24th July - Sixteenth Letter to Poppy
Secret diary: Sat. Chased by bull
Official diary (24th July): No entry
Location: Dr. Corboy's house in Caherconlish.
My darling old Pip,
The boy is getting quite old now, nearly a month. The family are quite used to crying babies, and they will probably put him right at the top of the house so that they wont hear much of him. Your letters still arrive regularly, though I have only had one batch from the brigade so far. The leather waistcoat is still safe, that reminds me, did you see that Mrs Sherwood Kelly has got her divorce finally through.
You mustn’t try and get to Welwyn by train; it will be much simpler to hire a car. I don’t mean you to go running about looking at houses just yet, but whenever you [see] an advertisement of a likely house, cut it out and keep it. Weather better today but it wont last.
The news about Grandmother is very sad, it doesn’t look as though she would last much longer.
It is a month today that I have been confined, have no idea how much longer it will last; it is beginning to get rather boring. Have lots of books to read. It is a very economical rest cure. You might just as well get something useful for Dina straight away, without waiting for me. Let me know what you think about god-parents and names for the boy. I suggest Peggy, Lady C, Archie & Toby, and names Arthur 1st and William or Henry 2nd.
Lots of love and a kiss for the boy.
Sixteenth Letter sent to Mrs C.H. Tindall Lucas, 1 Cleveland Gardens, Hyde Park LONDON W2 postmarked EASTBOURNE 1:45 PM 29 July 1920 . Blue paper and the envelope is similar to that of letter No.15. Written in pen.
Poppy was obviously becoming very stressed and everything was becoming too much. Reading between the lines, she was fretting about a lot needlessly, but that’s not surprising considering how worried she must have been about her husband. Her other worries included moving back to her in-laws in Welwyn with a crying baby; How was she going to travel there?; Had he lost his leather waistcoat?; Grandmother was not well.; What should she buy Dina for her birthday?; She couldn’t cope looking for houses with everything else; What about godparents and names for the baby? - Poor Poppy just couldn’t cope. CHTL and Poppy had probably planned for a lot of things but not for him being captured.
These other things didn’t really matter so much, but when her whole life had been turned upside down and not having her mother to turn to, Poppy felt totally overwhelmed. ‘It is a very economical rest cure’ was not the most tactful thing to write, when that is just what your wife needs. ‘It’s beginning to get rather boring’ was a safer bet to pen today.
Perhaps today wasn’t the day to tell her that he’d just been chased by a bull and he saved that for another day!
1 British General & 2 Irish Commandants v. 1 bull!
Even towards the end of his incarceration, CHTL was still entertained by his long-suffering guards. He was taken out on long walks across the fields to relieve his constant need for 'healthy exercise’ and to relieve his boredom. On one such walk two senior IRA officers and a British general were unceremoniously chased by a young bull who showed no respect for their rank or dignity!
Adjutant Richard O'Connell of the Mid-Limerick Brigade related the tale in his Witness Statement:
Major General Lucas had been captured by the Cork Volunteers in June, 1920, and they had passed him on for safe keeping to the fellows in Clare. It was some time later still that the Clare men Mick Brennan, Paddy Brennan and Mick Hehir handed him over to us. I put them up at Dr. Corboy's house in Caherconlish. Dr. Corboy was at the time on holidays in Kilkee but he allowed us the use of his house for this purpose. We remained there for, I think, three days. Then it was rumoured that the British authorities knew of Lucas' presence there. We were afraid of a raid, so we arranged to have him moved to another place.
An amusing incident happened while he was there. We used to take him for a walk each day. This day Mick Brennan and I took him out. We went out to the back of Dr. Corboy's and got into a field belonging to a man by the name of Ryan. When we were in the middle of the field, a big three-year-old bull attacked us, and we had to run for the ditch, the three of us. Lucas, who was a very lively man, got man, got up on the ditch first. and we followed.
While we were on the ditch, Mick Brennan pulled his gun, and the bull was underneath us Mick was going to shoot the bull, and I said, "Stop! that bull won't be paid for if he is shot. it is better to leave the bull alive and we will get away some other way". We had terrible trouble in getting away from the bull. Lucas wrote a description of it afterwards to his wife, which we read as we censored all his letters. It was very amusing. He said, “Imagine! Two officers of the Irish Army and a British General! A bull frightened us!”
