Private Gordon John Squibb (aged 17) of the 2nd Battalion, Hampshire Regiment (Barrack Street, Cork city)
Date of incident: 8 Oct. 1920
Sources: CE, 9, 11 Oct. 1920; FJ, 9 Oct. 1920; CCE, 9 Oct. 1920; IT, 9 Oct. 1920; CC, 11 Oct. 1920, 11 Jan. 1921; II, 14 Oct. 1920; CWN, 25 Dec. 1920; Cornelius O’Regan’s WS 1200, 8 (BMH); Michael Murphy’s WS 1547, 28-29 (BMH); William Barry’s WS 1708, 4-5 (BMH); ‘The Irish Rebellion in the 6th Division Area’, Irish Sword, 27 (Spring 2010), 139; Commonwealth War Graves Commission; http:www.cairogang.com/soldiers-killed/list-1921.html; http://www.cairogang.com/soldiers-killed/squibb/squibb.html (accessed 13 Jan. 2014); irishmedals.org (accessed 28 July 2014).
Note: Squibb died at the hands of city Volunteers in an ambush. Shortly before 9 o’clock on the morning of 8 October 1920, Cork city Volunteers staged a daring attack on a military lorry in Barrack Street. According to a British military account, the lorry ‘found its progess blocked by a wagon drawn across the road. As it came to a standstill, four bombs were hurled at the lorry, two of which exploded in it. Four soldiers were hit, one of them [Private Squibb] dying almost immediately.’ See II, 9 Oct. 1920. Besides lobbing bombs into the lorry with deadly effect, Volunteers opened fire on the soldiers from an ‘old ruined building’ on the corner of Cove Street and Barrack Street. ‘One soldier was killed and three wounded. Three men and a girl received bomb or bullet wounds. One of the victims was not detained, but the other cases are serious’, claimed a Cork Examiner reporter. At the military inquiry a day later, a soldier testified that thirty to forty Volunteers had been involved in the attack, some of whom had thrown bombs while others had fired at the troops; all the raiders seemed to be armed with revolvers. Private Squibb, who suffered many wounds, might have tried to throw an IRA bomb out of the lorry; one of his hands was blown off. See CE, 9 Oct. 1920. His body was removed to his home at Niton on the Isle of Wight for burial; he was interred in the churchyard of the Baptist chapel there. Volunteer Joseph Murphy was later found guilty of this attack by a general court-martial and was sentenced to death. See CC, 11 Jan. 1921.
City Volunteer leader Michael Murphy, commandant of the Second Battalion of the Cork No. 1 Brigade and O/C of the brigade’s Active Service Unit, organised the ambush and later described it in his BMH witness statement: ‘I, with Tadhg Sullivan, had taken up position at a corner on the junction of Barrack St and Cove St, where there is a steep incline which we knew would slow down the [British military] lorry when it reached that particular point. At about a quarter to nine [a.m.] the lorry came into view. When it reached our position and had begun to slow down as we expected, I saw that it contained three soldiers in the driver’s “cab” and 8 to 10 inside the open lorry. I threw the first grenade, which hopped off the side of the lorry and exploded, wounding O’Sullivan [sic] and myself, but not seriously. O’Sullivan and I then hurled grenades into the “cab,” killing a Private Jones [a mistake for Squibb]. Our third grenade got into the back of the lorry, causing casualties amongst the soldiers there. The lorry continued on up the hill and was met by a volley from our revolver-men [about twenty] stationed further up the road. Those of the soldiers who were not wounded now jumped out of the lorry and took refuge in nearby houses. The scrap lasted about fifteen minutes, when I ordered our lads to break it off due to our lack of ammunition.’ The intelligence that alerted Murphy and his men to the scheduled movements of this lorry came from an IRA spy named Conroy who worked as a clerk in the office of British military intelligence at Victoria Barracks in Cork. ‘On many occasions’, recalled Murphy, ‘Conroy had passed us on information of very great value.’ See Michael Murphy’s WS 1547, 28-29 (BMH).
There was an almost immediate British reprisal. In the early hours of the following morning, a partly successful effort was made to destroy the City Hall in Cork by ‘bombs, shots, and fire’. The western portion of the building was badly damaged, and even the eastern portion ‘suffered somewhat’. Completely destroyed were the offices of the Public Health Department, the Sanitary Officers’ Department, and the Waterworks Department. The Cork Examiner reported: ‘A resident in the locality states that he was awakened about 4 o’clock by an explosion. He heard a second explosion about five minutes later, quickly followed by a third, and a fourth a few minutes afterwards. . . . After the fourth explosion he saw the western portion of the building burst into flames.’ The Dublin Castle version of this episode was very different: ‘There is no information as to who were the perpetrators, but it is believed that it was due to the rumour that the military were going to take over the City Hall. It is thought it was an incendiary fire to prevent this.’ See CE, 11 Oct. 1920.