CHAPTER V. RAIDS.

BOTH officers and men in Dublin rather welcomed a raid than otherwise : it was a break in the monotony of the everlasting guards. There was always the hope of a scrap, of getting a little of their own back. When volunteers were called for, the whole regiment usually responded. Dressed in filthy old clothes and rubber soled shoes, especially kept for what was frequently very dirty work, they sallied forth in parties of twenty or so, with one or more officers. These raids were usually done at night, and fearful secrecy was observed. My husband came back to our flat about tea-time as usual. He stayed for dinner, and then about 9 o'clock suddenly announced that he was going out again, and would not be back that night. He was always so afraid that a chance word would arouse the suspicions of the Irish servants, who doubtless had their own means of communicating quickly with their friends outside. No one who has not been in Ireland lately could possibly realise the marvellous organisation of the Sinn Feiners, and the enormous sums of money they have at their command for Intelligence work. Their information was wonderfully rapid and accurate, and they do not disdain the humblest instrument. The paper-boys, the woman who sold flowers and who was allowed to sit in the hall of the flats with her baskets, were all part of their Intelligence system. Ever since 1916, when Asquith released the rebel leaders who were then in prison, they have been busy, while we were fighting for our lives, perfecting this system , collecting money, and organising the guerilla warfare which they are now waging so successfully. We did our best, by the strictest secrecy, to struggle against this marvellous information.'

The officer in charge of these midnight raids never even called for his volunteers until a few minutes before the raid was timed to start. In fact, he actually went round the barrack rooms and roused each man from his bed. With all his many virtues, the British Tommy is a confiding person, and the ladies he met in the streets were often members of the I.R.A. The party then left the barracks in a motor lorry, which went by a circuitous route towards the house which had been selected for the raid. Some few hundred yards away it halted. Leaving a few men to guard the lorry, the rest ran quickly and noiselessly towards the house, the plan of which had been carefully studied before leaving barracks. Parties previously detailed went straight to the doors and various exits. When all were in position, a knock on the door with the butt-end of a rifle aroused the inhabitants. After they had knocked, the two men at the door immediately sprang to one side, to avoid the very strong chance of a shot being fired through the panels from inside. Once the door was opened, the search party entered, leaving a strong picket outside. The occupants of the house usually presented a curious appearance in various odd deshabilles ; they were generally terribly frightened, but when they realised the raiders were soldiers and not the much more feared auxiliaries, they became calmer. Beds, cupboards, chimneys were searched, and carpets raised. Ladies' clothing hanging in wardrobes was always carefully investigated. This was often a favourite hiding-place for revolvers,ammunition, or seditious documents. If the house was moderately clean this work was bearable , though unpleasant. But there is another side to this picture, and some of the descriptions given to me by officers, to whose unhappy lot had fallen the searching of some of the filthy tenement houses in which Dublin slums abound, made me quite ill. A dozen in a room and five or six in a bed was quite usual ; and imagine searching such a bed and pulling the mattress to pieces. One officer told me that he had found four human beings, two ducks and a lamb, in one bed, not to speak of hundreds of smaller and unmentionable animals. A few days in hospital subsequent to a raid such as this, to get rid of a complaint common among the great unwashed, were often necessary. It annoyed me so much that the men returning from a raiding party had always to submit to the indignity of being carefully searched. This was due to the whines and complaints, totally unjustifiable, of the Irish rebels, who invariably claimed compensation from the hated British Government for articles missing from their houses after a raid articles which they had probably never possessed. Even necessary damage, such as the breaking of a lock of a cupboard, or the accidental smashing of a pane of glass, was always paid for. Truly we are a nation of fools, even if gentlemen. Of course, these were only small and comparatively unimportant military raids.

