Close-quarter combat in the Easter Rising: A reportage-style account of the combat that took place during the Easter Rising. The first in a two-part series. (For part two see here.)
SUNDAY, APRIL 23RD, 1916
11.00hrs – BREAKING NEWS! An extraordinary advertisement in today’s Independent Newspaper – its purpose is completely uncertain. Authorities appear complacent.
14.30hrs – The Irish Citizen Army is assembling at Liberty Hall in Dublin’s Beresford Place. There appears to be great furore inside the building with messengers running in and out since this morning. Cars and bicycles have been seen speeding around the city in various directions. Something very unusual seems to be unfolding. The building has been under constant surveillance over the last few weeks, but it appears that today, the attentions of the authorities lie elsewhere.
16.45hrs – The Citizen Army continues the route march it embarked on earlier today. Over 200 of its members left headquarters earlier and embarked on a march throughout the city. Having recently passed Dublin Castle, to numerous taunts and gasps, its ranks now line Dublin’s southern quays opposite the Four Courts. At this point it appears to be an exercise. All members are carrying full pack, with bayonets fixed to their rifles.
MONDAY, APRIL 24TH
11.02hrs – Additional reports of large numbers of Volunteers assembling outside Liberty Hall. Groups are entering and leaving. Clusters are in uniform but there are many others in civilian attire but wearing ammunition bandoliers and carrying various arrays of weapons. A bugle sounded recently, causing a detachment of Citizen Army to form up and make their way at a brisk pace across Butt Bridge – their destination unknown.
11.08hrs – Similar stories have come through of intense activity in the St Stephen’s Green area. Apparently members of the 2nd Battalion Irish Volunteers have been converging on the area since early this morning, again many of them are in full kit.
11.14hrs – A detachment of Volunteers, several of whom arrived there earlier by bicycle, have just departed Earlsfort Terrace and made their way towards Dublin’s Grand Canal – believed to be making their way to Clanwilliam Terrace and the nearby Boland’s Bakery.
11.35hrs – Two columns of Volunteers have now formed up on Bishop Street, while a detachment of their comrades have forced entry at the massive Jacob’s biscuit factory. Whatever is going on in Dublin city this morning is without precedent.
11.40hrs – The latest reports from Dublin now indicate that several dozen Citizen Army men and women have stormed into St Stephen’s Green, to the shock of bank holiday revellers, who have been ordered to leave the park at bayonet point.
11.45hrs – It now appears that these disturbances have been well organised. The South Dublin Union has been entered by Volunteer elements under the command of Commandant Eamonn Ceannt. It now appears that the military picked the wrong day to go to the races.
11.47hrs – This is it. It is an insurrection. Rebels have just stormed the Four Courts and have begun smashing its windows.
11.55hrs – The rebellion’s first blood has been spilt at Dublin Castle. It appears that the Citizen Army detachment that left Liberty Hall earlier has its eyes fixed on Dublin Castle – a policeman has been shot dead just outside its main gate.
12.20hrs – Unimaginable scenes on Sackville St! A clock has truly been struck in Dublin city! The General Post Office has been stormed by over 150 Volunteers and Citizen Army. When they stormed the building it caused pandemonium. Three of the rebellion’s leaders have since set foot outside producing a proclamation and bellowing its contents to an increasingly exasperated crowd. Many of the crowd are hurling taunts at the three men and their surrounding section of guards.
12.28hrs – The rebellion spreads! Bolands Mills on Barrow Street has been seized by rebel forces, along with Boland’s bakery nearby. Terrific excitement has gripped the city.
12.31hrs – Outposts appear to be being consolidated covering the city’s various bridges. Davy’s pub overlooking La Touche Bridge at Portobello has been stormed. Shots have been fired.
12.34hrs – Another outpost has been seized on Dublin’s southern quayside – the Mendicity Institute has just seen all of its homeless inhabitants turfed out into the street at gunpoint. Volunteers now control the building.
12.52hrs – Reports are now coming in of a daring raid having been undertaken by a Republican ‘Special Force’ at the Magazine Fort in the Phoenix Park to the west of the city. It appears that ammunition and weapons have been seized.
12.58hrs – Two unfamiliar flags have been raised upon the roof of the GPO. One bears the colours green, white and orange while the other contains the words Irish Republic emblazoned in gold on a green background. Taunts are still being doled out to the rebels but many of the civilians have dispersed, fearing trouble from the military. Crowds have gathered at both ends of the street, keen not to miss what is unfolding. The phrase “rebellion weather” has been bandied about.
13.08hrs – It appears that more outposts are being taken by the rebels. Volunteers from their 2nd Battalion are forcing their way into buildings along Fumbally Lane and Malpas St. Apparently they want to protect Jacob’s factory from Wellington Barracks on the South Circular Road. Civilians in the area are causing serious problems to the Volunteers, hurling stones and dishing out all manner of verbal abuse.
13.14hrs – Companies of Dublin Fusiliers have been scrambled together in the Royal Barracks on Benburb Street, a mile or so to the west of the city centre. The military as a whole is “missing in action” at the Fairyhouse Races, but composite units still within the city are mobilising.
13.16hrs – Annesley Bridge between Fairview and North Strand is under rebel control – another artery into the city is barred.
