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Remembered Today:



Reading an article on Forces News Ireland On Stage – The 1916 Easter Rising it outlined that "a four-gun battery of field artillery pieces" formed part of the British response to the uprising. I wondered which unit the guns came from and what actions they took during the six days of the Easter Rising.


One interesting snippet outlined  ‘Field’ artillery is the key here though, since gunners soon found that, without the traction found on grass or mud, firing their guns on the smoothly-pebbled streets was like shooting them on ice. The recoil sent them flying backwards, after which they’d need re-aiming. This must have led to a frustrating drop in their rate of fire.'


This tweet from 3RHA on a Quick Action shows what the Gunners would have experienced when firing from roads.



On the morning of Easter Monday 1916 (24 April) , Irish Volunteers began occupying buildings in Dublin, seizing the GPO at mid-day. At 12:45 Patrick Pearse, the Irish Volunteers nominated President of the Provisional Government, read out the Proclamation of the Republic outside Dublin General Post Office. The Irish Tricolour and a green flag bearing the words 'Irish Republic' were raised on the building, signalling the start of the Easter Rising.



Patrick Pearse posts the  Proclamation of the Republic outside Dublin GPO




There were rebel attacks on a British ammunition column, the Magazine Fort in Phoenix Park, and soldiers came under fire from the South Dublin Union, an unarmed constable was killed in Dublin Castle. The British response began at 12:30 when the 6th Reserve Cavalry were deployed, and three battalions of the Dublin Garrison sent to defend Dublin Castle. Fighting intensified as the rebellion spread and the Irish Volunteers looked to form a cordon around the city centre, casualties mounting on both sides. A British mobile column seized Kingsbridge Station at 16.00 and  British re-enforcements from the Curragh began arriving by train.  [1]


The despatches of Commander the Chief Forces in Ireland recorded "The situation at midnight was that we held the Magazine, Phoenix Park, the Castle and the Ship Street entrance to it, the Royal Hospital, all Barracks, the Kingsbridge, Amiens Street, and North Wall railway stations, the Dublin telephone exchange in Crown Alley, the Electric Power Station at Pigeon House Fort, Trinity College, Mountjoy Prison, and Kingstown Harbour.


The Sinn Feiners held Sackville Street and blocks of buildings on each side of this, including Liberty Hall, with their headquarters at the General Post Office, the Four Courts, Jacobs’ biscuit factory, South Dublin Union, St. Stephen’s Green, all the approaches to the Castle except the Ship Street entrance, and many houses all over the city, especially about Balls Bridge and Beggar’s Bush." [2]





British forces in Dublin on the eve of the 24th numbered nearly 5,000 troops [3] and on the 25th April two more battalions arrived during the day as well as a battery of four 18-pounders from the Reserve Artillery Brigade base in Athlone. [4]



British Artillery route into Dublin from NW


The Guns were from 5A Reserve Brigade Royal Artillery and were the only guns in Ireland. [5]



18 pounder field artillery gun used by the British Army in Dublin in 1916.


 To the north of Dublin city centre artillery fire was used to destroy barricades in the Phibsborough area assisting in the establishment of a northern cordon  of the city centre, and the clearing of Broadstone Railway Station of Irish Volunteers. [6]  An 18 pounder located on the south bank of the River Liffey shelled Liberty Hall.  In the evening the Armed Auxiliary Patrol Yacht Helga sailed up the River Liffey using her 12 pounder gun to shell Liberty Hall.  [7]



Bombardment of Liberty Hall - 25th April 1916



Armed Auxiliary Patrol Yacht Helga





Bombardment of Liberty Hall - 25th April 1916


Two infantry Brigades (176th / 178th) arrived from mainland Britain to further reinforce the troops in Dublin.  During the afternoon of Wednesday 26th April, the British had their bloodiest confrontation at Mount Street Bridge on Northumberland Road,  when Irish Volunteers inflicted 234 casualties killed or wounded [8] (2/3 of the total casualties during the Easter Rising)


Guns located at Trinity College guns fired at rebel positions, first at Boland's Mill and then in Sackville Street (O'Connell Street). [9]


By the afternoon of the 26th April artillery positions had been established around Sackville Street shelling the main rebel strongholds, including the GPO. Shelling continued on Thursday and at 10:00 the artillery fire ignited rolls of newsprint in the Irish Times building and the fire quickly spread. With fighting in progress, the Dublin Fire Brigade were unable to attend, resulting in the fires going out of control. [10]





