30/4/1916 The last Easter Rising rebels surrender

In Dublin the Easter Rising is over. The outlying rebel garrisons have surrendered after receiving Pearse’s order to lay down their arms; to ensure that fighters from the Irish Citizen Army also surrender, Pearse’s order is counter-signed by James Connolly.

The rebels holding the Jacob’s Biscuit Factory are among the last to give in. Their second-in-command is James MacBride, who had previously fought for the Boers against the British Empire. Before the surrender he encourages his men to try and escape. He also advises them in future to adopt the guerrilla tactics of the Boers. “Take my advice: never allow yourself to be trapped in a building again.”

Another late surrender is that of the rebels holding formidable positions at Boland’s Mill. Their commander, Éamon De Valera only orders his men to give in after protracted negotiations. Many of them destroy their weapons rather than hand them over.

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Éamon De Valera under guard (Today in Irish History)

29/4/1916 Easter Rising: Pearse surrenders

In Dublin the Easter Rising is drawing to a close. Its leaders have abandoned the General Post Office on Sackville Street: the position had become untenable after shelling from the British gunboat the Helga had set it ablaze. After spending the night on nearby Moore Street, Patrick Pearse, the rebels’ leader, accepts the inevitable. He decides to surrender, in order to prevent further needless loss of life.

As the rebels are marched away into captivity, there are instances of them being jeered by passing Dubliners.

Pearse surrenders on behalf of all the rebels. The British arrange for him to send orders to surrender to the various remaining garrisons.

image sources:

Pearse surrenders (South Dublin Public Libraries)

Rebels under British army escort (Wikipedia)

29/4/1916 Britain humiliated as Kut surrenders

The siege of Kut-al-Amara is over. General Townshend has surrendered unconditionally to the Turks under Halil Pasha. The Turks take some 13,000 prisoners. These include nearly 2,800 British soldiers, of whom 277 are officers, and around 10,500 Indians, of whom 204 are officers.

This is a great triumph for Halil and one he does not have to share. The overall commander of Turkish forces in Mesopotamia had been General Goltz, a German general. However Goltz died just ten days ago, officially of typhus, but there are rumours that he was poisoned at the behest of Turkey’s leaders. His death means that all the glory for Kut’s fall goes to Halil.
As Turkish troops enter the town there are some instances of fraternisation between them and the town’s erstwhile defenders. But the Turks also begin to extract vengeance on local civilians they suspect of treachery during the siege, with the first public executions of collaborators taking place. Turkish officers are also angry that the British have destroyed their cannons before surrendering, as they had hoped to seize these as trophies.

Many of Townshend’s men are in a desperate state thanks to the short rations they have been on. They are despondent at having to surrender but this dismay is tempered with hope, as they think their sufferings are coming to an end. They are wrong.

image sources:

Townshend and Halil Pasha (Wikipedia)

British Capitulation at Kut-al-Amara (National Army Museum; a painting by an unknown Turkish artist)

Indian prisoners (Die Welt)

29/4/1916 Kut: another attempt to bribe the Turks

In a last attempt to secure the freedom of the besieged British garrison of Kut-al-Amara, three British intelligence officers today meet with Turkish commander Halil Pasha. Colonel Edward Beach, Captains Aubrey Herbert and T. E. Lawrence have travelled up the Tigris from Basra. Now, blindfolded, they are taken through the Turkish lines to meet Halil.

The British officers make another attempt to bribe Halil to let the Kut garrison go free, but the Turkish commander is still not interested. They also appeal for him to show clemency to any of the townsfolk of Kut who have provided assistance to the British, but Halil curtly tells the three officers that the fate of the town’s civilians is an internal matter for the Turkish authorities. He gives no assurances that there will be no reprisals.

Halil has a request of his own. He reminds Beach and his colleagues that after their long siege the British and Indian troops in Kut are now very debilitated. They will have to be transported away from Kut but the Turks lack the ships to do this, so the prisoners will have to march, something many of them will be incapable of doing. Halil asks the British to supply boats that he can use to bring the prisoners up the Tigris to Baghdad, after which the boats would be returned to the British.

