His name may be best known for fish and chips, but Leo Burdock was trying to batter Black & Tans in the War of Independence.

The Dubliner — whose family opened their first chipper near Christ Church Cathedral in 1913 — detailed his activities in a successful application for a military pension, published online today. 

He was awarded a pension in 1946, receiving an annual payment of £21 and 11 shillings and one pence for his service from April 1 1920 to September 30, 1923.

His is one of around only 20% of an estimated 85,000 applications for pensions or allowances that were approved, as the military service pensions acts set strict legal definitions of qualifying active service with the Irish Volunteers, IRA, Cumann na mBan, Irish Citizen Army, Na Fianna Éireann or Hibernian Rifles.

Burdock was a member of C company in the Dublin IRA’s 3rd Brigade, which was active in the south inner city. His name appears on a list of company members provided by ex-IRA officers in the 1930s to help verify military service claims.

Burdock is named there at the Werburgh Street address where the family business still draws customers from around the city today — in the shadow of Dublin Castle.

During the War of Independence, he claimed to have played a part in various attacks on Crown Forces in the city centre. In an attack on a lorry of Black and Tans in the south inner city in April 1921, he said he was posted near Jacob’s biscuit factory as the lorry came from Camden Street towards Aungier Street.

“I was armed with a bomb and grenade. I fired shots only…I fired four or five shots,” he said in evidence to support his claim. “The lorry did not stop, it slowed down passing a tram as we fired.”

The preparedness of the Crown Forces might not be a surprise given the area had been nicknamed ‘the Dardanelles’ by the local IRA because of the number of ambushes they carried out.

Burdock was also part of a group that fired on, what he described as, “a Tan lorry” going from Stephen’s Green to College Green a few weeks earlier.

“I had a bomb and a Webley [revolver]; I lobbed a bomb into the lorry from Knowles Corner,” he recalled.

The file is one of the first known references to Burdock in historic records of the War of Independence. But it also shows that he was an active anti-Treaty IRA member in the subsequent Civil War, including the unsuccessful August 1922 ‘night of the bridges’ plot to isolate the Free State military and political leadership in Dublin.

Burdock was arrested two months later and interned with other IRA members in Mountjoy jail and in a military camp in Newbridge, Co Kildare, but his involvement did not end there.

It also emerges in the newly-released documents that he was sentenced to six months in 1935 for membership of an illegal organisation and failing to give an account of his movements to gardaí.

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