Monday, April 16, 2012

The '16 Rising: Easter Monday's Battle Arrays

  • Part 1: Hitting the Road
  • Getting the Guns
  • Easter Monday's Battle Arrays
  • Howth Gunrunners' 1914 Route
  • 1,700 Take On the British Empire
  • Heritage Partner Mercier Press: irish Publisher Irish Story
  • Heritage Partner: Know Thy Place ... Discover the Archaeology of Your Ancestors  

  • Part 3 in the Series ‘Tracing the Rising: Easter Week in Dublin 1916' 

    By Robert A. Mosher 

    Sackville (now O'Connell) Street, Dublin,
     after the 1916 Easter Rising.

    For a moment in time, the Easter Rising of 1916 promised everything to everybody -- freedom to Ireland, a new successful front in Germany’s war with Britain, and ruin to Great Britain. It was a hope born of the efforts of many individuals over many years, and it died of the decisions made by a few, including the misguided, the mistaken, the misinformed, and the miserable. Out of the ashes of that ruin, though, arose as the phoenix of the ancients the reality of modern Ireland and the legend of 1916.

    In its grandest initial form, Easter 1916 proposed the raising of some 13,000 Irish Volunteers, abetted by the Irish Citizen Army (300 men and women at its greatest strength) and the Hibernian Rifles (30-50 individuals), Na Fianna Éireann, and Cumann na mBan. Many of the older boys within Na Fianna Éireann, with a membership aged 8-18, had already joined the Volunteers. Cumann na mBan provided several hundred women, but not all were armed. The British would hold 72 women prisoners after the rising ended.

    Irish Citizen Army group
    outside Liberty Hall, Dublin 

    For arms, they already had a mixed collection of perhaps 2,000 rifles and again as many shotguns, revolvers, and automatic pistols – and they looked for the arrival of 20,000 captured Russian Mosin-Nagant rifles from Germany (with 10 machine guns), supported by several thousand German troops. The leaders expected this show of armed defiance to British rule to rally thousands from among those 100,000 Irishmen from John Redmond’s 140,000 National Volunteers who did not join the British army. These men would have experience of drill and at least some may have had their own weapons. It was a romantic conception worthy of the Victorian age in which many of them were born and raised.

    Unfortunately, the onset in 1914 of the Great War had rendered such romanticism obsolete in the face of the first modern industrial war of the 20th Century. Germany would not or could not spare thousands of men for such an adventure at a time when that many men were lost in a morning in its nightmare war fought in both the Western trenches and on the Eastern steppe. Germany did allow the English diplomatist and noted humanitarian Sir Roger Casement to recruit a German-armed and German–equipped, 3,000-strong Irish Brigade from among the captive British soldiers held by the tens of thousands in Germany’s prisoner-of-war camps. But in the end, even his few volunteers would not sail for Ireland in 1916 -- or ever.

    The Aud, the German ship that attempted to land
    German arms in Cork, but was scuttled.

    Dublin is Ireland’s gateway and principal city, and considered in the early 19th century “the second city” of the British Empire. Dublin Castle was the center, in its turn, of British power and authority in Ireland and was “home” to the Chief Secretary for Ireland as well as the Royal Irish Constabulary’s (RIC) Inspector General and their staffs. The army’s Irish Command was headquartered at Parkgate, in western Dublin, where the Grand Canal, the Liffey River, and the major east-west rail line converged. Its principal arsenal, Magazine Fort, was in Dublin’s Phoenix Park.

    The rising in Dublin, in both the original proposal and in the final plan, was to paralyze Britain’s leadership in Ireland and to pin in place as many of the British troops in Ireland as possible. This would open the way for the Germans to land in the south with their 20,000 troops and the 20,000 guns to be issued to the men raised by the Irish Volunteers in that region. 

    When it became clear that there would be no German troops coming, it would be up to the Volunteer columns in the South to raise and arm the men who would march to the line of the Shannon before the British could respond to the new threat. As noted, the planners expected that the arrival of the rifles and the launching of the Rising would result in most of Redmond’s National Rifles abandoning him and joining the rebellion.

