It is the fourth day of the Easter Rising and the remaining rebels are under constant attack.
The GPO and Four Courts are being blitzed with machine gun and rifle fire, and large parts of Sackville Street (O’Connell Street) are up in flames.
As British authorities come to terms with the situation in Dublin, fierce street to street fighting takes place in parts of Dublin. James Connolly is severely wounded while involved in an action close to the GPO. He manages to crawl back to the rebel conclave which is now completely cut off from other rebels. Learning from the debacle at Mount Street bridge, British troops did not attempt a full-scale assault on the GPO.
Witness James Stephens wrote of Thursday’s events: “At 11.30am there came the sound of heavy guns firing in the direction of Sackville Street. I went on the roof, and remained there for some time. From this height the sounds could be heard plainly. There was sustained firing along the whole central line of the City, from the Green down to Trinity College, and from thence to Sackville Street, and the report of the various types of arms could be easily distinguished. There were rifles, machine guns and very heavy cannon.”
The British succeeded in capturing Capel Street Bridge. At South Dublin Union second-in-command, Cathal Brugha, is badly injured. Not able to retreat from the Union when the order was given, Brugha was thought to be lost but, although still surrounded by enemy soldiers, he was found by Eamonn Ceannt singing “God Save Ireland” with his pistol still in his hand and brought to safety.
While the execution of rebel leaders some days after the Rising was a “legitimate” response to “traitors” at a time Britain was involved in a war, the executions proved to be probably ‘THE’ greatest single mistake Britain made in its time in Ireland. The rebellion was not initially popular and the destruction of Dublin brought odium on the rebels from Irish media including the Irish Independent which wrote:
“No terms of denunciation that pen could indict would be too strong to apply to those responsible for the insane and criminal rising of last week. Around us in the centre of Ireland’s capital, is a scene of ruin which it is heartrending to behold. Some of the proudest structures in what was one of the finest streets in Europe are now reduced to shapeless heaps of smouldering ashes.”
The Irony of 1916.
At a time Irish rebels were fighting and dying to overthrow British rule in Ireland, hundreds of Irish soldiers were fighting and dying with the British army at the Battle of Hulluch when German troops unleashed one of the most devastating chlorine gas attacks of World War I. Irish nationalist leader John Redmond had encouraged participation in the British army in 1914 in the belief that it would guarantee Home Rule for Ireland and of course everyone “knew” the war would be short-lived. Over 1,000 soldiers of the 16th “Irish division” suffered dreadful death and injury from the Hulluch gas attack 27-29 April.
In an example of revisionist history that would have done Stalin proud, Irish authorities ignored the thousands of Irish men who fought and died in World War I until very recently.
Photo: Irish Volunteers, Jack Doyle and Tom McGrath, inside the GPO during the 1916 Easter Rising. For what suffer our patriots today? credit: 1916 Easter Revolution in Colour