Close-quarter combat in the Easter Rising: A reportage-style account of the combat that took place during the Easter Rising. The second in a two-part series. (For part one see here.)
THURSDAY, APRIL 27TH, 1916
08.40hrs – The sound of overnight digging in Fairbrother’s Field at the back of the South Dublin Union has revealed scores of slit trenches. British soldiers from mixed battalions have now opened fire on the Marrowbone Lane Distillery from its west. The Republican sharpshooters are returning fire.
An attack in force to clear the rebels from this thorn in the British side seems to be building.
10.00hrs – Apparently Commandant McDonagh has received word that the Volunteers of the 3rd Battalion holding Westland Row train station are hard pressed. Accordingly it appears that a sortie by bicycle from Jacob’s factory has been organised to relieve the pressure and deliver much needed ammunition. Twenty men have just sped away towards Stephen’s Green on bicycles; each man carrying a rifle and revolver.
10.35 hrs – Marrowbone Lane Distillery under infantry attack. An attack in force has just been repulsed from the western flank of Marrowbone Lane Distillery. Earlier this morning several platoons assaulted the position from its west. There was heavy firing as covering fire was laid down to cover the assault. The covering fire seemed to serve its purpose, as the rebels struggled to reply in kind. When the troops reached the outer wall of the distillery, however, they were met with a barrage of home-made bombs which were hurled over the wall. Forced to retreat momentarily they then came under fire from the distillery windows, eventually being forced back. The attack has since been called off.
10.30hrs – The bicycle patrol from Jacob’s to Westland Row has been met with a hail of lead from the Staffordshire battalions positioned around Merrion Square. They are retreating under fire. Westland Row’s detachment of rebels will have to seek support from elsewhere.
10.45hrs – The bicycle patrol has made Stephen’s Green on their way back to Jacob’s. A machine gun has opened up. One man has been hit – his comrades have come to a halt, firing back at the source of fire. Their comrades from the Citizen Army in the Royal College of Surgeons are also firing in support. The noise in the green once again is deafening.
11.35hrs – British artillery blasting Sackville Street. British 18-pound field artillery is blasting the block of buildings between Lower Abbey Street and Eden Quay with both high explosive and shrapnel shells. The noise is deafening. Machine gun and rifle fire is constant. To set foot on open ground is to invite a bullet.
11.45hrs – A report just in from the Boland’s Bakery / Mills area. Several British probing attacks have been repulsed along the railway line by Volunteers under the command of Captain Joe O’Connor. The South Staffordshire Regiment has relieved the Sherwood Foresters and their snipers are making the Volunteers’ lives very difficult. An assault on the railway workshops was repulsed when rebels launched a desperate bayonet charge. Artillery has also been used in the area.
13.15hrs – Unrelenting sniper fire is being aimed at the Four Courts. A Vickers gun has been placed on the roof of Jervis Street Hospital. Its sights are being trained on the huge dome on the roof to the deafening background noise of increasingly intense shellfire. The British appear to be planning something big, but for now information is scant.
15.02hrs – Assault repulsed in Sackville Street – huge casualties. A short time ago, an assault was attempted from Lower Abbey Street into Sackville Street by the Ulster Composite Battalion. It has ended in failure. The entire block between Lower Abbey Street and Eden Quay is ablaze. The infantrymen emerged from the burning street, and attempted to cross Sackville Street through a burning section of barricade. It appears that their enemies allowed them to traverse the barricade, holding their fire until they were within full view before unleashing a torrent of fire, which then drove the infantrymen back to the narrow point at the barricade, desperate to seek cover. At this point the rebels might as well have been shooting fish in a barrel. The Ulstermen were desperate to escape, but were decimated.
16.35hrs – Close quarter combat in the South Dublin Union. Just a short time ago the headquarters of 4th Battalion Irish Volunteers came under a sustained attack by elements from the Sherwood Foresters’ and Royal Irish Regiment. The claustrophobic courtyards surrounding the Nurses’ Home, where the rebels have set up their HQ, are in complete chaos. The attacking troops have gone to ground, unable to penetrate their enemies’ fortified building. Machine gun fire is belching from the Royal Hospital in support of the attack, but it looks like it might not be enough to dislodge the tenacious Volunteers.
16.42hrs – Capel St Bridge stormed by Sherwood Foresters – rebel forces cut in two. For the Sherwood Foresters in Dublin city, necessity has become the mother of invention. It appears that the lessons learned from the slaughter at Mount Street Bridge yesterday have not been wasted on their sister battalion, the 2/6th. Sensing a deluge of enemy fire from the Four Courts two armoured cars were brought forward. Having been assembled in Inchicore Railway Works by coach-building teams, these improvised armoured vehicles can each fit 19 men and transport them in relative safety. As the assault across the bridge progressed each vehicle was loaded with infantry. They then leapfrogged from position to position, clearing buildings which stood in their way, before they were followed by infantrymen on foot, who then came under ferocious fire from the Courts. Machine guns now fire incessantly in the area. Many civilians have been turfed out of their homes by the infantrymen, who are taking no chances when securing the buildings they seek to occupy.
18.40hrs – The destruction of Sackville Street is under way. Buildings are being blown to pieces. The destruction seems almost systematic. The brief shrieks of incoming shells are followed by ear-shattering bursts, flying metal, concrete and glass.
20.06hrs – Capel Street has been secured. It is under British control. A wedge has been driven between the Volunteer Headquarters in the GPO, and their 1st Battalion in the Four Courts.
20.25hrs – Rebel leader James Connolly now a casualty. The Commandant General of the Republican forces has been wounded, possibly more than once, but details are sketchy. Buildings in imminent danger of collapse.
Alerted by a runner to the recent British capture of Capel Street, the rebel commander was supervising the positioning of some Volunteer sections in Abbey Street and Princes Street. It is here, in the latter, that he was wounded. As he crawled towards the sanctuary of his HQ, some men rushed to his aid and carried him inside the building. According to a source inside he is being treated by a captured British Army doctor, and appears to be in good spirits.
