RIC Constable John E. Bunce from County Kerry (Castlelack near Bandon)
Date of incident: 29 April 1921
Sources: CE, 2, 5 May 1921; CCE, 7, 14 May 1921; Military Inquests, WO 35/147A/7 (TNA); WS 560 of James O’Mahony et al., 20 (BMH); Abbott (2000), 227, 315.
Note: Constable Bunce was shot on 29 April 1921 in the right thigh ‘by the accidental discharge of his rifle while on patrol duty with other policemen in a lorry. . . . It appears a trench was encountered on a country road, and the men dismounted. The constable was sitting on a fence, and in pulling his rifle towards him, the trigger . . . caught in a briar, and a shot was discharged.’ CE, 2 May 1921. He died of his wounds on 2 May at Cork Military Hospital.
This account was not fully confirmed at a subsequent military court of inquiry held at Victoria Barracks in Cork city on 4 May. There ‘a police sergeant stated that on the evening of 29th April, at 9.45, he was travelling with a D.I. [District Inspector], a sergeant, and 9 men in two Crossley tenders. When they passed Castlelack National School, about five miles from Bandon, they came across a trench in the road. It was about ten feet wide. They repaired the trench, the working party placing their rifles against the fence. Constable Bunce was ordered to take up outpost duty. Witness saw him get up on the bank and heard a shot. He looked and saw Constable Bunce slipping down off the bank. One of the men from the car went up to him, and witness also went over to him and found he had been shot with a rifle. He saw the D.I. rendering first aid. . . . On examination it was found that one of the rifles which was against the bank had been discharged.’ Constable Bunce, who was fatally wounded in both legs, was heard to say, ‘What are my wife and kiddies going to do now?’ The court found that Bunce had died ‘from shock and hemorrhage following gunshot wounds caused by the accidental discharge of a rifle’. See CCE, 7 May 1921. The account in Abbott is mistaken—a rare error for Abbott.