Despite the tensions within Ireland, when war was declared with Germany these differences were put to one side and thousands of young Irishmen volunteered to serve in the British Army. Despite the many thousands of men who volunteered to enlist in the British Army, the Irish people were split over the best way forward, and some pushed for a more radical solution.
In an attempt to bring about independence, an armed insurrection was organised to take place during the Easter week of Early on Easter Monday morning, 24 April, about 1, Irish Volunteers a military organisation formed in and Irish Citizen Army members trade unionists who had been trained in defence of workers' demonstrations took over strong points in Dublin city centre and proclaimed the Irish Republic independent of the United Kingdom.
The rebels located their headquarters at Dublin's General Post Office. Other key buildings taken over included Dublin's court complex, hospital buildings and various factories. The British troops in Dublin were caught unprepared and the response was disjointed. As a result of this patrol, the cavalrymen withdrew and returned to their barracks. The seat of British power was at Dublin Castle.
On the outbreak of the rebellion, the castle was virtually undefended with only about 25 soldiers on duty: many troops had been allowed out to watch the Irish Grand National which was taking place that day. Despite not being a target probably because it was believed it was too well defended , shortly before midday a small group of members of the Irish Citizen Army rushed the gates of the castle. The raiders seized the guardroom and disarmed the soldiers, tying them up with their own puttees. Racked by indecision at their unplanned success, the attackers did not press home their advantage.
The Easter Rising - Dublin 1916
Above: A locket with the portrait of Guy Pinfield. I mage courtesy of Clare College, Cambridge. Interrupting his studies when war was declared, Guy obtained a commission, joining the King's Royal Irish Hussars. In , he was posted to the Curragh Camp in Co. Kildare for training. It was during a skirmish outside the castle that Guy Pinfield was shot. It is possible that he was among a group that was attempting to find a back route into the castle when they were caught in a cul-de-sac.
He was the first officer to be killed. Pinfield's body was hastily buried in a temporary grave in the castle gardens; many others who were to be killed in the following days would be buried alongside him.
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The following month, May , the families of the British soldiers were invited to reclaim the bodies of the fallen. Any that were not claimed in this way were reburied at Grangegorman Military Cemetery. For some reason, five officers - Pinfield among them - were neither claimed nor re-buried, their bodies remained at the castle until when they were re-interred at Grangegorman which is close to Phoenix Park. Rebel and civilian casualties were dead and 2, wounded. The Volunteers and ICA recorded 64 killed in action, but otherwise Irish casualties were not divided into rebels and civilians.
British reported casualties of dead, wounded and nine missing. Sixteen policemen died, and 29 were wounded. All 16 police fatalities and 22 of the British soldiers killed were Irishmen. Image courtesy of the Imperial War Musuem. Q Swanzy was later tracked down and killed in Lisburn , County Antrim. This pattern of killings and reprisals escalated in the second half of and in Michael Collins was a driving force behind the independence movement.
Nominally the Minister of Finance in the republic's government and IRA Director of Intelligence, he was involved in providing funds and arms to the IRA units and in the selection of officers. Collins' charisma and organisational capability galvanised many who came in contact with him. He established what proved an effective network of spies among sympathetic members of the Dublin Metropolitan Police 's DMP G Division and other important branches of the British administration.
The G Division men were a relatively small political division active in subverting the republican movement and were detested by the IRA as often they were used to identify volunteers, who would have been unknown to British soldiers or the later Black and Tans. Collins set up the "Squad" , a group of men whose sole duty was to seek out and kill "G-men" and other British spies and agents. One spy who escaped with his life was F. Digby Hardy , who was exposed by Arthur Griffith before an "IRA" meeting, which in fact consisted of Irish and foreign journalists, and then advised to take the next boat out of Dublin.
While the paper membership of the IRA, carried over from the Irish Volunteers , was over , men, Michael Collins estimated that only 15, were active in the IRA during the course of the war, with about 3, on active service at any time. The IRA benefitted from the widespread help given to them by the general Irish population, who generally refused to pass information to the RIC and the British military and who often provided " safe houses " and provisions to IRA units "on the run". The proposal was immediately dismissed.
