Posted 16 November 2005 - 11:05 AM
I'm afraid there's no more information in There's a Devil in the Drum, but there is this snippet:
One day Jim introduced me to a natty little English sergeant, a pert, talkative chap with waxed moustaches. Jim, following his usual habit, merely said: ' This chap had something to do with your countrymen in the rebellion last year.' I cocked my ears, and the smart little sergeant spoke: 'Yes, I was there. As a matter of fact I had the job of seeing them off.' My heart pounded. Sickeningly I looked at the Irish harp on his cap badge, and I stared bitterly at his beady brown eyes.
He was restless, and wanted to talk. Knowing my sympathies by hearsay, he had come to me somehow like a man coming back to the scene of some dountful act to attempt reconciliation. He was the first of a number of unhappy Englishmen who tried, and tried vainly, to square their acts against Ireland with me.
My shocked silence was taken for attention, and he talked on while we walked along one side of the barrack square. Jim had politely disappeared.
This sergeant of the firing squad told me of the executions following Easter week. He described in detail the way the leaders met their death. I cannot remember them all because my blood was racing.
McBride evoked the greatest admiration. He refused to be blinfolded. He smiled at his nervous executioners, and told them he had looked down the wrong end of the barrels of rifles before. McBride left a terrific impression of contemptuous invincibility. He was a great man. The sergeant did not like that job.
He then told of young Plunkett, whose fate was to me the most tragic of the lot, because the others gave the impression of being seasoned soldiers, at any rate in mind, and Plunkett seemed so young and fragile. The sergeant stopped and took some rosary beads from his pocket. 'See these. They are his. Souvenir. Want 'em?'
I touched them for a reason he would never understand, and said: 'No. Keep the beads. I hope they will do you good,' but really I did not hope that, because mentally I was wishing him and his like non-existent. He was astonished at my refusal, and hurt because I also refused to drink with him.
A few pages on he tells another interesting little story linked to the Rising:
....among them were certain Reserve officers who had fought against the rebels at Dublin in 1916. One of these latter was very gloomy because his orders for the front had come at last, and he complained that he, at any rate, had no hope of returning alive from France, because if the Germans did not get him, some southern Irishman might shoot him down surreptitiously in battle for the part he had played at Dublin. By some curious trick of fate he was killed in his first action. He left the British front trenches to attack with his men, but did not arrive at the German front line, and his body was not recovered. Already the Sinn Feiners were earning a name for never forgetting.
I confess I was rather indifferent to this officer's fate, because he was an Irishman and should have not fought against his own people. His end impressed me because I went over the top on the left of his company at the same time, and afterwards other officers confirmed that he had confessed to his old fear before advancing