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Chapters

The 1916 Easter Rising

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Clanwilliam House

Main Body - Colonel Fane

B Company - Captain Hanson

Rebel Positions

Bridge

Haddington Road

building itself had initially been occupied by a small party of volunteers but was evacuated and the occupants divided between the Parochial Hall and the final position, Clanwilliam House, a building standing on the far side of the Grand Canal Quay. In each of the positions, the doors and lower windows were barricaded in order to deny the enemy access, whilst the Volunteers were to fire from the upper floors using the added elevation to engage the length of the British column, thereby increasing the confusion. All told a dozen or so men lay in wait for the approaching troops. The plan was simple, to let the leading elements pass unmolested and then when Malone and Grace opened fire it would act as a signal for the remaining positions to engage the enemy, trapping them in a crossfire that would hopefully disorient them and belie the Volunteers' lack of numbers. Inexorably the khaki-clad soldiers advanced, their formation constricted by the width of the road, nervously scanning the lines of surburban houses for signs of anything untoward, first one company and then another moving into the killing zone. Upstairs in No25, Malone and Grace watched the troops pass below their position. Silently nodding his partner, Malone aimed his mauseer C96 semi-automatic pistol out of the window and emptied the 10-shot magazine into the street below. As he ducked back inside, Grace fired several shots in quick succession at another section of the column and after a momentary delay the other positions began to open fire at the British infantrymen who had instinctively dropped to the ground. Among the first to fall was Captain Dietrichsen, who

tragically had been reunited with his family scant hours before. Waiting until there was a slackening in the enemy fire, Fane and Pragnell got to their feet and, with drawn swords, led the men immediately around them in a charge on the entrance to No25. As they reached the satirwell, the two Irishmen had completed their reloading and poured a deadly volley into the milling troops. Taking this as their cue, the other company officers had formed their men for an assault on the bridge, but this was broken up when the column was hit by fire from Clanwilliam House and almost immediately enfildaed by the men hold Parachial Hall. With the attack stalled, Fane detached Capt. Hanson's B Company south-west toward the Baggot Street Bridge, with orders to outflank the ambushers by doubling back along the canal bank; as the young soldiers moved off, Malone moved into the bathroom and twice empties his Mauser into the group of men, wreaking havoc in their tightly packed ranks. Luckily Hanson's men were soon out of Malone's line of fire and cautiously made their way to the bridge convinced that a second ambush would be sprung at any moment. Leaving a platoon

to guard the crossing the remainder of the company began to move eastward along Percy Place. At the crossroads the situation was becoming desperate; fire was being directed at the four corner houses although only one - No25 was occupied by the enmy. Then, disaster struck as Fane was hit in the left arm and severely wounded. Waving away assistancee he calmly handed over command to Major Rayner and only then consented to withdraw to cover and accept treatment; standing in the middle of the road giving orders, the new commander seemed to lead a charmed life, his uniform being literally shredded by rifle fire. The fighting had been going on for little over an hour, but despite the heavy casualties and their unpreparedness, the Foresters were grimly holding on. A number of houses opposite Malone and Grace's position were now occupied and a steady, if ineffectual, fire began to be poured in their direction, the volume lending encouragement to the raw troops. Along the canal bank at Percy Place, Hanson's men were soon spotted and a galling fire opened up from the side windows of Clanwilliam House. The soldiers went to ground almost immediately, but the coping stones lining the towpath gave them inadequate cover, and their opponents were

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British troops taking cover..they were very exposed as the Volunteers opened fire on them

The Sherwood Foresters were rapidly running out of options and Fane decided to make another attempt. Captain Cooper's D Company, which had lain in reserve until now, was brought forward and the men deployed around the crossroads, whilst the survivors of Pagnell's men were withdrawn and ordered to move via percy lane - an allet parallel to Northumberland Road - and reinforce Hanson's company. Again, Malone was waiting for the troops to ove and before they passed from view, he accounted for another dozen or so soldiers. In Northumberland Road meanwhile, the front of the house was the target for a whole company of British troops mistakenly aiming for the unoccupied ground and first-floor windows, even as their officers' whistles summoned their men for another assault on the bridge. For Maconchy it was now clear that his remaining battalion would need to be committed if the situation were to be salvaged. Accordingly, Lieutenant-Colonel Oates of the 2/8th was ordered to advance along the road with two of his three companies present and to detach A Company under Captain Quinnell in aother attempt to turn the Volunteers' left flank. Even as the troops were forming up another message was received from Brigadier Lowe at Kilmainham, rescinding permission for the flanking manoeuvre - the bridge was to be taken at the point of the bayonet!

