Auxiliary ‘cadets’

Published in Issue 5 (September/October 2013), Letters, Volume 21

Sir,—Reading Las Fallon’s reference (HI 21.4, July/August 2013, letters) to ‘Auxiliary police’ killed in the Kilmichael ambush, the ‘man on the Clapham omnibus’ might well think he was referring to Kosher Koppers or Pukkha Peelers. Even the more sceptical ‘man or woman on the Stockwell tube’, if acquainted with the writings of Kevin Myers or the late Peter Hart on the ‘Auxiliary Police Cadets’ killed at Kilmichael, might visualise beardless virgin boys with a vocation for keeping the peace.

Those travellers would be badly mistaken. On 6 March 1919 in London’s House of Commons the chief secretary for Ireland explained why members of the Royal Irish Constabulary could not become members of the National Union of Police and Prison Officers, ‘in as much as the Royal Irish Constabulary is a semi-military force directly under the Crown, and subject in many respects to the same conditions of employment as the army and navy forces’.

Various dictionaries define ‘cadets’ as young, uncommissioned gentlemen undergoing army or police training. All the Kilmichael ‘police cadets’ had held commissions in the British armed forces during the First World War. They were not undergoing training and their average age was 29. Anyone caring to ‘Google’ British Pathé and key in the word ‘Macroom’ can see newsreel of the funeral of the Crown forces killed in the Kilmichael ambush. The newsreel captions refer to contingents present from the various units of the Aldershot Army Command, from which the ‘cadets’ had emerged. There’s not a single British Bobby, nor ‘semi-military’ Royal Irish Constable, sergeant or inspector in sight . . .

—Yours etc.,

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