On the morning of Wednesday 26th April 1916, British reinforcements began to arrive in Ireland, disembarking at Kingstown (now Dún Laoghaire), and moving towards the south eastern outskirts of Dublin. Ordered to make their way by the most direct route to Dublin Castle, the men of the Notts & Derby Regiment (Sherwood Foresters) would have to find a way across the Grand Canal, and the bridge at Mount Street, at the northern end of Northumberland Road, would seem the most obvious choice.
The Foresters, mainly young men who had answered Kitchener’s call-to-arms and joined up to defeat the Hun, were still undergoing basic training in Watford when they were hastily packed off to Dublin as the Rising gained impetus. None had seen action, few had even participated in live firing and their officers, all volunteers from English public schools, were as inexperienced as the men they led. On arrival in Dublin, as the Foresters were finally issued with live ammunition (although their Lewis guns, which in the event would have proved more than useful, had been left behind in Liverpool, and they had no hand grenades) and received their orders, some thought they had landed in France, any local accents they may have heard hardly dissuading them. Actually, not all the Foresters were ordered to take the direct route, the luckier ones, the men from Derbyshire, were to march round the city, entering from the west and making their way to the Royal Hospital, and from there to Dublin Castle, while it was the Nottinghamshire men who were take the most direct route to the castle, by way of Northumberland Road. It was a fine spring day, local residents offering the troops tea and sandwiches as the Foresters came up the street towards us in the photo above, crossing the junction with Haddington Road…
…towards Number 25, Northumberland Road, on their left (above & below).
It was just before half past twelve in the afternoon, as the young men of the Sherwood Foresters passed Number 25, that the ambush was sprung.
Volunteer Lieutenant Michael Malone and one of his section leaders, James Grace, opened fire on the massed ranks of troops in the street below from the upper stories of Number 25. The Foresters adjutant, Captain Frederick Dietrichsen, a Nottingham barrister, who just minutes before had been surprised and delighted to find his wife and children, living in Dublin for fear of German air attacks on Nottingham, among those welcoming the marching troops, was the among the first to die, as ten men fell under the first volley. As the Foresters, panicked and unsure where the shots had come from, fell back to the opposite side of the road, more Volunteers in the surrounding houses (below) begin firing at the bewildered troops. British soldiers who attempted to break into the surrounding buildings found them barricaded or empty as more rebels fired at them from further up the road.
The Foresters tried to take cover as best they could, returning fire when possible, their officers finally identifying Number 25 as their main threat, and leading a bayonet charge against the building; more men were cut down as rebels fired down the street on them from positions around Mount Street Bridge, the Volunteers in Number 25 emptying their weapons at point-blank range on the troops below as the British fell back once more. And so it continued, the men of the Foresters charging Number 25 and other rebel strongpoints further up the road, on the sound of the whistle, as they had been taught to do, the rebels discharging volley after volley into the advancing troops.
Late in the afternoon, and now finally provided with a machine gun and a supply of hand grenades, the British finally overwhelmed the defenders of Number 25, although some of the rebels managed to escape. Today, Number 25 is exactly as it was back then (above)…
…as this illustration from Michael McNally’s Easter Rising 1916 book shows.
Just the cobblestones have gone, and with them the blood of many young Englishmen.
Michael Malone would not survive the engagement either. He would die in Number 25 – he probably expected to – but he and his men had taken a serious toll of the Sherwood Foresters, and more were to die in the following hours as they attempted to cross Mount Street Bridge.
As well as Royal Barracks, where we visited last post, marked (but not by me) in the north west quarter, our map now includes the area of fighting at Northumberland Road, the transparent light green circle near Beggars Bush Barracks, in the south east quarter, and immediately above it, a light blue transparent circle where the subsequent Battle of Mount Street Bridge would take place, and where we are heading next post.