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A Bullet for the General

For 4 decades in Newfoundland, Major General Hugh Tudor, avoided publicity whilst living a careful quiet life in the shadows. But he lived in fear all his life - for during Ireland's most troubled period, he was the boss of the infamous Black and Tans outfit. (2012)

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3.9/5 (256 ratings)

Documentary maker: Chris Brookes

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A Bullet for the General

Major General Hugh Tudor: friend of Winston Churchill, and a World War One commander who originated the smokescreen and the artillery box barrage. Strangely, the decorated general spent the last four decades of his life in Newfoundland, shunning photographs and interviews, scrupulously avoiding publicity and living a carefully quiet life in the shadows - far from his country, his wife and children, and very far indeed from the limelight.

But he lived in fear, carrying a Webley revolver and a set of brass knuckles in case of a surprise attack. For he harboured a dark secret - one that would eventually cause an assassin to cross the Atlantic with a mission: to hunt him down.

Or so they say. For Tudor, after his wartime exploits, had become commander of the R.I.C, the Dublin Metropolition Police and the re-enforcements or specials to the RIC such as the notorious Black and Tans and the Auxiliaries, known as 'Tudors Toughs'. As we know now, the British forces in Ireland at that time were directed to “fight fire with fire” against the IRA in Ireland in 1920. Under Tudor's command, the Tans along with the Auxiliaries became notorious for reprisal killings, burning whole villages, setting fire to the city of Cork, and turning guns on the football crowd in Croke Park amongst other actions. After Irish independence in 1922, Tudor was considered to be a marked man, and he escaped across the Atlantic to exile in the island of Newfoundland – then an independent nation.

Years later, two assassins came to the capital city of St. John's to eliminate him. They were ultimately talked out of committing the deed by a local priest. So it is said, and widely believed, in St. John's. But did the near-killing actually happen, or is it the stuff of legend? A desire for the man known in Ireland as “Black Tudor” to get what many felt he deserved, or a convenient fiction to assuage Newfoundlander's consciences for having harboured a war criminal amongst them?

“Fiction” says Newfoundland crime novelist Thomas Curran, “is ofter truer than fact.” With Curran's help, documentary maker Chris Brookes unravels the mystery of the man reviled in Ireland as a rapacious war criminal, and remembered in St. John's as simply a quiet, kindly old man.

If you'd like to find out more about General Tudor, you can check out the links at the bottom of this page. There's not much information available about his time in Newfoundland – not officially, anyway. He kept a low profile here; there seems to be only one photograph, and he avoided interviews altogether. In fact the interview you hear in the documentary may be the only one he engaged in – at the age of 92 he may have thought he had nothing to lose at that point by speaking publicly. The interviewer you hear with him was Iris Power. Iris wrote feature articles for local newspapers and periodicals and had a weekly radio program during the 1960's. The interview may have been recorded for that.

A small personal footnote: It was through Iris Power that I once met Hugh Tudor myself. I was a young teenager, dating Iris' daughter. She decided it would be good for daughter and boyfriend to meet this elderly British general, and so I remember her taking us both up the stairs to his apartment in Churchill Park. I suppose I shook his hand, but I don't really remember that. In fact I don't recall anything at all about him. I was 17, at that age with about as much interest in elderly generals as I had in my parents' record collection. I wish now that I had been interested, and that I'd known about his activities in Ireland, because there are questions I could have asked him. I wish that Iris had asked him some of those questions in the interview, but she didn't. She asked only about his friendship with Churchill. Even when he spontaneously veered into a condemnation of Brigadier General Frank Crozier, she didn't pursue it. Perhaps it was a precondition of the interview that no questions would be asked about Tudor's time in Ireland, for none were.

And a year or two after I met him, he went to his grave, remembered in Ireland as an incarnation of evil – and remembered in Churchill Park as a quiet old man strolling with a cane over to Monty's Delicatessen.
- Chris Brookes

A Bullet for the General contains the voices of:
• Michael Boyle
• Tim Pat Cooghan
• Thomas Rendell Curran
• Carla Furlong
• Thomas MacConmara
• Robin McGrath
• Paul O'Neill
• Mick Scanlon

Dramatised scenes (except for the final scene) are excerpted from DEATH OF A LESSER MAN by Thomas Rendell Curran, published by Boulder Publications 2011 " extraordinary and richly detailed mystery, true to Newfoundland's history... a captivating and thrilling read..." (read review)

Aiden Flynn as Stride
Brian Hennessey as Butcher and Greene
Berni Stapleton as Rita and Catherine
Chris Brookes as Narrator

A Bullet for the General was written, recorded and produced by Chris Brookes

First broadcast 14th January 2012.

An Irish radio documentary from RTÉ Radio 1, Ireland - Documentary on One - the home of Irish radio documentaries.

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