Meanwhile Sackville Street is being pulverised. Rebels will soon need to evacuate the Imperial Hotel and Clery’s Department Store as the entire block appears in imminent danger of collapsing.
21.10hrs – Dramatic rescue of trapped lancers. As soon as the Sherwood Foresters had secured Capel Street a mission was launched to rescue the beleaguered lancers who had been trapped in the Medical Mission next to the Four Courts since Easter Monday. An armoured truck, fresh from having transported troops across Capel Street Bridge under fierce fire, lumbered its way through Charles Street backed up by supporting fire from an accompanying platoon. The truck came under a deluge of fire, but succeeded in its mission. Surrounding rebels subjected the vehicle to a hailstorm of bullets.
21.50hrs – Dublin’s heart is being torn out in Sackville Street. Hoytes Oil Works opposite the GPO has caught fire. It now resembles a blast furnace. Oil drums are exploding, sending many others flying through the air. These in turn are blowing up as they land or while still airborne, spraying the surrounding buildings with more of the scorching fluid. The seemingly insatiable fires on Lower Sackville Street have now begun to spread as far as North Earl Street and are threatening to completely engulf the Imperial Hotel. The back of the building is burning fiercely and its hard-pressed rebel occupants will soon be forced to evacuate.
22.30hrs – The net is closing in. As midnight approaches the Volunteers from Kelly’s Fort have retreated from the ruins of their vantage point overlooking O’Connell Bridge, and together with rebels from some of the surrounding smaller outposts, including those on Henry Street, are filtering into the GPO. As they hurry inside, they are being greeted with scenes of panic and chaos.
Their headquarters is under a sustained artillery assault and is now in serious peril. Volunteers all around them are rushing to its huge basement carrying home-made canister bombs, seeking shelter from the rain of sparks and oily flames now cascading through the numerous holes in its roof. Luckily for all inside the wind recently picked up and changed direction, averting a potential disaster and allowing a brief collective sigh of relief from the torrential shower of burning embers.
This relief has been short-lived, however, as just across the road the end beckons for their positions in Clery’s and the Imperial Hotel. The interiors of both buildings are burning with such intense heat that the pavement outside is being showered with molten glass.
This will be a long and exhausting night, no respite will be allowed as the machine guns blaze relentlessly away and the artillery lends its deafening support. The net is closing in.
FRIDAY, APRIL 28TH, 1916
07.55hrs – Sackville Street being blown to pieces. The centre of Dublin is unrecognisable this morning. Rubble is strewn everywhere. Burnt-out cars, trams, dead horses, human bodies, all matter of carnage fills the capital’s streets. British 18-pounders are booming once again. The rebel HQ is completely surrounded.
09.05hrs – As soon as the sun rose this morning the machine guns and sniper rifles returned to work. Throughout the night, armoured cars have been scouting around Jacob’s factory’s positions. With the sound of heavy fighting and artillery, and word coming down from the factory’s towers of huge fires on the north side of the city, the men of Jacob’s garrison must fear that it will not be long before their own position is assaulted by the enemy.
10.12hrs – South Staffordshires are on the march. Huge numbers of troops from the regiment have crossed the Liffey at Butt Bridge, before marching on to Gardiner Street, and making their way towards Bolton Street. The college there is thronged with hungry and increasingly desperate refugees from the growing chaos.
All along Talbot Street and Lower Gardiner Street, a cordon of snipers is covering their march from the rooftops. The length of this narrow street is under fire from the GPO. The troops are dashing across its junction of Gardiner Street in small rushes, with their comrades shooting at the rebel HQ to cover them.
Earlier this morning a massacre of a dozen or so insurgents who had been captured, along with another dozen civilians, was prevented at the last minute by a British major. The men are now detained in the Custom House. The tension throughout the entire area is terrifying.
11.05hrs – The 4th Battalion Volunteers in Marrowbone Lane Distillery strained their eyes earlier as their gun-sights fell upon numerous khaki uniforms in the distance at the far end of Fairbrothers Field in Rialto.
Their fingers released their grips on their triggers, however, when they realised what they were doing. Dead enemy soldiers are being placed in shallow graves by burial parties. Rialto is deathly quiet. The snipers seem to be momentarily paying their respects.
11.12hrs – In Stephen’s Green meanwhile the Citizen Army is famished. They wait, and wait.
Snipers and machine gunners wait nearby for an opportunity. Any movement in the open is met with the crack of a rifle or a burst of automatic fire.
The Shelbourne Hotel is a mess. Its facade now displays bizarre patterns of bullet holes painting an uncharacteristic picture next to its many broken windows. Inside its walls and floors are splattered with blood, and littered with spent shell-casings.
The park keeper has returned several times. The ducks will not go hungry in this battle. That particular displeasure seems reserved for its combatants.
11.18hrs – Boland’s Bakery is still holding out, along with the College of Surgeons, Jacob’s Biscuit Factory, South Dublin Union and the Four Courts. The GPO is under enormous pressure, however. The British artillery is unrelenting in its destruction.
In the bakery nerves are also strained. One man, Volunteer Peadar Macken, fell victim to friendly fire during the night, as shattered men fell victim to their over-strained senses. As with elsewhere in the city, snipers wait to pounce at every opportunity.
12.15hrs – Ambush in Henry Street. A detachment from the 2/6th Sherwood Foresters Regiment has been ambushed as they approached the GPO from its rear. The rebels manning buildings on Henry Street waited until they were at point-blank range before opening fire. The infantrymen have retreated in disarray.
13.29hrs – Morale very high among Volunteers 4th Battalion. Commandant Eamonn Ceannt’s men have regrouped since yesterday’s ferocious battle. The nurse’s home, bake-house and boardroom are being reinforced. Vice-Commandant Cathal Brugha was seriously wounded yesterday, and is not expected to survive.
