The year is 1922 and the location is the sleepy moorland village of Buckland-in the-Moor. Here life slowly passes by with very little excitement and events outside the moor hold little concern. Imagine then the consternation when suddenly the Northern Ireland troubles were brought alarmingly to this quite remote moorland settlement.
The saga begins in February 1922 when Captain Nelson arrived to stay at the cottage of a local gardener. In recent months he had served in the Royal Intelligence Corps and was assigned to Northern Ireland. Nelson was reported to be 30 years of age and was an ex-Cambridge University graduate with a talent fro cricket. He had served in the province right up until the signing of the Anglo – Irish treaty in the December of 1921.
In the August of the same year, three Sinn Fein agents with a mission to assassinate the officer arrived on the moor. It did not take them long to seek out Captain Nelson and accordingly carry out their task. Reports of the time tell of how Nelson was trussed up like a turkey after which the letters I, R, and A, were carved on his chest. Having effectively marked their man the Sinn Fein agents then released him, as he tried to make his escape they then shot him. The bullet tore into Nelson’s arm who then fell to the ground and feigned death. A short debate then ensued where his assailants discussed whether or not to put a bullet through his brains to make sure their target had been eliminated. Luckily for Nelson the agents for some reason decided the first shot had done the deed and there was no need to waste anymore ammunition. Accordingly they left him for dead and made good their escape.
Once he had recovered, the Captain was able to identify one of his attackers as being the brother of a man whom he had shot in Ireland the previous year. The Home Office issued a statement shortly after the incident which read:
“We understand that the official investigations which are being made have so far failed to confirm the accounts published in Saturday’s newspapers regarding the injuries received by Major (sic ?) Nelson, who, it is stated, was found wounded near Ashburton, in Devonshire. The inquiries are proceeding and it is hoped that further light may be thrown on the matter shortly“.
For a while all the doors were firmly bolted in Buckland-in-the-Moor and any stranger with an Irish accent was viewed with deep suspicion. It was said at the time that the biggest shock was how easily the far off Irish troubles could come to a secluded corner of Dartmoor and bring such harsh brutality with them.