26 June, 1920

The next letter to Poppy was marked by her as the ‘last letter before capture’ and was addressed to Mrs C.H. Tindall Lucas, The Hall Welwyn, Herts:

Location: Fermony

My old Pip,

What was the nurse like? Hope she is nice. We have saved £5 over the chains which is a good egg.

Poor old Dorothy, you women will overdo it, she is just as well in bed for a bit. The chief constables job is no good, as you say.

Am shortly starting off with Danford to the cottage for the night, but don’t expect we shall catch anything. The car seems to be going all right again now, it has had a good overhauling I was touring round all day yesterday in Tipperary, got back at 7.30. I ought to have gone to a tennis party with Stricklands at Cork, but it is a long way off & I have backed out of it.

Are you still keeping fairly comfy; it will be nice when it is all over.



Dorothy Isabel Tindall Lucas was CHTL's eldest sister, who stayed at home and dedicated her life to caring for her parents and her nine siblings. She was well organised and CHTL would always turn to Dorothy to get things sorted out, purchased and sent out to him in France. She was totally reliable.

Dear old Dorothy, she is always worrying about us all.

Letter to Poppy Thursday, July 17, 1919

In retrospect CHTL would have wished that the car hadn’t started to work so well and that he’d not backed out of tennis with the Stricklands! However CHTL was putting the disappointment over the Chief Constable's job to one side and looking forward to escaping to the peace and quiet of the river and the challenge of catching the one he didn't want to get away. As he packed up the car, collecting Colonels Danford and Tyrrell, and set off to the fishing lodge, another car was being loaded up with fisher men of another ilk who were also angling to catch a big fish.


The three officers had individually taken up quite solitary spots along the river bank so that when the Volunteers arrived they didn’t find them together in one place. In fact Tyrrell and Danford were a frankly unwanted bonus as it was CHTL that they were after:

The fishing hut was quietly occupied, and the General's personal servant was arrested and handed over to a few of the local Volunteers who had been mobilised for the purpose of keeping the place under observation. We then proceeded to search for General Lucas and the other two officers who were known to have accompanied him. One of the British officers was encountered a short distance from the fishing lodge. Taken completely by surprise he offered no resistance and was led back a prisoner.

Shortly afterwards, the second officer was found just as he had tied up after the day's fishing, and was treated likewise. There was still no trace of General Lucas, and, as it was getting late in the afternoon, it was decided that Paddy Clancy and I [George Powers] would proceed, one up and the other down, the river in search of the missing officer. Coming through a small wood I ran unexpectedly into General Lucas as he was making his way back to the lodge. After a moment's mutual scrutiny, I gave the order "Hands up". The British General hesitated for a moment, but, dropping his fishing rod, he complied. He allowed himself to be disarmed and marched back to the lodge.

At this stage we were not quite sure of the identity of the first two prisoners, so I named the I.R.A. officers to General Lucas and asked if he had any objection to naming his two comrades, to which he replied: "None". Thereupon General Lucas pointed out Colonel Danford of the Royal Artillery, and Colonel Tyrrell of the Royal Engineers, adding: "What do you propose to do with us?" He was informed that the three were to be held, prisoners pending further instructions from I.R.A. headquarters. In the meantime, facilities would be accorded him to communicate with his relatives.

BUREAU OF MILITARY HISTORY,1913-21 WITNESS DOCUMENT NO. W.S. 451 Witness Captain George Power

A bid for freedom

It was decided that the captured officers should be moved quickly out of the area. The volunteers had borrowed a Model T Ford, ‘the property of Mr. D.D. Curtin, Newmarket, which that staunch supporter of the I.R.A. had lent without questioning the purpose for which it was to be used’ (Florence O’Donoghue in No Other Law p76). But the Ford wouldn’t have been big enough to move all three captives and their guards. It was decided to split the prisoners up and to use CHTL’s recently mended large American touring car, an Overlander, to transport him and Danford. This was a mistake on the part of the IRA. Danford and CHTL were the two most likely to make a bid for freedom. A better combination would have been to have taken Danford or CHTL separately, with the rather portly Tyrrell transported with one or the other. The consequence of this initial failure to take the measure of their prisoners accurately almost proved fatal. George Powers continued:

The arrangement now made was that Sean Moylan and I would drive with Colonel Tyrrell in the Ford car, and Liam Lynch with Paddy Clancy would accompany Lucas and Danford in the other car, the Ford to travel 50 to 100 yards ahead of the other car, but to keep in touch as far as possible.

BUREAU OF MILITARY HISTORY,1913-21 WITNESS DOCUMENT NO. W.S. 451 Witness Captain George Power

Liam Lynch and Paddy Clancy forced CHTL and Danford at gun-point into CHTL's large touring car and 'sat in to keep them company; Owen Curtis, a member of the Fermoy Volunteers, was already established in the driver's seat.’ Dan Breen in My Fight for Irish Freedom

A 1920 Overlander - this shot of the interior shows how easily CHTL and Danford could have attacked Lynch and Clancy.

