RIC Constable Frederick Sterland

RIC Constable Frederick Sterland (aged 23) from Birmingham (Cook Street, Cork city)

Date of incident: 8 May 1921 (executed as intelligence officer by IRA)

Sources: CE, 9, 10 May 1921; II, 9, 25 May 1921; Weekly Summary of Outrages against the Police (CO 904/148-50, TNA); Military Inquests, WO 35/159A/42 (TNA); Lieutenant-Colonel John M. McCarthy’s WS 883, Appendix, 11-12 (BMH); Michael Murphy’s WS 1547, 41-42 (BMH); Jerome Coughlan’s WS 1568, 13-14 (BMH); Laurence Neville’s WS 1639, 10-11 (BMH); Jeremiah Keating’s WS 1657, 9 (BMH); Robert C. Ahern’s WS 1676, 9-12 (BMH); William Barry’s WS 1708, 8-9 (BMH); Abbott (2000), 233; Leeson (2011), 206; Sheehan (2011), 75; irishmedals.org (accessed 28 July 2014).


Note: Sterland was fatally shot while off duty and as he was just about to enter the Rob Roy Hotel on Cook Street in Cork city by three men who had supposedly befriended him. His killers had earlier lured him to Desmond’s Hotel on Pembroke Street under a false show of friendship; there they had a few drinks with him. ‘After a time’, recalled city Volunteer leader Michael Murphy, ‘we suggested he should come with us over to the Rob Roy. He did so and was shot dead at the door of that hotel.’ Sheehan suggests that this was a case of ‘an abduction gone wrong’. The claim seems doubtful, as city Volunteers were quite eager to eliminate a policeman whom they considered ‘an able intelligence man brought over from England specially as a secret service agent for the British’. See Michael Murphy’s WS 1547, 41-42 (BMH). Jeremiah Keating, the intelligence officer of the Second Battalion of the Cork No. 1 Brigade, helped to stalk Sterland. The first attempt to kill him had gone awry, as British troops had surrounded the Cook Street area where an IRA squad was lying in wait, but ‘about a week later’, recalled Keating, ‘Sterland was shot and killed by members of the 2nd Battalion at the Rob Roy Hotel’. See Jeremiah Keating’s WS 1657, 9 (BMH). Among those who lured Sterland into a death trap were the IRA intelligence officers Frank Mahony [or O’Mahony] and Charles Cogan, with whom he had been drinking in Desmond’s Hotel. The squad that set out to kill him included Volunteers Robert Aherne, William (‘Sailor’) Barry, Jerome Coughlan, and Laurence Neville. See Laurence Neville’s WS 1639, 10-11 (BMH).

Jerome Coughlan described Sterland as ‘one of the most active and cleverest of the British intelligence staff in Cork. He was an Englishman.’ See Jerome Coughlan’s WS 1568, 14 (BMH). Surprisingly, Sterland had been a member of the RIC for only about four months and belonged to the Transport Section of the RIC. Previously, he had been a soldier and a draughtsman. See Abbott (2000), 233. 

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