National Army Soldier (Lieutenant) Cyril Joseph Lee
National Army Soldier (Lieutenant) Cyril Joseph Lee (aged 26) of 41 Hamilton Street, Belfast, and 8 Gardiner’s Place, Dublin (Clondrohid near Macroom)
Date of incident: 27 Aug. 1922
Sources: CE, 29, 30 Aug. 1922; Evening Herald, 29 Aug. 1922; Derry Journal, 30 Aug. 1922; SS, 2 Sept. 1922; Donegal News, 2 Sept. 1922; II, 3, 4, 5 Sept. 1922; FSS Cork Civil War Deaths; MSPC/2D378 (Military Archives); O’Farrell, Who’s Who, 200; Keane (2017), 298, 416; http://www.irishmedals.ie/National-Army-Killed.php (accessed 3 July 2017).
Note: National Army Lieutenant Cyril Joseph Lee was fatally wounded on Sunday, 27 August 1922, during an ambush of National Army troops by Irregulars at the foot of Clondrohid village. He died a few hours later in Macroom. The removal of his remains from Macroom to Cork city prompted a remarkable public display of sympathy and a biting editorial comment: ‘The general public who joined the cortege [in Macroom] knelt on the roadside and offered prayers for the repose of the soul of the dead officer, whose life was given that the people might be saved from domestic oppression no less formidable than that meted out by the hereditary enemies of Ireland.’ See CE, 30 Aug. 1922. It was said in connection with Lee’s funeral and his burial in Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin on 2 September that he had been forced to leave Belfast, where he had previously worked, ‘owing to the pogrom’ there. See II, 4 Sept. 1922.
A detailed account of the ambush appeared in the Southern Star: ‘On Sunday afternoon [27 August 1922] Captain Conlon, commanding the garrison at Macroom, sent out a small party of soldiers in a Ford lorry and car to reconnoitre in the Clondrohid district. Their progess was uneventful until they arrived at Cautuk [sic] Bridge at the foot of Clondrohid village. Here fire was suddenly opened upon them from the low hill on the left side of Garraneagoppul [Garranenagappul], which provided ample cover for the ambushers. The men dismounted from the lorries at once to assume extended order, when they were taken with a heavy fire on the right-hand side by a body of irregulars who occupied a farmer’s house on a hill at Bridgemount, across the river. In this attack 2nd-Lieut. Lee was wounded seriously and had to be removed, while the remainder of the little party set themselves to engage the enemy until reinforcements should arrive. . . . Eventually, reinforcements arrived from Macroom, and then a very hot engagement opened. The irregulars used a Lewis gun from the Bridgemount Hill, and their fire emanated from the range of elevated ground for some considerable distance. Captain Cronin, who was in charge of the National troops, was anxious to get to close quarters with the enemy, and accordingly they crossed the river and rushed the house at Bridgemount, but found the irregulars had retreated along the hill, leaving three Mauser rifles, five revolvers, 430 rounds of .303 amunition, 100 rounds of revolver ammunition, and some equipment. The soldiers pursued them for some distance, pouring a heavy fire in their rere, with what results is not known. The party then returned to Macroom, wher[e] the wounded officer Lieut. Lee had been taken. The latter was shot through the head and died a few hours after receiving his wound.’ See SS, 2 Sept. 1922.
Prior to joining the National Army, Lee had served in the British army (with the final rank of lieutenant) for as long as twelve years. From his earnings of about £3 a week he had helped to support his mother Jane Lee. She was initially granted a gratuity of £100, which was later raised to £120. She was a widow aged 64 in June 1924, with two married daughters whose husbands earned £3 and £5 a week respectively and who supported Jane Lee. Lieutenant Lee had been in charge of the National Army troops (a party of the First Cork Reserves) operating in Clondrohid. He himself was a second lieutenant in the Dublin Guards. See MSPC/2D378 (Military Archives). According to the Cork Examiner, Lee was a native of Belfast whose death was ‘deeply mourned by the men of the detachment, with whom he was very popular and by whom he was respected for his bravery’. See CE, 29 Aug. 1922.