13.22hrs – City Hall Occupied! It appears that Dublin Castle has not been directly assaulted. Instead City Hall, just outside the castle, has been taken by the Citizen Army. Gunshots can be heard echoing from the surrounding walls.
13.24hrs – Just across from City Hall, two supporting positions have been taken on Parliament Street, the Mail and Express building and Henry & James Outfitters. Numbers of rebels holding the buildings is unknown.
13.30hrs – British counter attack! Ship St has seen close-quarter action between 200 or so British troops and rebels guarding the rear of Dublin Castle.
13.32hrs – The rebel cordon tightens around the city. Harcourt Street Railway Station is in rebel hands.
13.38hrs – British cavalry driven from outside Four Courts in bloody battle. Reports have come in of an earlier engagement outside the courts building where roughly 50 Lancers transporting ammunition were forced to take flight when ambushed by rebels in the Four Courts. The roadway is strewn with wounded men and horses.
13.48hrs – Desperate scenes at City Hall! Full scale combat has broken out around City Hall – the military have suffered several casualties assaulting the building. Its surrounding positions did great damage to the attacking troops as they tried to rush its main door. The noise in the area is deafening.
13.52hrs – Intense fighting along the western quays! A company of Royal Dublin Fusiliers suffered several casualties under repeated fusillades from across the river at the Mendicity institute. They are firing back now, while using the river wall for cover.
13.56hrs – Second policeman shot dead! Just outside St Stephen’s Green another policeman has been shot dead. It is unclear what has happened to cause this. Meanwhile trenches are being dug inside the green. Terror is now beginning to grip the capital.
14.03hrs – Vicious fighting around South Dublin Union! Keen to relieve Dublin Castle, troops recently left Richmond Barracks in Inchicore, but came under fire from rebel positions in South Dublin Union. They have suffered several casualties.
14.05hrs – It’s been reported that earlier on a patrol of Royal Irish Regiment infantrymen came under fire from Davy’s at Portobello. The rebels were driven out by reinforcements backed up by a machine gun. Dublin is at war!
14.13hrs – Machine gun fire in Royal Hospital. It is unclear at present but machine gun fire has been heard from the roof of the Royal Hospital in Kilmainham. Is the British Army headquarters under attack?
14.16hrs – Shocking scenes in Sackville Street – Lancers killed by rebels! Dublin’s main thoroughfare has become a scene of slaughter. Dublin is a battlefield. Several British cavalry lancers are lying dead in the street, along with several horses. An ambulance recently sped away carrying wounded. The Lancers were ambushed by a hail of fire from the GPO.
14.19hrs – Gunfire around Rialto – violence spreading throughout city. The south-facing entrance of the South Dublin Union is under attack from elements of the Royal Irish Regiment. They appear keen to secure a line into the city.
14.21hrs – The Marrowbone Lane Distillery, which is in the hands of the rebels, is now pouring a deluge of fire on the British troops storming into the South Dublin Union.
16.00hrs – Reinforcements pouring in. Kingsbridge Railway Station is a hive of activity – thousands of British troops are on the way to the city in an attempt to restore order.
16.35hrs – Sniper fire across O’Connell Bridge. Several positions on both sides of the River Liffey have become engaged in vicious sniper duels. It is the most bizarre of spectacles. Civilians, enthralled by the sound of gunshot, are placing themselves at a terrible risk, keen to view what is unfolding here today.
16.45hrs – Horrific scenes on Northumberland Road. As the fighting spreads reports are coming in of several casualties among the Veteran Defence Force in the Ballsbridge area – details are sketchy.
16.48hrs – Fighting is taking place along the Dublin-Kingstown railway line. Rebels have opened fire on a much larger detachment of the Veteran Defence Force, causing them to scatter in panic.
17.21hrs – Fierce fighting around Dublin Castle. A large cavalry force arrived recently on foot from Kingsbridge station and are involved in very heavy fighting against the Citizen Army in City Hall. The shooting is now incessant.
17.35hrs – Kelly’s Fishing Tackle Shop is in rebel hands. They now control O’Connell Bridge from both flanks to its north.
17.45hrs – Tragic death of a young nurse in South Dublin Union. Reports of a young nurse having been shot by a terrified British private are coming in. The fighting there has been conducted in hospitals filled with patients. People are screaming in terror as shots echo through the many wards.
18.03hrs – A civilian has been shot dead by rebels in St Stephen’s Green. Apparently several warning shots were aimed over the man’s head as he tried to dismantle a barricade that contained his dray-cart. Civilians are hurling abuse at the rebels.
19.35hrs – Scenes of pandemonium at City Hall. British infantry and cavalrymen have stormed into the rear of City Hall. The area is in complete chaos. Non-stop firing can be heard from inside the huge building, as well as several explosions, which are presumed to be hand-grenades.
20.00hrs – Insurgents are falling back from their Fumbally Lane positions towards Jacob’s factory. Their most dangerous enemy at present is not the forces of the crown – it is the local civilians, many of whom are pelting them with stones and whatever they can get their hands on.
20.30hrs – Looting in Sackville Street. Buildings throughout Sackville Street are being looted and set on fire this evening. The scene is of chaos. Insurgents have fired over the heads of the looters to try and stop them.
21.25hrs – Sackville Street tonight. The situation is unprecedented in Sackville Street. The atmosphere is surreal. What the outcome will be – who knows? Shops are in flames. There will be little sleep in Dublin City on this night.
