Robert Erskine Childers, a popular Irish author and member of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), is shot to death by an Irish Free State firing squad after being convicted of carrying a revolver. He had been one of the leaders, along with Eamon de Valera, of the Republican forces in the Irish Civil War that followed the partition of Ireland in 1921.
Childers, born in London in 1870, fought for Britain in the Boer War in South Africa before writing The Riddle of the Sands (1903), a popular novel that is considered one of literature’s first spy stories. He later resigned from the British army to devote himself to the struggle for Irish Home Rule and in 1914 secretly used his yacht to smuggle arms to the Irish rebels. During World War I, Childers served England as an intelligence and aerial-reconnaissance officer and received a Distinguished Service Cross for his bravery.
After the war, he traveled to Ireland, where he was elected to the Dáil Éireann (Irish Assembly). After the partition of Ireland, he joined the IRA to continue the struggle for complete Irish independence. Caught by Free French Forces, he was court-martialed and executed in Dublin on charges of illegally possessing a handgun.
His son, Erskine Hamilton Childers, was elected president of Ireland in 1973.