The British decline to supply the ships. Halil draws the conclusion that they are not too concerned with the fate of their prisoners. And if the British do not care about their fate, why should he?

And then abruptly Halil informs the British that the meeting is at an end. He has no more time to speak to them because he has important matters to attend to.

And indeed he does. What the British officers do not know is that Kut has already surrendered this morning. Halil has the occupation of the town and the disposal of the prisoners to oversee.

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Halil Pasha (Wikipedia)

28/4/1916 Maxwell arrives to pacify Ireland

In Dublin the Easter Rising continues. General John Maxwell arrives in the city today to take command of the British forces. Under martial law he has extraordinary powers in Ireland. A veteran of colonial warfare, Maxwell is determined to bring the Rising to an end and to pacify the country, by any means necessary.

In fact the Rising is already drawing to a close. Crown forces have flooded the city and have successfully isolated the various rebel garrisons. Some rebel positions have been overrun and the situation in others is increasingly desperate.

The rebel headquarters in the General Post Office on Sackville Street is now in flames, as are many surrounding buildings. The British mounted artillery on the Helga, a coastal protection vessel, and have sailed it up the river Liffey to shell rebel positions. The use of incendiary shells has set the city centre ablaze.

With the GPO now untenable the rebels there attempt a breakout. In the evening they sally forth but make their way only to nearby Moore Street. Here they hunker down for the night, knowing that the end cannot be far off.

image sources:

General Sir John Maxwell (Middle East Institute)

The GPO ablaze (RTE 1916)

27/4/1916 Kut: Townshend tries to buy his men’s freedom

In Mesopotamia the siege of Kut-al-Amara is drawing to a close. The British garrison has been on short rations for weeks and is now almost completely out of food. Attempts to raise the siege have failed and now imminent starvation obliges General Townshend to discuss surrender terms with the Turks.

Today Townshend meets Halil Bey, the Turkish commander of the besieging forces. The British consider the Turks to be a shifty and dishonourable people, so Townshend has been advised to appeal to Halill’s avarice and vanity in attempt to secure his army’s freedom. He asks Halil to allow his men to retreat from the town without being taken prisoner, promising that they will not take up arms against Turkey again. In return Townshend offers Halil 40 cannons to parade as trophies and one million pounds in cash.

Halil is disappointingly non-committal in response to Townshend’s offer. The British commander returns to Kut with the grim feeling that the Turks will not be satisfied with anything other than the unconditional surrender of his entire army.

map (National Army Museum, London)

27/4/1916 Hulluch: German gas attack

In Dublin a thousand Irish rebels are fighting against the British Empire. In France and Belgium however far greater numbers of Irishmen are serving in the British empire, all as volunteers (conscription has not been extended to Ireland). Near Hulluch men of the Dublin Fusiliers and Inniskillings are part of a British force holding ground captured in the Battle of Loos last year. Over the past few days there have been ominous signs. Rats have been seen climbing out of the German trenches and heading into no man’s land. Then a German deserter reveals that a gas attack is imminent (gas leaking from its containers has scared off the rats).

Today the Germans launch their chemical attack. They let the wind blow the poisonous cloud of chlorine towards the British and then send their infantry forward after it. The gas inflicts considerable casualties on the British, many of whom were unable to put on their protective masks in time. But the Germans also suffer from their own poison, thanks to British artillery bursting open the gas cylinders and unexpected changes in the wind direction.

The German assault fails. Officers praise the performance of the Irish troops. Both sides suffer heavy casualties, mostly from the Germans’ poison gas.

