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A Nurse Under Fire
Smithson, Annie M.P. A long A.L.s. (7pp two folded sheets) to (Edmund) Downey, from Dublin, 14 July 1922, containing a vivid description of her experiences under fire as a Red Cross nurse with Republican forces during the evacuation of Moran’s Hotel in Dublin, in early July 1922, with a further 9 letters and cards, 1923 – 27. ‘I was in Moran’s Hotel till we evacuated on July 2nd – & then we evacuated into Marlborough St. We had travelled from Moran’s into several of the other houses & as each house was falling we retreated into the next. Fortunately we had already sent our badly wounded away. In the last house we had to lie on our faces saying the Rosary & waiting for the mine to go off – expecting to go off with it!.. We got out into the street then – just the Red Cross contingent, the others having gone on, & made our way to Marlboro’ St where our men had retreated. We carried the Red Cross Flag and were only handful of medical workers but the Free Staters fired deliberately at us & I don’t know how we escaped. From Marlboro’ St we got into the Gresham which was a great scene that night,with all our men & leaders..’
She was then sent to Sligo, but was arrested in Mullingar and sent under guard in a Free State van, which was fired on in mistake by other Free State troops. ‘A perfect fusillade of bullets pattered round us like hailstones, & crouching in the car we gave ourselves up for lost. When at last [the driver] slowed down it was found that the man who was inside with us as a guard was shot dead..’
With a second A.L.s., 14.4.23, enclosing a m.s. ‘which may be suitable for Green & Gold. ‘I have been raided & was going to be arrested. They then changed their minds & said they would return again. A pleasure in store I suppose!; and a further 8 letters and cards, 1923 – 27, mostly concerning her writings.
* Annie Smithson, from a Protestant background in Dublin, converted to Catholicism and joined Cumann na mBan. She was a Red Cross worker with Republican forces through the Civil War, and later helped to organise the Irish Nurses Organisation. She published 20 novels, many of them very successful.
The present letters appear to be unpublished. (2)
Provenance: Downey Archive.