Sir Henry Wilson’s assassins

Published in Issue 3 (May/Jun 2005), Letters, Letters, Revolutionary Period 1912-23, Volume 13

Sir,

—If Sir Henry Wilson (Henry Hughes Wilson, to give him his full name) is best remembered for the circumstances of his death, why then were we not told about his assassins—Reginald Dunn (known as ‘Reggie’ Dunn among the earliest group of Irish students at St Mary’s College, Strawberry Hill, Twickenham) and Joseph O’Sullivan—both ex-British servicemen? O’Sullivan lost a leg at the battle of Ypres. Both were in the London brigade of the IRA. A contemporary, Paddy Corr from Jarrow, wrote of Dunn in the college’s alumni periodical, The Simmarian, in 1985:
‘He kept very much to himself and did not take part in college activities. After he left we heard nothing further about him until one morning in June 1922 a picture was spotted in a morning newspaper of two men who had been arrested for the murder of Sir Henry Wilson in London. Wilson was on the IRB hit list. Dunn was found guilty and sentenced to death. Before being taken back to his cell he made the customary ritual speech from the dock.’
While both went to the scaffold in Wandsworth Prison without implicating anyone else in their deed, it is still uncertain to this day whether they were acting on orders from Collins or from the Four Courts. The week after Wilson’s murder the Four Courts were bombarded, beginning at 4.07am on 28 June 1922.
Wilson was shot on arriving at his residence, 36 Eaton Place, when returning from unveiling a war memorial at Liverpool Street Station. He was in his full field-marshall’s uniform and drew his sabre when attacked. Dunn and O’Sullivan did not have a getaway car, and because of O’Sullivan’s disability Dunn stayed with him after the shooting, guaranteeing their capture, trial and execution on 12 August 1922.

—Yours etc.,
JOHN McGURK

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