    Addendum: Britain’s Imperial Presence
    The unarmed, 1,100 men of the Dublin Metropolitan Police were soon pulled off the streets, as they were defenseless against the Volunteers, suffering, in fact, one of the first casualties at the entrance to Dublin Castle.  The armed Royal Irish Constabulary was not present in Dublin. The Royal Navy in Ireland was primarily represented by a series of lightly manned signal stations -- bases at Dublin, Queenstown, Lough Foyle, Larne, and Malahide. During the Easter Rising, there was no effective Royal Flying Corps presence.

    The British Army had some 2,400 officers and men in Dublin itself. Other army units were based elsewhere in Ireland, though almost all of these were training formations significantly below their authorized strength:

    World War I British
    recruitment poster
    British Order of Battle – Ireland 1916

    Dublin Garrison – Col. Henry Kennard
    Marlborough Barracks, Phoenix Park
    6th Reserve Cavalry Regiment (ex-3rd Reserve Cavalry Brigade)
    5th/12th Lancers, City of London/1st County of London Yeomanry
     – 35 officers, 851 other ranks
    Portobello Barracks
    3rd (Reserve) Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles – 21 officers, 650 other ranks
    Richmond Barracks
    3rd (Reserve) Battalion, Royal Irish Regiment (Lt Col. R.L. Owens)
     – 18 officers, 385 other ranks
    Royal Barracks
    10th (Service) Battalion, Royal Dublin Fusiliers – 37 officers, 430 other ranks 

    (Ironically, many of these men were former Irish Volunteers who had sided with John Redmond and followed his call for them to enlist in the British Army for World War I)

    Miscellaneous Units
    Trinity College, OTC (Officers Training Corps, made up of staff and students of Trinity College Dublin. At first only eight men were present, but they were later joined by regular British army personnel and units.)Detachment, Army School of Musketry – Dollymount - Maj. J.F. Somerville
    Home Defence Force – “Georgius Rex” (about 120 strong on Easter Monday, this was an auxiliary force of civilian-garbed veterans and volunteers raised to provide for home defense, supplanting the armed forces serving on the continent.) 

    The Curragh Camp, County Kildare (32 miles / 51 km from Dublin Castle, responsible for garrisoning Dublin and for the center of the country)
     – Col. (temp. Brig.) W.H.M. Lowe

    25th Reserve Infantry Brigade (elements – 1,000 men)  5th (Extra Reserve) Battalion, Royal Dublin Fusiliers
    5th (Extra Reserve) Battalion, The Prince of Wales’s Leinster Regiment

    3rd Reserve Cavalry Brigade Col. Bertram Percy Portal, 1,600 men 
    8th Reserve Cavalry Regiment (16th/17th Lancers, King Edward’s Horse, Dorsetshire/Oxfordshire Yeomanry)
    9th Reserve Cavalry Regiment (3rd/7th Hussars, 2nd/3rd County of London Yeomanry)
    10th Reserve Cavalry Regiment (4th/8th Hussars, Lancashire Hussars, Duke of Lancaster’s/Westmoreland/Cumberland Yeomanry)
    Athlone, County Westmeath (78 miles / 125 km from Dublin Castle)
    5th Reserve Artillery Brigade – eight 18- pdr field guns (only 4 serviceable)

    (standard British quick-firing gun, 84mm, firing an 18-pound projectile or a 23-pound anti-personnel round; only four of these cannon were serviceable, the brigade’s normal 800-man complement was at significantly reduced strength.)

    Belfast (104 miles / 168 km from Dublin Castle, responsible for the North of Ireland)
    Composite Infantry Battalion (elements of 15th Reserve Infantry Brigade) – 1,000 all ranks

    Templemore, County Tipperary (88 miles / 142 km from Dublin Castle)
    4th (Extra Reserve) Battalion, Royal Dublin Fusiliers (Ex-25th Reserve Infantry Brigade)

    More From WG on the Easter Rising:
    * Dublin, Easter Monday, 1916: 1,700 Take On the British Empire
    * Unspoken Tales of the Women in Ireland's Freedom Struggle

    Irish Order of Battle – Ireland 1916

    Irish Volunteers in the GPO
    Dublin, April, 1916 - 'Rebel' Order of Battle
    Commandant General and Commander-in-Chief of Irish Volunteers – Padraig H. Pearse
    Commandant General and Commander Dublin Division Irish Volunteers – James Connolly
    Commandant General – Joseph M. Plunkett

    (The above all marched with Composite Headquarters Battalion.)

