Irish soldiers were a key part of the British Army for hundreds of years up to the creation of the Irish Free State in 1922. They helped Britain win numerous battles, most famously perhaps, the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.
Their bravery and loyalty were unquestioned and Britain had no hesitation in recruiting in Ireland when help was needed. That loyalty became strained, however, in 1920 at the height of the Irish War of Independence, which saw British troops fighting against Irish nationalists trying to end British rule.
On June 28 in 1920, some members of the Connaught Rangers, a troop of Irish soldiers in the British Army based in India, refused to serve over the atrocities being carried out by British soldiers in Ireland. The mutineers were led by Private James Daley of County Westmeath, and stated that they would refuse to work until the British troops in Ireland were withdrawn.
The British auxiliary soldiers, the Black and Tans, were accused of torturing IRA members and killing innocent civilians in revenge for losses of their own.
These members of the Connaught Rangers refused to fight for the British army while it allowed these atrocities to continue and go unpunished.
They attempted to take control of their regiment by gaining access to the supply of weapons but were overpowered by members who remained loyal to the British crown. Some of the mutineers were killed in the conflict.
The rest surrendered and were court-martialled, nineteen were sentenced to death. Eighteen had their sentence overturned and reduced to life imprisonment.
James Daley’s death sentence stood and he was executed by firing squad in November 1920. He was the last person in the British army to be executed for mutiny.
Read the full poem, Lay Him Away on the Hillside.
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