4th Battalion’s morale however appears very high.
14.10hrs – North King Street the scene of vicious fighting. A short time ago, the 2/6th South Staffordshire’s, operating from their headquarters in Bolton Street, took up forward positions on the corner of North King Street and Bolton Street. From here they launched a probing attack in North King Street. As the infantrymen marched to their west a terrific barrage was opened up on them from Langan’s Pub. This was then quickly followed by a frontal barrage from the Volunteers in their position further back in Reilly’s Pub, situated on Upper Church Street’s junction. The soldiers reeled into the side streets seeking cover, but appear to have run straight into an ambush. The survivors are now scrambling back to Bolton Street.
14.35hrs – Sackville Street is an inferno of fire and destruction. The Metropole Hotel is under constant artillery fire, as is the GPO. The entire length of Sackville Street from North Earl Street to the River Liffey is in flames. The Republican Headquarters cannot absorb much more of the incessant shelling. There has been no word of Commandant Connolly’s condition since last night.
14.45hrs – The Volunteer positions in Moore’s Coachworks and Clarke’s Diary situated at the junction of North Brunswick Street and Upper Church Street are involved in a heavy sniper battle with the British soldiers positioned in Broadstone Railway Terminus and the King’s Inn buildings. Casualties have been suffered by both sides.
15.00hrs – Another attack repulsed in North King Street. Another charge has just been launched by two platoons of the South Staffordshires along North King Street under the cover of Machine guns. Langan’s pub came under heavy attack, but the rebel position appears to have held. Reilly’s Pub and Volunteer positions in the Malthouse tower in Beresford Street took up the fight, as did Monk’s Bakery. The attack began to falter, but bolstered by reinforcements, the South Staffordshires were determined to press home the assault against Langan’s. The concentrated fire, however, forced them to retreat. There was no let-up in rifle fire from the Volunteers as the soldiers retreated. It appears that every inch of ground in North King Street will be fought for. Wounded men are strewn along the road and pavements, and throughout the warrens of nearby side streets.
15.15hrs – Relentless fighting in North King Street. Reilly’s Pub has come under ferocious machine gun fire after apparently having been singled out as the main threat to another British attack along North King Street. But the volunteers are returning fire and the British are falling back again. They regroup and charge again, but are unable to get past the barricade straddling the road at Langan’s. Rifle fire is coming from every direction and is causing many additional casualties. Once again the British troops are falling back to their jump off point.
15.40hrs – British military barricading city positions. The British, in the form of the Royal Irish Rifles and Sherwood Foresters, are building a large barricade across the width of Moore Street. Several machine guns are being deployed in the area.
Intense gunfire was heard earlier just to the west of here for a time, but it has now been replaced with the titanic death knell of the artillery once again in Sackville Street and now in Henry Street. Several other barricades are under construction. It seems the military have learned a great deal about street combat from the rebels, and are now putting that knowledge to use.
15.45hrs – The South Staffordshires have moved forward again, but in an attempt to outflank the Langan’s Pub position a section have taken to the rooftops and are working their way towards the Volunteer position. In doing this, however, they have not only exposed themselves to the Volunteers in Monk’s Bakery to their west and the malt-house tower to their south west, but also to rebels positioned on the Bridewell roof at the rear of the Four Courts. They are pressing forward under very heavy fire. They are throwing grenades at the barricade outside Langan’s, but the damage appears minimal. The barricade is holding. Now the soldiers begin their retreat from the rooftops. Nothing is working for the South Staffordshires on North King Street. The frustration is beginning to show. The faces of the attackers are now twisted with hatred.
16.15hrs – Volunteer reinforcements from the Four Courts are rapidly filtering into Reilly’s Fort, as it has been named recently, and the North Brunswick Street positions.
16.25hrs – The Rebellion Weather is holding, as is 1st Battalion around the Four Courts, but the pressure on the garrison is enormous, and incessant. Their number, however, has increased significantly since Easter Monday, and they are well armed and supplied.
16.46hrs – The unbridled ferocity of what was meted out to the South Staffordshires earlier can be measured by the screams and groans of their wounded men being treated by rebel nurses in Father Matthew Hall.
Young men from both sides in this struggle are now dying in adjoining beds, their differences long forgotten. The stench in the building is appalling.
17.04hrs – Two British Artillery pieces are blasting the Metropole and GPO without let up. They have been firing over open sights from D’Olier Street. Buildings are burning and collapsing. The block of buildings along Eden Quay is completely destroyed.
18.01hrs – Armoured car in North King Street. An armoured truck has been ferrying infantry into North King Street. The rebels in Langan’s Pub are firing with a level of intensity that matches that on Wednesday at Mount Street Bridge. It is as if the truck is a ferocious beast that must be slayed. It must be dreadful for the men inside. Its gears are grinding as it lunges forward, its driver doing his best to avoid the wounded and dead who lie on the street.
18.12hrs – Several patrols were launched earlier into Lisburn and Lurgan Street in an attempt to outflank Langan’s Pub, but proved fruitless. The civilians are huddled in their homes, starving and utterly traumatised. The noise is terrifying.
18.17hrs – Just yards from the junction of Lurgan Street and North King Street the armoured truck had its sheet metal door kicked open from the inside. As the first infantryman jumped out he was shot before his feet even touched the ground. This is vicious.
18.24hrs – Huge section of GPO roof now collapsed on its southern side. Roughly 15 minutes ago a huge crash was followed by an avalanche of debris which spewed from the building’s windows. However, shooting is still coming from the northern section of the same building.
19.25hrs – Just minutes ago the armoured truck returned to North King Street, where it deposited another 19 terrified but hate-filled infantrymen. They are currently occupying the terraces of houses on the left hand side of the road facing Reilly’s Fort, at the centre of this picture. Shots are flying through the air as I write.
The truck is scrambling away. Something seems to be wrong.
