RIC District Inspector Colonel Francis William Crake


RIC District Inspector Colonel Francis William Crake (aged 27) from Newcastle-on-Tyne (Kilmichael ambush)

Date of incident: 28 Nov. 1920

Sources: CE, 30 Nov., 1, 3 Dec. 1920; II, 30 Nov., 6 Dec. 1920; CCE, 4 Dec. 1920; Military Inquests, WO 35/152/1 (TNA); Patrick O’Brien’s WS 812, 14-17 (BMH); Timothy Keohane’s WS 1295, 5-7 (BMH); Edward Young’s WS 1402, 13-16 (BMH); Barry (1949, 1989), 36-51; Deasy (1973), 169-76; Hart (1998), 21-38; Abbott (2000), 156-63; Kautt (2010), 99-118; Leeson (2011), 101, 129; Sheehan (2011), 14, 30, 121, 146; Morrison (2012), 160-72; Townshend (2013), 210-15; Murphy (2014), 65-156; irishmedals.org (accessed 28 July 2014); http://www.theauxiliaries.com/men-alphabetical/men-c/crake/crake.html (accessed 27 Sept. 2015); http://theauxiliaries.com/companies/c-coy/c-coy.html (accessed 28 April 2016). 


Note: A native of Northumberland, Colonel Crake was the leader of the patrol and one of eight men with considerable combat experience (the others being Barnes, Bradshaw, Forde, Jones, Pearson, Wainright, and Webster), but he appears to have reacted too slowly to the ambush and fell badly for Tom Barry’s ruse of standing in the road wearing a military overcoat. In contrast the IRA column had prepared carefully, selecting advantageous positions and carefully loopholing the walls on either side of the road. Fortunately for the attackers (to judge from how the bodies of the fallen appeared on a map constructed in the aftermath of the ambush), four of the five senior members of the patrol were surprised, stunned, and annihilated in the initial attack on the first tender, thus considerably reducing the senior leadership pool within the patrol thereafter. The second tender had only Captain Pallester as a senior leader. Despite their fearsome reputation, most members of the patrol had limited combat experience, and this weakness was fully exposed in the ambush. Cadets Bayley, Gleave, Guthrie, and Taylor, for example, who had served with the Royal Flying Corps, had very little combat experience on land. See Murphy (2014), 14, 41, 153, 191-93. Crake himself was one of the five senior members of the party, of whom four appear to have been on the first tender and only one on the second. Thus most of the leaders were killed in the first five minutes of the engagement; they were ill prepared—duped by Barry’s ruse and slow in response.


Crake had joined the ADRIC on 14 August 1920. He had previously served as a captain in the Hampshire Regiment. Crake, ‘who was commander of the patrol wiped out, was interred at Elwick Cemetery, Newcastle. The service in St. Matthew’s Church was attended by the Lord Mayor. A great gathering attended the funeral. A wreath from C Company of the Auxiliary Div., R.I.C., bore the inscription: “To the memory of a brave comrade who gave up his life for our cause.”’ See II, 6 Dec. 1920.


The formal commander of C Company of the ADRIC at the time of the Kilmichael ambush was the former British-army colonel Barton Smith, who had been posted to Macroom on 27 July 1920. He committed suicide early in 1922 (on 4 February of that year), when his dead body was found on Clapham Common in London. He had resigned from the ADRIC about a year earlier. See Abbott (2000), 163; http://theauxiliaries.com/companies/c-coy/c-coy.html (accessed 28 April 2016).  

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