RIC Constable Francis L. Shortall

RIC Constable Francis L. Shortall (aged 38) from County Tipperary (Parnell Bridge, Cork city)

Date of incident: 4 Jan. 1921

Sources: II, 5, 6, 8 Jan., 26 Feb. 1921; FJ, 5 Jan. 1921; CC, 8 Jan. 1921; Military Inquests, WO 35/159A/21 (TNA); RIC County Inspector’s Monthly Report, Cork City and East Riding, Jan. 1921 (CO 904/114, TNA); Weekly Summary of Outrages against the Police (CO 904/148-50, TNA); Commandant P. J. Murphy’s WS 869, 23 (BMH); Michael Walsh’s WS 1521, 12-13 (BMH); Michael Murphy’s WS 1547, 34-35 (BMH); Seán O’Connell’s WS 1706, 9-10 (BMH); Patrick Collins’s WS 1707, 9-10 (BMH); Abbott (2000), 180-81; Kautt (2010), 165.


Note: At about 7 o’clock on the night of 4 January 1921, a party of ten policemen were crossing Parnell Bridge on their way to Union Quay Barracks, ‘the chief police station in the city’, when a bomb was thrown into their midst. The ambushers followed up the bomb with rifle and machine-gun fire. Six of the ten policemen were wounded, and two of the six later died—one (Shortall) on 7 January at the Cork Military Hospital and the other (Johnston) on 20 January. According to Abbott, ‘five civilians were also injured by bullets and bomb splinters caused by the IRA, who had made their attack from the ruins of a public house’. Constable Shortall had a total of eleven years of service with the RIC before and after the First World War. He had previously been a soldier in the Great War, rising to the rank of captain in the Irish Guards. With his knowledge of the Irish, French, and German languages, he had served as a military interpreter. He had rejoined the RIC in February 1919 after being demobilised. See Weekly Summary of Outrages against the Police (CO 904/148-50, TNA); Abbott (2000), 180-81.   

A newspaper reporter described the episode and its aftermath: ‘The attack was opened . . . by throwing bombs, and the shrapnel inflicted severe injuries on some of the police. Another bomb explosion took place almost immediately. The comrades of the injured men soon recovered from the surprise of their attack and engaged with their assailants, who were apparently near the ruins of the Carnegie Library garden and City Hall.’ Reprisals were expected: ‘The people of the locality spent a night of terror, and many of them did not retire to bed at all. Yesterday shopkeepers at Anglesea St and Union Quay were removing their property and effects.’ This episode was said to be ‘the third attack of the kind on a body of the crown forces within the city’. See II, 6 Jan. 1921.

Former Volunteer Michael Walsh of the Second Battalion of the Cork No. 1 Brigade recalled the violent rout: ‘About 15 of our men were in position near Parnell Bridge and opposite Union Quay. We were armed with revolvers, grenades, and a Lewis gun. I was armed with a revolver and was stationed near Parnell Bridge. The Tans duly made their appearance at the time expected, viz., 7 p.m., and as they approached the bridge, we opened fire on them with all we had. They were taken completely by surprise, and those not killed or wounded ran helter-skelter back to Union Quay Barracks, firing wildly from rifles as they ran. They were machine-gunned all the way up Union Quay by a Volunteer named Healy, who operated our Lewis gun on the occasion and who was, incidentally, an ex-British army gunner. . . . Amongst those who took part in the attack were Commandant Mick Murphy (in charge), Donal O’Donoghue, Denis Hegarty, Pat Collins, William Aherne, Tadhg Sullivan, and . . . Healy.’ See Michael Walsh’s WS 1521, 12-13 (BMH).

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