Holden Stodart: volunteer ‘gave his life’ during 1916 rebellion

St John Ambulance Brigade superintendent shot as he went to treat a wounded soldier

A clipping from the Irish Times in 1916 about Holden Stodart, an ambulance volunteer killed during the 1916 Rising. (Right) Mr Stodart’s grave in Mount Jerome in Dublin.

A clipping from the Irish Times in 1916 about Holden Stodart, an ambulance volunteer killed during the 1916 Rising. (Right) Mr Stodart’s grave in Mount Jerome in Dublin.

 

Padraig Allen, a member of St John Ambulance Brigade, recalls Holden Stodart, a volunteer who was fatally wounded while helping those engaged in the 1916 battle.

On the morning on Wednesday, April 26th, 1916, St John Ambulance Brigade superintendent Holden Stodart was put in charge of Baggot Street Hospital to look after the wounded of Easter week.

This was the third day of the fighting during the Rising. On Easter Monday when the fighting brok e out, Mr Stodart offered his services to the military authorities in the city.

Mr Stodart, who was born in 1883, was working as a clerk in Guinness when he began volunteering with the St John Ambulance Brigade.

The brigade divided the city into three zones for dealing with casualties from Custom House to Knightsbridge, from Knightsbridge to Dublin Castle and from Dublin Castle to Ringsend.

On the Wednesday of Easter Week, members of the St John Ambulance gathered and set up at The Royal City of Dublin Hospital at Baggot Street, near a young inexperienced British regiment which had just arrived into the city.

The Sherwood Foresters were resting at the RDS in Ballsbridge. The regiment had got off a ship that morning in Dún Laoghaire. The regiment was made up of young men with only a few weeks of training and some had not even fired a rifle.

They were enthusiastically greeted by the public as they embarked from the ships. At this stage the Rising was unpopular in Dublin.

Only a half a mile from Ballsbridge, Lieut Mick Malone, with a number of other volunteers, positioned themselves in some buildings in Northumberland Road and the Schoolhouse around Mount Street Bridge. This was a key crossing point into the city centre.

The strategic approach was taken by Lieut Malone in order to prevent reinforcements from crossing the bridge. The British regiment could have crossed the canal further up at Baggot Street but they had to take Mount Street Bridge at all costs.

The Sherwood Foresters received information that the Schoolhouse was occupied by rebels.

The regiment made their way down towards Northumberland Road where they were caught by surprise walking into a bloody battle. The street was lined with young men screaming and dead bodies littered the road. There were over 160 killed and wounded.

From the hospital at Baggot Street, Mr Stodart and his St John Ambulance volunteers could hear the battle taking place and the screams of injured soldiers.

He was shot near Northumberland Road where he went with a stretcher party and other members of the Brigade to treat a wounded soldier. The shot killed him instantly.

His lifeless body was carried back to City of Dublin Hospital on Baggot Street. Members of the St John Ambulance continued to recover the wounded from the “bullet swept streets of Dublin, irrespective of sides”.

St John Ambulance Brigade district superintendent William G Smith described Holden Stodart as a “most zealous and conscientious officer” who died while proceeding with a stretcher party to the relief of a wounded soldier.

His death and noble example must be remembered amongst those who serve under that order whose motto is “Pro Utilitate Hominium” (for the faith and in the service of humanity).

Smith personally expressed his hurt on the death of Stodart as they were childhood friends.

He wrote: “The rest of that evening was a dreadful nightmare, which was only made a frightful reality by the dead, dying and wounded which began to stream in.

“I can never forget the dreadful wounds we had to look after that night, for as night fell, more and more wounded poured in. The fighting got furious. The constant raffle of rifle fire, the sound of bombs exploding, a whole terrace of houses Clanwilliam Place, burning furiously, death and danger all round, made up a night of horror that one would wish to forget.”

Stodart gave his life for his country and for the sacred cause of mercy. He displayed the highest courage and devotion. He was a young man at the age of 33 and only a few years married leaving his wife and two year old daughter.

The members of the St. John Ambulance Brigade received medals and certificates for meritorious service but there was no provision for the award of posthumous honours so the bravery of Stodart could not be formally acknowledged by the Brigade.

The War Office decided to place officers and members of the St John Ambulance Brigade in the same position with regard to pensions and compassionate allowances as the holders of equivalent ranks in the army.

The Stodart family in this case were awarded the pension and allowance of a lieutenant killed in action, which was an equivalent rank as Superintendent. He had also been awarded the silver coronation medal for his work with the brigade since the outbreak of the first World War.

In Mount Jerome Cemetery I found the grave of Holden Stodart. It took some hours to find as it was an old part of the cemetery. Ninty nines years later it stands high with a cross with the engraving still visible.

The inscriptions is still visible “In loving memory of my devoted husband Holden Stodart Corps Superintendent Saint John Ambulance Brigade who lost his life on duty during the rebellion April 26, 1916, aged 33 years”.