The British increased the use of force; reluctant to deploy the regular British Army into the country in greater numbers, they set up two paramilitary police units to aid the RIC. Deployed to Ireland in March , most came from English and Scottish cities. While officially they were part of the RIC, in reality they were a paramilitary force. After their deployment in March , they rapidly gained a reputation for drunkenness and ill discipline, that did more harm to the British government's moral authority in Ireland than any other group.
In response to IRA actions, in the summer of , the Tans burned and sacked numerous small towns throughout Ireland, including Balbriggan , Trim , Templemore and others. In July , another quasi-military police body, the Auxiliaries , consisting of 2, former British army officers, arrived in Ireland. The Auxiliary Division had a reputation just as bad as the Tans for their mistreatment of the civilian population but tended to be more effective and more willing to take on the IRA.
The policy of reprisals, which involved public denunciation or denial and private approval, was famously satirised by Lord Hugh Cecil when he said: "It seems to be agreed that there is no such thing as reprisals but they are having a good effect. It replaced the trial by jury by courts-martial by regulation for those areas where IRA activity was prevalent. This act has been interpreted by historians as a choice by Prime Minister David Lloyd George to put down the rebellion in Ireland rather than negotiate with the republican leadership. It was in this period that a mutiny broke out among the Connaught Rangers , stationed in India.
Two were killed whilst trying to storm an armoury and one was later executed. A number of events dramatically escalated the conflict in late Then, on 21 November , there was a day of dramatic bloodshed in Dublin. In the early morning, Collins' Squad attempted to wipe out the leading British intelligence operatives in the capital. The Squad shot 19 people, killing 14 and wounding 5. These consisted of British Army officers, police officers and civilians. The dead included members of the Cairo Gang and a courts-martial officer, and were killed at different places around Dublin.
Fourteen civilians were killed, including one of the players, Michael Hogan , and a further 65 people were wounded. The official account was that the three men were shot "while trying to escape", which was rejected by Irish nationalists, who were certain the men had been tortured then murdered. These actions marked a significant escalation of the conflict. In response, Counties Cork, Kerry, Limerick, and Tipperary — all in the province of Munster — were put under martial law on 10 December under the Restoration of Order in Ireland Act ; this was followed on 5 January in the rest of Munster and in Counties Kilkenny and Wexford in the province of Leinster.
On 11 December, the centre of Cork City was burnt out by the Black and Tans, who then shot at firefighters trying to tackle the blaze, in reprisal for an IRA ambush in the city on 11 December which killed one Auxiliary and wounded eleven. Attempts at a truce in December were scuppered by Hamar Greenwood , who insisted on a surrender of IRA weapons first. During the following eight months until the Truce of July , there was a spiralling of the death toll in the conflict, with 1, people including the RIC police, army, IRA volunteers and civilians, being killed in the months between January and July alone.
In addition, 4, IRA personnel or suspected sympathisers were interned in this time. Between 1 November and 7 June twenty-four men were executed by the British. Cornelius Murphy of Millstreet , Cork was shot in Cork city. On 28 February, six more were executed, again in Cork. Barry's men narrowly avoided being trapped by converging British columns and inflicted between ten and thirty killed on the British side. Twenty British soldiers were killed or injured, as well as two IRA men and three civilians. Most of the actions in the war were on a smaller scale than this, but the IRA did have other significant victories in ambushes, for example at Millstreet in Cork and at Scramogue in Roscommon, also in March and at Tourmakeady and Carowkennedy in Mayo in May and June.
Equally common, however, were failed ambushes, the worst of which, for example at Mourneabbey, [ citation needed ] Upton and Clonmult in Cork in February , saw six, three, and twelve IRA men killed respectively and more captured. Fears of informers after such failed ambushes often led to a spate of IRA shootings of informers, real and imagined.
