An Easter Rising timeline: Friday, April 28th, 1916
The sixth in a daily series of reportage-style pieces by the authors of When The Clock Struck in 1916 – Close-Quarter Combat in the Easter Rising
English troops under fire in Talbot Street. Photograph: Ann Ronan Pictures/Print Collector/Getty Images
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 Seán 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.
When The Clock Struck in 1916 – Close-Quarter Combat in the Easter Rising by Derek Molyneux and Darren Kelly, is published by the Collins Press, at €17.99.