Tuesday, June 10, 2014

A Kiwi soldier in the Easter 1916 Uprising

A Kiwi soldier during WWI finds himself in the middle of the 1916 Easter Uprising.
Image from Wiki -- Sackville Street, Dublin, after the uprising.


A vivid description of the exciting time when the Sinn Fein riot was in progress in Dublin is given by Bugler J G Garland in a letter written to his father, Mr Thomas H Garland, of this city. Bugler Garland, it may be mentioned, was formerly a member of the Grammar School Senior Cadets and left with the Expeditionary Force for Samoa. Having been invalided back to Auckland, he was subsequently appointed to a hospital ship. Having a few days' leave he ran across to Dublin, and happened to be in the thick of the fight, but escaped with a spent bullet wound in his ankle and a clean cut in his hand from a bayonet thrust.

"We arrived in England the day before Good Friday," writes Bugler Garland, “and were given railway concession by which we could get return tickets for single fare. Sergeant Nevin, of Christchurch, and myself took tickets for Dublin. On Easter Monday we left the hotel at 8 am., and went by tram to Killiney Park. Half an hour after we were clear of Dublin the rebellion started. Our first intimation of it was when we were half-way back, and the electric power was cut off. We walked back to our hotel.

"We were standing in the main street (Sackville) about 2 p.m., just about 100 yards from our hotel. Shots were being fired, and a soldier from the Dublin Fusiliers was killed while walking with his young lady. There were thousands of people in the streets, and all of a sudden a large motor-car whizzed past us. In it was the noted Countess, dressed in a green uniform. As she went past she fired two shots at us. One went above our heads; the other caught an elderly man in the arm. It seemed to be a signal to the other Sinn Feiners, for bullets started to whizz all round us. As we were unarmed, and had our Red Cross badges on, we went for our lives to the Soldiers' Club. The proprietor of the place told us that all the soldiers had gone over to Trinity College, which is the headquarters of the Dublin University Officers' Training Corps.

“We reported there at 3 p.m. There were only about thirty of us, and we filled sandbags from 5 p.m. until 9 p.m. By that time our strength had grown to nearly sixty, including five New Zealanders, one Australian, five from South Africa, and two Canadians. At 11 p.m. they woke us up and took the colonials, whom they called Anzacs (although there were really only six Anzacs), up to the roof, where we were to snipe. We remained on that roof from midnight Easter Monday till midnight on Thursday without a wink of sleep—exactly 72 hours. From the roof we could command a view of the main streets—Sackville, Grafton, and Dame. Four of us were on the front parapet commanding Dame Street, also part of Grafton Street.

"We got our first bag on Tuesday morning at 4 a.m., when three Sinn Feiners came along on bikes, evidently going from Shepherd's Green to the GPO. The men on my left, as soon as they saw them coming, told us to mark the last man and they would get the first two. We all fired at once, killing two and wounding the other. When they were brought in the chap we killed had four bullet marks in the head which meant that we all got him, and that he must have been killed instantly. A peculiar thing had happened. After he was killed he still sat on his bike and continued on for about 30 yards on the free-wheel. In fact, we thought we had missed him, when all of a sudden the bike swerved and he came off. This chap was a platoon leader, and on him they found a list of the names and addresses of the members of his platoon, and two dispatches, together with some money that he had evidently taken from the GPO.

"On Wednesday we got two more in Sackville Street. They were armed with double-barrelled fowling-pieces, and had taken the small shot from the cartridges, replacing it with four slugs of lead about three-quarters of an inch by a quarter of an inch. We were troubled by a sniper on our left in the direction of St. Andrew's Church, but as we were not quite sure we did not like to fire on that building. On Friday, after we had been relieved from the roof, a man living opposite the church came over and said he had seen the rifles pointing out of the belfry, so we six Anzacs were sent across to his house, and from his kitchen window we put about 100 rounds into the small triangular window they were firing from. Half an hour after they had ceased firing we decided to climb the tower. On the way over we were fired on by our own men, who mistook our slouch hats for those of the Sinn Fein. When we got to the belfry we found two men. One was already dead, the other so badly wounded that he died an hour afterwards.

"On Saturday morning we killed a woman who was sniping from an hotel window in Dame Street. When the RAMC brought her in we saw she was only about 20, stylishly dressed, and not at all bad-looking. She was armed with an automatic revolver and a Winchester repeater. Altogether we Anzacs were responsible for 27 rebels (twenty-four men and three women).

“On Saturday afternoon the colonials were given the honour of capturing Westland Row station. We entered the Grosvenor Hotel which faces the station, and by means of a ladder climbed over the Railway Arch and then over to the station. We got four there, and I had a narrow squeak. Two of us were going through the ticket office, and as soon as we entered the Sinn Feiners tried to bayonet the chae behind mc. They just missed him, and caught me in the hand—just a mere scratch. Then we both got him together with our bayonets. The same night we were on duty on the roof doing two-hours on and four off and I had just taken my boots off and was going to sleep, when a ricochet bullet caught me just below the left ankle. It only went in a little over half its length. The doctor pulled it out with a pair of forceps.

"Of course by this time the town was in ruins, and bodies of soldiers, horses, civilians, and Sinn Feiners were lying about Sackville Street until Saturday. The looting that was going on was simply terrible. Small boys of 10 to 14 who were brought in and searched had cameras, watches, diamond tiepins, etc. The rebels themselves did not do much looting. Several of the chaps from Gallipoli reckon that one had a far better chance of getting off with his life there than in the Dublin riot, for the reason that these rebels were posted in twos and threes in almost every house and shop in the city. As it was, there were 700 casualties on our side, while there were only about 500 on the other.

“My chum left on Monday night after the rebels were supposed to have surrendered. I waited till the next day in order to get some of my effects replaced for the ones that went up in smoke when Wynn's Hotel was burnt. The next night (Tuesday) I left the College at 6 p.m. in a motor-bicycle side-car. On our way three shots were fired at us, but no damage was done. I left Dublin at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, after doing nine days' duty, living on biscuits and water the whole time, and only having about twenty hours' sleep. At the Custom-house there were about 300 refugees who had been burnt out of their homes, including two theatrical parties. All they had to eat for six days were hard biscuits and water, with tea occasionally. There was also an opera company at the police station. Amongst the actors was a Christchurch man named Hobbs. Of course it was a great experience, but I was not sorry when I left Dublin."
Auckland Star 28 June 1916.


  1. "At 11 p.m. they woke us up and took the colonials, whom they called Anzacs, up to the roof, where we were to snipe". And "altogether we Anzacs were responsible for 27 rebels". Oh dear. What were the soldiers' officers thinking???

  2. I suspect Garland used a lot of poetic licence in his letter home. Given that total rebel deaths for Easter Week was 64 it is likely Garland inflated his claims. Only one rebel, Volunteer Gerald Keogh has been confirmed as being shot near Trinity College.

  3. I agree, Anonymous. It was all rather tally-ho-derring-do sort of stuff.