The biggest single loss for the IRA, however, came in Dublin. Symbolically, this was intended to show that British rule in Ireland was untenable. However, from a military point of view, it was a heavy defeat in which five IRA men were killed and over eighty captured. However, it did not, as is sometimes claimed, cripple the IRA in Dublin. The Dublin Brigade carried out attacks in the city in May and 93 in June, showing a falloff in activity, but not a dramatic one. However, by July , most IRA units were chronically short of both weapons and ammunition, with over 3, prisoners interned.
Still, many military historians have concluded that the IRA fought a largely successful and lethal guerrilla war, which forced the British government to conclude that the IRA could not be defeated militarily. A general election for the Parliament of Southern Ireland was held on 13 May. Under the terms of the Government of Ireland Act , the Parliament of Southern Ireland was therefore dissolved, and executive and legislative authority over Southern Ireland was effectively transferred to the Lord Lieutenant assisted by Crown appointees.
Over the next two days 14—15 May , the IRA killed fifteen policemen. By the time of the truce, however, many republican leaders, including Michael Collins, were convinced that if the war went on for much longer, there was a chance that the IRA campaign as it was then organised could be brought to a standstill. Because of this, plans were drawn up to "bring the war to England". The IRA did take the campaign to the streets of Glasgow. The units charged with these missions would more easily evade capture because England was not under, and British public opinion was unlikely to accept, martial law.
These plans were abandoned because of the truce. The war of independence in Ireland ended with a truce on 11 July The conflict had reached a stalemate. Talks that had looked promising the previous year had petered out in December when David Lloyd George insisted that the IRA first surrender their arms.
Fresh talks, after the Prime Minister had come under pressure from H.
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From the point of view of the British government, it appeared as if the IRA's guerrilla campaign would continue indefinitely, with spiralling costs in British casualties and in money. More importantly, the British government was facing severe criticism at home and abroad for the actions of British forces in Ireland. On 6 June , the British made their first conciliatory gesture, calling off the policy of house burnings as reprisals. It had been hard pressed by the deployment of more regular British soldiers to Ireland and by the lack of arms and ammunition.
The King, who had made his unhappiness at the behaviour of the Black and Tans in Ireland well known to his government, was dissatisfied with the official speech prepared for him for the opening of the new Parliament of Northern Ireland , created as a result of the partition of Ireland. Smuts, a close friend of the King, suggested to him that the opportunity should be used to make an appeal for conciliation in Ireland. The King asked him to draft his ideas on paper.
Smuts prepared this draft and gave copies to the King and to Lloyd George. Lloyd George then invited Smuts to attend a British cabinet meeting consultations on the "interesting" proposals Lloyd George had received, without either man informing the Cabinet that Smuts had been their author. Faced with the endorsement of them by Smuts, the King and the Prime Minister, ministers reluctantly agreed to the King's planned 'reconciliation in Ireland' speech. The speech, when delivered in Belfast on 22 June, was universally well received.
It called on "all Irishmen to pause, to stretch out the hand of forbearance and conciliation, to forgive and to forget, and to join in making for the land they love a new era of peace, contentment, and good will. Austen Chamberlain , the new leader of the Unionist Party, said that "the King's Speech ought to be followed up as a last attempt at peace before we go the full lengths of martial law".
De Valera and Lloyd George ultimately agreed to a truce that was intended to end the fighting and lay the ground for detailed negotiations. Its terms were signed on 9 July and came into effect on 11 July. Negotiations on a settlement, however, were delayed for some months as the British government insisted that the IRA first decommission its weapons, but this demand was eventually dropped.
It was agreed that British troops would remain confined to their barracks.
Most IRA officers on the ground interpreted the Truce merely as a temporary respite and continued recruiting and training volunteers. Those killed were named in captured British files as informers before the Truce signed the previous July. The treaty allowed Northern Ireland , which had been created by the Government of Ireland Act , to opt out of the Free State if it wished, which it duly did on 8 December under the procedures laid down. As agreed, an Irish Boundary Commission was then created to decide on the precise location of the border of the Free State and Northern Ireland.
