On This Day…
On the 11th July 1921 the Irish War of Independence ended
The guerrilla war fought by the Irish Republican Army against the forces of the state began in 1919, became increasingly violent and brutal through 1920, and ended in a truce that came into effect on 11 July 1921. The truce paved the way for the Anglo-Irish Treaty that resulted in the formation of the Irish Free State in 1922 and the partition of Ireland.
Early campaign for newly formed Royal Signals
The formation of Royal Signals took place in the early stages of this conflict. For most of the campaign, some 700 Royal Signals soldiers served there at any one time in the Special Signal Company (which supported General Headquarters and links to its subordinate formations), 5th and 6th Divisional Signal Companies (in the Curragh and Cork respectively), Dublin District Signals (from the spring of 1920), 1st Divisional Signal Company (in Belfast from the spring of 1920), 3rd Cavalry Brigade Signal Troop at the Curragh, and in ‘K’ Signal Company (men embedded in General Post Office telegraph stations).
Two Royal Signals soldiers killed
Two Royal Signals soldiers were killed during the campaign. The first of these was Signalman George Bowden of 6th Divisional Signal Company, who was murdered on 28 February 1921 in Cork. Following the execution of six rebels by firing squad in Victoria Barracks that morning, groups of gunmen sought out soldiers where they were known to walk out off-duty that evening. Bowden was the first of six soldiers to be killed that night.
The second Royal Signals soldier to die was a dispatch rider, Signalman Frederick De Orfe. In Dublin on the afternoon of 15 March 1921, De Orfe and another dispatch rider were ambushed by three armed men. The attackers, armed with revolvers, shouted at the leading dispatch rider to stop. When he accelerated to drive past, the attackers fired but he escaped. De Orfe was not so fortunate and was seriously wounded. Although found quickly and tended by some local women and then taken by a passing motorist to hospital, he died that night.
The Chief Signal Officer throughout the campaign was Colonel F. A. Iles DSO who was made a CBE. Awarded the Distinguished Service Order and mentioned in despatches four time during the First World War, he was one of the first officers to transfer to Royal Signals upon its formation.