first_imgA Donegal man has just published his second historic novel.Liam O Duibhir is a well known Letterkenny author who specialises in Irish historic literature.His latest novel, Prisoners of War – Ballykinlar Internment Camp 1920 – 1921, tells the story of more than 600 men interned in a prisoner of war camp. At least 70 of those were from Donegal.“Just think of the Great Escape with Steve McQueen and a Dublin accent and that’s the book,” says O Duibhir painting the picture.The following is a summary of the book which will undoubtedly take its place on the shelves of history lovers everywhere.Ballykinlar Internment Camp First photo is of the No. 1 Compound Staff Officers – Front row (L-R) Art O’Donnell, Mossie Donegan, Joseph McGrath, Dr. Richard Hayes, Dr. T.F. O’Higgins – Back row (L-R) Thomas Meldon, Barney O’Driscoll, Thomas Treacy, D. Hogan.Prisoners of War – Ballykinlar Internment Camp 1920 – 1921:Following the outbreak of the War for Independence the British were slow to react to the initial activities of the Irish Volunteers or the Irish Republican Army. However, by mid-1920 the Irish War of Independence had developed into a vicious and depraved conflict. In that year the Irish people were subjected to the brutal reprisal policy of the British quasi-military forces of the Auxiliary Cadets and the Black and Tans. These forces were deployed to Ireland by the British government to bolster the ranks of the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) and generally ignored the normal code of warfare. The quasi-military forces targeted the general population in their endeavour to defeat the IRA in a campaign of murder, brutality and widespread destruction. The deployment of these forces by the British government was in direct response to the escalation in the IRA’s campaign against the various components of the British establishment in Ireland; the military, RIC, judiciary and British administration. The events of ‘Bloody Sunday’ 21 November 1920 and the assassinations of fourteen members of the British secret service, military intelligence and court martial officer was the turning point and the catalyst for mass internment.In response to that event the British military in Ireland mounted large scale arrest operations throughout the thirty-two counties as part of their internment policy to suppress the activities of the IRA and Sinn Féin. Soon hundreds of men were being held in RIC barracks, town halls and various other buildings up and down the country. As the numbers rapidly increased the British establishment were faced with the dilemma of identifying a suitable location to incarcerate these men.In mid-December 1920 a disused British military camp situated at the mouth of Dundrum Bay on the county Down coast opened its gates to the first few hundred Irish internees’. With the picturesque backdrop of Slieve Donard Mountain and the Mountains of Mourne the camp was obviously selected for its isolated location. The British felt that the camp would serve to break the spirit of the men with little prospect of escape. The men would be transported by sea and by rail to the Belfast docks where they were always subjected to a hostile reception from the dock workers and crowds that gathered to verbally abuse them with each new batch of arrivals having to pass under a shower of nuts, bolts and other missiles. They would then entrain to Tullmurry Railway Station approximately three miles from the camp. From there they were forced to walk with their belongings and handcuffed in pairs to the camp.This was to be the first mass centre of internment on the island of Ireland and would house men from every county. The two compounds nestled in the south east corner of this camp would become known to its inhabitants as the cages of Ballykinlar Internment Camp.  Compound Staff Officers – Front row (L-R) Art O’Donnell, Mossie Donegan, Joseph McGrath, Dr. Richard Hayes, Dr. T.F. O’Higgins – Back row (L-R) Thomas Meldon, Barney O’Driscoll, Thomas Treacy, D. Hogan.The men who found themselves behind the barbed wire confines of the Ballykinlar cages were not charged or convicted of any crime but were served with an internment order without any defined period of detention. Internment did not discriminate against class and the cages of Ballykinlar were inhabited by all walks of Irish life with the result that two small communities had been established consisting of all trades and professions to be found in any village, town or city in Ireland.The British internment policy was devised to destroy the will of the men and demoralise them to the extent that they would abandon their political aspirations. However, the internees’ soon organised and set about countering the affects that internment was designed to instil. The internment policy was countered through an extensive education curriculum, sports, drama, newsletters, arts and crafts, and other recreational activities. With university professors and teachers among the internees’ the educational curriculum catered for various subjects, including; Irish classes, mathematics, shorthand, book-keeping, singing, fiddle and piano classes, French and the Classics. Some internee’s also qualified in various disciplines and certificates were issued to all men on the completion of the particular course of study. The camp also had a violin orchestra organised by Martin Walton. Other well-known figures in the camp were Sean Lemass, later a Taoiseach, Peadar Kearney author of ‘The Soldier’s Song’ and many others who would later be prominent in Irish political and professional life.Athletic was also an important part of camp life with boxing and wrestling classes with separate committees being established – Sports Committee and G.A.A. Board. The G.A.A. football league was the most popular sport and teams were made up of the different huts. The two compounds requested permission to play each other but the British refused. There was also a camp newsletter and was issued on a regular basis. The information was based on events in the camp, stories, camp football results etc.Perhaps for the internees the most effective method of countering the interment policy was opposing the authority of the British military in the camp. They also explored various methods of escape and perhaps their greatest enthusiasm was expressed in this way. The will to be free was the most dominant thought in the minds of the internees and proposals for escape were being presented to the camp councils on a regular basis. The British were convinced that tunnelling out of the camp was impossible as the grounds were only a matter of feet above water level. However, the internees discovered that tunnelling could be carried out in some parts of the camp and the first tunnel was started in Hut 2 of No. 1 compound. A trap door was cleverly cut out of the floor of the wash room in that hut and this was to serve as the entrance to the tunnel. Hut 2 was in a good location for a tunnel being just inside the barbed wire barricades, under the guardroom and almost under the nearest sentry box. The work on the tunnel was carried out by day and night and the sand excavated was disposed of at various locations around the camp. Bed boards were taken from huts for the shoring up the tunnel as it progressed and when these were discovered missing the men would give different excuses, but the most believable was that they were used for burning in the stove. The tunnel was equipped with lighting and ventilation. The sand and soil was transported to the tunnel entrance on a wooden bogey running on wooden rails, which was pulled by a long cord or rope. The tunnel was discovered and the British engineers dug a trench around the compound between the outer and inner barbed wire fence known as ‘Dead Man’s Walk’. The tunnel was said to have reached approximately 360 feet when discovered. This did not end the tunnel digging and other were constructed even up until the time of their release in December 1921.A number of men were murdered by sentries in both compounds with Joseph Tormey and Patrick Sloan being the first. Both men were shot with a single bullet. Tadhg Barry was shot in November 1921 for being allegedly too close to the wire only weeks before the internees’ were released. Other men died in the camp from various illnesses and mainly due to the lack of proper treatment – Patrick O’Toole, Pneumonia – Maurice Galvin, Brights Disease – John O’Sullivan, Haemorrhage – Maurice Quinn, Consumption – Edward Healy, Pneumonia.Ballykinlar internment camp housed over 2,000 men in the twelve months that it existed as a mass centre of internement. The story of Ballykinlar Internment camp is on the one hand an account of suffering, espionage, murder and maltreatment; but it is also a chronicle of survival, discipline, comradeship and community.DONEGAL AUTHOR RELEASES SECOND NOVEL – PRISONERS OF WAR AT BALLYKINLAR INTERNMENT CAMP was last modified: March 24th, 2013 by StephenShare this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window)Click to share on Telegram (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to share on Skype (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Tags:author Liam O DuibhirletterkennyPrisoners of Warlast_img read more