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Otto Dix: Stormtruppe geht unter Gas vor (Kelly Berry)

26/4/1916 Bloody fighting in Dublin

In Dublin the Irish rebels are increasingly embattled. The British have declared martial law and are rushing troops into the city from the rest of the country and across the sea from England. They have established a cordon around the rebels and driven a wedge through the city centre that cuts off the rebel headquarters on Sackville Street from outlying positions. Rebel positions near the train station at Kingsbridge have been recaptured.

Elements of the Irish Citizen Army occupied the St Stephen’s Green park on the southside of the city, digging trenches around its perimeter. Since then British troops have occupied buildings overlooking the Green, firing down on the rebels and forcing them to retreat to the nearby Royal College of Surgeons. From there the rebels exchange fire with the British, but twice a day a ceasefire is observed so that park keepers can feed the ducks.

Tough fighting continues in other areas. The British are not having much success at the South Dublin Union, where rebels are holding out in the labyrinthine complex of buildings. The rebels’ greatest triumph however is achieved by a handful of men defending Mount Street Bridge on the south east of the city centre. British troops have landed in Kingstown and are marching towards the city centre. As they approach Mount Street Bridge, they find themselves caught in a murderous crossfire. The British stage a series of suicidal frontal assaults on the rebels and take horrendous casualties.

It takes the British five hours to secure Mount Street Bridge. By that stage the attacking force has taken some 234 casualties. All their officers have been either killed or injured. The street reportedly run with blood and are littered with dead or wounded British soldiers. In the fighting here four rebels are killed and four captured.
The crossroads of death

Experience the Battle of Mount Street Bridge

image sources:

map (National Library of Ireland)

Approaching Mount Street Bridge today (from my own recent photographs of 1916 Rising sites and commemorative events; the Mount Street Bridge area is remarkably unchanged from its time a 100 years ago)

25/4/1916 Lowestoft: the German fleet attacks England

Reinhard Scheer, the new admiral of the German fleet, is intent on a more aggressive naval strategy. His hope is to lure British ships into a battle on German terms. If a great defeat could be inflicted on the British fleet then the blockade of German could be raised; the Germans would also be able to threaten Britain with invasion. Either of these would tip the balance of power so far in Germany’s favour as to guarantee German victory in the war.

Today German battle cruisers attack Lowestoft and other targets on the East Anglian coast. Hiding in reserve the Germans have the rest of their fleet. They hope to ambush any British squadron that comes out to intercept the battlecruisers.

The shelling of Lowestoft causes relatively little damage and few casualties. At sea the German battlecruisers fight an inconclusive battle with some British cruisers, but no capital ships emerge that the main fleet considers it worthwhile to engage. The Germans sail back to base. Although Scheer has not won his decisive victory, the raid raises the morale of his sailors. On the British side, the attack on Lowestoft causes some outrage and a determination that the German operations in the North Sea must be stopped.


Die Seeschlacht bei Lowestoft am 25. April 1916

Reinhard Scheer

Damaged street in Lowestoft

(all Wikipedia)

24/4/1916 Kut: Gorringe’s last desperate roll of the dice

In Kut-al-Amara the besieged garrison is on the brink of starvation. Attempts to supply Kut by air have delivered far too little food to keep it fed. A relief force under General Gorringe has made a series of attempts to break through the Turkish lines; all have failed. After the last bloody failure, Gorringe accepted that his men would not be capable of another attempt.

Now Gorringe tries one last desperate measure to send food to Kut. He has the Julnar, a steamship, loaded with provisions and sends it up the Tigris to try to run past the Turkish guns to Kut. In Kut, the besieged troops are ready to provide covering fire for the Julnar‘s approach. But the ship never reaches them. The Turks have strung a cable across the river. The overloaded Julnar is unable to break through. The ship is subjected to a deadly fire by the Turks before being boarded. The precious provisions fall into Turkish hands. Surviving members of the crew become prisoners, apart from the ship’s captain, Charles Cowley; he is reportedly murdered by the Turks.

In Kut the garrison realise that they are doomed. Its commander, General Townshend, begins surrender negotiations with the Turks.

image source (Today in World War I)