Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria (16 April 2020)

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Date of Auction: 16th April 2020

Sold for £3,000

Estimate: £2,400 - £2,800

A 1919 Constabulary Medal (Ireland) awarded to Constable B. Robinson, Royal Irish Constabulary, for his gallantry during the defence of Inch Police Post, Clare, on 20 July 1919: ‘We did our duty to the best of our ability, and without fear, we will continue to do so’

Constabulary Medal (Ireland), 2nd type, ‘Reward of Merit Royal Irish Constabulary’ (Constable Bernard Robinson 62053. 1919) with integral top silver riband bar, edge bruising, very fine £2,400-£2,800

Footnote

Provenance: Spink Medal Quarterly, April 1994.

Bernard Robinson was a Catholic, born in co. Roscommon on 10 May 1885, who worked as a farmer before he joined the Royal Irish Constabulary on 15 August 1906. He served as a Constable (normally referred to by local Irish people as a ‘Peeler’) with Mayo Police from 26 February 1907, before transferring to Tipperary Police on 22 January 1915, and Clare Police on 20 May 1916. The majority of Robinson’s police experience reflected a time when there was comparatively little crime in the rural areas of Ireland, and the R.I.C. did most of its work unarmed, except in the major ports and logistics hubs and the great industrial city of Belfast (Dublin was the responsibility of an entirely separate force, the Dublin Municipal Police). The government economised by only allowing Robinson and his fellow Peelers to fire a grand total of 21 practise rounds each per year, using miniature .22 calibre ammunition.

At just under 10,000 men in 1913, the R.I.C. was large for a police force but small for an armed garrison. As close to 2,000 men were located at its central depot or tied up in Belfast, less than 8,000 R.I.C. men were scattered across rural Ireland in about 1,300 small detachments. These detachments lived in and worked out of police stations or posts. In large towns these buildings were often purpose-built and equipped with holding cells etc., but in the countryside many were small, simple row houses or country cottages rented by the government. In 1919 few were fortified, or had their windows and doors protected with steel shutters and loopholes. Fewer still were sited with defence in mind, but regardless of this, they were all officially called Barracks, or Huts in the case of the smallest. In 1913, 87% of R.I.C. Barracks held fewer than ten policemen, 41% held fewer than five.

The Attack on Inch R.I.C. hut
In early 1919, Sergeant Curtin commanded the Inch Police Hut, in co. Clare, where Robinson and two other constables lived and worked. At that time, six Peelers had been killed by republicans since the Irish Sinn Fein Members of Parliament had made a unilateral declaration of Irish independence in January 1919 and an escalating pattern of violent attacks on the police and on Crown property began.
The
Clare Champion gave the following account of the July 1919 attack at Inch:
‘Inch and Connolly Police Huts were attacked by men armed with guns and revolvers on last Sunday morning (20 July 1919). At Inch it is stated that the Sergeant and four constables were awakened at 3:30 a.m. by the explosion of a bomb which had been thrown through a front window. [To note, the reporter mixed up the total number of police and the total number of constables – later, more accurate reports confirm that a total of four R.I.C. were in the hut when it was attacked. Also, at this stage of the war the republicans were generally using homemade blast bombs, improvised from gelignite sticks and fuses stolen from farms and quarries, rather than military hand grenades.] Two more bombs were thrown in through a back window but they exploded between some boxes and did little damage. The police got their revolvers and fired on the party. The fire was returned and the fight continued for three quarters of an hour, after which the attacking party retired. None of the police was injured, but it is thought that one of the attackers must have been injured as a considerable quantity of blood was discovered on the ground where a number of empty cartridge cases were strewn.’ (
Clare Champion, 26 July 1919 refers).

Tributes were paid to the four Peelers by the local Ascendancy grandees, including Lord Inchiquin, in late September, and these give further details: ‘The Chairman… thought it was a good thing to have the facts of the case made public. On the Sunday morning of the attack on Inch hut Sergeant Curtin was out on patrol, and were it not for the fact that he had not gone to sleep, the hut would have been captured and these four men would have been murdered. When the Sergeant heard the attack he got his men to get their arms ready to defend the hut with the greatest bravery. Three live bombs were thrown into the small compartment in which the police were. It was a miracle these men were not killed, because all the furniture was wrecked. He could not tell how the men could have remained in the small compartment, with splinters flying around them, without being hit. There was a fusillade of innumerable shots, both rifle and revolver shots from a large crowd of men from behind stone fences. The four police defended the hut with their rifles and a large number of men had to beat a hasty retreat, leaving some blood stains, he was glad to say, on the wall. Sergeant Curtin – “I beg to thank your worships for your kind remarks… We did our duty to the best of our ability, and without fear, we will continue to do so.”’ (Saturday Record and Clare Journal, 20 September 1919 refers)

For his gallant conduct during the defence of the Inch police post, Robinson received the Constabulary Medal on 15 September 1919 and a First Class Favourable Record. Despite a campaign of intimidation and ostracization designed to break R.I.C. morale, Robinson refused to resign from the force. He was awarded a Third Class Favourable Record in June 1920, promoted to Sergeant on 1 September 1920, and transferred to Kerry Police on 16 December 1921. Robinson remained a Peeler until the disbanding of the R.I.C. in 1922.