Private Joseph Young (aged 26) of the 17th Battalion, Royal Scots Regiment, transferred to the Labour Corps (Queenstown/Cobh)
Date of incident: 25 Aug. 1920
Sources: CC, 26 Aug. 1920; II, 26 Aug., 7 Oct. 1920, 18 Jan. 1921; CE, 27 Aug., 8 Oct. 1920; CWN, 4 Sept. 1920; Executions by IRA in 1920 (Military Archives, A/0535); Michael J. Burke’s WS 1424, 17-20 (BMH); Sheehan (2011), 119; Commonwealth War Graves Commission;
Note: The Cobh Volunteer Company launched a dangerous raid for arms against a party of British soldiers who were dismantling a military hut near a disused quarry in Cobh. Young, a sentry guarding the soldiers, was shot three times and mortally wounded when he resisted IRA orders to put his hands up. Two other members of the Cameron Highlanders were also wounded in this attack. Young was taken to the Cobh Miltary Hospital: ‘An eminent military surgeon visited the Military Hospital to examine the patient. Two bullets have been extracted from near the heart, but a third remains in the lung, and there is profuse bleeding. It is not thought that he can recover, so grievous are his wounds.’ He did not survive and left a wife and child in Edinburgh. See CE, 27 Aug. 1920. Private Young was buried in Eastwood Cemetery in Glasgow.
The organiser of this successful attack (twelve rifles were captured), Michael Burke, the captain of the Cobh Volunteer Company, later remarked: ‘A significant feature of the occurrence was that none of our lads was arrested and charged with having taken part, notwithstanding the fact that a large number of children coming from school witnessed what was happening and undoubtedly recognised every man who was in it, as they were all local men. The soldiers in the quarry field became completely demoralised. After the attack some of them were discovered a half mile from the scene, running in the opposite direction to their barracks.’ The Volunteers braved great risks in undertaking this seizure of British weapons: ‘The location was within fifty yards of the Admiralty House, which always had a strong garrison of marines; a hundred yards away was the R.I.C. barracks with a garrison of about thirty-five, and about half a mile to the north were Belmont Huts, a camp which housed a battalion of the Cameron Highlanders.’
The attack had serious repercussions: ‘The military came out that night [in Cobh], broke in doors and windows of shops with trenching tools, and fired shots indiscriminately all over the town to terrify the people. Some time later [on 29 May 1921], they came on John O’Connell, blacksmith and owner of the forge at the quarry. The officer in charge of the military party recognised O’Connell—a man of sixty years of age—walked over to him, drew his revolver, and shot poor O’Connell dead.’ A few of the IRA raiders had concealed themselves in O’Connell’s forge just before the raid. See Michael J. Burke’s WS 1424, 19-20 (BMH). See also the entry for blacksmith John O’Connell under his date of death on 29 May 1921.