BUREAU OF MILITARY HISTORY, 1913-21. STATEMENT BY WITNESS DOCUMENT NO. W.S. 656 Witness Richard O’Connell, Cameron Lodge, Coolock, Co. Dublin. Identity. Member of Caherconlish Irish Volunteers 1914 Adjutant, 3rd Battalion) O/C. 5th Battalion) Mid-Limerick Brigade.O/C. Brigade Flying Column)
The thrill and fun of the bull incident possibly reminded CHTL of the camaraderie of his time in the trenches when faced with a common enemy, he’d worked together with his fellow officers to win the day. Richard O’Connell and CHTL obviously found it very amusing. Someone who would have enjoyed that story was Lieut. Colonel Sherwood Kelly.
Lieut. Colonel Sherwood Kelly.
Mrs Sherwood Kelly finally getting her divorce was of great interest to CHTL. Lieut. Colonel Sherwood Kelly was a difficult character, his army record said "When Lt Col Kelly was not fighting with someone or something, he became argumentative and quarrelsome". CHTL was his commanding officer during the Battle of Cambrai in 1917 and had ‘awful rows’ with him because it wasn’t his turn to go ‘into the show’ with his battalion. Despite this CHTL and Kelly had quite a close friendship with them venturing out with others on ‘joy rides’ during the calm between battles to find a nice French restaurant to dine out in, always buying double so that they had something to bring back to the trenches to eat the next day.
CHTL told Poppy in August 1917 that:
“Col Kelly is married, has been married just over a year, it was a rotten business, she should never have been married to anybody, and wont live with him, she has gone to America to get some weird form of divorce to set him free…. He has very high ideals, and is a waster; you will find it hard to make his two characters fit in; in spite of lax ideas on so called morality I would trust him before any man I know.”
Kelly was seriously wounded 5 times, each time he came back to fight shrugging of his injuries as inconveniences that prevented him from fighting. On 20th November 1917 Kelly won a V.C. : A group of soldiers were being pinned down by heavy enemy fire. Kelly taking stock of their predicament ordered covering fire, and heroically led his men forward. Using a Lewis gun, he personally covered his advancing Battalion, facilitating their capture of the enemy’s stronghold. Not content with this victory he led another advance under heavy fire capturing five machine guns and 46 prisoners.In CHTL’s opinion he could have won one several times over during WW1 such was his fearless heroic style.
In mid-1919 Sherwood Kelly had been posted to the Russian front. A posting that most sane, war wearied men, such as CHTL wouldn’t have been happy with. Kelly in typical combative style landed himself on the wrong side of all those in authority. He refused to obey orders when he could see that he would be leading his men into a disaster. Kelly was sent home, where he went to the newspapers to publicise what he believed to be a great wrong being carried out by British forces on the orders of politicians. According to an article written in a New Zealand magazine:
When the gallant Col reached London in the first week in September the Northcliffe press, hotly attacking the Lloyd George government for having embarked upon “offensive operations” against the Bolsheviks after the signing of the Peace Treaty had closed the war of 1914-18, interviewed him and published his story under banner headlines. Those interviews told against him in high places and brought his glorious military career to a melancholy end. Lieut. -Colonel Sherwood Kelly told a reporter of the London ‘Sunday Pictorial’:- “the time came when I could stand it no longer. The lives of the men under my command were very precious to me. Lives were being wasted-for nothing. I felt my great responsibility and decided, come what may, and having no axe to grind, I would speak the truth. There is a great deal more I could say I may have to say. But it is sufficient for me to do my solemn duty to my country and my men.”
The authorities in London were livid: Winston Churchill called for a court-martial. CHTL, on reading of his friends latest predicament, despaired at his foolishness and yet was totally prepared to stand up for his friend in court:
Germany, Sept 21st 1919 - letter to Mrs Holdsworth, Poppy’s mother:
"I am very grateful for the paper about Kelly I was hunting around the three battalions to try and get a copy when yours turned up. He is an awful ass because he won't get any good out of it, and little sympathy with the army; he will probably call me as a witness to character if he is tried by court-martial."
Winston Churchill, along with other politicians, wanted Kelly silenced for speaking out and putting the government in an embarrassing light, but they had a problem: Kelly was a war hero, wounded many times and the holder of a VC. How could they court-martial him?
Churchill skilfully used as the basis of the court-martial Kelly's contravention of the King’s regulations agreed to by officers that they were: “forbidden to publish in any form whatsoever or communicate, either directly or indirectly, to the press any military information or his views on any military subject without special authority.”
