Private Francis William Shepherd

Private Francis William Shepherd (aged 19) of the 1st Battalion, Essex Regiment (Bandon)

Date of incident: 14 May 1921

Sources: CE, 16, 18 May 1921; II, 16 May 1921; CCE, 21 May 1921; Military Reports, WO 35/89 (TNA); Peter Kearney’s WS 444, 13 (BMH); Michael J. Crowley’s WS 1603, 23-24 (BMH); Barry (1949, 1989), 169-72; Sheehan (2011), 157; irishmedals.org (accessed 28 July 2014); Commonwealth War Graves Commission; http://www.cairogang.com/soldiers-killed/list-1921.html;  http://www.cairogang.com/soldiers-killed/shepherd/shepherd.html (accessed 8 Aug. 2014).


Note: Shepherd died of wounds from IRA fire that struck him while he was a member of an armed guard protecting a party of military and police who were playing football in the grounds of Bandon Grammar School near Devonshire Square—now called Allen Square after William Philip Allen, one of the three ‘Manchester Martyrs’ of November 1867. What is now Hamilton High School near Allen Square in Bandon was used in 1920-21 as a British military barracks and headquarters. According to a well-informed local account, Private Shepherd was mortally wounded on the playing pitch of what is now Hamilton High School. A British military report indicated that Shepherd, one member of the picket, had been killed in the first burst of IRA fire at just before 6 p.m. on 14 May 1921. See Military Reports, WO 35/89 (TNA).

Involved in the IRA attack, which lasted until about 6:30 p.m., were Tom Barry, Seán Lehane, Peter Kearney, Mick Crowley, and Billy O’Sullivan; they staged their attack in a car on which was mounted a Lewis gun captured by the IRA in the Crossbarry ambush. Two civilians were injured in the crossfire, and one of them (Cornelius Looney) died that night.

Shepherd’s remains ‘were accompanied by a guard of honour of police and military to the railway station [at Bandon] and were conveyed by the 10:30 [a.m.] train. Business [in Bandon] was closed down till 11 o’clock.’ See CE, 18 May 1921. Shepherd was interred in Manor Park Cemetery at Leytonstone in Essex.

Shepherd was not the only British military or police casualty. Tom Barry recalled some decades later: ‘The British officially announced that we had killed an Essex soldier and wounded several, including a Black and Tan. Later we were to hear that several meant seven. We thought we had hit more than eight of them, but even accepting their figures, we were satisfied that we had once again shaken them up badly. The fact that five I.R.A. men could close with them in their strongest garrisoned town at three o’clock [time incorrect] on a May day and retire unharmed must, apart from the casualties inflicted, have had a detrimental effect on the enemy morale.’ See Barry (1949, 1989), 172.

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