21.35hrs – City Hall in British hands. After several ferocious attacks, Crown forces have re-captured the inside of City Hall. It is reported that several dozen rebels man the roof, however, and have no plans to surrender.
22.10hrs – Sniping around Beggar’s Bush Barracks. The barracks is tonight under incessant fire from rebel positions along the nearby railway line.
23.15hrs – Rebels control Gasworks. The south city is now in complete darkness. Apparently a large rebel force stormed into the Gasworks on South Lotts Road and dismantled the machinery there. The workforce have been forced out.
23.45hrs – Friendly fire at Leeson Street Bridge. Rebels entering the city at Leeson Street Bridge have been fired on by their own side. Curses are being sent towards the rooftops by the frightened Volunteers at their Citizen Army comrades.
TUESDAY, APRIL 25TH, 1916
05.30hrs – Stephen’s Green under fire. Since 04.00hrs the green has been hosed with machine gun and rifle fire. The noise is deafening. Reports are coming in of numerous rebel casualties. Almost every window in the Shelbourne Hotel is manned by the military. The machine gun has been firing, almost non-stop, from the fourth floor.
07.55hrs – City Hall re-captured. Dublin Castle secured by military. After a brief battle the rooftop of City Hall has been cleared of the Citizen Army. Many prisoners have been taken, but there is still fighting in the area. The rebel outpost across the road is still firing across the street.
08.22hrs – Rebel forces have withdrawn from Stephen’s Green into the Royal College of Surgeons under heavy fire. Windows have been smashed in the college while rebel marksmen are firing from the rooftop. The facade of the college is stained with blood and is being saturated with machine gun fire.
09.40hrs – Two rebel outposts in Grantham Street have been captured by Royal Irish Rifles infantrymen who are now advancing towards the city centre.
10.30hrs – Portobello Bridge is under constant sniper fire. It appears that rebel riflemen manning the huge towers in Jacob’s biscuit factory have a clear line of sight to the bridge. Soldiers are directing civilians away. Stray bullets are raking the entire Portobello area from both rifle and machine gun.
11.15hrs – Jacob’s factory’s huge towers have become sniper nests. The firing between here and Dublin Castle is now relentless. The rebels in the towers have a commanding view of a city at war.
11.20hrs – British infantry are pulling out of the South Dublin Union under fire from riflemen from the 4th Battalion Irish Volunteers. They have been unable to dislodge the insurgents. The troops look exhausted, having been in battle for almost 24 hours.
11.30hrs – Saint Patrick’s Park is normally an idyllic haven in the heart of the city. It is currently the scene of several sniper duels as the British attempt to increase their pressure on Jacob’s factory.
13.55hrs – The sniper fire in Sackville Street has not abated all day. Harsh cracks of varying pitches are almost incessant along the wide boulevard. The road is deserted, but occasionally feet clatter along its cobblestones as insurgents dispatch runners to the street’s outposts. Several bodies lie in the street, including some dead horses.
14.10hrs – Shocking casualties at City Hall. Another terrible battle has erupted at City Hall. Just moments ago a platoon from the Royal Dublin Fusiliers suffered heavy casualties attempting to assault the Evening Mail offices across the road. They have come under devastating fire and were forced to retreat to Dublin Castle. A machine gun has just begun firing from the hall’s rooftop at the stubborn position.
14.20hrs – Shocking scenes at Marrowbone Lane. After an assault was made from several directions on rebel positions in Marrowbone Lane several dead and wounded soldiers are lying in the roads and pavements. Dreadful wounds are being inflicted by the rebel’s guns whose deep sounding booms are at odds with the cracks of British Enfields. The huge walls in the area make it impossible to detect the sources of fire. To the west, several bodies line the nearby canal, but the sight of a dead cavalryman being dragged along the bumpy ground with his foot stuck in his horse’s stirrup is truly ghastly. The assault failed.
14.45hrs – Jacob’s biscuit factory appears ready to withstand whatever the British Army can muster. All of its windows have been smashed and barricaded. Its fortress-like walls look impregnable – no doubt the reason for the building’s selection as a Volunteer battalion headquarters.
15.00hrs – Several attacks have been launched from Dublin Castle at the rebel position across the road. The rebels will not concede ground without exacting a heavy price. The air stinks of gunpowder and the street is littered with wounded.
16.10hrs – Artillery fire on the streets of Dublin. North Circular Road has seen the use of 18-pounders to dislodge nearby rebels from their 1st Battalion, as the Dublin Fusiliers strive to dislodge them from a barricade constructed close to Charleville Road. Windows in the area are being smashed to deafening thunderclaps and hailstorms of red-hot shrapnel. The rebels appear to be holding but are under ferocious pressure. The rifle fire is intense.
17.25hrs – Broadstone Railway Terminus is under attack from 1st Battalion Irish Volunteers. The Dublin Fusiliers appear to be holding the position, having filtered in last night. Covering fire is being poured at the terminus from rebel positions to the south in North Brunswick Street.
17.30hrs – Stephen’s Green is today a battlefield. Constant cracks of varying pitch ring out constantly, alternating with the staccato of the Vickers Machine Gun in the Shelbourne, and the duller sounding thud-thud-thud of the British Lewis Gun in the United Services Club on the green’s northern side.
