Tomás Ó Flatharta

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Acts of Defiance Against the British Empire – Rebels Struck for Freedom in Ireland and India 100 Years Ago – Connaught Rangers’ Mutiny and Udham Singh (The Patient Assassin)

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Conor Kostick, writing on the Independent Left website, offers us a fine history of the Connaught Rangers Mutiny 100 Years Ago. We should honour this action honestly, celebrating blows struck against the British Empire. Equally, we should honor the actions of Udham Singh, the “Patient Assassin” who executed William O’Dwyer, a Tipperary born British Army Officer directly responsible for the infamous Amritsar Massacre of 1919 in India.

Connaught Rangers in India, 1920 – Irish Rebels Desert the British Army – Haul Down the Union Jack and Raise the Tricolour

One of the most extraordinary acts of defiance against the British Empire took place in India on 28 June 1920 when four Irish soldiers, members of the British army, thousands of miles from home, decided to protest against the suppression of the independence movement in Ireland. The soldiers belonged to the Connaught Rangers and were stationed at the north of the country in the Wellington Barracks, Jullundur (modern day Jalandhar). At eight a.m. that morning, Joseph Hawes, Patrick Gogarty, Christopher Sweeney and Stephen Lally, all members of C Company, approached an officer they felt they could trust, Lance Corporal John Flannery, and told him that they wished to ground arms and cease fighting for the British Army due to the oppression of their friends in Ireland.

Some Historians – like Irish Establishment Representatives who attempted to stage a Commemoration of the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) / Black-and-Tans – insult the Connaught Rangers’ Mutineers

Downplaying the extent of radical Irish nationalism in the mutiny

Conor Kostick Observes

One of the invited historians is Mario Draper, Lecturer at the University of Kent. Draper’s thesis is that the mutiny was less about Ireland than about discontent with local conditions. He dismisses the explicit testimony of the men that they were braving execution for the sake of Ireland’s national struggle as a ‘narrative of convenience’. In later life, he argues, these men were exaggerating the political side of their protest so as to get adulation and pensions. Instead, it was about local difficulties and poor communication between senior officers and the rank and file. Draper does not provide eye-witness reports to confirm an approach that would no doubt portray Spartacus as a gladiator who was merely disaffected over poor quality food, rather than the existence of slavery.

It is a profound insult to Joe Hawes and his comrades to doubt this was the real reason for the mutiny and to say that in later life they played up their desire to support Ireland’s struggle against the British empire because it suited their self-interest to do so.

Contemporary Evidence :

Veteran participants of the Connaught Rangers mutiny parade outside the GPO

Moreover, the contemporary evidence of the British themselves confirms that it was the mistreatment of Irish civilians that was troubling the hearts and minds of the soldiers. Lieutenant-Colonel H.F.N. Jourdain, wrote to the London papers, saying that the men had been ‘led astray by the accounts they had received about the Black and Tans.’ If the real issue behind the mutiny was local discontent why did the mutineers sing rebel songs? Wear green, white and gold rosettes? Fly the tricolour? During the court martial, the men from England who joined the mutiny were asked why they had protested on behalf of Ireland. None of them replied that they had other grievances. Rather, they expressed loyalty for their Irish comrades and sympathy for Ireland.

It is unlikely that the Connaught Rangers who mutinied in 1920 will get the 100 year commemoration they deserve from the current event. Hopefully, relatives who have organised in a Facebook group will be able to arrange an event with a more inspiring message than, ‘it was only really about the men being given too much work’. And Councillor John Lyons of Independent Left will be urging Dublin City Council to the same.

The mutiny of the Connaught Rangers was an incredibly brave and principled act on behalf of Ireland’s struggle for independence, one that was almost sure to lead to the participants facing the firing squad or many years in prison. That the men were willing to make this stand, rather than continue to serve an army behaving brutally in Ireland, should be properly honoured in 2020.

Glasnevin Cemetary monument in honour of the mutineers of the Connaught Rangers

An Irish Traitor called Sir Michael O’Dwyer, the Amritsar Massacre in the Punjab, India, and a hero Udham Singh.

Decent people in Ireland should erect a monument in a prominent place honouring Udham Singh.

Sir Michael O’Dwyer was 75, a grandee of British imperialism. Few there noticed the one Indian man in attendance who arrived in late and sidled his way up to the front. Proceedings had just ended when the man walked straight up to O’Dwyer and shot him twice through the heart

O’Dwyer’s killer, Udham Singh, is a hero in India. The date of his death is a national holiday in the Punjab. Last year a statue was unveiled in the Jallianwala Bagh, the walled garden which is the site of the Amritsar massacre. It depicts Singh with his fist clutching a sod of blood-soaked earth. According to legend, Singh witnessed the Amritsar massacre and vowed from that day forward he would track down the men responsible for the foul deed.

Udham Singh Executes Sir Michael O’Dwyer

After a long and tempestuous life in the service of British imperialism, Sir Michael O’Dwyer had got used to a quiet life.

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