RIC Auxiliary Cadet Bertram Vivian Archer Agnew

RIC Auxiliary Cadet Bertram Vivian Archer Agnew (aged 24) from Lancashire (The Rea, near Cork city)

Date of incident: 16 Nov. 1920 (abducted at Emmet Place in Cork, executed, and disappeared as intelligence officer by IRA)

Sources: II, 23 Nov. 1920; IT, 22 Aug. 1921; CC, 5, 20 Nov. 1921; CCE, 12 Nov. 1921; HO 184/50 (TNA); British Forces Missing (Military Archives, A/0909); Interview with Michael (Mick) Murphy, Ernie O’Malley Notebooks, P17b/112 (UCDA); WS 558 of Mark Wickham et al., 3 (BMH); Fitzgerald (1977, 2005), 157; Abbott (2000), 311, 313; Borgonovo (2007), 21; McCall (2010), 158; Murphy (2010), 222; http://www.theauxiliaries.com/men-alphabetical/men-a/agnew/agnew.htmlhttp://www.theauxiliaries.com/men-alphabetical/men-m/mitchell-lr/mitchell.htmlhttp://www.theauxiliaries.com/men-alphabetical/men-c/cafferata-ro/diary/cafferata-diary.html (accessed 27 Sept. 2015); http://theauxiliaries.com/companies/c-coy/c-coy.html (accessed 28 April 2016).   


Note: Two officers of the RIC Auxiliary Division (ADRIC) stationed at Macroom Castle disappeared on 16 November 1920 after they had gone to Cork city on the previous day in a car and stayed overnight at the Imperial Hotel on the South Mall. They were Cadets Bertram Agnew and Lionel Mitchell. See CCE, 12 Nov. 1921. Crown forces visited several garages in the city to see if they could trace a certain car, but without success. In particular, a military search party visited the premises of Messrs Johnson and Perrott, Emmet Place, Cork, on Saturday afternoon, 20 November 1920, searching for ‘a certain motor car which had been comandeered and is still missing’. See CC, 20 Nov. 1920; II, 23 Nov. 1920.

Former city Volunteer leader Mick Murphy later told Ernie O’Malley that the Grey brothers had commandeered a Crossley tender from two Auxiliaries at the garage of Messrs Johnson and Perrott, where one of the Grey brothers was employed; the vehicle had been brought into the garage for servicing. According to Murphy’s account, the two Auxiliaries (surely Agnew and Mitchell) were taken prisoner, brought down to Knockraha, executed there, and buried at The Rea. Murphy claimed that the car chasis had been utilised to build the ‘River Lee’ armoured car used later by the anti-Treaty IRA. See Interview with Michael (Mick) Murphy, Ernie O’Malley Notebooks, P17b/112 (UCDA). The local historian James Fitzgerald has corroborated this story in his history of Knockraha. See Fitzgerald (1977, 2005), 157. A burnt-out car was later found ‘up an old farm track’ on the edge of a bog between Cork city and Macroom. See http://www.theauxiliaries.com/men-alphabetical/men-c/cafferata-ro/diary/cafferata-diary.html (accessed 27 Sept. 2015). RIC Auxiliary Cadets Agnew, Mitchell, and Guthrie all appeared on the ‘missing persons’ list published in the Irish Times of 22 August 1921. The date of their kidnapping was given there as 6 November 1920. Agnew and Mitchell, however, were abducted—at or near Emmet Place—on 16 November 1920 and were executed very soon afterwards at The Rea.

Four Volunteer officers of B Company (First Battalion) in the city—Mark Wickham, John J. Lucey, Patrick J. Deasy, and Maurice Fitzgerald—later recalled the infliction of death on two Auxiliaries from Macroom at about this time: ‘Armed evening patrols were provided for the capture of two Auxiliaries from Macroom who were in the city. The Auxiliaries w[e]re captured by other Volunteers on day duty on their return to the garage where they had left the car in which they had arrived in the city. They were removed to the outskirts of the city and executed.’ See WS 558 of Mark Wickham et al., 3 (BMH).

Abbott has stated explicitly that Agnew and Mitchell were both ‘intelligence officers who were travelling from Macroom to Cork when they were abducted, interrogated, and killed. The bodies were secretly buried by the IRA.’ See Abbott (2000), 311, 313. The Cork Constitution of 5 November 1921, however, reported in a compensation case relating to Agnew and Mitchell that they had left Macroom on 24-hour leave on 15 November 1920 and had traveled to Cork city. The next morning they were last seen leaving the Imperial Hotel in a car. Tom Barry, as liaison officer after the Truce, reported that these two ADRIC members had been court-martialed and executed by the IRA for carrying out spying duties in Cork. See CC, 5 Nov. 1921; CCE, 12 Nov. 1921; http://www.theauxiliaries.com/men-alphabetical/men-m/mitchell-lr/mitchell.html (accessed 27 Sept. 2015).

Agnew, a lieutenant in the Royal Naval Reserve, had joined the ADRIC less than two months earlier, on 17 or 18 August 1920. See Abbott (2000), 311. Agnew and fellow ADRIC Cadet Lionel Ralph Mitchell were both struck off the rolls of the ADRIC as missing from 15 November 1920. See HO 184/50 (TNA).

The RIC Auxiliary Cadet Raymond Oswald Cafferata kept a diary in which he recorded the disappearance of Agnew and Mitchell and the reactions of the officers and men stationed at Macroom Castle: ‘Two of the chaps left the Castle one Friday [12 November 1920—date possibly incorrect] for a weekend in Cork by car and that was the last we saw of them. They were popular chaps too—one had a D.C.M. and bar and the other an M.C. They were wearing mufti and both were carrying guns. On the following Tuesday [16 November] the village [Macroom] showed signs that they knew something. Few men were about and the women were furtive and mostly kept indoors. A couple of days later a rumour got round that they’d been held up on the Cork road by a crowd of I.R.A., kidnapped, and held prisoner. A week went past and patrols scoured the countryside, but no trace was found until quite by accident one of the patrols found the car in the edge of a bog up an old farm track. There was talk of reprisals—some chaps were for going out and beating up Macroom, others were [for] taking a few hostages into the Castle and keeping them until the two missing cadets were returned. The C.O. took swift action. He held a parade and spoke very firmly to all concerned. He would have no unofficial resprisals and he would deal harshly with anyone who tried to take any unofficial steps. Meanwhile he said he was taking all possible steps himself to obtain information as to the fate of the two missing cadets. He kept his word—in some amazing way he got into communication with the local I.R.A. commander and finally got the trurth. The two cadets had been executed—shot. We never found the bodies; to this day they lie buried in the bog somewhere between Macroom and Cork. Feelings ran high—a number of chaps were in a pretty dangerous mood, and for a few days it was touch and go, but the C. O. and good sense prevailed.’ See http://www.theauxiliaries.com/men-alphabetical/men-c/cafferata-ro/diary/cafferata-diary.html (accessed 27 Sept. 2015).

The Irish Revolution Project

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University College Cork, Cork,