The shelling of the Sackville Street area continued unabated on the Friday destroying much of the area, the GPO in particular being targeted [11]

Sergeant Major Samuel Lomas, an infantry soldier deployed to Dublin, records in his diary " APRIL 28th Noon One 18-pounder arrived and laid facing down Moore Street in the direction of the G.P.O. Four shells were fired which caused the rebels to quake, as for some considerable time, the rifle fire was silent, with the exception of a few snipers". [12]



British Guns shell the Dublin GPO



British Guns shell the Dublin GPO


By Friday 28th April 18,000 to 20,000 British troops had been amassed in Dublin vastly outnumbering the 1,600 rebels, and parts of the city lay in ruins. [13]






Dublin Ruins April Easter 1916


That evening with the GPO on fire, the rebels began to break out from the building and at 21:50 the walls collapsed leaving only a shell of the structure. [14]



Fire raging in Dublin GPO April 28th 1916



Fire raging in Dublin GPO April 28th 1916


With superior numbers of the British , plus the heavy fire power from machine guns and artillery, the pressure on the Irish Volunteers mounted. British Troops breached rebel barricades in North King Street. In the Four Courts area, Artillery commanded by Major Hill targeted buildings held by the rebels and infantry conducted clearing operations. [15]



Dublin Easter Rising 1916 Artillery in action



Dublin Easter Rising 1916 Explosions in Four Courts area


The artillery fire would ultimately bring about the surrender of the Irish Volunteers. A Red Cross nurse was despatched by Patrick Pearse to ask for surrender terms, and at 14:00 29th April 1916 Pearse surrendered himself unconditionally. [16]




The effect of the Artillery fire proved to be a decisive  factor in the British suppressing the Irish Rebellion.


British Artillery Targeting Dublin Easter Rising 1916


In his book Easter 1916: The Irish Rebellion, Charles Townshend assessed "Automatic weapons made a significant difference but the decisive weapon in 1916 was artillery" [17].


Sergeant Major Samuel Lomas, the infantry soldier deployed to Dublin recorded in his diary "The artillery proved most useful, & were in my opinion mainly the cause of the surrender of the rebels"  [18]


General JG Maxwell, Commander in Chief Forces in Ireland in his despatches outlined  that artillery had set the conditions for the decisive moment;

"the infantry being greatly assisted by a battery of Field Artillery commanded by Major Hill, who used his guns against the buildings held by the rebels with such good effect that a Red Cross Nurse brought in a message from the Rebel leader, P. H. Pearse, asking for terms" [19]












[1] https://www.rte.ie/centuryireland/index.php/articles/chronology-of-the-easter-rising

[2] Despatches from Ireland - CinC Forces in Ireland, Irish Command Dublin, 25 May 1916.  para 4

[3] ibid para 7

[4] ibid para 9

[5] 5A Reserve Brigade, Royal Field Artillery (Home) - Soldiers and their units - Great War Forum

[6] Despatches from Ireland - CinC Forces in Ireland, Irish Command Dublin, 25 May 1916. para 9

[7] ibid para 11

[8] ibid para 10

[9] Easter 1916: The Irish Rebellion by Charles Townshend page 79

[10] https://www.rte.ie/centuryireland/index.php/articles/chronology-of-the-easter-rising

[11] ibid

[12] https://ireland-calling.com/lifestyle/extracts-of-a-british-soldiers-dairy-during-the-easter-rising/

[13] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-35873316

[14] https://www.rte.ie/centuryireland/index.php/articles/chronology-of-the-easter-rising

[15] Despatches from Ireland - CinC Forces in Ireland, Irish Command Dublin, 25 May 1916 para 14

[16] ibid

[17] Easter 1916: The Irish Rebellion by Charles Townshend p 191

 [18] https://ireland-calling.com/lifestyle/extracts-of-a-british-soldiers-dairy-during-the-easter-rising/

[19] Despatches from Ireland - CinC Forces in Ireland, Irish Command Dublin, 25 May 1916 para 14

Edited by ianjonesncl


Recommended Comments

the photo re Artillery in Action and the Four Courts burning are from the Irish Civil War.




Can't remember what film/drama the images re the shelling of the GPO are from. The frontage of the GPO looked out towards Clery's/The Imperial Hotel (as shown on the map with the damage).


The Youtube video clip is a 2 parter. First part is 1916. From Daily Terror onward is War of Independence and shows the shooting of Sean Treacy



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