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Private J. R. Brooks

British Private J. R. Brooks (aged 22) of the Royal Army Service Corps (Motor Transport), (Kilgobnet near Macroom)

Date of incident: 26 April 1922 (executed by IRA and disappeared)

Sources: Evening Herald, 1 May 1922; Freeman’s Journal, 2 May 1922; Belfast Newsletter, 2 May 1922; The Times (London), 22, 23 June, 19, 20 July 1922, 12, 13 Dec. 1923; II, 12 Dec. 1923; SS, 15 Dec. 1923; Hampshire Regiment Journal (Jan. 1924); British Soldiers Missing, A/0909 (Military Archives); Michael Walsh’s WS 1521, 17 (BMH); James Murphy’s WS 1633, 15 (BMH); Maurice Brew’s WS 1695, 27 (BMH); Daniel Corkery’s WS 1719, 29 (BMH); D’Arcy (2007), 52-53; Keane (2014), 174-78; Keane (2017), 285-87, 415; Regan, (2012) pp. 70-98; (accessed 24 Feb. 2018); (accessed 26 Feb. 2018).


Note: Private J. R. Brooks, said in newspaper accounts to be a Catholic, was ordered to report to the headquarters of the 17th Infantry Brigade (Victoria Barracks) at 9:45 a.m. on 26 April 1922 as the driver of a motorcar for intelligence purposes. It was for him—and for Lieutenants Hendy, Dove, and Henderson—the beginning of a doomed expedition to Macroom. See (accessed 26 Feb. 2018).  

According to a report in The Times of London about the funerals of the three military officers and their driver Private Brooks (after the discovery and repatriation of their bodies in December 1923), ‘Lieutenant Henderson and his two companions made a strong plea for the driver [at Kilgobnet], assuring the armed [IRA] men that they had taken him at random from the battalion that morning [26 April 1922], but their representations were ignored’. See The Times (London), 12 Dec. 1923. It is difficult to understand who could have learned about such a plea (if it had been made), apart from members of the execution party, and there would have been every reason for all of them to remain silent about the whole matter.

The bodies of the four executed men were eventually found and then exhumed on 11 December 1923 in an isolated field composed of marshy ground at Kilgobnet: ‘The road which passes by this field, though under contract, is little better than a borheen, a bleak, unfrequented, lonely laneway serving the few farmhouses scattered far apart in that isolated district. It is about two and a half miles from the main road [between Macroom and Ballyvourney], and at the farthest part of the field from the laneway, the bodies were discovered.’ The remains were generally in a badly decomposed state and proved difficult to recognise from one another. A report in the Southern Star of 15 December described in great detail the grizzly character of the exhumations, for which the distressed father of Officer George Dove was in attendance. See SS, 15 Dec. 1923. Almost immediately thereafter (on 12 December), the bodies were taken from Macroom Castle to Cork city and were repatriated by boat from there to Fishguard. They were reinterred in the cemetery at Aldershot Garrison/Military Town in Hampshire on Friday, 14 December, with special military arrangements for the reburial services. ‘Major General Sir Edward Strickland, commanding the Second Division, who at the time of the murders was commanding at Cork, will attend the funeral; so also will Colonel H. W. Higginson, commanding the Second Infantry Brigade, under whom one of the [deceased] officers served as Intelligence Officer.’ See The Times (London), 12 Dec. 1923. See the previous three entries.

Newspaper reports in England about the discovery and exhumation of the bodies in December 1923 only deepened the wounds created by the many earlier reports of the abduction and killing of the three intelligence officers and their driver. Reporting from Dublin on 12 December 1923, the correspondent of The Times observed: ‘Apparently, the circumstances of the crime have been known in the district for many months, but the local people have been afraid to say anything about it. According to reports from Macroom, it appears that the murdered men were forced to assist in the digging of their own graves, and that the first victim of the murderers’ bullets was a little white dog, which was the pet of Lieutenant Dove. After the dog had been shot, the four men were done to death almost simultaneously. . . . The bodies were found buried in a pit on the land of a small farmer near Macroom. The farmer declares that they were buried on his land because he was a supporter of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, and therefore very much out of favour with the local Republicans.’ What could have been overlooked in the midst of such reports were the special military honours paid to the remains of the deceased men by Free State officers and troops in Cork city before the exhumed bodies were conveyed to Fishguard en route to Aldershot. See The Times (London), 13 Dec. 1923.

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