The novelty of driving the American automobile proved irresistible to Curtis who no doubt snatched the coveted spot before anyone else could get there. But the challenge of driving an unfamiliar large left-hand drive car at speed with two prisoners who were intent on escape in the back almost cost Curtis his life. Lynch sat in the front of the car alongside ‘Curtis’, and Clancy sat between Lucas and Danford in the back. Liam Lynch did not want the prisoners tied up.

Making a detour south of Fermoy, we set off on the journey west. For a time all went well. The Ford maintained the appointed distance, while we kept a watchful eye on the following car. We were now approaching the main Fermoy-Cork road near the village of Rathcormac and the Ford had temporarily lost contact with the second car at a wide sweeping bend of the road.

By this time the British officers had begun to realise their position, and their instinct led them to make a bid for freedom. Lucas and Danford held a brief conversation in a strange language, subsequently discovered to be Arabic, and, at a pre-arranged signal between them, they sprang simultaneously on Lynch and Clancy. The attack was so sudden that the I.R.A. officers were at first taken at a disadvantage and almost disarmed before they realised what had happened. In the melee the driver lost control of the car, crashed into the ditch and rendered himself unconscious. It was, therefore, an even fight between the two British and the two I.R.A. officers. The struggle between Lynch and Lucas was particularly severe, as both were strong-built, well-trained men, about six feet in height. In the first onslaught Lucas had got on top of Lynch, making frantic efforts to wrench the gun from him, and had all but succeeded when the door of the touring car gave way. They both rolled on to the roadway, still struggling, until finally Lynch wore down his opponent and the General shouted: "I surrender".

Meanwhile, Colonel Danford and Paddy Clancy were fighting desperately, with Colonel Danford on top; he had almost succeeded in throttling the I.R.A. officer, when Lynch, turning round, took in the situation at a glance, shouted to the British officer "Surrender or I shoot", but Danford ignored the command and maintained his grip on Clancy's throat, whereupon Lynch fired and hit Danford on the face, making him collapse over his opponent.

Meanwhile, we had proceeded in the Ford car some distance, oblivious to the fact that a life and death struggle had taken place in the other car, and it was some minutes before we realised that something was amiss and decided to turn back. On rounding the bend of the road, we saw the big touring car lying almost in the ditch with the driver still unconscious at the wheel. Nearby, on the grass verge, Colonel Danford was lying in a pool of blood, with General Lucas bending over him rendering first-aid, while Lynch was attending to Paddy Clancy, who seemed to be badly shaken. A hurried conference was held on the roadside, at which it was decided to release Colonel Tyrrell in order to attend to his comrade, and to send the Volunteer driver of the wrecked car for a doctor in the nearby village of Rathcormack. It was further decided that Lynch, Moylan and Clancy would drive in the Ford car with General Lucas as prisoner to brigade headqrs. and that I should remain and make my way to Dublin as well as I could, to personally report to G.H.Q.''

BUREAU OF MILITARY HISTORY,1913-21 WITNESS DOCUMENT NO. W.S. 451 Witness Captain George Power

G.H.Q. were very pleased with this amazing coup and immediately started the negotiation process for the exchange of prisoners. George Powers had a narrow escape on his way home when he had the misfortune to be spotted by CHTL’s now released valet at Mallow railway station whilst waiting for a train. He made his escape in true adventure hero style: "by entering the train I had just left and leaving from the opposite side as the train was moving out from the platform", taking to the fields behind and fooling those chasing him that he was on the train! An Officer and a Gentleman by Jim Lysaght of Fermoy


Meanwhile whilst the IRA had sped away with CHTL, Colonel Tyrrell had been left tending Danford who had appeared to be close to death. Liam Lynch had arranged for medical help to be sought for the injured Colonel and so by saved his life after almost ending it. It was a very compassionate act considering that the Colonel had been intent on killing Clancy.

Danford was treated by a doctor and then taken to Fermoy hospital. He was seriously injured in both his arm and head: a bullet had passed through his face close to his right eye, causing paralysis of his face. Not being one to give up, Danford made a good recovery and was back on duty within six months.

Patrick Clancy was to die on the 16th August resisting arrest, after an IRA attack on 20 soldiers who were guarding a military plane that had been forced to land due to engine trouble.

(Whereas Dan Breen calls the driver Owen Curtis, Florence O’Donoghue in No Other Law names him as being Owen Curtin.)