19.50hrs – Dreadful scenes in Parliament Street – British infantry decimated. A short time ago, having secured the Mail & Express position after a prolonged and vicious battle, the Dublin Fusiliers advanced into Parliament Street, unaware that the Exchange Hotel was occupied in force by the enemy. The ambush was merciless and lethal. Twenty-three soldiers are lying in the road. Some were twisting on the ground screaming in agony, while others lie silent. The rebels have now retreated to the northern side of the river.
20.00hrs – The relative quiet in Dublin’s Grand Canal Dock has been shattered. A gunboat has just fired a salvo of two shots, both of which smashed into the upper floors of Boland’s Mills. The entire city echoes to incessant gunshot.
20.10hrs – Volunteers are retreating from positions along the River Tolka to the north of the city. Apparently word has been received of two large enemy forces converging from Drumcondra and Malahide. The retreating Volunteers intend bolstering their headquarters strength in Sackville Street.
21.40hrs – Dublin City remains in a state of shock. Volunteer morale appears very high. As the day draws to a close the streets still resound to rifle, pistol and machine gun. The Imperial Hotel facing the GPO has just been occupied by a detachment of rebels, as well as the Metropole Hotel opposite. The entire southern section of Sackville Street is in the hands of the insurgents and they are burrowing their way through the interconnecting walls throughout the street. Positions are being occupied rearward in Henry Street to consolidate their grip. Any attempt to dislodge them from their various positions in the city has been costly to the authorities. Martial law has been declared in Dublin as they await reinforcements. Ominously, to the south of the city the English Daily Mail is on sale, ominous at least for the Republicans, as it can mean only one thing – Kingstown port is still open to ships.
22.15hrs – Intense firing has broken out again in Stephen’s Green. Scores of bullets are criss-crossing through the still night air. It is unclear if an assault is being planned by the insurgents. The Royal College of Surgeons is firing volley after volley at the Shelbourne and United Services Club. Both positions are replying in kind with machine gun and rapid rifle fire.
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 26TH
06.20hrs – British reinforcements arrive by ship. Two British troop-ships, the SS Tynwald and SS Patriotic have begun disembarking several thousand troops from the 59th Midland division in Kingstown Harbour. Despite the early hour the beautifully sunny morning has brought hundreds of civilians to the area to view the unexpected spectacle. There seems to be a great sense of urgency among some companies, while others are sitting around in groups, apparently confused as to why they are in Ireland – and not France. More troopships are due to land during the coming hours.
09.00hrs – Jacob’s biscuit factory is being saturated with machine gun fire. As dawn broke machine guns in Portobello opened up on its huge towers, sending half-dozing snipers scurrying for cover. Shooters in Dublin Castle have now opened up on the factory with automatic fire. Hundreds of bullets are flying wildly astray in the city when they miss hitting the towers. Many reports are coming in of civilians being killed as they venture out to seek food or to check on friends and relatives. Others have been killed in their homes. Hunger has gripped the city. Meanwhile artillery fire has begun as Liberty Hall is shelled by the British.
09.36hrs – Both British troops in the Gresham Hotel in Sackville Street and Volunteers in the GPO have been engaged in a ferocious sniper battle for several hours. Shouts claiming kills have been heard from the windows of both buildings. The huge walls of the majestic buildings lining Dublin’s main street resound continuously to rifle-cracks. Gun smoke hangs in the morning air. The crash of artillery is almost constant and echoes thunderously through the streets.
10.30hrs – The Sherwood Foresters are on the way. The Notts and Derby regiments have just begun their march into Dublin City. The exhausted infantrymen appear to have had little sleep but seem very cheerful and optimistic. Shouts and waves of encouragement have no doubt blown some wind into their sails as their sergeants blow whistles and bark orders. Their forces appear to have split up, with two Battalions marching to the city along the coast road and another two heading inland. Their confidence is high.
11.06hrs – Stephen’s Green – A most peculiar ceasefire – incredible scenes! In the midst of an escalating firefight the most bizarre thing has happened. The park’s caretaker left his lodge close to its Earlsfort Terrace corner and has walked calmly to the duck-pond and begun feeding the green’s huge population of hungry ducks. Incredibly, both sides have ceased firing at each other as they are transfixed by such a gesture.
11.23hrs – Sackville Street a fully-fledged warzone! Stephen’s Green may be peaceful right now, but Sackville Street is anything but tranquil. It is now a war-zone like any other. From the south side of the river machine guns are raking the street. Incendiary bullets are setting fire to the few remaining unburnt shop canopies while concrete is gouged from walls. Glass is shattering everywhere. Casualties are mounting on both sides from unrelenting sniper fire. The battle is escalating.
11.48hrs – Jameson’s Distillery has received reinforcements as rebels stole through the nearby streets just before dawn to reinforce the garrison. Perhaps an assault is expected on the position.
12.00hrs – The building that spawned this insurrection, Liberty Hall, has been pulverised by artillery fire. A gunboat has been shelling the building for several hours.
12.15hrs – Madness at the Mendicity – grenade battles! Earlier this morning a vicious battle took place around the Mendicity Institute on Usher’s Island. It descended into complete pandemonium. Unable to overcome the rebel fire the Dublin Fusiliers began throwing hand grenades, but were shocked as the rebels picked the bombs up and threw them back. They are fighting with almost suicidal bravery. The assaulting troops have called off the attack – for now, completely bewildered.
