On the night of 31st January, 1921 at about 10.20 p.m. an attack was made on RIC County Inspector, Captain William H. King near Mallow railway station. Captain King, who was wounded, was accompanied by his wife and in the exchange of fire Mrs. King was shot dead.
After the attack a party of enraged British soldiers and Black and Tans emerged from the nearby military barracks intent on avenging the death of Mrs. King. At the time of the shooting about 100 rail workers were on duty at the station and the British fired indiscriminately and arrested many of the workers. A little later a party of Black and Tans, under a head constable, opened fire on the engine driver and fireman of a goods train which had just arrived from Thurles and then began shooting at every man they saw carrying a lamp. In the waiting-room attached to the locomotive department a number of railway men were preparing for work when the place was raided by the police. All the men were ordered out on to the road outside the station, with their hands over their heads. They were then told to run for their lives. They were then fired upon and most were wounded while three were shot dead. They were a seventeen year old named Bennett, a father of eight children named Patrick Devitt and Daniel Mullane, a twenty-three year old fireman who, having escaped himself went back to assist a wounded driver, Harry Martin. Mullane received three bullet wounds through the hips and died early on the following morning.
A military court of enquiry into the shootings was later carried out by the British. Its president was Colonel Commandant H. R. Cumming, D.S.O., who was killed at the Clonbanin ambush before the enquiry had ended. The findings of the enquiry stated that:
“The R.I.C. did remove signal men from their respective cabins without previously having provided suitable or any reliefs… that a member of the R.I.C. did forcibly enter the railway refreshment room and obtain stimulant for Mrs. King, that his action, in the circumstances, is considered justifiable, that thereafter such refreshment room remained opened and was entered by some members of the R.I.C, and the railway staff, but that there is no evidence to show who is guilty of the alleged heavy depredations.”
The findings attempted to cover up the happenings of 31st. January by inferring that the railwaymen were mistaken in thinking that the deaths of their co-workers had been carried out by members of the Crown forces.