19.31hrs – The armoured truck has come to a halt in the middle of the junction Bolton Street and North King Street. Both its driver and co-driver have been shot and appear badly wounded.
19.39hrs – The GPO is in complete turmoil. Plans are being made for its evacuation. It would make sense militarily to postpone such a move until after dark, but the luxury of time is the last thing this position appears to possess.
A patrol of roughly 30 men has just left. They appear to be heading for Moore Street. A man with a moustache in his early forties appears to be leading the forward section.
19.45hrs – The Four Courts’ west wing is under intense machine gun fire from the Smithfield area. A Volunteer officer has been shot in the chest inside the building, the bullet having ricocheted after it struck the elbow of his comrade. Witnesses reported that a priest attempted to give aid but it was hopeless for the man. It is impossible to even stand up in any of the west-facing rooms; such is the ferocity of the fire.
20.09hrs – Just inside the GPO, scores of utterly shattered men and women are awaiting news of the success of the patrol sent out roughly 20 minutes ago. The sound of intense machine gun and rifle fire coming from Moore Street doesn’t bode well for its success.
A young captain has just appeared at the scene. As bullets struck the ground like hailstones at his feet he has made a dash to Henry Street’s junction with Moore Street.
Looking beyond the shattered remains of the barricade he looks disturbed at the sight. He is now returning at speed, hugging the wall on the opposite side of the road for cover.
He has returned with terrible news. He has just witnessed the last of the recent patrol’s men falling victim to the machine gunners. Whatever survivors there are have been forced back into Henry Place.
The young captain’s name is Sean McLoughlin.
20.22hrs – The Metropole Hotel has collapsed into ruins. Lieutenant Oscar Traynor has just rushed into the GPO, having evacuated his men from the Metropole Hotel.
As he rushes inside his men are being given frantic orders. The entire building is in a state of total chaos. Men are charging about carrying canister bombs, others are praying as they run here and there. Some of the leaders look shell-shocked.
Captain Sean McLoughlin has also returned to his men. Having been promoted by James Connolly yesterday he is clearly justifying his commandant’s decision to do so. He has ordered his men to positions covering the windows to the building’s north. At this point its walls are unbearably hot.
Hoytes Oil Works just opposite is an inferno. The heat from there has rendered the walls here too hot to touch. Hoses perforated with bullet-holes are being used to douse them but the water is turning to steam.
Another huge crash has just sounded. Another cloud of dust and debris.
The entire Metropole Hotel has collapsed.
20.37hrs – Desperation in Henry Street. The scene is barely describable. Following a rousing speech by Commandant Pearse, an exodus took place from the Post Office onto the fire-swept street. They sprinted in groups of two and three. As they left, the British gunners let loose on them. Firing came from east and west, shattering what few unbroken bricks remain in the buildings still standing. Men ran in panic for the shelter of Henry Place, while others ran further into Henry Street.
More Volunteers are leaving the GPO now, and making a mad dash for the laneway. It is becoming crowded, but apparently its far side is barred by machine gunners.
Something will have to be done – and fast – but for now are caught like rats in a trap.
20.50hrs – Dramatic scenes. We are now in Henry Place with the Volunteers. Captain McLoughlin appears to have assumed full control of the GPO Volunteers. The situation here is drastic. More and more battered men are arriving in the laneway.
The White House, a building facing Moore Lane, was minutes ago under such ferocious machine gun fire from its right along the length of Moore Lane, that the half-stupefied Volunteers assumed the building itself was an enemy machine gun nest.
Captain McLoughlin then led a section inside to neutralise and secure the position but has since re-emerged. He and his men have now traversed the stream of fire still being directed at the building and appear to be seizing a truck of some kind.
Captain Michael Collins meanwhile has entered the same building and his men are setting up firing positions, hoping to neutralise or at least reduce the threat from the Rotunda at the opposite end of the laneway.
20.50hrs – Beresford Street, where the wounded from earlier are still being brought to Father Matthew Hall. Rebel fire completely dominates this street. Any movement is lethal.
Commandant Edward Daly has moved his Irish Volunteers 1st Battalion headquarters to the Four Courts.
Things have quietened down somewhat in North King Street, for now.
21.00hrs – Captain McLoughlin’s Volunteers have managed to place a truck alongside the remainder of a barricade at this point, greatly diminishing the effect of the machine gunners firing from the Rotunda at the opposite end of the lane.
Hundreds are passing this point, and entering Moore Street from its southern end at Henry Street. They have begun breaking into buildings. The civilians in the area are suffering terribly in the midst of this battle.
21.00hrs – Tension in Jacob’s Biscuit Factory. Inside a general alarm has been raised, all men rush to their positions, the attack is expected to come through the main gate. The barricade inside the gate teems with Volunteers, all with rifles pointed towards the gate. Some men pray. Others just stare at the gate with fingers on triggers, a sense of relief now that their time has come – the gate will be blown and the khaki will pour in, but they are ready. But now it appears to be a false alarm. Major John MacBride orders the men to stand down. Their frustration begins to grow again.
21.20hrs – Henry Place is thronged with men. They are tunnelling into the buildings on both sides at the end. Yet more are arriving from the GPO, which is in flames.
21.22hrs – Sackville Street; Britain’s second city is engulfed in flames.
21.25hrs – The growing darkness will be of little help to the Volunteers now moving en masse towards Moore Street. The street is lit up by the surrounding flames.
21.28hrs – Bullets are whipping the bricks from Moore Street’s walls, while behind the walls, rebels ‘mouse-hole’ from room to room, and from building to building. The pace of this is relentless. Explosions are thundering out from Henry Street. It appears the British are aware that hundreds of their enemy are exposed and they are zeroing in.
21.33hrs – The exhausted insurgents are making their way ever closer through the terraces of houses and flats. Three of their leaders have set up their temporary HQ in Cogan’s Shop, at the junction of Henry Place and Moore Street.
