I acquired this great image recently, from the Illustrated War News Oct. 20 1915, it shows a group of “Officers of the 2/7th (Robin Hood) Battalion, Sherwood Foresters”.
Less than a year after this photo was taken, the Sherwood Foresters, described here as “fighters for the freedom of Europe”, would find themselves at the heart of the bloodiest battle of the Easter Rising in Dublin. 240 British soldiers were wounded or killed at Mount Street Bridge, where they came under sustained attack from a small band of Volunteers.
I always remember the first hand account of Captain A.A Dickson of the Sherwood Foresters, who wrote of the “baptism of fire” the men encountered at Mount Street Bridge. 25 Northumberland Road was the building from which Volunteer Michael Malone and Volunteer James Grace attacked, inflicting major casualties on the Sherwood Foresters. Dickson would recall:
It was a baptism of fire alright, with flintlocks, shot-guns, and elephant rifles, as well as more orthodox weapons. And 100 casualties in two days’ street fighting was a horrible loss to one battalion: the more so since my one friend from the ranks, commissioned same day, was shot through the head leading a rush on a fortified corner house, first day on active service, and it was my job to write and tell his mother, who thought him still safe in England.”
If the Sherwood Foresters encountered such resistance, and suffered such heavy casualties in Dublin, surely some the men at the centre of the Battle for Mount Street Bridge feature in the image above?
I consulted Paul O’Brien’s excellent Blood On The Streets for more information. O’Brien has been writing detailed accounts of the battles of various 1916 garrisons, which look at the events in incredible detail which of course just isn’t possible in a broader study of the rebellion. Blood On The Streets (Mercier, 2008) tells the tale of Mount Street Bridge. I consulted it, and the classic Sinn Féin Rebellion Handbook, for an idea of how the men pictured above got on.
From the Sinn Féin rebellion handbook, I learned that two men shown were killed in action, while two were wounded.
L.T P.D Perry, third from the left in the back row, lost his life in the rebellion.
Likewise, Lt. Frederick Dietrichsen would perish.
Captain Hickling, second right in the middle row was wounded.
Also wounded was Lt. Pragnell, sitting on the ground on the left hand side.
The story of Captain Dietrichsen was particularly tragic. O’Brien gives some background information on Dietrichsen in his study, noting that he had previously been a barrister in Nottingham. He had sent his wife (who originally hailed from Blackrock) and two children to Dublin “to protect them from the ever-increasing German Zeppelin raids”, yet was taken aback to encounter his family as the Sherwood Foresters marched towards the city. O’Brien notes that: “Captain Dietrichsen dropped out of formation and hugged his family at the side of the road. He was to be one of the first killed in action during the battle of Mount Street.”
The other side of the newspaper page shows men of the Sherwood Foresters in very relaxed post,and notes that “….standing on a pile of fodder, is Nancy, the battalion mascot goat.”
It’s certainly an unusual set of photographs, and I found it fascinating to see the faces of some of the men who were at the heart of the Battle for Mount Street Bridge for the first time. Today, the battle site resembles its ’1916 form’ much more than many other sites of combat, and 25 Northumberland Road is marked with a small plaque to Volunteer Michael Malone.