TRANSCRIPTIONS-EIRE-L ArchivesArchiver > TRANSCRIPTIONS-EIRE > 2007-01 > 1167853833
From: "Jean R." <>
Subject: [TRANSCRIPTIONS-EIRE] Connaught Rangers Mutiny - India,July 1920 -- James DALY, Tyrellspass, Co. Westmeath
Date: Wed, 3 Jan 2007 11:50:33 -0800
SNIPPET: Among the large number of departmental records made available to researchers in 1998 was one bulky file from 1968 containing correspondence relating to the repatriation of the remains of the Connaught Rangers mutineers who had died in India in 1920. The release of these documents renders timely an examination of their mutiny and prompts further reflection on the role of the Irish soldier in Britain's Empire overseas. "If you want to know who the leader is, I am -- James DALY, number 35025 of Tyrellspass, Co. Westmeath, Ireland" - so Private DALY of the Connaught Rangers stationed at Solon, a strategic garrison on the road between Delhi and Simla allegedly shouted to the officers guarding the munitions store which James and his fellow Rangers had attempted to seize. In the confusion of their attack, two men were killed and one seriously wounded. What the military authorities might just possibly have viewed indulgently, might even have been tempted to pass over as an 'incident,' was transformed into a full-scale 'mutiny' which had to be crushed with exemplary force. Before the summer was over, 61 Rangers were convicted by courts martial of mutiny; fourteen were sentenced to death and the remainder to varying periods of imprisonment. Many sentences were reduced on appeal, but DALY's conviction was upheld and he was shot at sun-up at Dagshai Barracks on 2 Nov 1920. He was the last soldier of the British Army to suffer death in peace or war for a military offence, per Thomas BARTLETT's article in the Spring 1998 issue of "History Ireland" magazine, published in Dublin. (Please refer to that article for further details, below are just excerpts.....)
DALY had claimed to be the leader of the mutinous soldiers at Solon and while this was undoubtedly true, he had not in fact instigated the protest. This had begun 200 miles away at Wellington Barracks, Jullundur, in the Punjab on Sunday, 27 June 1920. That night, a small group of Rangers (among them DALY's brother, William) had been discussing the appalling state of affairs at home and they had decided to make a protest against British military atrocities in Ireland: they would 'ground arms' and refuse to soldier. They were quickly joined by several hundred other Rangers (including at least one Englishman). Joseph HAWES, from Kilrush, Co. Clare - a veteran of the Front and Gallipoli - was the prime mover at this stage. Smoking a cigarette, Private HAWES coolly informed his Commanding Office, Lt. Colonel DEACON, that the men would not return to their duty until all British soldiers had left Ireland, and then he had the Tricolour run up the flag post. It is not recorded!
which of these actions most infuriated Col. DEACON.
At this point, HAWES and his fellow-mutineeres took the fateful decision to spread the protest to the Connaught Ranger companies at Jutogh and Solon. Emissaries were dispatched to these garrisons and, though the men at the Jutogh hill-station remained loyal, the Rangers at Solon, led by James DALY, decided to ground arms. DALY, like HAWES, told his captain that they would soldier no more until all British soldiers had been withdrawn from Ireland. Under pressure from the Catholic chaplain at Solon, Fr. Benjamin BAKER, the mutineers agreed to remove all their weapons to the magazine for safekeeping. That night, however, a party of men led by DALY made an attempt to recover their arms and in the engagement two of them, Patrick SMYTHE and Peter SEARS, were killed. Within a few days, both garrisons at Jullundur and Solon were occupied by royal regiment -- without incident -- and the mutineers were marched off to face court martial.
Why had the Connaught Rangers mutinied? The regimental historian understandably sought reasons within the regiment. Most of those who had grounded arms had been new recruits. Enlisted in 1919 and shipped out immediately to India, they had been subjected to a rigorous training schedule on the plains of the Punjab at the hottest season of the year. In addition, their officers had been remarkably irresolute and incompetent... the mutineers, to some extent, 'were influenced by the political news from home contained in letters which had arrived the day before.' Young DALY, for his part, made no attempt to hide his deep hatred for British actions in Ireland. But why then had he enlisted in April 191 when the War of Independence was underway? There is no suggestion that he had infiltrated the Connaught Rangers (as the Fenians had done generally in the British army in the 1860s) in order to sow disaffection. Nor can it be claimed that he was acting in concert with his brother in Jullundur: William DALY had been active at the beginning of the protest but he had backed away from it within 24 hours. James's youth (21 when shot), his coolness under pressure, his assertive personality and his effective leadership were perhaps characteristics that prompted him to take the lead in the protest at Solon. Perhaps they also made it impossible for him to pull back in time. In his last letter to his mother, he remarked that 'I wish to the Lord that I had not started on getting into this trouble at all,' but he concluded the note by claiming that 'it is all for Ireland.' (There is a photo of James DALY in uniform in "History Ireland").
Why was James DALY shot? In the eyes of the authorities, DALY had to die, not for Ireland, but for India. The mutineers had been wholly conscious of the historical resonance of the word 'mutiny' in India, where memories of the Cawnpore massacre of 1857 were still fresh; hence their ready agreement to lock away their arms lest the 'natives' should seizure them; and hence their resolute avoidance of the word 'mutiny' in favour of 'grounding arms.' The mutineers made no attempt to make common cause with the Indians who surrounded them. HAYES may have reflected that 'we are doing in India what the British forces were doing in Ireland,' but that was as far as it went. No attempt was made to make contact with the Indian National movement; the imprisoned mutineers gave no thought to escape in a hostile country. Lord Chelmsford, the Viceroy, remarked candidly that 'we should find ourselves in a position of great difficulty in the future with regard to Indian troops if, in the case of British soldiers, we did not enforce the supreme penalty where conditions justified it.' The fact was that the mutiny of the Connaught Rangers had mildly shaken British rule in India, not Ireland, and the mutineers had to suffer accordingly.
Within a few years the Connaught Rangers and five other Irish regiments were disbanded, and in January 1923 the imprisoned mutineers were finally released from the rigours of British goals. They had claimed political status and thus set in train a grim cycle of bread and water punishments, solitary confinements, hunger-strikes and force-feeding. The men arrived home to equal amounts of public adulation and private penury. A long campaign was embarked upon to obtain pension rights from the Irish government comparable to those forfeited as a result of the mutiny... progress was slow, eventually some money was paid out to survivors. Later there was further recognition when a Connaught Rangers Cenotaph was unveiled at Glasnevin cemetery in 1949. Finally, in 1970, James DALY's body and the bodies of the two men who had been killed during the raid on the arms store were brought back from India; DALY was buried at Tyrellspass and the others were reinterred at Glasnevin. The remains of a fourth mutineer, John MIRANDA, who had died in prison in India (born in Liverpool of a Spanish father and Irish mother), over the protest by a member of the National Graves Association, remained in India. The original mutineer, Joseph HAWES, then aged 77, was present at DALY's reinterrment and pronounced him to be 'as brave a man as ever stood before a firing party.' The mutiny of the Connaught Rangers was at last laid to rest. (Note, "History Ireland" magazine takes an in-depth look at historical matters).