A barricade is being built across the laneway outside Cogan’s. With the flames from the burning GPO behind them however, casualties are inevitable, and are mounting. The British gunners are making the most of this.
21.40hrs – Moore Street is a fully-fledged battlefield. It is impossible to move on the street. Several wounded men from the earlier attack on the barricade are pinned down in doorways. The dead in the road are being shot again and again, while the dying are groaning and twitching in their efforts to save themselves.
It appears that the Volunteers plan to tunnel as far as Hanlon’s Fish Shop at number 25 Moore Street. The pace of the rebels here is frenetic. They may be desperate, but they appear to have saved themselves from certain destruction and are now doing their best to regain the initiative.
21.50 hrs – THE GPO HAS COLLAPSED! Commandant Pearse was the last to leave the burning Post Office, accompanied by a section of men. Commandant Connolly was stretchered out earlier, flanked by a bodyguard of Volunteers. Machine gun and rifle bullets zipped through the air around Pearse’s section as they glanced back momentarily, to witness the terrible roar that heralded its interior collapsing into complete ruins. Only the external shell now remains of the landmark building. The flag pole on its roof which had proudly flown their tricolour is now on fire, while at the far end their other flag still flies its golden letters defiantly. The siege of the GPO has come to an end. The fight will continue on Moore Street.
21.55 hours – Several men are wounded nearby and the man who led the charge against the barricade appears to be in a bad way just inside Sackville Lane. Help is unavailable as any movement will draw the gun-sights of the enemy.
Back in Cogan’s an emergency council of war has been held. Connolly is terribly wounded, Pearse and Plunkett are utterly exhausted. Neither Tom Clarke nor Sean McDermott are of military mind, so. a new Commandant has been appointed – 20-year-old Sean McLoughlin.
22.00hrs – The utter futility of war. The centre of Dublin now resembles the type of hell only previously witnessed by its inhabitants in black and white cinema newsreels of the fighting in faraway France and Belgium. Joseph Plunkett remarked earlier, with apparent pride, that Dublin was the first European city to burn since Moscow in 1812, a comment that would have probably been met with derision from the thousands of civilians being made homeless, and the hundreds of innocents being killed. His brief and apparently self-indulgent history lesson was wasted on those around him, however. They are too busy trying desperately to survive, as machine guns clatter incessantly, sending belt after belt of incendiary bullets whizzing through the half-darkness. Increasingly frequent shell-bursts continue to smash metal and concrete all around the half-panicked Volunteers and petrified civilians trapped in the battle zone, sending countless razor-like shards of molten hot shrapnel flying at flesh. Buildings are collapsing, filling the air with thick choking dust, while countless stray bullets ricochet through the smoky streets. The noxious fumes from the oil works on Sackville Street that now resemble a blast furnace fill the tortured evening air with a horrific stench, matched only in its power to repulse by the nauseating smell of burning human waste, and decaying flesh. At one point earlier in Moore Street, a three-legged dog, having been driven mad with the repeated cracks of gunfire and explosions, scampered across the street, and was unceremoniously mown down by the machine gun. It yelped in agony, its pointless death displaying to all the utter futility of war.
22.38hrs – The artillery has ceased. The machine gun fire has tapered away. Only sporadic shots now ring out.
As the city burns, the Volunteer leaders have set up Headquarters in number 16 Moore Street. The rebels have dug themselves in and are posting sentries. Rest periods will be arranged in two-hour shifts. The men and women are beyond stupification, but not without hope.
Elsewhere in the city the stalemate continues. Neither side seems able to gain any ground, but a showdown is building.
The Volunteers in Moore Street seem set to make a breakout for either the Williams and Woods factory on Great Britain Street, or the Four Courts. Whatever option they select, the result will be bloody.
The British seem content to contain each garrison, but really it is all they can hope to do with limited artillery support. They can’t seem to make any real ground against these Volunteers and Citizen Army without their field guns. Several have commented that the fighting here in Dublin has been worse at times than the trenches of the Western Front.
It appears that tomorrow will be decisive in this fight.
SATURDAY, APRIL 29TH
06.36hrs – Complete carnage on North King Street. Shortly after dawn this morning roughly 50 South Staffordshires made a charge at Reilly’s Fort. The Langan’s position had been abandoned by rebels a couple of hours earlier. Many were mown down as they ran at the building. Fire erupted from several directions. The road is littered with bodies. Reilly’s is still holding out but the position is under increasing pressure. Snipers dominate every piece of open ground in the area.
06.40hrs – Moore Street is quiet but movement on the street means certain death. Earlier on, Commandant McLoughlin’s plan was outlined to the Headquarters staff. They are now preparing a diversionary attack against the enemy barricade sealing the exit to Great Britain Street. As this attack progresses, their main body is set to make a break for the Four Courts.
The rebels are securely placed along the eastern terrace of houses as far as Sackville Lane, and their expanded front line will render any British counter-attack costly. Should they move into Moore Street against the Republicans they will have to deal with fire from their front and side. Time is running out for the insurgents, however. Just minutes ago McLoughlin asked for volunteers for a do or die assault on the barricade. His request highlighted just how polarised his men’s morale has become. Some are barely able to stand, such is their exhaustion, and are in no condition to mount such an attack. Others, however, still seem to want to take the fight to the enemy. Their dusty and worn faces show few illusions about surviving the morning.
06.52hrs – Plans are being prepared by 3rd Battalion in Boland’s Bakery for a breakout – the destination unknown as yet.
06.53hrs – In The South Dublin Union the Volunteers are re-supplied, rested and regrouped. News from the city is scarce. The position waits.
06.55hrs – As does the nearby distillery. Morale here is at its zenith. A ceilidh is being planned for tomorrow night to celebrate the garrison’s success.
06.57hrs – The Four Courts is holding firm.
06.58hrs – As is the College of Surgeons, but its garrison is starving.
06.58hrs – Sniper fire has just cracked out inside Stephen’s Green.