12.40hrs – Terrible scenes on Northumberland Road. At least one officer and ten men are lying on the road at Northumberland Road’s junction with Haddington Road. Their company walked straight into an ambush. Unsure as to the source of the enemy fire, soldiers are frantically trying to find positions of cover. It appears that number 25 Northumberland Road is held by rebels – their number unknown. Screams from wounded men fill the air.
12.45hrs – British counter attack repulsed. An assault has been launched at the corner house at 25 Northumberland Road but has been driven back in disarray. Rapid fire is coming from the building’s upper floors. Men are falling everywhere.
12.50hrs – Indescribable carnage in Dublin’s suburbs! At least two platoons of British infantry tried to outflank the corner house on Northumberland Road. They rushed the junction under ferocious fire. Several Fell. As they turned they were shot down in droves. Forward elements have just seized Baggot Street Bridge, which appears undefended. Men are thrashing around on the ground in what can only be described as hellish scenes. Some are kicking at the ground in agony and frustration, blood is everywhere. Dreadful wounds have been inflicted. Young and vacant eyes now stare from tortured lifeless faces at the nearby crossroads.
12.55hrs – No let up at the Mendicity Institute. Following a brief lull both sides are fighting like cornered animals. Hate-filled shouts accompany the repeated gunshots and grenade blasts. Casualties are mounting among the assailants.
13.08hrs – The carnage continues in Ballsbridge. Just moments ago units from the 2/7th Battalion Sherwood Foresters succeeded in outflanking the corner house and made their way on to Percy Place. They are now under murderous fire from all around them, particularly to their front and left. Men are huddling for cover along the Canal’s coping stones. They are terrified and appear helpless.
13.20hrs – Hundreds of traumatised young infantrymen and their NCO’s and officers are seeking refuge behind the garden steps along the length of Northumberland Road. The Sherwood Foresters appear to be re-grouping.
13.22hrs – The Schoolhouse building on Northumberland Road appears to be the target for the Sherwood Foresters. They appear to be preparing an attack on the position.
13.37hrs – Carnage that defies description on Northumberland Road. Dreadful casualties have been inflicted in a ghastly attack on the Schoolhouse. Roughly 60 infantrymen attacked along the length of the road, only to be mown down by fire from their left flank from two positions and from their front, where Clanwilliam House is now hidden behind huge plumes of rifle-smoke.
The young infantrymen have ventured into a trap. They are cornered. Shots are ringing out constantly – men are screaming in panic. The road is littered with wounded and dying men. Only a dozen or so made their objective – the Schoolhouse – but they are being fired on from across the canal. This is a slaughter.
13.35hrs – The firing from 25 Northumberland is incessant. It is still unclear to the British as to enemy strength in the building.
13.45hrs – Ugly scenes at Mendicity – prisoner shot dead. The Mendicity Institute has fallen to the Dublin Fusiliers. Captain Sean Heuston has just led his exhausted Volunteers from D Company 1st Battalion, and the Swords Volunteers, outside through its Island Street exit, but one of his men was shot dead shortly afterwards. It is unclear what precisely happened.
14.17hrs – With the Mendicity Institute out of their way, increasing numbers of British Army riflemen are filtering along the southern quays, and combined with snipers shooting from Merchant’s Quay, are laying down volley after volley at the Four Courts. The 1st Battalion Irish Volunteers are replying in kind. Shots ring out constantly – accompanied by the distant booms of artillery from the east.
14.19hrs – Attempt to outflank Northumberland Road fails. Just moments ago British units attempted to outflank Mount Street Bridge and Northumberland Road by advancing along Shelbourne Road to their east – only do be driven back by Volunteers along the railway line and from positions in and around Horan’s Shop nearby. One British platoon has been assigned to bolster Beggar’s Bush Barracks. An unrelenting rifle battle is under way between the British infantry and the rebels – who appear unwilling to concede ground that would leave their comrades eastern flank exposed. Reports are coming in of numerous civilian casualties as the fighting escalates.
14.40hrs – Sackville Street now resembles Western Front! Sackville Street is under artillery fire from D’Olier Street. Kelly’s Fishing Tackle Shop on Batchelor’s walk is being pummelled with shrapnel shells and Vickers machine gun bullets. The British have set up a heavy machine gun position in Purcell’s Shop at the tip of Westmoreland Street’s junction with D’Olier Street. Sackville Street is being saturated with bullets. It appears that Sackville Street is being softened up for an assault.
14.45hrs – Reports are coming in of several British casualties in Portobello. Houses are being ransacked in the area seeking out snipers. It appears, however, that the fire is coming from Jacob’s Biscuit Factory, where, according to one source, snipers are aiming at glinting bayonets and belt buckles, using the reflecting sunlight to help seek out the enemy. Man will, it seems, always find ingenious ways of improvising when it comes to warfare.
14.58hrs – Northumberland Road has been relatively calm for the last few minutes. Cracks still ring out from various positions but compared to earlier things seem disturbingly tranquil. The British seem to be re-grouping again. Dispatches have sent back and forth to their headquarters in Ballsbridge Town Hall.
