British gunfire or a hidden sniper?

old Cobh town hall

Cobh’s former town hall at Casement Square. An urban council meeting was in progress at the time of the attack. Citizens ran here seeking safety when armed British troups arrived back on the pier.

On 21st March 1924, around an hour after the shooting on the Pier Head, a small party of British soldiers, this time fully armed, arrived back on the pier.  On seeing the soldiers many local people fled for cover to Cobh town hall where they cowered in fear with the lights switched off.   Some feared that the British troops had come back to retaliate for the earlier attack.  A machine gunner was posted on the pier while several British soldiers, led by Captain Peter Neville from the Royal Garrison Artillery, crossed the road towards the Soldier’s Home on West Beach where the group briefly held two men, probably off-duty British soldiers.  The soldiers then proceeded along West Beach in an easterly direction.  Suddenly there was a burst of gunfire and Captain Neville was hit. The injured British officer and his men then withdrew and returned to Spike Island.  Subsequently the British government claimed that Neville was injured by sniper fire, but eyewitnesses told a different tale and said that the British officer had been shot by his own side. Separate British and Irish inquiries were held but the findings were never revealed.  What really happened?  The story is told in the new book “Death on the Pier” which is due out towards the end of April 2017.

Armed British troops in Cork Harbour with a Lewis machine gun. Photo appeared in local press in days after the Pier Head incident.

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