07.00hrs – Boland’s Mills is under sniper fire. There is no love lost here between both sides. Yesterday the Volunteers buried Patrick Whelan. The 23-year-old from Ringsend was shot in the eye on Wednesday. Unable to get a direct shot at the burial party British snipers tried to kill them instead with ricochets, aiming their guns at the surrounding walls.
08.00hrs – Horrific scenes in Moore Street. A family has been machine gunned. Just moments after they fled from the burning building that threatened to engulf them, they fell victim to the rapacious gunner. They had moved out into the street slowly and apprehensively. Their heads were crouched as the father’s arm stretched out in front, waving a home-made white flag. Their petrified eyes darted frantically between the rubble in their way, the source of the shooting, and the buildings facing them which offered sanctuary. As they reached half way across a burst caught them. It is a dreadful scene.
Anyone who witnessed it turned away in utter disgust. It happened close to the building being used by the rebels as their Headquarters.
Increasing reports are coming in of numerous civilian casualties in the area, one of whom was a teenage girl shot accidentally by a rebel kicking in the door of a nearby cottage.
09.06hrs – A short time ago a broadside of rifle fire flew from Reilly’s Fort into North King Street, and cut into another infantry attack on the junction to its front. The attack was driven back.
Father Matthew Hall is thronged with wounded. The building stinks and echoes to their many groans. Medics are struggling to cope. They move among the wounded, their feet slipping on the festering blood on its floors.
09.36hrs – North King Street is a death zone. It has been impossible to tend to the wounded men on these streets. Even the shadows are being fired at. The air is thick with smoke, and desolation.
09.40hrs – Scenes of extraordinary bravery are being witnessed in Dublin’s shattered streets. The fire brigade have been out all week, often working under fire from both sides. Scores, if not hundreds, of civilians have been saved by these unsung heroes.
As Sackville Street smoulders they have their work cut out. Many of the men who form its ranks have brothers, sisters, friends and cousins fighting in both British and Republican uniforms. Unexploded shells present a terrible threat, as do clusters of the rebels’ home-made canister bombs.
09.50hrs – Terrible tragedy in Dublin’s Docks. A woman has been shot on Ringsend Drawbridge in front of her three children. It is unclear where the shot came from but Beggars Bush Barracks is the most likely source at present. The nearby rebels in the mills building are helpless to render aid. Any movement will draw fire from the same source. Her children are crying and pulling at her, clearly unable to take this in.
10.00hrs – ‘Reilly’s Fort’ fell under constant attack since the South Staffordshires gained ground on North King Street. The decision was made to evacuate the position. The front door was opened and the British soldiers trained the sights of their guns in its direction expecting an outpouring of Volunteers. An order to charge was heard. Unexpectedly then, Volunteers started jumping from the side windows and racing towards Church Street. The enemy had been duped. A machine gun quickly traversed and let rip, but it was too late – the Volunteers had made it. The soldiers then gave chase, but when they reached the top of Church Street; the Volunteers on the roof of the Bridewell fired with everything they had, forcing the pursuers to rush for shelter. A section of the South Staffordshires raced to occupy the vacant Reilly’s Fort, but once inside they found themselves trapped. The Bridewell and Monk’s Bakery positions had them in their gun-sights – any attempt to leave was met with a heavy barrage of rifle fire.
12.00hrs – In Jacob’s factory word has come down from the towers that British soldiers are moving into Saint Patrick’s park in force; and that civilians are being evacuated from the homes in the surrounding neighbourhood. Rumours have spread that the area is to be flattened so that the artillery can get a direct shot at the 2nd Battalion headquarters.
12.00hrs – White flag in Moore Street. A short time ago a nurse was seen leaving the rebel HQ of 16 Moore Street. She was fired at initially until it became visible to the gunners that she was carrying a white flag. She has since approached the British barricade.
13.00hrs – Rebels preparing their last stand. The South Staffordshires have launched another attack against the barricade at the junction of North Brunswick Street and Upper Church Street, but were forced back yet again. The wounded and dead are strewn across the junction. In nearby Church Street the battle has ebbed and flowed with ever increasing ferocity. At least two Volunteers have just been killed in Church Street as they counter-attacked with their comrades. The machine gun and rifle fire seems never ending. The Volunteers are now turning Moore’s Coachworks into a fortress. It may be the last line of the defence.
14.10hrs – The Shelbourne Hotel, where carnage was unleashed from the fourth floor as dawn broke last Tuesday, now looks over a deathly quiet Stephen’s Green. Foraging parties have been sent out again from the College of Surgeons into the nearby streets to search for food. They are returning with meagre supplies and with rumours of capitulation. The entire city seems strangely silent, after the week-long cacophony of violence.
14.30hrs – Surrender negotiations in Moore Street. Just moments ago Nurse Elizabeth Farrell (it is believed at present that she hails from City Quay in Dublin) approached the barricade with Commandant Pearse. Pearse appears to be involved in an acrimonious discussion with Brigadier General Lowe, who is accompanied by a young officer, possibly his son John. They’ve just moved in the direction of Sackville Street, presumably for better cover, and appear to be negotiating terms of surrender.
15.30hrs – It’s officially a Republican surrender. Commandant Pearse has been driven away to an unknown location. Meanwhile Nurse Farrell has returned to Moore Street with instructions.
Commandant James Connolly, as per instructions, has been carried on a stretcher by four of his men. As he is handed over the barricade there is silence. His leg is strapped up but he appears to be in agony. Everywhere there is silence. Infantrymen sit about, their bayonets still fixed to their weapons, smoking and resting.
At the barricade both sets of enemies eye one another up, but say nothing. Connolly has been manhandled over the barrier with great respect from his new captors. Courage is a thing respected by fighting men regardless of uniform, and the steadfast bravery displayed by this man is undeniable.
On Moore Street things are deathly still.