15.10hrs – The slaughter escalates on Northumberland Road. A report has just come in that is truly ghastly and grotesque. From close to Clanwilliam House an eyewitness described seeing a mass of khaki to his south along the southern section of Northumberland Road. It was pulsing like a caterpillar. Along the road’s gutters and pavements it was as if a snake-like beast was inching forward, as troops crawled towards the enemy.
The rebels fired like they were trying to slay the beast. It was impossible to miss. They fired, reloaded, fired, non-stop. Their shots were accompanied with shouts of encouragement to each other. Clanwilliam House is again hidden behind gun-smoke.
Then a whistle blew again and again and companies of troops jumped to their feet. As they did, a torrent of fire erupted from the corner house at 25 Northumberland Road which cut many of them down. As the troops ran headlong they passed the Parochial Hall, also occupied by Volunteers. Again they were mown down in a merciless barrage. But then it got much worse. Clanwilliam House opened up again. Killing and wounding more of them.
The troops went to ground, until a whistle blew, and they jumped to their feet again to be cut down again under another murderous hail.
The Sherwood Foresters are being slaughtered.
15.20hrs – Lower Sackville Street is still under unrelenting fire from both artillery and machine gun. The sniper fire from the southern quays and Trinity College is lethal. Sparks are flying from the O’Connell monument. It appears that sharpshooters may be using the monument to range their guns. The Hibernian Bank at Lower Abbey Street’s junction is under vicious fire from the Ballast Office on Aston Quay.
15.26hrs – Skirmishes have broken out in Stephen’s Green between Citizen Army snipers and a platoon-sized outfit who were dispatched from the Shelbourne Hotel to flush them out. The rebels have been confined to their trenches since dawn yesterday, but their determination to fight appears undiminished.
15.35hrs – The firing from Clanwilliam House appears ceaseless. To its rear on Lower Mount Street clusters of onlookers stare in awe at the carnage, apparently detached from the danger they are placing themselves in. They appear completely transfixed.
15.45hrs – Petrified young British infantrymen are huddling for shelter behind the canal’s coping stones. Clanwilliam House is to their front and left, Robert’s Yard – another rebel held position – is to their front and left roughly 250 yards away, and Boland’s Mills is roughly 450 yards distant. The latter position boasts an unobstructed view along the length of this small roadway and the rebels there are taking full advantage of their elevated position. The troops here are doomed if they stay put. They are equally doomed if they take to their feet. The entire area is littered with dead and wounded men.
15.51hrs – Marrowbone Lane Distillery is under constant sniper from the Rialto direction.
16.00hrs – The entire southern bank of the River Liffey is infested with riflemen who are still pouring fire upon the Four Courts, as well as a nearby rebel barricade on Church Street. Perhaps an assault across the bridge is planned. To the north the Linenhall barracks has been set on fire and the air in the entire Four Courts area is thick with filthy smoke.
17.00hrs – Ceasefire on Northumberland Road. Incredibly, doctors and nurses from the nearby Sir Patrick Dunne’s hospital have ventured into the kill-zone that is Northumberland Road and begun tending to scores of horrifically-wounded troops. A ceasefire has been called to allow them to bring relief and mercy to the stricken. As British reinforcements arrive in the area the rebels are being spoken of with unbridled hatred. They are being accused of using ‘dum-dum’ rounds, such are the appalling injuries sustained by many of their victims. Shots have just rung out again from Mount Street Bridge – it appears that the British have been seeking to make manoeuvres forward under the ceasefire and have been detected. People are running for cover.
17.11hrs – The British artillery and machine gun fire has died down for a while across O’Connell Bridge. Infantry patrols appear to be preparing a probing attack across the bridge. They are now on the bridge – pressing forward – a platoon in four sections. Shots are ringing out from Sackville Street. Bullets are whizzing back towards the bridge. Sparks are flying from cobblestones and tramlines. The fire is increasing. It is impossible to cross the bridge. Bullets are ricocheting wildly from its ornamental balustrades.
17.18hrs – The corner house on Northumberland Road is under a sustained assault of rifle and pistol fire. Meanwhile a machine gun has been hoisted up to the bell-tower of the church on Haddington Road. Hand grenades are being used against the house. How its occupants are still managing to hold out against such odds is simply staggering. Perhaps they cannot escape. Perhaps they fear that capture will mean certain death. In any event their condition at this stage must be one of desperate exhaustion and sheer terror.
17.29hrs – Armoured car in Sackville Street. An armoured car has been used in an attempt to advance on the GPO from its north. It has halted outside the Gresham. It is thought that its driver has been hit by one of the many huge rounds that struck its huge hull as its overstressed gears propelled it forward. Sparks are flying from its sheet metal skin. Those inside must be suffering terribly. Ferocious supporting fire is being shot from the roof and windows of the Gresham Hotel nearby, but a rescue mission may be impossible until after dark.
17.35hrs – The machine gun in St Mary’s Church has barked to life. It is firing belt after belt of .303 rounds at Clanwilliam House. Geysers of fine grey powdery masonry are being sent flying as rebel rounds from numerous positions attempt to knock it out. Incendiary bullets are being used. They leave tiny grey wisps of smoke in their trail as they fly through the air at hundreds of metres per second. Snipers in the church are trying to silence any threat to the gunners by scanning the horizon for the puffs of smoke that betray the enemy positions.
17.50hrs – Word has come from inside Jacob’s factory that an attack is expected. All of its barricades are manned and the 2nd Battalion headquarters is on a high state of alert.
