“You may kill my body, my Lord, but my spirit you will never kill”
Born on 5 May 1864 at Currygrane, Ballinalee, County Longford in Ireland, Sir Henry Hughes Wilson joined the Army in 1884 and won the DSO during the Boer War. In 1910, he became Director of Military Operations at the War Office. Four years later, his career stuttered when he refused to authorize the use of troops against Ulster Unionists opponents of Third Irish Home Rule Bill in the Curragh Mutiny. On 18 February 1918, he was promoted to Chief of the Imperial General Staff. Lloyd George thought Wilson “had undoubtedly the nimblest intelligence amongst the soldiers of high degree”. On 3 July 1919, he was further promoted becoming Field Marshal, awarded 510,000 by Parliament and made a baronet.
When he retired from the Army in February 1922, he became MP for North Down. On 22 June 1922, he dedicated a memorial at Liverpool Street Station, London, to those who had fallen in the First World War. Then he and Lady Wilson caught a taxi back to their home at 36 Eaton Place in Belgravia. As Sir Henry paid the cab driver, Reginald Dunne and Joseph O’Sullivan, two members of the IRA, shot him in the back four times.
The two murderers then fled and were chased by PC March whom they shot in the stomach and PC Sayer who was shot in the leg. The police finally cornered the two men, saving them from a lynching.
36 Eaton Place, London, England
Thursday 22 June 1922
The murderers were tried at the Old Bailey on 18 July 1922 and found guilty after a trial lasting just three hours. As sentence of death was passed, O’Sullivan said, “You may kill my body, my Lord, but my spirit you will never kill.” They were hanged on 10 August 1922 at Wandsworth Prison. The murder of Sir Henry was ordered by Michael Collins. Sir Henry was given a state funeral and buried in the crypt of St Paul’s Cathedral on 26 June 1922.