19.00hrs – 1st Battalion surrenders at Four Courts. Nurse O’Farrell has delivered the surrender document to Commandant Daly at the Four Courts. Daly ordered all men manning positions and barricades to return to the Four Courts, but appears unable to contact his men on North Brunswick Street. Addressing those in the courts he informed them of the order to surrender. They were stunned – surrender has never crossed their minds. They argued that they could hold out for a month. Daly, however, was adamant that they obey their orders. Word was then sent to the men on the Bridewell roof to return to the Four Courts and prepare to surrender, but the men refused and continued to fire at the British soldiers in the North King Street area. Another order was then dispatched to them. They reluctantly complied. The men of 1st Battalion then marched out of the Four Courts building and began handing their weapons through the railings to the waiting Dublin Fusiliers, who looked exhausted but tremendously relieved.
19.10hrs – Ceasefire in North Brunswick Street. A short time ago a pair of priests managed to arrange a ceasefire. Apparently the Volunteers there wish for official confirmation of surrender from their headquarters. Lines of demarcation have been set up. Recently, two British officers wandered across the line, and were met with several dozen gun-barrels. Who knows what tomorrow may bring?
19.45 – Rebels form up to surrender in Sackville Street. A report from the area a short time ago.
“The filthy, exhausted, but intensely proud Irish Volunteers and Citizen Army men finally formed into two lines on the eastern side of the tramlines between Findlater Place and Cathedral Street. Behind them was the block of buildings that housed the Gresham Hotel. To both their front and rear stood a cordon of British infantrymen.
Another command rang out from Commandant McLoughlin: ‘Front line five paces forward, rear line two paces back, and deposit arms!’ The subsequent clatter of the last rifle hitting the ground signalled to the hundreds now gathering in the area that the battle for Dublin City was all but over. The rear rank then stepped back. Many among them still attempted to goad their adversaries at this point, by pushing their backs up until they were touching the bayonets of the troops standing behind them. As they approached closer and closer with every step the pointing bayonets of the men now eyeing them with malevolence, they advanced until their chests began to place pressure on the sharp steel. The tension mounted while in the distance, rifle fire continued to echo sporadically.
General Lowe suddenly ran angrily towards McLoughlin as he bellowed, ‘Who the hell gave you the authority to give orders here? I told you to leave your bloody arms in Moore Street. I’ll have you damn well shot!’
McLoughlin looked back with contempt. He then drew his sword from his scabbard, before thrusting it to the ground next to the general’s immaculately polished boots. Lowe glared back at him.”
20.00hrs – In Jacob’s its garrison has been on high alert all day. Due to the noticeable lull in firing from further in to the city the men were called to man their defensive positions. An imminent attack was expected. Many inside feel their time is at hand.
20.40hrs – The surrendered GPO/Moore Street garrison is now being detained in the grounds of the Rotunda Hospital. They are exhausted, hungry and cold. Their treatment at the hands of their captors varies from rough to indifferent, with occasional kindness.
The odd crack of gunshot still reports from the city as it waits on the next moves of these momentous events to be played out. Tomorrow will tell.
SUNDAY, APRIL 30TH
07.30hrs – Needs must. Local youngsters help themselves to firewood in the rubble.
07.31hrs – Captain Michael O’Rahilly’s burnt-out De Dion Bouton touring car in North Prince’s Street.
07.32hrs – Are these British officers’ celebrations premature? The cracks of small arms in the city’s background suggest the fighting isn’t yet done. At least four Republican garrisons are holding out on the south side of the city.
07.36hrs – A solitary rebel prisoner is taken across O’Connell Bridge under guard.
07.38hrs – Irish Volunteers 3rd Battalion still control southeast Dublin. To venture beyond the barricade in Great Brunswick Street is still to invite a bullet.
07.40hrs – Civilians have been flocking in their droves to view the devastation since first light this morning.
09.00hrs – At Dublin Castle two Capuchin priests have requested permission from General Lowe to see Padraig Pearse, so that they can convey a signed surrender order to the Volunteers still fighting on North Brunswick Street. General Lowe granted permission before requesting that the priests proceed to Jacob’s to inform its garrison of the surrender. The general has been unable to make any contact with the garrison.
09.45hrs – Rebels in North Brunswick Street surrender. It has transpired that another priest has managed to convey a genuine surrender order to the Volunteers there. One Volunteer named Patrick Holohan has taken command of the units there. Their commanding officer had been shot in the head during the fighting. Holohan has ordered the Volunteers to fall in. He has just addressed his exhausted men with the words:
“I know you would, like myself, prefer to be with our comrades who have already fallen in the fight – we, too, should rather die in this glorious struggle than submit to the enemy. The treatment you may expect in the future you may judge from the past.”
As roughly 50 of them march eastward along North King Street the road is lined with the battalion they kept at bay. Soldiers are craning their necks from doors and windows to see who caused them such horrific carnage. Several taunts are being exchanged.
10.15hrs – Nurse O’Farrell approached Boland’s Bakery about 15 minutes ago with Pearse’s surrender order. She was met just outside its dispensary by Commandant de Valera. He emerged outside with a towel around his neck, appearing to have been washing. After studying the order he has dispatched her with instructions that the order carries no weight. With Pearse a prisoner he is now under the command of Commandant MacDonagh, who is still in the field and holding firm.
11.00hrs – The two Capuchin priests have approached Jacob’s factory with news of the surrender. The news has been dismissed by Commandant MacDonagh, stating that he cannot take orders from prisoners. He has conceded, however, that he is prepared to meet with General Lowe to parley.
11.10hrs – Nurse O’Farrell has been greeted by Countess Markievicz at the College of Surgeons. Commandant Mallin, its garrison commander, is resting in one of its back rooms, and is being summoned. There is an overwhelming aura of subdued shock among the Citizen Army garrison as the news spreads.
