RIC Constable Ernest S. Watkins (aged 29) from Monmouth (Scart near Kildorrery)
Date of incident: 7 Aug. 1920
Sources: CE, 9, 11 Aug. 1920; CWN, 14 Aug. 1920; Thomas Barry’s WS 430, 7-9 (BMH); Seámus O’Mahony’s WS 730, 6-7 (BMH); David O’Callaghan’s WS 950, 8 (BMH).
‘The Irish Rebellion in the 6th Division Area’, Irish Sword, 27 (Spring 2010), 137; Abbott (2000), 110; Duane (2012), 146.
Note: Watkins was a member of a six-man police foot patrol ambushed by the IRA at Scart near Kildorrery shortly before noon on 7 August 1920. Participating were the IRA Flying Column attached to the Castletownroche Battalion of the Cork No. 2 Brigade and fourteen men from the Flying Column of the East Limerick Brigade column under Donnchadh O’Hannigan and Tadhg Crowley. The Volunteers wounded all six members of the RIC patrol, and Constable Watkins died of his wounds soon afterwards in Fermoy Military Hospital. Constable Watkins had been a soldier and an engineer prior to joining the Irish police. He had less than two months of service with the RIC after arriving from England. His body was returned to England for burial on 11 August 1920. See Abbott (2000), 110.
The IRA raiders at Scart were said to have numbered from thirty to forty altogether and to have fired from both sides of the road, wounding each of the constables in turn ‘until only one was left, when the raiders seized all the police equipment and decamped’. The reactions of local British forces were severe: ‘Some of the soldiers ran amok in Kildorrery last night [8 August], looting some houses and taking stockings, whisky, boots, etc.’ The RIC tried to stop the looting: ‘It should be said that members of the R.I.C. did everything they could to restrain the soldiers, some of whom took little notice. The inhabitants of the little town and district are terrified.’ See CE, 9 Aug. 1920. At about the same time in Castletownroche there were intensive searches by the military. ‘The people of the village are in a regular state of terror, and no person is safe on the streets or roads after nightfall, as the reports of shots are continually heard through the streets.’ See CE, 11 Aug. 1920.
The killing of Constable Watkins and the wounding of his five comrades reportedly led to the reprisal shooting of civilian Denis O’Donnell of Meadstown near Kildorrery on 23 November 1920. His death in turn became the reason for the IRA ambush of members of the Buffs/East Kent Regiment at Labbacallee on 26 November, when two British soldiers were killed and three others were wounded. These losses prompted yet another outbreak of troops at Fermoy. See Seámus O’Mahony’s WS 730, 6-7 (BMH).