Posts Tagged ‘Sherwood Foresters’

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.”

The house today (Donal Fallon)

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.

Captain Dietrichsen

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.

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The Hospital today...

...and as it would have looked at the time.

Images of graves below.

Seven men, two members of the Irish Volunteers and five British Army soldiers, are buried side by side in what is literally the back garden of Dr. Steeven’s Hospital.

This is not a graveyard, but as stated above quite literally a garden. The two graves could not be physicially closer, or more symbolically diffferent, than they are.

Of the British Army men, almost all belong to Irish Regiments.

The names of the men are provided in the images below underneath their respective headstones. Of the rebel casualties, one belonged to the Fingal Battalion and one to the 4th Battalion Dublin Brigade. The Fingal Battalion, or ‘North Dublin Battalion’, for the most part fought with Thomas Ashe during the insurrection. His burial here shows that sometimes people ended up in random locations owing to their time of arrival or other commitments, or simply due to the need for reinforcements in parts of the city. The 4th Battalion are associated with the action at the South Dublin Union where they served under Éamonn Ceannt. His Battalion is said to have numbered around 120 men. Volunteer Sean Owens, who belonged to that Battalion, was twenty four years old at the time of the insurrection, and from the Coombe area of Dublin.Interesting information regarding the fight leading to his death can be found in Uncommon Valour by Paul O’ Brien, published by Mercier Press. He is said to have been killed less than two hours into the taking of the South Dublin Union, and is therefore one of the earliest casualties of the Republican side.

Volunteer Peter Wilson, a Swords native, was shot after the surrender of the Mendicity Institution. This group of Volunteers were to hold the position for a number of hours, but managed to hold out until Wednesday. Despite emerging under a white flag, Wilson was shot and killed. He was 40 years old at the time.

By pure chance, the 1916 service medal of Volunteer Owens is currently listed in an upcoming auction at Whytes auction house in Dublin City. It is valued, amazingly, at €15,000 to €20,000.

Lot 165, its description reads:

“1916 Rising Service Medal to Private John Owens, B Company, 4th Battalion, killed in action, South Dublin Union, 24 April. €15,000- €20,000”

The medal of one of our Volunteers below

This amazing photograph below from the gravesite at Steeven’s Hospital is included in the lot, and more information is available here at invaluable.com

Photo of a memorial service in the hospital grounds, from the Irish Press September 1935

Notice that one of the British Army men buried here is a Lancer who died on the 24th of April, 1916. Lancers came under fire on the first day of the rebellion from the Four Courts Garrison and, more famously, the rebel headquarters at the General Post Office. Other Lancers are buried in Grangegorman Cemetery today, where one grave notes that the man was “Killed during the Irish Rebellion”

Three of the men buried here belonged to the 3rd Battalion of the Royal Irish Regiment, which was based at Richmond Barracks, under Lt.Col R L Owens. Their strength at the time of the insurrection was 18 officers and 385 other ranks.

Ceannt photographed with Irish Volunteers

A grave holding two Irish Volunteers sits right next to one holding five British Army soldiers (Four from Irish Regiments)

Easter lillies on the grave of the two Irish Volunteers

We had to rub the British Army headstone down with a wet cloth to be able to read the text, which I think you can see clearly below.

The headstone to the British Army casualties

G.W Barnett
Sherwood Foresters
27th April 1916

O. Bentley
5th Lancers
24th April 1916

M. Carr
3rd Bn. Royal Irish Regiment
24th April 1916

J. Duffy
3rd Bn. Royal Irish Regiment
24th April 1916

3rd Bn. Royal Irish Regiment
24th April 1916

The text of the Volunteers gravestone. Notice the 'Oglaidh na hÉireann' logo.

Vol. Sean Owens
4th Batt. Dublin Brigade

Vol. Peter Wilson
Fingal Brigade

Want to visit the graves? Dr. Steeven’s Hospital is the building right across the way from Heuston Station.

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Sherwood Foresters photographed with captured rebel leader, Eamon de Valera.

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.

25 Northumberland Road Today. I took a series of photographs of the battle area recently.

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”

Lieutenant Michael Malone, who died at 25 Northumberland Road. His fellow Volunteer James Grace survived.

A checkpoint is established on Mount Street Bridge after the bloody battle

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.

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