Gunner Robert Charles Cambridge (aged 19) of the Royal Field Artillery (Leary’s Cross near Castlelyons)
Date of incident: 10 Dec. 1920
Sources: CE, 11, 13 Dec. 1920; II, 13 Dec. 1920; CWN, 18 Dec. 1920; RIC County Inspector’s Monthly Report, Cork City and East Riding, Dec. 1920 (CO 904/113, TNA); George Power’s WS 451, 14-15 (BMH); Daniel Daly’s WS 743, 7-12 (BMH); Con Leddy’s WS 756, 11-12 (BMH); Laurence Condon’s WS 859, 10 (BMH); William Buckley’s WS 1009, 9-12 (BMH); James Brennock’s WS 1113, 10-11 (BMH); O’Donoghue (1954, 1986), 110; P. Barry (2003), 161; ‘The Irish Rebellion in the 6th Division Area’, Irish Sword, 27 (Spring 2010), 140; Commonwealth War Graves Commission; http://www.cairogang.com/soldiers-killed/list-1921.html; http://www.cairogang.com/soldiers-killed/cambridge/cambridge.html (accessed 1 Aug. 2014).
Note: Volunteers belonging to the newly formed Flying Column of the Fermoy Battalion ambushed a military party on 10 December 1920 at Leary’s Cross near Castlelyons in the Fermoy district. The officer in charge and three privates were wounded, and one of the latter, Gunner Robert Cambridge of the Royal Field Artillery, soon died of his wounds at the Fermoy Military Hospital. The IRA attackers ‘captured all the arms, ammunition, and equipment of the ambushed party’. Suffering no casualties themselves, ‘they made prisoners of some of the soldiers, but having disarmed their prisoners, the attacking party then released them’. In a set of reprisals British forces from Fermoy subjected the residents of the village of Rathcormac to a night of terror on 11-12 December. The crown forces set several houses in Rathcormac on fire: ‘As far as can be learned, about five or six houses in the village were burned, and it seems there were others in the country districts round about.’ The military lorries had arrived in Rathcormac at about 8 p.m. on 11 December, and they did not leave until about 5 a.m. the following morning. See CE, 13 Dec. 1920.
The Volunteers who staged this ambush had expected that British reprisals would come in Fermoy, but when nothing happened there, ‘the column moved on to Daly’s and Lawton’s, Gurteen, while the shotgun men from the local companies returned home—those from Castlelyons to find that a party of Auxiliaries, Tans, and military from Fermoy had burned Coleman’s, Bridesbridge, Cotter’s and Mahoney’s, Ballyneila [Ballynella], and Daly’s, Hollyhill. They also set fire to Mulvey’s, Rathcormac, which was partly burned. When these burnings took place, the column and shotgun men were on the other side of the hill and were cut off from a view of the area in which the reprisals took place. The column only learned of the enemy activities when they returned to Daly’s, Ardra, Castlelyons, next day.’ See William Buckley’s WS 1009, 12 (BMH).
The leaders of the IRA column in this attack were Seán O’Mahony and Paddy Egan. The other participants included Dan Daly and Jim Brennock (Rathcormac); William Buckley, David Kent, M. Mansfield, and Dan Cronin (Castlelyons); and P. Egan, J. Egan, and Martin Condon (Bartlemy).
Volunteer Dan Daly was eventually captured and charged with the murder of Gunner Cambridge. While he was waiting to be court-martialed on this charge, he escaped from custody on the evening of 3 March 1921 along with fellow Volunteer Paddy Condon (charged with the same offence but completely innocent), with negative consequences for some of their British captors. Daly was able with difficulty to reconnect with the Fermoy Battalion column: ‘On contacting the column, I found that my former cell-mate Paddy Condon had got there in front of me and was sleeping peacefully. I could write a book on that particular night, for I had so many trying experiences that I would not wish to my greatest enemy. I suppose, however, “All’s well that ends well.” It may be of interest to record the aftermath of my escape. I heard on very good authority that the morning following my escape, instructions had been received from Major General Strickland ordering a drumhead courtmartial for me, which of course would have written “Finis” to my career within twenty-four hours; therefore, I felt my escape was providential. All members of the guard on duty that night were punished, and the N.C.O. i/c [in charge] — a Sergeant Farmer—who was a very decent chap, received a term of imprisonment.’ See Daniel Daly’s WS 743, 12 (BMH). Gunner Cambridge was buried in Kingston-upon-Thames Cemetery in south-west London.