2nd August - No Letter
Location: Fermoy barracks
CHTL was very busy, writing up his report for the Court of Inquiry and catching up with old friends in Fermoy. He wrote an edited version - a Court of Inquiry friendly version - of his ‘Secret Diary’, leaving out any mention of whiskey, fishing and card games.
Newspaper Speculation and Conspiracy Theories
As is their way, for generations it appears, the newspapers had to add their ‘penny’s worth to the story. The fact that CHTL kept so many newspaper cuttings with obviously incorrect information printed in them, probably indicates that he was rather amused by them.
ESCAPE OR RELEASE?
From our own correspondent.
The regaining of his freedom by General Lucas has given rise to many rumours in Limerick and Tipperary. It is now believed that he was released, but doubt is expressed as to whether it was a voluntary decision that restored to him his liberty. That unusual military activity in certain districts of Limerick prevailed for some days prior to his release is well known, and from this the conclusion is drawn that the military had at last obtained information concerning him. A further deduction is that his gaolers suspected that the military were acting on information, and decided to liberate the captive rather than risk having the prison discovered.
The accuracy of these deductions cannot’ however, be established. General Lucas has declined to make any statement for publication, and those who imprison him may be relied upon to keep the facts of the situation to themselves. With both parties observing the strictest secrecy, there is little to be added to what has already been stated concerning his appearance on the road near Oola all the ambuscade which followed.
The encounter was a desperate one, and it was from the determination shown by the attackers, rather than from any definite knowledge on the subject, that the opinion was formed that they were aware of the general’s presence in one of the lorries. This, however, does not appear to be the case, and it is doubtful whether those who ambushed the lorries even knew that General Lucas was imprisoned in the New Pallas district. They wanted the mailbags and the rifles of the soldiers, and these they seemed determined to secure at all hazards… it is said that the raiders succeeded in capturing some of the rifles belonging to the soldiers who were in the first lorry, and also got a bag of mails, but the closest enquiries failed to get this confirmed.
Newspaper cutting found in CHTL’s papers (Lucas Family Archive)
The Daily Sketch also enjoyed speculating about the true story of the general’s sudden release/escape.
Reported to have been Set at liberty by his Gaolers.
DIRECTED TO SAFETY.
Blindfolded, Taken Away by Car, and Left in Road.
General Lucas refuses to state how he escaped from the secret prison in which he was held captive by Sinn Feiners, but says he has no complaints to make concerning the way he was treated by his gaolers.
Reticence is also maintained by the military authorities, but he is reported in certain circles that the general was released in the early morning after being informed that he was to be set at liberty.
Blindfolded, he was taken for a considerable distance in a motor car, set down in the roadway, and directed to the nearest police station, where he arrived after travelling several miles. It is also reported that the attack made on the lorry in which he was taken to Tipperary was a coincidence, the ambushing party having no knowledge of the general’s presence.
Newspaper cutting found in CHTL’s papers (Lucas Family Archive)
I think that we can safely conclude from CHTL’s letters and reports and several IRA Witness Statements and written accounts that it was a combination of Michael Brennan turning a blind eye and enormous courage and persistence on the part of the General that he escaped. There must have been the same sort of frustration a kindly keeper feels when it tries to get a captive bird to flee its cage after an extended period of rest and relaxation, and the bird is too cautious to leave the cage, fearing something bad might happen to them.
A Postscript from General Lucas
Volunteer Joe Good recalled the escape in his memoirs, in a section entitled ‘Postscript from General Lucas’:
"There was to be a remarkable sort of coda to the General Lucas business. Having been refused his parole, Lucas must have decided, quite possibly for entirely personal reasons, to make an absurdly daring escape from the custody of the Volunteers. Knowing the man's character as I did, it was no surprise to me that he fought his way to freedom with such spectacular success."
However Joe was angry at what he saw as a ‘lost opportunity in failing to trade General Lucas for Terence MacSwiney’. Terence James MacSwiney was an Irish playwright, author and Sinn Féin politician who was elected as Lord Mayor of Cork. He was arrested on charges of sedition and imprisoned in Brixton prison in England. He went on hunger strike in protest and as the British would’t budge, he died in October 1920. Joe thought that Liam Lynch would be angry too that he’d lost his bargaining chip.
To avoid having to talk to anyone at Sinn Féin GHQ, Joe had gone to London to source some guns. On his way back he got talking to some returning British soldiers. Joe, having been raised in England, had an English accent so found that the English thought him safe to talk to.
"This soldier told me a remarkable story.
He said that he was a batman to some English general …. he been brought from his billet …. to the barracks gate, where a man was clamouring for admission.
This man was General Lucas and he was in rags. Lucas had been ambushed - after he had evidently managed to escape from the Volunteers. Lucas told them that he had escaped by leaving his room in his stocking feet. He said that he been picked up on the road by a post office van which was being escorted by three or more soldiers; that the van had been attacked by Volunteers forces; that General Lucas had got a small wound across the bridge of his nose during the lengthy firing; that one of the soldiers were shot through the head and his brains were inside his ‘tin ‘at’ (steel helmet); that the escort was on the point of surrender when General Lucas picked up the dead man's rifle and opened fire on the IRA attackers; that the attackers withdrew and that Lucas then came onto the barracks - where this soldier met him."
If that part of the story wasn’t amazing enough, the soldier went on to describe what happened next:
"The soldier told me that Lucas then packed up the clothes which he had been wearing -sports coat and trousers - and told him to post these to an address in Cork city."
Joe explained why the general would want the clothes posted to Cork of all places:
"During the detention of Lucas by the Volunteers, there were some definite house in Cork city to which communications were addressed, and from which they were sometime subsequently delivered to him. It was to this address that he had the parcel dispatched, containing some garments with which we had provided him. Inside this package he left a note addressed ‘To the Sinn Féiners, or to the IRA, with the compliments of General Lucas'."
Enchanted by Dreams, Joe Good, P172 -174
A MONTH’S CAPTIVITY.
THE GENERAL LETTERS HOME.
…A telegram with the words “Am free again”* was received yesterday afternoon by the Gen's father at Welwyn, and shortly after 8 PM there arrived at the house an official message from the Secretary of the Irish Office containing the words “We are glad to inform you that your husband is at liberty and on his way to Fermoy.”
Mr Lucas has been receiving frequent letters of late from his son, who is always spoken well of his treatment, and has stated that he expected to be at liberty within three weeks.
The general's wife, who had a son a few weeks ago, is still at a nursing home in London, and the news of our husbands escape was conveyed to her last night by her doctor.
* see telegram below
Newspaper cutting found in CHTL’s papers Lucas Family Archive
The first telegram would have been posted to Poppy, as sister-in-law Peggy didn’t have her phone number and maybe didn’t want to send a telegram? CHTL was rejoicing at his freedom, although the War Office had immediately put a dampener on the family’s celebrations.
This second telegram went to Poppy directly. She would have been reassured as the language was definitely typical CHTL. He was at last on his way home!