A nice piece this, an eyewitness account from Captain A.A Dickson of the Sherwood Foresters. It, and other accounts like it, are available in ‘True World War I Stories’ published by Robinson Press. While many of the tales deal with trench life, for some the first combat they would see would be street fighting in Dublin.
Then, Easter 1916, at 2 a.m came another entrainment order.
Half the battalion didn’t believe it: many a one had no razor in his kit when the next chance to shave came. For the trains that we really did entrain into sped off not south-westward for the Plain of France, but away and away up the “North Western”, and it wasn’t until they disgorged us on Liverpool Docks that rumours could be swopped about “Sinn Fein gentry- broken bottles and shillelaghs.”
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.”
That “fortified corner house”, of course, is 25 Northumberland Road.
I have dealt briefly with events at Mount Street Bridge in a previous piece published before the launch of the latest work from Paul O’ Brien, Uncommon Valour. In short, a small grouping of well placed Volunteers, situated in a small number of buildings strategically, managed to inflict almost half of the overall British Army casualties of the insurrection. Ultimately, Michael Malone and James Grace would hold 25 Northumberland Road alone after Malone dismissed younger Volunteers for their own safety. This ‘fortified corner house’, and Clanwilliam House on the far side of Mount Street Bridge, provided serious resistance to Sherwood Foresters wishing to advance onwards in the direction of Trinity College Dublin.
General Sir John Maxwell himself noted that:
“Four officers were killed and fourteen wounded and of the other ranks, 216 were killed and wounded”
Perhaps nothing humanises the conflict more than when A.A Dickson goes on to state
“A hateful task: so was another duty of one misty dawn soon after, when four young officers had to command four firing parties, and four rebel leaders stood in turn blind-fold against a wall”
On the 94th Anniversary, perhaps it’s time to stop and think of the experiences of the Sherwood Foresters and Regiments like them over the course of the rebellion. A.A Dickson finally made it to France, in January 1917. Wounded in April 1918 during a German attack, he was demobilised from hospital in January 1919.