The big daylight raids were often carried out by combined auxiliary and military forces. It was quite a common occurrence, when going through Dublin, to find a whole street, or even a number of streets, closed. Tanks, lorries, armoured cars, all took part. No one was allowed to pass in or out of the street involved. Personally, I always retreated hurriedly, as did all sensible persons, when I found a raid in progress. There was too much risk from a stray bullet, from either side, or a fragment of a Sinn Fein bomb. These big raids were planned on an elaborate scale. Dozens of sentries picqueted every corner . A house-to-house search was made, and usually numerous arrests were effected. The tanks waddled slowly up and down the street. Ours usually hurried up a little late, and out of breath. There was a narrow street, a hill, and a nasty corner to negotiate, as it left the barracks. The first time it came out it leant for a moment against the garden wall of the civilian hospital opposite,which hastily collapsed like a pack of cards. Within half an hour a claim for compensation for wanton destruction from the hospital authorities was in the Colonel's hands, and, as usual, they were fully paid. But to me, ever the most awe-inspiring sight was the carloads of auxiliaries : eight or ten splendid-looking men, in a Crossley tender, armed to the teeth, and flying a large black-and-tan flag. On the tan half a large black "B" was painted ; on the black bit, the letter "T." I have the flag of the 169th Prussian Infantry that flew over Bonn Barracks before the arrival of our troops, also a Sinn Fein flag captured in a raid in Dublin. I should like to add to my collection one of these new flags : the colours of the only force that since the days of Cromwell have ever really ruled Ireland. I know little of what the auxiliaries have really done, or left undone, but I do know that they have put the fear of God into the Irish rebels. When criticising them, it should never be forgotten that these men are the survivors of the glorious company of those who fought and died for England.They themselves, at least, still remember their fallen comrades. For I saw them, a quiet little group, with uncovered heads, on Armistice Day, during the two minutes of what should have been silence. Only half a dozen other people near me in the crowded noisy street in which I stood paid any attention to that two minutes appointed for the remembrance of a world's sorrow, and somehow this attitude of callous indifference among the general public gave me more pain than anything else I saw in Ireland. And, God knows, I have seen enough. The previous year I was in Germany on Armistice Day.All traffic was stopped.All heads bared, and conquerors and conquered alike united in tribute to their glorious dead; for the dead belong to no country.

There is, yet, a third sort of raid, which is undertaken by two or three daring spirits only. It occasionally happens that the whereabouts of some desperate and much-wanted member of the I.R.A. becomes known to the authorities. These rebels are always surrounded by their own particular body of guards and spies. The slightest attempt at an organised raid, on a large scale, would at once give the alarm, and the wanted men would quickly fade away, to appear shortly in another quarter of the town. The only chance of getting them is a sudden dash. They are desperate men, and the raiders know well that shooting is bound to come, and it is just a question of who gets a shot in first. These raids usually end in tragedy. I had absolutely no idea until after the murders of 21st November of the awful risks run by our men, when one of the few survivors of the original Intelligence Service opened my eyes to the dangers and difficulties of their lives. He would probably never have spoken then had not the horrors of that day shaken him to the depths. He told me of whole nights spent in lonely railway cuttings when the slightest sound would have resulted in discovery and immediate death. Of long crawls over marshy fields, ending, perhaps,in a sudden dash and a volley of revolver shots. I had seen those men leaving the house, night after night, but I never knew or guessed what their work was, or still less, of the months of training they had had in this special work before coming to Ireland.

Bloodhounds are sometimes used in raids, but are not very successful in Dublin.They quickly lose the scent in a crowded street, or the wanted man probably gets into a waiting motor-car, and escapes them that way. Every old and new method is used to run the murder gang to ground, for until they are caught there can be no settlement in Ireland. But the majority of the population, if not actively helping the murderers, are at best passive. They are either terrorised or indifferent. History tells us that Ireland has always been indifferent to murder.There was a fourth and unofficial form of raiding, but the time for that has passed now. Four or five of the older soldiers, who knew how to use their fists, would go into a public-house on the quays of the Liffey, and order drinks. Then, standing up, they would sing " God Save the King," insisting that every one else should stand up too. There are still Irishmen who love an open fight, and both sides enjoyed these comparatively bloodless battles. Alas ! much blood, as well as water, has passed under O'Connells Bridge since those days, even though so short a time ago, and both sides now, when they fight, fight to kill.

Mrs Woodcock's Story