12.11hrs – Irish Citizen Army surrenders. The surrender of the Stephen’s Green garrison of the Irish Citizen Army has been agreed upon. Minutes ago Commandant Mallin and Countess Markievicz held talks at the College of Surgeons’ York Street entrance with Major De Courcey Wheeler of the Dublin Fusiliers. He was accompanied by Nurse O’Farrell. This came after many heated deliberations from those inside the fortress, who seemed adamant on fighting on, or breaking out to the mountains. They are defiant.
12.45hrs – Surrender of Irish Volunteers 2nd Battalion agreed upon. Commandant-General MacDonagh and General Lowe have met in Saint Patrick’s Park. The parley began on the footpath before both retired to General Lowe’s staff car to continue negotiations. After a while MacDonagh stepped out of the car and informed the two priests of his intention to surrender, adding that there will be a truce until 3 p.m.
13.00hrs – Commandant MacDonagh has now informed the Officers of 2nd Battalion of the surrender. It was followed by a stunned silence. The men have called to the ground floor to be told of the news. Shouts and screams followed of: “Fight it out – we will fight it out!” Order was restored and MacDonagh has since told the garrison that anyone without uniform has his permission to escape. Some are availing of the opportunity. MacDonagh will soon leave Jacob’s and go to the South Dublin Union to convey the news.
14.08hrs – An utterly exhausted and emotionally drained Elizabeth O’Farrell has just returned to Boland’s Bakery with Commandant MacDonagh’s verification of the surrender. For the 3rd Battalion, the fighting is finished.
De Valera has just dispatched recently promoted Vice Commandant Joe O’Connor to their nearby outposts with the news. It has been met with aghast faces. Anger is building quickly. Some of the men have begun smashing their weapons off the ground.
Ironically, snipers are still at work in the area. Occasionally shots ring out. The rooftops of Lower Mount Street are infested with sharpshooters.
14.15hrs – Word has been received at the nearby mills Building. Lieutenant O’Byrne has orders to rally his men at the bakery.
15.00hrs – Commandant-General MacDonagh has returned to Saint Patrick’s Park where General Lowe was waiting for him. The two soldiers stood face to face; MacDonagh then unbuckled his belt and holster and handed them to General Lowe along with his revolver. General Lowe accepted them and asked MacDonagh to return to his men and arrange for the surrender of Jacob’s. MacDonagh accepted the General’s request.
14.50hrs – Commandant Mallin’s garrison is marching into captivity along York St. A short time ago roughly 120 Citizen Army members put down their arms and began their march. As they set off, however, shots rang out from the Green. Some refuse to give in.
Their captors are displaying differing attitudes as they march. Some of the rebels have been threatened with bayonets, others have been told to cheer up and have been offered cigarettes.
Commandant Mallin appeared to take some comfort from the words of the British Army officer, when he expressed his disbelief that the garrison had held them off with so few men. Now however, he marches to an uncertain fate, albeit proudly.
15.30hrs – Jacob’s Garrison is marching into the custody of the enemy.
15.40hrs – Intense deliberations are under way at South Dublin Union. The garrison has received the surrender order. It looks like Ceannt’s men will comply. They are disconsolate and are unable to believe the news.
16.30hrs – The battle-weary GPO and Four Courts garrisons are exiting the Rotunda grounds en route to Richmond Barracks in Inchicore.
The city is in shock. Thousands of Dubliners are in the streets. Reaction to events is one of disbelief mixed with anger. Abuse is being heaped on the exhausted and starving marching men. But there are whisperings also of subdued admiration.
17.27hrs – The 4th Battalion has formed up to exit South Dublin Union. Their arms are shouldered. Commandant Ceannt has delivered them a rousing speech. Their heads are held high as they prepare to march to Marrowbone Lane to link up with Captain Colbert and the remainder of the Battalion.
17.40hrs – Commandant McLoughlin is marching with his men into captivity in Richmond Barracks in Inchicore under a cordon whose bayonets stand at the ready. They are filthy, dishevelled, exhausted, starving – yet many are singing.
17.56hrs – Roughly 150 Irish Volunteers from 4th Battalion have just entered the gates into St Patrick’s Park. They have been spat at, jeered and praised, while many onlookers on their route stared blankly, no doubt tremendously relieved, but shocked at what has come to pass on their streets.
18.03hrs – Incredible scenes as 3rd Battalion marches towards surrender. As Vice-Commandant O’Connor led the 3rd Battalion from Boland’s Bakery, they were met by a cordon of infantrymen who looked like they were baying for blood. But as soon as the 80 or so men turned on to Grand Canal Street a crowd of locals began cheering and applauding the rebels. Their heads lifted as weeping onlookers offered to hide their weapons. They are now turning left on to Grattan Street where they have been ordered to muster.
18.20hrs – All is changed, changed utterly. It has been a week since the clock struck in Dublin but the 3rd Battalion has laid down its arms in Grattan Street. It is done, the fighting men from both sides are done, but count themselves lucky. Hundreds have fallen this week, never to rise again. The city is shattered. Time will tell how it recovers. It inevitably will. Dubliners are a stoic lot. But now it is time to count the cost, in lives, in homes, in businesses, and in hearts. At the top of the street stands Commandant De Valera – the battalion commander. He has just been saluted by his Vice-Commandant. The men are lined up.
As the last of their unloaded weapons clatters off the pavement, O’Connor has just placed a sword at the top. The sword was given to him as a mark of his men’s respect on Good Friday. He has placed it here no doubt as a mark of respect for them.
These men will march to an uncertain future, as does the land they tried to make a republic. How the drama plays out from here, is anybody’s guess.
* Source: Irish Republican News, April 2, 2016. Adapted from ‘When The Clock Struck in 1916’ – Close-Quarter Combat in the Easter Rising, by Derek Molyneux and Darren Kelly.
GALLERY: RARELY-SEEN PHOTOGRAPHS OF DUBLIN IN 1916
Drawn from the Press Association archives, scenes comparable to modern-day war zones show great swathes of O’Connell Street and Eden Quay entirely obliterated.