Major General Sir Hugh (‘Black’) Tudor

Published in Issue 5 (Sep/Oct 2005), News, Revolutionary Period 1912-23, Volume 13

Last October I was approached by an old friend in England, who asked whether I would be interested in purchasing the First World War uniforms and various pieces of equipment of a Major General Tudor. I was sent various photos of the collection, and at the time my only interest was in the strange-looking Brodie helmet. However, my friend was unwilling to break up the collection, so I lost interest—until I received a book on the Black and Tans by Richard Bennett. Skipping through the book, I discovered a photograph with a caption about a General Tudor inspecting a group of Auxies in Dublin. I immediately contacted my friend to see whether the collection was still available and to quiz him on his knowledge about the general. Luckily for me, his information was obtained from a 1920s Who’s Who, which described Major General Tudor as having served in the Boer War (seriously wounded) and the Great War (1914–18) but said nothing about his service in Ireland. So I was able to buy the entire collection at a reasonable price.
The history of Tudor is tied up with his friendship with Winston Churchill, forged when they served together in Bangalore in the 1890s. In World War I he became general officer in command (GOC) 9th Scottish Division, of which he had earlier been Commander of the Royal Artilery (CRA). He had been a moving force in the development and adoption of the predicted barrage and smoke shell, and had greatly reduced infantry casualties in the attack by substituting a smoke and high explosive barrage for the then conventional barrage of shrapnel.
In Ireland in 1920 the conduct of affairs was largely taken out of the hands of the Anglo-Irish bureaucracy who had hitherto been kings of the castle. General Tudor was first appointed police adviser to the viceroy, before taking command of both police forces—the Royal Irish Constabulary and the Dublin Metropolitan Police—and also of the intelligence and secret service. These newcomers suffered from none of the prejudices or inhibitions of the native-born administrator. Like the Black and Tans, they had come to Ireland to do a ‘job’, and when it was finished they would leave. The ‘job’ was twofold: to wear down the IRA by a campaign of attrition and to find someone with whom to negotiate.
Tudor, according to Tim Pat Coogan, believed that he had been given a ‘dirty job’ to do and, unlike some of the other British generals, such as Crozier and Strickland, he pushed dirty war tactics to the limit. Crozier was to resign in protest when he suspended 26 members of the Auxiliaries for their part in the sacking of Trim in February 1921. Tudor reinstated them.
Tudor got his name, ‘Black Tudor’, for his part in the Croke Park Bloody Sunday killings, for which he was blamed. Kevin Barry might also have had his death sentence commuted if Tudor had not threatened to resign unless an example was made of him. The Journal of Irish Studies carries the following statement:

‘Tudor perfectly exemplified the government’s evasive approach to dealing with “official reprisals” and along with his political masters, he contributed substantially to the growing domestic and international political pressures for a settlement in 1921.’

It was believed that on his return from Palestine Tudor would be shot on sight by the IRA, and so, with the help of his friend Churchill, he was given safe passage to Newfoundland, where he worked for and lived with George Barr. Tudor had a housekeeper/nurse named Monica McCarthy, who remained with him until his death in 1965 some 40 years later. No press photos were ever taken of Tudor during his 40 years in exile, but he communicated regularly with Churchill until the latter’s death in 1965. No records of his last will and testament or who organised his burial in Newfoundland are available. His headstone bears only his name, rank and date of death.
Finally, it may be of interest to collectors that Tudor’s Brodie helmet is a rare experimental one that was never officially issued. There are two guns and a brass knuckleduster of his in the Newfoundland Museum.

Gerald Ryan is a collector of militaria.


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