought the Japanese in WW1. He was labelled a Sinn Feiner and charged with spying for the Japanese. As the Japanese captured Singapore, Heenan was executed by the prison warders and his body dumped in the docks. He was deemed to be Irish but does not seem to have ever been to Ireland.,-patrick-stanley-vaughan/

Thursday, 11 June 2020

Sixpence well spent

One of the few family items I have, passed to me by my Gt Aunt Mollie (Mary Anne) Niland

There's a nice film clip on the RTE Archives site advertising the production of the RTV Guide and a few clips re the Insurrection series.


OK, the Rolls Royce armoured cars didn't arrived till after the Rising was over but it makes for interesting gun fire :

Who's that behind Pearse?

and also in the RTE Stills Library (search for Insurrection) :

Podcasts and Zoom sessions for the Lock Down

Two podcasts worth tuning into during lock down and beyond :

Donal Fallon's Three Castles Burning is available from a variety of Podcast services. Check the Come Here to Me website and choose your preferred option :

Lorcan Collins has stopped walking around Dublin at the moment but is still as engaging with his Revolutionary Ireland podcast :


Meanwhile, Facebook group Trasna na Tire  has been organizing a great range of presentations online via Zoom and then making the presentation available on their YouTube channel.

The group also has a website.

Off the usual track, the Western Front Association has a number of podcasts relating to Ireland e.g. The Defence of Trinity College during the Easter Rising and  an episode re Tom Barry is planned.

Tuesday, 14 April 2020

Easter Rising and Zeppelin Raids

At noon on the 24th April 1916, ships of the German Navy set out to attack the east coast of England.

At the same time, Zeppelins of the German Navy set off to attack London and to support the above mentioned ships. 3 Zeppelins were held in support to do reconnaissance work for the ships

The Zeppelins that flew over England were :

L16 commanded by Oberleutnant zur See Werner Peterson

L13 commanded by Leutnant Heinrich Mathy

L21 commanded by Kapitän Leutnant der Reserve Max Dietrich

L11 commanded by Korvetten Kapitan Victor Schutze

L17 commanded by Kapitan Leutnant Herbert Ehrlich

L23 commanded by Kapitän Leutnant Otto von Schubert

The other Zeppelins are believed to be :

L6 commanded by Kapitan Leuntnant Hermann Kraushaar(?)

L20 commanded by Kapitan Leuntnant Franz Stabbert (?)

L7 commanded by Kapitan Leutnant Hempel covered the withdrawal of SMS Seydlitz after it struck a mine.

The Zeppelin base was in Tonder, what is now modern Denmark but which in WW1 was part of Germany :

The following link is to a 1927 document outlining the raid on the English coast and some of the actions that took place :

Other Resources :
Ian Castle runs an interesting website and Facebook page re Zeppelin raids on the United Kingdom :

Ian has published on the subject of Zeppelins and their raids on the UK :

The First Blitz in 100 Objects

The Forgotten Blitz

The First Blitz : Bombing London in the First World War

Zoom and the Easter Rising - an online session with Marcus Howard and Derek Molyneaux

Zoom is proving an interesting tool during the Covid-19 lockdown.

Last night film maker Marcus Howard had the job of steering author Derek Molyneaux on task talking about the Easter Rising. What a great session these two put together. That did not feel like an hour - flew by.

The team at Trasne ne Tire have made a recording of the session available online :

Enjoy :-)

Sunday, 24 November 2019

Three Castles Burning Podcast

A new Podcast on the block worth a listen is the Three Burning Castles (the symbol of Dublin) podcast by Donal Fallon.

First episode is out now and deals with the incident at Bachelors Walk just before the outbreak of WW1 :

Donal's website, Come Here to me, is always worth a visit for some interesting takes on life and history in Dublin :

Guest presenter on Episode 1 is Lorcan Collins, author and lead guide on the highly recommended 1916 Rebellion Walking Tour