An Easter Rising timeline: Wednesday, April 26th, 1916
The fourth 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
13th May 1916: The bombed buildings at the corner of Sackville street and Eden Quay on the banks of the Liffey in Dublin. The buildings were shelled by the British admiralty gunboat, the Helga, during the Easter Rising. Photograph: Hulton Archive/Getty Images
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 Seán 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 façade 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.
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.