When CHTL was captured Poppy was still pregnant. His frustration at not being able to settle down with her and ‘Cutlett’ was ever in his mind. Being captured was yet another barrier to him achieving that long desired goal of setting up home in a comfortable house with his wife and family. He’d had enough of conflict he just wanted a quiet peaceful life away from all the ‘worry and trouble’ he’d lived through over the past six years.

At first CHTL played it cool with the IRA Volunteers. Going by the book he gave details of ranks of his men on the request of his captors, surprisingly receiving in return their disclosure of the identities of their men. This he would have been trained in doing from his time in France and years before in South Africa. Immediately CHTL and Liam Lynch identified themselves as honourable men and began to recognise the admirable qualities in each other.

Later as the intentions of his captors were not clear, he and Danford planned their bid for escape, conversing in Arabic the language they had studied and used when they worked together in Egypt and the Sudan many years before. This was Lawrence of Arabia stuff and they had worked for General Sir R Wingate who became Lawrence’s boss! CHTL had lost his fingers there and this disability along with Lynch’s youth might have been the edge that finally gave his assailant the upper hand.

Danford had an easier match with Clancy who was still weak from having been on hunger strike. The Colonel was very fortunate to have survived; his dogged determination to not let go of his combatant, especially as he saw victory so close, showed that the British officers truly feared that their lives were gravely at risk. Recent reports in Parliament of off duty soldiers being kidnapped and killed must have been on their minds.

After the shock of Danford being shot and believing at the time that Danford was dead, CHTL had to re-evaluate his position. He was desperate to get back to Poppy but he wanted to get back alive. She had been through so much and deserved to be kept from the trauma of losing yet another loved one. If he wasn’t married and a father-to-be he might have taken a different path.

CHTL’s concern for Poppy tempered his response to his captors. He knew now that they meant deadly business and he had to suss them out and figure out a way of staying alive. However the IRA’s response to Danford’s injury was not to brutally finish off the British officer, but to honourably, and with some risk to themselves, arrange for medical care and help, yielding the advantage of another hostage, Colonel Tyrrell, to look after his fallen comrade. CHTL would have quietly taken in all these facts and mulled them over, deciding on how best to deal with his captors. He’d immediately seen men who were not the brutal, vindictive killers that the British had made them all out to be. Here was honour and compassion and he saw that these men could be open to skilful negotiation. However he realised that these men still meant business and wouldn’t hesitate to use force if necessary and that he needed to be on his guard.

‘Lucas’ was a problem solver, time after time during The Great War he had been thrown into the deep end and been expected to not only make it to the other side but weave some magic and bring everyone with him. He was used to thinking on his feet: whether it was how to get thousands of troops disembarked safely in France; how to deal with a formidable dragoness in Grantham; how to transform the use of machine guns; or how to raise the moral of dispirited troops; CHTL had always come through with a solution. He was also a skilled negotiator, a person who could communicate with all levels of society and someone who enjoyed a good time and worked hard to make sure that those in his company had a good time too. He was a straight talker; he was direct and his word was his bond. He was an officer and a gentleman in the true sense of the words. His steely grey eyes would hold you in their stare but turn bright blue with merriment when he found something amusing. With his friends he was extremely popular but he wouldn’t suffer fools gladly. He was one of life’s survivors; he had not reached the end of his nine lives yet! Overall he was known for his tact, he knew when to speak and when to hold his tongue. He used all these skills to great effect when bargaining with his captors.

His first priority should have been to be able to communicate with Poppy: CHTL knew only too well that babies could be lost close to full term as had happened to his sister Cecil a couple of years earlier. He and Poppy desperately wanted children and the fact that CHTL had already given his unborn child a pet name – Cutlett, a diminutive of his own name – showed that he had already made a strong connection with his child. He wanted to help Poppy get through his predicament without causing harm to their baby or her. It was vitally important that he could write to her and reassure her of his safety, just as he had done throughout the Great War.

However one does suspect that to establish the ground rules of his confinement was slightly higher in CHTL’s priorities. As an officer he expected to be held as a prisoner of war with all the appropriate benefits. The IRA asserted that they were fighting a war against British Imperialism so therefore they should play by the book. It’s a remarkable and yet highly amusing demonstration of his extraordinary abilities that he managed to persuade his Irish captors that this would involve providing him with a daily bottle of whiskey; which, in his eyes, was a requirement if he was to be held as a prisoner of officer rank rather than the luxury they may have seen it as.

CHTL had quite clearly taken the measure of his captors, as Mr J. Oliphant, who had served under CHTL in the 87th brigade, had written in a piece in the Aukland Star (quoted in full later on): 'He always had the happy knack of rapidly sizing up a position and was a great judge of men’. CHTL knew how far he could reasonably push them -and then pushed further! We don’t know whether the fact that he so easily won this concession shows his considerable skills at negotiation, his guards’ generosity, their naivety or some combination of all three. In any event CHTL got his whiskey!

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