18.00hrs – The writing appears to be on the wall for the stubborn rebel-held position at 25 Northumberland Road. Its front door has just been blown in with explosives. Troops rushed inside but were met with a deluge of fire which wounded several. The road to the building’s front is being raked with fire.
18.05hrs – Clanwilliam House’s facade is being pulverised by machine gun fire. Plumes of gun-smoke can be seen once again from its upper windows and at the houses side. Whistles of bullets can be heard constantly in the area.
18.20hrs – Troops storming in to corner house. 25 Northumberland Road has fallen to the military. Troops rushed inside minutes ago from both the front and rear of the building. It appears that only two enemy Volunteers have been fending off the British battalions. One has been killed in a hail of fire while the other is missing and presumed dead.
Troops stormed inside baying for revenge on the enemy, but many now appear even more terrified. If two men were prepared to hold such a position for so long many fear that a similarly determined enemy awaits them further into the city. They fear the remaining rebel positions are held by unyielding fanatics. Nothing could have prepared these soldiers for this dreadful baptism of fire.
18.14hrs – Desperation leads to almost suicidal bravery near Four Courts. As if to prove the worst fears of the Sherwood Foresters regarding the insurgents’ determination, an act of almost suicidal bravery has been carried out by a pair of Volunteers at Church Street Bridge. Both men rushed across the bridge under a deluge of fire and set fire to the nearest buildings with petrol cans filled with fuel. They then scattered back across under equally ferocious fire while the buildings began to burn intensely. Their mission appears to have been accomplished. Troops are retreating from the buildings along the southern quays away from the burning houses, and away from where they appear to have been preparing an attack. Many have spoken with contempt regarding the motivation of the rebels, but one cannot argue that they are displaying tremendous bravery – as are their enemies. This fight appears to have only begun in Dublin.
18.30hrs – Battered Sherwood Foresters gain further ground. The Sherwood Foresters have just taken their second position on Northumberland Road. Four rebels have been captured at the rear of the Parochial Hall. For a time their captors looked as if they were about to tear them to pieces. One officer attempted to shoot a surrendered Volunteer in the head, until his senior officer put a stop to it and insisted the men were taken prisoner.
18.32hrs – Percy Place is full of British troops who are still crouched behind the low wall. They are still taking casualties. Several nearby houses have been stormed as the infantrymen desperately seek cover.
18.35hrs – The decimated remnants of the 2/7th, backed up by the 2/8th Sherwood Foresters are assaulting the Schoolhouse from its front and rear. They are taking dreadful casualties from Clanwilliam House to their left as they attack and from other positions to their front.
18.43hrs – To their amazement, the British have found the Schoolhouse unoccupied, save for the bullet-riddled bodies of its caretaker and his wife, presumably shot dead in the deluge of lead that was directed at the building minutes ago.
They are now taking position behind the Canal wall next to the building. Its shelter is deceptive, however, as fire is being poured on the men from rebel positions to the attackers’ right flank – Boland’s Mills has these men in its sights and the rebels there are firing frantically, as are Volunteers from 3rd Battalion positioned around the railway line to the east. Once again the fighting in the area is escalating exponentially with every coarse crack of shot.
18.47hrs – Liberty Hall has been blown to pieces, and stormed by infantry, only to find the building unoccupied. It appeared fortified, prompting a bayonet charge by the Ulster Composite Battalion positioned around Amiens Street. The sound of gunfire remains incessant.
18.55hrs – Mount St Bridge is a scene of unbridled slaughter. At this stage the killing in this area can only be described as obscene. Every yard gained by the British is measured in bodies. They are literally piling up, one on top of the other. Troops are now attempting to cross Mount Street Bridge, but are paying dearly. The doctors and nurses are standing by.
They are not the only spectators however. Scores of civilians remain in the streets on Lower Mount Street, drawn to the carnage like Icarus to the flame. But like the story – one step too close and it will be all over for them. Death is stalking south Dublin as the shadows lengthen.
19.05hrs – Further fighting around Four Courts. The Medical Mission in Chancery Place has been shot up by rebels inside the Four Courts. They have just attempted an assault on the beleaguered building, which has been a refuge for the Lancers driven there on Monday. The assault has failed and one Volunteer has been wounded. Meanwhile, at least two artillery shells have struck the east wing of the courts building.
Throughout the area the noxious smoke from burning buildings is making life impossible for the civilians huddling together in their draughty tenements. Pantries are running dry and the overall situation is rapidly reaching desperation.
19.20 hrs – Clanwilliam House under enormous pressure. Clanwilliam House is now being shot to pieces by the machine gunners in Haddington Road. How the men inside are able to cope with this is beyond the comprehension of their assailants, who are still unsure of their number. Any movement on the bridge draws immediate fire from the position, and from the builder’s yard to its right, as well as the railway line, and the mills.
The incandescent Foresters seem hell-bent however on crossing this bridge regardless of the cost.
Their troops, however, have performed with astounding courage. Only moments ago their reserve was ordered forward from the shelter of St Mary’s Road. The faces of its men paled when they saw the dreadful wounds inflicted on hundreds of their countrymen, yet they haven’t flinched. Like their comrades, they will no doubt go where they are ordered, and die at one another’s side.
