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A Classic of Street-Fighting
By Commandant A Thompson G.H.Q.
The defence of Mount Street Bridge was an outpost engagement during Easter Week, 1916, carried out by Volunteers of the Third Battalion, Dublin Brigade. The Battalion area was bounded on the north by the Liffey, on the west by OíConnell Street., Trinity College, and Stephenís Green; and on the south by Leeson St., paralleled by Pearse St. (then Brunswick St.), Grand Canal St., and Lower Mount St. Hence it will be seen that the main and most likely route of approach to be used by enemy reinforcements from Dun Laoghaire (Kingstown) ran through the area, and defences were planned accordingly.
Offensive operations were begun at 12.30 on Easter Monday, April 24th, by the capture of the D.S.E. Railway, running east to Wicklow, precluding its use by the enemy. Battalion Headquarters were established in Bolandís Mill, main positions were taken up and outposts occupied including Clanwilliam House, the School, 25, Northumberland Road, and Carisbrooke House. The fields of fire from these outposts covered 200, 250, and 450 yards respectively. As well as covering reinforcements from Dun Laoghaire these posts were relied on to hold the Beggarís Bush Garrison to its Barracks.
STRENGTH OF OUTPOSTS
On Wednesday, April 26th, the strength and armaments of the outpost force was :
- Carisbrooke House: Three Volunteers, two rifles, one revolver.
- No. 25 Northumberland Road: Two Volunteers with two rifles.
- The Schools: Three Volunteers, three rifles.
- Clanwilliam House: One Section Commander and six men, with a Lee Enfield, six Mausers and sever revolvers.
Clanwilliam House had been fortified as far as possible by barricading all likely entrances with the furniture, strengthened by clay from the garden.
THE ENEMY ARRIVES
On the evening of the 25th, British transports disembarked the 178th and the 176th infantry Brigades at Dun Laoghaire. The following morning the 178 Brigade was formed into columns for the advance into the city. The 5th and 6th Battalions, Sherwood Foresters, composed the left column and marching by Blackrock, Stillorgan, Donnybrook arrived in Dublin unchallenged and in time to take part in the bitter fighting for the South Dublin Union. The right column with the 7th and 8th Sherwood Foresters, followed the main road through Blackrock and Ballsbridge, and at about 1230 their Advance Guard came along Northumberland Road. ADVANCE GUARD ENGAGED
When they came abreast of Carisbrooke House the Advance Guard was fired on, and after replying to the fire, continued up Northumberland Road. Either the Advance Guard had prior information of the occupation of No. 25 or were becoming more cautious, for on reaching No. 25 they opened fire on the house. The defenders did not reply immediately, but held fire until the Advance Guard was directly opposite the School and almost at Mount St. Bridge, with the head of the 7th battalion close on their tail.
From Clanwilliam House and the School a well directed and deadly fire was poured into them, taking them completely by surprise. No. 25ís garrison simultaneously engaged the centre of the column. The enemy sought cover and replied with heavy fire on the occupied posts.
The fight now settled down to a pitched battle. A covering machine gun fire was turned on Calnwilliam House while a bombing party stormed No. 25. Lieutenant Malone and Seamus Grace, the Volunteers in No. 25, fired as fast as they could load while the house shuddered with explosions as the grenades found their mark. Then a bomb got Lieutenant Malone, and Seamus Grace was left to fight alone over his comradeís body. Finally he could maintain his position no longer, and he escaped through the smoke. When the Forestersí finally took the house they found one dead man in what was later described in despatches as ďa strongly held post.Ē
But Clanwilliam House remained and the fight from there was only beginning. After three hours fighting its defenders sustained their first casualties, two Volunteers, one of them the section Commander, being killed. The other post having been now over-run, the concentrated fire of the enemy was brought to bear on the one remaining defensive position; this fire had cut the water-piping and had carried away the stairs in rear of one of the windows.
Capture of the House was attempted by massed assaults under covering fire from rifles and grenades. The assault parties were repulsed, and repeated attacks only added to their already heavy losses. After a time attempts to storm the House were discontinued.
Only five men were left after the successive waves of attacks broke against Clanwilliam House. At about five p.m. they were reduced to four, when Volunteer Murphy was killed.
Each window was now used alternately and a tailorís dummy found in the house was utilised at the undefended windows to draw fire away from the others. It lasted only a short time, but served its purpose.
The enemy also tried to advance by crawling along the street channel. The first man who showed himself was shot, and the others, by gathering around him, exposed themselves and became casualties. The Volunteersí enfilade fire, along the channels well defined line, ensured that if the first advancing enemy was not hit, one further down the line was, and this method of attack was also given up.
As the fight grew more intensive, the defendersí rifles became red hot on several occasions. While they were laid aside to cool the defence was carried on with revolvers.
At 8 p.m. the four defenders were still successfully with holding the two enemy Battalions, but now a party of Royal navy Reserves brought a one pounder gun, mounted on a lorry, into action.
Incendiary shells from this gun and grenades started fires, which could not be controlled, in various parts of the house. Suffocating smoke swirled round the defenders, and it became obvious that the post was no longer tenable. They retired after 9 p.m. after nine hours of continuous fighting.
Sir John Maxwell subsequently reported: ďIn view of the opposition met with, it was not considered advisable to push on Ö. That night, so at 11 p.m. the 5th South Staffordshire Regiment, from the 176th Infantry Brigade, reinforced this column, and by occupying the positions gained, allowed the two Battalions of the Sherwood Foresters to be concentrated on Ballsbridge.
The enemy casualties were such that fire ceased on both sides on two or three occasions to enable the Medical Service to carry away the dead and wounded. Such truces were honourably observed, the fight afterwards being resumed. The British War Office admitted 235 killed and wounded, including twenty officers.
Much of Northumberland Road remains the same today as it was in 1916, the image above shows 25 Northumberland Road, the house is as it was in 1916, and Clanwilliam House which was completely destroyed and now has an office block in its place. Just in front of Clanwilliam House is Mount Street Bridge which spans the Grand Canal. Between 25 Northumberland Road and Clanwilliam house is the School which was also occupied by the Rebels.
The School which was occupied by 3 Volunteers each with a rifle is also much the same as it was in 1916, it is now being used as a hotel which has a nice beer garden, where, on the one or two sunny days we get a year, you can enjoy a nice pint while being deafened and suffocated by the traffic and imagine how peaceful it was back in 1916.
25 Northumberland Road which was occupied by two Volunteers, Lieutenant Michael Malone and Seamus Grace, is as it stood in 1916. A Plaque on the wall commemorates the events which took place in 1916. Malone was killed in the fighting while Grace managed to escape.
The ruins of Clanwilliam House soon after the Rising.