This story was sensational front-page news. The Times was one of many newspapers to record what happened to Kelly:
TRIED BY COURT-MARTIAL
London, October 29. Lt Col Sherwood Kelly, who enlisted in the ranks at the beginning of the war, won the Victoria Cross at Cambrai, was wounded five times, and mentioned in dispatches seven times, was court-martialled today on a charge of having written letters to the newspapers. Lt Col Kelly returned from Archangel and declared that lives and money well wasted in Russia en ambitious offensive project. Giving evidence, he said that he believed it his duty to expose the reckless folly of the British position in Russia, where £100,000.000 were spent without the sanction of the people. He added that the politicians responsible for the needless sacrifice of lives should be tried. Kelly pleaded guilty and sentence was postponed.
Lieut Col Sherwood Kelly had walked into the Middlesex Guildhall, ‘wearing three rows of ribbons and five wound stripes, and had gazed steadfastly at the grave officers who were to try his case.’ He had pleaded guilty saying that what he had done was merely a technical offence: ‘I have nothing left but a soldiers honour, so I plead with you to believe that the action I took was to protect my men's lives against needless sacrifice and to save my country from squandering wealth she can ill afford.’ Despite this the court found him guilty and this ‘very gallant and high-minded’ soldier’s career came to an inglorious end.
Less than a year later, Mrs Sherwood Kelly had finally got her divorce from her extraordinary brave husband who without a doubt must have been a very difficult person to live with. Also Churchill after his success court-martialling Sherwood Kelly was now wanting to court-martial CHTL. Brig Gen Dyer (Amritsar massacre) of course did not face a court martial: it’s a strange world when someone trying to save lives is punished and yet when someone who is responds for a thousand deaths, walks away.
Supplies to Ireland - Passing the Buck
In Whitehall, the lack of fulfilment of the urgent supply of arms to the police in Ireland was still troubling Churchill. The failure to get rifles to Ireland is echoed in part today by modern day failures to acquire much needed supplies!
It is hardly possible to conceive a worse or more disastrous case then this of blind official routine. Such a thing could not have occurred in offices in the branch concerned had taken an intelligent interest in their work instead of simply being content to write their minutes on files and send them on to whoever is next concerned. On the 23rd of last month the N.C.O. personally minuted to me that he had sanctioned this issue of rifles and revolvers. On the 25th I initialled my approval, and on the same day the secretary minuted the paper A.F.S.to see, and I cannot find that any blame rests with Finance. So Charles Harris minuted quite clearly that the arms should be issued without prejudice to the question of payment. Naturally, on receiving a minute from N.C.O. like his of 23/6/20, I assumed that he would follow up the initiative he had taken in the matter. It is not the business of the Secretary of State to follow up action on a point like this, but it is distinctly the business of a Member of Council at the head of department to see that his orders are carried out especially in regard to a matter which he himself thinks proper to bring before the Secretary of State. How’s the N.C.O.a civil assistant, or has he an officer personally taking charge of his own papers? If so, he should impress upon this assistant or officer the fact that his chief’s work is not done when papers are simply minuted and then pushed out into the department. The matter is really very serious because it shows that there is no following up system from the Heads of Departments who are supposed to have a general knowledge of what is going forward and to be able to a certain extent to discriminate between the significance and urgency of the various papers which pass to their hands.
Still, I do think that whatever criticism may apply to the system in force in the N.C.O.’s department, very serious want of consideration for and understanding of the public interest has been shown by Major Sunderland. Surely it is within his knowledge that Ireland is in a most critical state, and that the arming of the police with proper weapons must be a matter of real importance in which a military officer in a responsible position should take a personal interest. In view of what the N.C.O.says about this officer, I am prepared to acquiesces in his retention of his post. But I request the N.C.O. to send him a minute of censure by my express direction and also to draw the attention of the other officers concerned to their own share in this place of neglect as he may think fit.
Secretary will further draw up our case against Dublin Castle and will point out the extent to which the Irish authorities have themselves contributed to the delay. In doing so he should clearly state the mistakes which have occurred on this side, and that those concerned have been censored, and should ask that similar treatment should be meted out in the Irish department.
I do not remember to have seen anything so helpless as this for a very long time.
I do not think it is worth circulating this at the present time. We are suffering so many graver inconveniences in Ireland. Vessels must be charged to the Ministry of shipping where necessary.