Since the local elections in Ireland had resulted in outright nationalist majorities in County Fermanagh , County Tyrone , the City of Derry and in many District Electoral Divisions of County Armagh and County Londonderry all north and west of the "interim" border , this might well have left Northern Ireland unviable. However, the Commission chose to leave the border unchanged; as a trade-off, the money owed to Britain by the Free State under the Treaty was not demanded. Most of the Irish independence movement's leaders were willing to accept this compromise, at least for the time being, though many militant republicans were not.
In April , an executive of IRA officers repudiated the treaty and the authority of the Provisional Government which had been set up to administer it. A hardline group of Anti-Treaty IRA men occupied several public buildings in Dublin in an effort to bring down the treaty and restart the war with the British. There were a number of armed confrontations between pro and anti-treaty troops before matters came to a head in late June The subsequent Irish Civil War lasted until mid and cost the lives of many of the leaders of the independence movement, notably the head of the Provisional Government Michael Collins , ex-minister Cathal Brugha , and anti-treaty republicans Harry Boland , Rory O'Connor , Liam Mellows , Liam Lynch and many others : total casualties have never been determined but were perhaps higher than those in the earlier fighting against the British.
President Arthur Griffith also died of a cerebral haemorrhage during the conflict. Following the deaths of Griffith and Collins, W. Cosgrave became head of government. Cosgrave became President of the Executive Council , the first internationally recognised head of an independent Irish government. The civil war ended in mid in defeat for the anti-treaty side.
In this part of Ireland, which was predominantly Protestant and Unionist, there was, as a result, a very different pattern of violence from the rest of the country. Whereas in the south and west, the conflict was between the IRA and British forces, in the north-east and particularly in Belfast , it often developed into a cycle of sectarian killings between Catholics, who were largely Nationalist, and Protestants, who were mostly Unionist. While IRA attacks were less common in the north-east than elsewhere, the unionist community saw itself as being besieged by armed Catholic nationalists who seemed to have taken over the rest of Ireland.
As a result, they retaliated against the northern Catholic community as a whole. James Craig , for instance, wrote in The Loyalist rank and file have determined to take action The first cycle of attacks and reprisals broke out in the summer of On 19 June a week of inter-sectarian rioting and sniping started in Derry , resulting in 18 deaths. No policeman will get in trouble for shooting any man". On 21 July , partly in response to the killing of Smyth and partly because of competition over jobs due to the high unemployment rate, loyalists marched on the Harland and Wolff shipyards in Belfast and forced over 7, Catholic and left-wing Protestant workers from their jobs.
Sectarian rioting broke out in response in Belfast and Derry, resulting in about 40 deaths and many Catholics and Protestants being expelled from their homes. In revenge, local Loyalists burned Catholic residential areas of Lisburn — destroying over homes. While several people were later prosecuted for the burnings, no attempt seems to have been made to halt the attacks at the time.
After a lull in violence in the north over the new year, killings there intensified again in the spring of The northern IRA units came under pressure from the leadership in Dublin to step up attacks in line with the rest of the country. Predictably, this unleashed loyalist reprisals against Catholics. The same night, two Catholics were killed on the Falls Road.
In the following week, sixteen Catholics were killed and Catholic homes burned in reprisal — events known as Belfast's Bloody Sunday. The two leaders discussed the possibility of a truce in Ulster and an amnesty for prisoners. He was also a casual labourer whose realistic prospects of work in Dublin effectively ended with the outbreak of war in The industrial underdevelopment of the Irish capital had ensured it was a rich recruiting ground for the British army over several generations because of the constant surplus of unskilled workers in search of employment.
Joining the British army was a half-way house that provided employment overseas but left ties to family and community more or less intact. It was made easier for those with relatives and friends who had preceded them into a particular regiment or corps, in much the same way as emigrants found homes among expatriate communities in Birmingham or Boston.
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Unless a soldier received a dishonourable discharge, army service could smooth the path to employment on returning to civilian life with employers such as Guinness or the railway companies. Army service could even lead to the acquisition of a trade or technical skill, but the propensity of recruits to join regiments where relatives were serving, or had served, suggests this was a relatively unexplored option.
