A biography of Michael Collins's Director of Intelligence has revealed that an important coded message from the 'Big Fella' to army headquarters in Dublin on August 22, 1922 was delayed, ultimately costing him his life.
“Emmet Dalton: Somme Soldier, Irish General, Film Pioneer” by Sean Boyne tells how on his fateful trip to West Cork, Collins ordered an army aircraft to be flown in to survey West Cork, where anti-Treaty forces were high, before his arrival.
But because of a delay in his message, the airborne search was never carried out. His message reached the National Army Headquarters in Portobello, Dublin at 8:35 pm, and was decoded by 10:20 pm. Collins had been fatally shot between 7:30 and 8 pm.
The book says that if the message had been sent earlier on the trip, Collins’s killers would have been spotted from above.
Major General Dalton was in the touring car with Collins at the time of the ambush; Collins died in his arms.
The Irish Independent reports that the new biography “tells the romantic and varied life story of Dalton,” and that it was per his request that Collins ordered the air surveillance at all.
A number of Collins’s riflemen had previously been waiting in the area, but departed and lifted a land mine when they thought Collins’ convoy wasn’t coming.
IRA scout John Galvin later spotted the convoy from afar, and alerted the remaining riflemen.
“Had Collins arrived just 15 minutes later, there might have been no ambush,” the Independent said.
General Dalton was a revered Free State army commander in the War of Independence, Collins’s Director of Intelligence and close friend, and a founding father of the Irish Defence Forces. He oversaw the transition of power from the British.
He also founded Ardmore Film Studios in Bray, Co. Wicklow in 1958.
* Originally published in 2014.