At this time (probably about the autumn of 1920) I was ‘on the run’ and spent practically all my time with Donovan and some others who were also ‘on the run’ in the 7th. Battalion area. I remember Donovan telling us that he had orders from G.H.Q. to shoot a Lieutenant Litchfield of the British Army who was then stationed in Killenaule, and Donovan in turn gave us orders that if the opportunity ever came our way we were to shoot Litchfield at sight.
On a few occasions we went into Killenaule at night and patrolled the streets there but failed to see Lieutenant Litchfield.
Then on Sunday, 31st. October, 1920, I was present at a meeting which was held at Kennedy’s of Silverfort, about six miles from Killenaule, at which Donovan decided to take a party of us into Killenaule that night. His plan was to fire a few shots at the sentry who patrolled outside the barracks and in this way to lure Lieutenant Litchfield out of the barracks. Amongst those who cycled from Silverfort to Killenaule that night were Tommy Donovan (then as I have said, Commandant of the 7th. Battalion), Sean Hayes, Nicholas Moroney, the late Denis Sadlier, Harry Bushe, Patrick Clancy, Tommy Lee and myself. There were some others whose names I cannot now recall. We were all armed with revolvers. We halted at the creamery just outside Killenaule. Here some Killenaule Volunteers met us and reported that the sentry was on duty outside the barracks. Donovan then sent Patrick Clancy and I into the town to scout around and see if everything was quiet. While we were on this duty we saw two R.I.C. men leave the barracks and go down the street and into O’Connell’s publichouse. The sentry was at that time still outside the barracks. Donovan, who had followed us into the town, also saw the two R.I.C. men enter O’Connell’s and he remarked to Clancy and I, “This makes it easier, we will capture the two policemen and hold them as hostages”. He then sent Tommy Lee and another Volunteer to the rear of the premises with orders not to permit anyone to leave by the back door. Donovan, Clancy and I then went to the front door and knocked. There was some delay about opening the front door. In fact we had to knock long and persistently before it was opened to us. There was no sigh of the two policemen in the shop and a lady who was there said that they had left. We searched the office and tap-room but no sign of them. The lady in charge of the shop shouted and screamed that they had left, that they were not there. Donovan opened the back door and Tommy Lee, who was outside, assured him that no one had left by the back. We tried to calm the lady by telling her that we did not intend to shoot or harm the R.I.C. men, but to no avail. She became so violently hysterical that we abandoned our idea of searching the upstairs portion of the house for them. Returning to the street Donovan said “We will carry out our original plan and fire at the sentry”, but when we went towards the barracks we saw that the sentry had been withdrawn and the barrack door was then closed.
We moved down the street and when about 100 yards from the barracks stood a few minutes while Donovan considered what our next move should be. What looked to us to be two very drunken British soldiers then came around a corner about 50 yards away from us. They had their arms around each other’s shoulders and were singing “For he’s a jolly good fellow”. They staggered about the street and as they approached us Donovan remarked to me,”Will we hold them up?”, and I replied “What’s the use? They were only two poor drunken soldiers”. Donovan’s remark were the last words he ever spoke, for when the two soldiers were about two yards from us they shed all signs of intoxication and fired point blank at us with revolvers which they had in their hands. They were, in fact, Lieutenant Litchfield himself and a sergeant of his unit. Donovan was hit in the head by the shot, and as he fell he, too, fired and I saw the bullet from his gun break the surface of the road. I was hit by a bullet which entered my right leg just over the knee and emerged near the groin. Clancy was wounded in the arm and back. Both Clancy and I crawled to the opposite side of the street, where we were again fired at, but this time without effect. I next saw Litchfield and his companion catch Donovan by the legs and drag him to the barracks.