Private William Henry Newman (aged 20) of the 51st Battalion, Sherwood Foresters Regiment (Queenstown/Cobh)
Date of incident: 28 Feb. 1920
Sources: CE, 1, 2 March 1920; FJ, 3 March 1920; Inquest Book, no. 2 (1897-1929), TNA; John P. O’Connell’s WS 1444, 5 (BMH); Seámus Fitzgerald’s WS 1737, 33 (BMH); Commonwealth War Graves Commission; Sheehan (2011), 117-18; irishmedals.org (accessed 28 July 2014); http://www.cairogang.com/soldiers-killed/list-1921.html; http://www.cairogang.com/soldiers-killed/newham/newman.html (accessed 1 Aug. 2014).
Note: Newman’s death was only the second British military death in County Cork since the start of 1919. A group of Volunteers ‘pounced’ on a military party of four soldiers at Rushbrooke gasworks near Queenstown and seized their arms and equipment. The soldiers were returning to their barracks at Queenstown after providing the guard for the movement of gelignite brought from the government depot at Rocky Island for use in blasting operations at Rushbrooke docks. In the attack Private Newman ‘was shot in the neck behind the ear’ and soon died of his wounds at the military hospital in Queenstown. He belonged to the Sherwood Foresters Regiment stationed at Belmont Hutments in Queenstown. See CE, 2 March 1920.
The captain of the Cobh Company of Volunteers, John P. O’Connell, presented the attack as a straightforward arms raid: ‘Late in the month of February 1920 it was observed that a small party of military, armed with rifles, were on duty at Rushbrooke dockyard, Cobh, where an extension of the dockyard was in course of construction. I decided to ambush this party on the return journey to Cobh and lay in wait at Bunker’s Hill, on the western outskirts of Cobh, with about six or eight lads from the Cobh company. We were armed with revolvers. At about noon a corporal and three soldiers came along on foot. We rushed them from our hiding place. I disarmed the corporal. Two of the privates were also disarmed. One soldier tried to run away and was shot and killed by one of our lads. His rifle also was taken.’ See John P. O’Connell’s WS 1444, 5 (BMH).
Bishop Robert Browne of Cloyne vehemently denounced Newman’s murder from the pulpit of his cathedral on 1 March 1920 at a weekly meeting of the Holy Family Confraternity. He declared that the ‘desperate men’ who had carried out the crime were ‘riveting our chains the faster, and laying up against themselves a terrible vengeance on the great accounting day for trampling under foot the law of God’. See CE, 2 March 1920. Private Newman was buried in Nottingham General Cemetery.