    Composite Headquarters Battalion
    Muster Point – Liberty Hall (Beresford Place) then General Post Office, Sackville Street
    Muster – 150 men (late arrivals and stragglers reportedly make a total of 350 men)
    Objective – The GPO on Sackville Street

    1st (Dublin City) Battalion Irish Volunteers (less D Company)
    Commandant – Edward Daly
    Vice-Commandant – Piaras Beaslai
    Muster Point – Blackhall Street
    Muster – 250 men
    Objective – The Four Courts and surrounding area northwards to Phipsboro, to block British coming from Marlborough and Royal Barracks

    D Company, 1st (Dublin City) Battalion Irish Volunteers
    Commandant –   Seán Heuston, Captain, D Company but later acting under orders of James Connolly
    Muster Point – Mountjoy Street
    Muster – 12 men

    2nd (Dublin City) Battalion Irish Volunteers
    Commandant – Thomas MacDonagh, Commander Dublin Brigade Irish Volunteers
    Vice-Commandant – John MacBride, Major
    Muster Point – St. Stephen’s Green (changed from Father Matthew Park in Fairview)
    Muster – 200 men
    Objective – Jacobs Biscuit Factory, Bishop Street

    3rd (Dublin City) Battalion Irish Volunteers
    Commandant – E. de Valera, Adjutant Brigade Irish Volunteers
    Muster point – Brunswick Street (Also Earlsfort Terrace and Oakley Road)
    Muster – 130 men
    Objective – the area of the South Dublin Union south of Kilmainham in order to neutralize the British in Beggars Bush Barracks in Cranmer Street and to block any reinforcements coming up from the Kingstown naval base

    4th (Dublin City) Battalion Irish Volunteers
    Commandant –  Éamonn Ceannt
    Vice-Commandant –  Cathal Brugha
    Muster point – Emerald Square (near Dolphin’s Barn)
    Muster – 100 men
    Objective – to defend against the expected counterattack from The Curragh camp in County Kildare

    5th (Dublin City) Battalion Irish Volunteers
    Commandant – Thomas Ashe
    Muster point – Knocksedan (near Swords, 8 miles / 13 km from the GPO)
    Muster – 60 men

    Irish Citizen Army
    Commandant – Michael Mallin
    Deputy to Michael Mallin – Constance, Countess Markievicz
    Muster point – Liberty Hall (Beresford Place)
    Muster – 100
    Objective – St. Stephen’s Green, to link the 2nd and 3rd Battalions and pressure both Dublin Castle and Trinity College

    Irish Citizen Army (detachment)
    Captain – Sean Connolly
    Muster point – Liberty Hall (Beresford Place)
    Muster – 30 men
    Objective – the area around City Hall to interdict British forces attempting to use the Castle’s main gateway or the entrance to the Ship Street Barracks (this is the group that found the gates to Dublin Castle’s upper and lower yards closed in their faces.

    Kimmage Garrison

    Captain – George Plunkett

    Muster point – Kimmage, Plunkett family estate. The garrison’s 56 men traveled to Dublin part way by tram. Captain Plunkett waved down a tram at Harold's Cross, ordered on his men, who were armed with shotguns, pikes, and homemade bombs, and then uttering what might be the wryest comment of the Rising, took out his wallet and said "Fifty-two tuppenny tickets to the city centre, please." From there they mustered at Liberty Hall.

    Objective – GPO

    Author’s Note: There are generally accepted estimates as to the numbers that participated in the Rising, but the nature of the forces brought by both sides to Dublin and the hasty manner in which they were gathered and dispatched means that no one can state an exact head count. That said, there has apparently been and continues to be a great deal of energy and scholarship committed to proving that this person or that person was in the GPO, or somewhere in Dublin for the rising. Several of my sources do offer such lists but I do not believe that anyone can guarantee that these lists include everyone that was there. – Robert A. Mosher

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