At the head of Percy lane, Pragnell readied his company for a sprint towards the objective, but as they left cover they ran straight into the sights of the men who had earlier so effectively halted B Company's advance; badly wounded, Pragnell almost made it, followed by a mere six men but the fire was too great. Fane's battalion was shattered, with two companies pinned down in in Percy Place and a third being flayed by enemy volley's as it attempted to force its way across the narrow bridge; it was all he could do to hold on until reinforcements arrived. A short distance away at Boland's Bakery, the men of de Valera's 3rd Battalion could only listen to the sounds of gunfire as their comrades fought against the advancing troops. Despite the failure of the flanking manoeuvre, the fact that the attempts had been made had persuaded da Valera that he couldn't afford to send any men to reinforce those engaged at the Mount Street Bridge. This was a missed opportunity, as even a token gesture could have had disastrous consequences for Fane's men. By 1700 hrs the fighting began to move inexorably to its climax. With the arrival of Captain Jeffares preparations were being made for an assault on No25 - grenades were thrown through broken windows and then, under cover of the explosions and sustained rifle fire from the houses opposite, the front

northumberland road charge

British troops ateempt to storm No 25

door was blown in. With the entrance in ruins, there was inexplicably no attempt to immediately carry the building and Grace and malone kept up their harrassment of the roops below until finally a section of D Company charged across the street. As soon as they had seen the troops forming up Grace had gone down satirs and waited for Malone to join him, but the soldiers swarming into the house prevented their junction. Diving to the cellar, Grace snapped off a few quick shots at the milling infantrymen but an answering volley felled Malone as he stood at the top of the stairs. The British then threw a number of grenades into the cellar to take care of Grace, but he took cover behind an old gas cooker, and remained hidden until the fighting had moved on and he was able to escape in the darkness. With No 25 cleared, Oates held a hurried officers' call. B Company would spearhead the

attack, closely supported by A Company with C Company acting as a general reserve to exploit any potential success. Rushing up Northumberland Road, the 2/8th were soon taking casualties. Without orders and following their sister battalion came a platoon of D Company, 2/7th under the command of Lieutenant Foster. These unlooked-for reinforcements forced their way into the Old Schoolhouse at the top of the road, and took up positions from which they could engage Clanwilliam House. Foster was exasperated by his men's fire, crying ' How is that normally the platoon has plenty of excellent marksman and first-class shots and yet now you can't hit a whole terrace at 50 yards' range? ' Breaking cover, B Company stormed across the bridge but was halted just short of the target with both of its officers being killed shortly after reaching the northern bank.

For the defenders however, the importance of Malone and Grace to the ambush now became apparent as, without their support and in the face of increasing numbers of British troops, the men in the Parochial Hall evacuated their position and were captured in Percy Lane. It was a minor success that would make Maconchy's task only marginally easier. With the southern side of the bridge cleared, Oates began to deploy troops in buildings and behind walls to give the men a direct line of fire on Clanwilliam House massing the rest of his troops in the lee of a stone advertising boarding at the

top of Northumberland Road. The plan, such as it was, was that the column would storm across the bridge and overrun the rebel position. Indeed it was much the same as all other failed attempts to secure the crossing but this time the troops would preceded by a number oftheir conmraes throwing bombs into Clanwilliam House and supported by the platoons who were now in possession of several buildings from which they would be able to lay down a heavy suppressive volume of fire into the rebel strongpoint. Accuracy was not the issue, it was merely sufficient to keep the enemy's heads down so that the column could cose and storm the building. In the end it was an unnecessary precaution as the bombs ingnited the house's gas suplly and the building was soon wreathed in flames with the majority of its occupants being able to make their escape in the confusion. With the area backlit by flame, the Sherwood Foresters began to consolidate their hard-won position and prepare to make the final push on Dublin Castle at daybreak. The story of the Battle of Mount Street Bridge is both tragic and heroic. A small small group of Volunteers in good defensive positions had held up two whole British battalions inflicting terrible casualties. British losses for this one action were estimated at nearly 250 men either killed or wounded.