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Michael Collins and Winston Churchill

This file documents the communications between Collins (then Chairman of the Provisional Government of the Irish Free State) and Churchill, between May and August 1922, the dramatic period between the sparking of the Civil War and Collins' assassination. In many ways they fulfil their stereotypes: Collins the military man, brief, direct and literal, and Churchill, the wily politician with a gift for soundbites and hyperbole.

Collins telegraphed Churchill requesting ammunition during the first engagement of the Irish Civil War, the battle of the Four Courts, in June 1922. On 29 June Collins wrote 'We were promised two hundred rounds of high explosives at two a.m. this morning but they were not available … the effect of this is to create great lack of confidence on our side amounting to grave suspicion'. Churchill, who was endeavouring to ensure that British forces still in Ireland assisted Collins' pro-Treaty forces, expressed his concern for Collins in this postscript; 'I hope you are taking good care of yourself and your colleagues. The times are v. dangerous'.

In the final letter, dated 4 August 1922, Churchill signed off with 'I hope that by the time I return in the latter part of August you will have seen that the Irish people are masters in their own house'. Collins died at Béal na Bláth, Cork, on 22 August, less than three weeks later.

Shelfmark: TCD MS 11399

Estelle Gittins

Estelle Gittins is an Archivist in the Department of Manuscripts & Archives with a focus on post-medieval historical collections. She works on public and academic engagement with the collections including outreach and exhibitions.