The only drawback to joining the reserves was the liability to renewed military service in the event of war. The Belfast tradition was somewhat different. Before the outbreak of the Great War in recruitment to the British army was often less than half that of Dublin, although the northern city had a much larger population and a catchment area that included all of Antrim and Down, whereas the Dublin recruitment district was restricted to the city and county. But then Belfast was a powerhouse of the industrial revolution not a sleepy provincial backwater that relied on the production of beer and biscuits and its role as a transport hub to get by.
This changed with the outbreak of war when over 20, Belfastmen joined the British armed forces in the first five months, a figure that would rise to almost 51, by As Professor Grayson showed in his earlier book, Belfast Boys, many of these men were Catholics and Redmondites, or rather Devlinites, following the lead of the legendary local champion of constitutional nationalism, Joe Devlin. Far from cementing the union with Britain, this legacy and the triumphalist way in which it was commemorated saw the Northern capital breed a dangerous and sometimes lethal legacy more akin to politics in Eastern European cities than anywhere on these islands.
Only in recent years has its involvement in the Great War begun to evolve into the sort of historical tourism that characterises Dublin. This development is still fragile, and unresolved issues from the thirty years war, not to mention Brexit, could see things go into reverse.
Ironically, some of the most positive initiatives in working towards reconciliation have come from groups such as the Messines Association, in which former paramilitaries from both sides of the sectarian divide have come together, having found a common identity through grandfathers who served in the Great War. His new book covers a broader canvass and, if it does not have the contemporary resonance of its predecessor, it is because the Treaty, for all its faults, was a far more satisfactory political settlement than the Good Friday Agreement, which is more of a truce than a resolution to the Northern conflict.
Unlike recruitment patterns in most other areas, most Dubliners did not join the local regiment but other units, either when the latter were stationed in the capital, because they had family links with them or by joining after emigrating to Britain. In the two Northside battalions a majority of members adhered to the militants.
Grayson covers briefly the panic buying of foodstuffs, wild rumours of Russian Cossacks making amphibious landings in the North Sea to take the Germans by surprise and the disgraceful mini-pogrom against German nationals unfortunate enough to work or have businesses in Dublin.
But these useful asides apart this is overwhelmingly a military history that provides matching narratives of the war on the Western Front, in the Balkans and in the Middle East with events at home. For many Dublin reservists the war came brutally fast. Many of them were out of condition and became casualties or prisoners. By contrast the Irish Volunteers would have a leisurely introduction to war.
Grayson calculates that as many as , Irishmen served in the British forces in the Great War, of whom 21,, or ten per cent, were already enlisted regulars and another 30, were reservists. As many as 6, of the regulars and 6, reservists may have been from Dublin. His research suggests that 26, more volunteered by the end of the war, somewhat higher than my figure of 25, in A City in Wartime, but I gracefully bow to his more thorough investigation of sources.
He gives a denominational breakdown for over 23, men who had joined the colours by mid-January Some 56 per cent were Catholics, Other figures he presents suggest Catholics accounted for 90 per cent of recruits, or slightly more than the 83 per cent Catholic component of the overall population of Dublin. National Volunteers accounted for 3, of the total, and there were sixteen men who had been members of the UVF.
But there was no known political affiliation for over 87 per cent of those who signed up. We shall never have exact figures because so many Irish records were destroyed by the Luftwaffe in the Blitz, but Grayson estimated that at least 35,, and possibly nearer 40,, of those who served were Dubliners. He has done a lot of research into the type of units that Dubliners joined, and the type of Dubliners who joined those units.
Some skilled and semi-skilled workers gravitated to units such as the Army Service Corps or, in the case of telegraphists, to the Royal Engineers. White collar workers comprised What is not clear from the figures is if the pattern of recruitment changed during the conflict. As volunteers, Irish recruits had a much greater choice of units than a British conscript and it must have been clear by at the latest that the infantry was the least healthy career option.
Related A City in Wartime – Dublin 1914–1918: The Easter Rising 1916 (Dublin at War)
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