The fighting prowess of the cluster of men holding these positions today is without parallel. When these infantrymen landed in Kingstown this morning they expected to be met with a rabble. They are anything but. The British here today may hate them, but they would do well to learn from them.
19.35hrs – There has been no let-up in Sackville Street. Its walls echo constantly to shots, booms and ricochets as the third evening of the rebellion sets in.
19.43hrs – The railway line, and the nearby water towers, are infested with rebel riflemen. Their sights are trained on Mount Street Bridge. The mill’s building is occupied by a large squad of men with similar intentions.
At this point the Sherwood Foresters have decided that whatever it takes, they will take the bridge and the fortress that overlooks it.
The entire area has fallen momentarily silent, but is not expected to stay that way.
19.55hrs – Progress is being measured in bodies per-yard gained. It seems that the final showdown is in play. The battered and decimated remnants of two Sherwood Forester Battalions are gearing up to assault the Republican bastion.
A whistle has just blown. Men are charging.
They are being cut down. The air is thick with the cracks of fire from behind the charging men to cover them, but it is useless.
The house seems to be occupied by demons, with no regard for their own lives. Vicious fire is cutting into the charging men from their front and their right. Men are again falling in piles. The ground is so wet with blood that the charging men are slipping and falling. They rise again only to fall again, crumpling like sacks under the weight of lead that tears at their bodies.
Volley after volley is ripping into the hapless infantrymen. Their officers are being mown down. They attack has failed. They retreat.
20.10hrs – The Vickers Machine Gun is firing non-stop at Clanwilliam House from St Mary’s Church. Incendiary bullets are smashing into the building on several floors. Surely the position cannot hold out for much longer.
20.10hrs – Mount Street Bridge in British hands. The British are across. One of their few unwounded officers has succeeded in reaching Clanwilliam House’s outer walls.
The noise is shattering. Bullets are whining through the air by the hundred. Men are still falling. Smoke is coming from the house’s windows. Scores of sparks are flying from the granite bridge walls and the wrought iron railings of the house.
Volley after volley is being sent at the troops from the railway line and water towers close to Boland’s Bakery, but the tide of khaki streaming across the bridge will not now be stopped. Grenades are being hurled at the windows from which the rebels have been driven from.
20.17hrs – The killing continues. A British NCO has just been killed by his own hand grenade. Having assailed the railings of Clanwilliam House, he hurled the bomb at the second floor window, only for it to bounce back and explode next to his head.
Nevertheless infantrymen appear to be gaining entry into the building. The fire is incessant. Smoke is now beginning to bellow from its windows – this has to end soon.
20.25hrs – Troops screaming for revenge are streaming across Mount Street Bridge. Clanwilliam House is in flames.
20.32hrs – Clanwilliam House has fallen. The building that has for several dreadful hours, helped to heap unimaginable carnage upon two British infantry battalions is in flames. It is unclear as to whether or not anyone has escaped. A number of dead men are inside but their precise number is unknown.
The area is beginning to quieten. Only sporadic shots fly through the air as evening draws in. It appears that the insurgents on the railway line and in nearby Robert’s Yard are aware of the position’s capitulation. They may wish to conserve their ammunition, as it now seems that an imminent attack may be coming their way.
21.25hrs – Clanwilliam House an inferno – British taking stock. Clanwilliam House is now a raging inferno. Meanwhile the 300-yard stretch of road between the canal and just beyond Northumberland Road’s junction with Haddington Road is like a scene from Dante’s Inferno.
As the many local residents dare to venture from their homes they are beyond shock at what has unfolded in their normally idyllic suburban streets.
Their shock however, pales in comparison to that of the British Army, now picking up the pieces from what has unfolded here today.
As the wounded are treated and the dead are removed from the streets the shattered men still standing seem to be wondering what other unimaginable horrors await them in this unfamiliar city. The continuous cracks of small arms in the distance suggest that similarly horrific experiences await them. If all of the rebels they have been summoned to kill or capture fight like this then what will become of them?
Just who are these rebels? What makes them fight the way they do?
We’ve got our hands on a photograph of the man who held the vanguard of C Company, 3rd Battalion Irish Volunteers, and died after defending a position against unimaginable odds for six hours. His name was Michael Malone and he was twenty-seven years old. He is currently being buried in the garden of the house he fought so hard to defend; number 25 Northumberland Road.
This man looks quite normal, respectable even. His is the face of a skilled carpenter, not a cold-blooded killer, and yet the carnage he has unleashed on the ranks of raw recruits will not be forgotten for a long time.
The defence of the positions adopted by this man’s comrades was tactically brilliant, and their determination and tenacity unprecedented. If the British Army could boast of having men such as this filling its ranks then surely the trenches in France and Belgium would now be empty, and the men at the front long since returned to their families.
The area is far from secure however, and despite the joyous praise being heaped upon Colonel Machonchy by the locals for saving them from the insurgents, these men will have to fight again, and very soon.
Approx. 234 men from two Battalions, numbering approximately 1,600 between them, have become casualties at the hands a mere handful of rebels.
22.03hrs – As darkness descends on Sackville Street snipers wait at the ready.
22.05hrs – As they do elsewhere in the city. Boland’s is under constant attack.
*Adapted from “When The Clock Struck in 1916” – Close-Quarter Combat in the Easter Rising by Derek Molyneux and Darren Kelly. Continued next week.