There has long been discussion whether the three soldiers were deserters or spies.
The bodies of three British soldiers; Privates Williams, Walker and Morgan of the Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, were discovered by a farmer on the Woodford to Cahir road near the shores of Lough Attorick at Poolagoond near the Clare/Galway border. The three soldiers had been executed by the IRA’s East Clare Brigade, each been shot in the head. One of them had a label hung around his neck which read ‘Spies. Tried by court-martial and found guilty. All others beware.’
The British said that the three were deserters from the British army who were ‘murdered by rebels’. The IRA had condemned them as spies posing as deserters. On balance the probability is that they were on an intelligence gathering operation.
Some British deserters did actually join the IRA. But as the War of Independence progressed, the IRA got more wary about accepting British deserters into their ranks, as they discovered a number of such men to have been ‘planted spies’.
According to the regiment these three men had been missing from Strand Barracks, Limerick city, since 13 February and nothing more was heard of them until their dead bodies were found at Woodford some 40 miles away.
Army records show that the three soldiers were paid up to 22 February 1921, the day their bodies were discovered. This would have been standard practice for serving soldiers killed on duty, but deserters would have ben paid only till 13 February, when they deserted.
Image | The road at Poolagond, Lough Atorick where the bodies of the three soldiers were discovered