Before daylight the British had machine guns at the Shelbourne and Trinity College after arriving in the city by train overnight from Belfast and the Curragh in Co Kildare. They deployed machine guns on the upper floors of the hotel overlooking St Stephen’s Green.
From early in the morning, the Irish positions were coming under sustained fire as Michael Malllin’s men were sitting ducks in their trenches. Thick vegetation around their trenches saved the garrison from horrific casualties, but they were forced to retreat to the College of Surgeons. Five Volunteers were reported dead and back at the GPO, Plunkett was dismayed at that group’s failure to initially claim any of the high buildings around the Green.
James Stephens reported: “Inside the Green railings four bodies could be seen lying on the ground. They were dead Volunteers. Some distance beyond the Shelbourne I saw another Volunteer stretched out on a seat just within the railings. He was not dead, for, now and again, his hand moved feebly in a gesture for aid; the hand was completely red with blood. His face could not be seen. He was just a limp mass, upon which the rain beat pitilessly, and he was sodden and shapeless, and most miserable to see.”
Martin Walton, later founder of the famous Walton’s music school, was just 15 when he joined the rebellion. He described the scene as he arrived at Jacob’s on Tuesday morning. “When I arrived then at Jacob’s the place was surrounded by a howling mob roaring at the Volunteers inside, ‘Come out to France and fight, you lot of so-and-so slackers’. And then I started shouting up to the balustrade, ‘Let me in, let me in’. And then I remember the first blood I ever saw shed. There was a big, very, very big tall woman with something very heavy in her hand and she came across and lifted up her hand to make a bang at me. One of the Volunteers upstairs saw this and fired and I just remember seeing her face and head disappear as she went down like a sack. That was my baptism of fire, and I remember my knees nearly going out from under me. I would have sold my mother and father and the Pope just to get out of that bloody place.”
However, even as British troops poured into Dublin to reclaim positions, the republican propaganda machine ensured rumours of an immense rebellion gathered pace as the Rising went international. Pearse issued a ‘Manifesto to the Citizens of Dublin’.
It said: “The country is rising in answer to Dublin’s call and the final achievement of Ireland’s freedom is now, with God’s help, only a matter of days… Irish Regiments in the British army have refused to act against their fellow-countrymen.”
At 4.10pm, Eamon Bulfin on the roof of the GPO, watched as children looted a photography and toy shop and emerged with a large quantity of fireworks. They “made a huge pile of them in the middle of O’Connell Street, and set fire to them. That is one thing that will stick in my mind forever. We had our bombs on top of the Post Office, and these fireworks were shooting up in the sky.”
Newspapers appeared on the streets but many carried inaccurate or insignificant reports on the Rising. The mililtary had banned journalists from the firing line in the city centre. By the afternoon Government troops had retaken City Hall and the military authorities had begun to get to grips with the situations. By the end of the day, almost 7,000 British troops were in town.
In Rathmines, the veteran Captain J.C. Bowen-Colthurst arrested three innocent civilians, Thomas Dickson, Patrick McIntyre, and the locally well-known pacifist Francis Sheehy-Skeffington. After deciding they were “dangerous characters”, Bowen-Colthurst had them executed by seven troops the next morning.
Trying to explain his actions, Colthurst later said: “I was very much exhausted and unstrung after practically a sleepless night, and I took the gloomiest view of the situation and felt that only desperate measures would save the situation.”
As the British tried desperately to wrestle control of the Rising further evidence would emerge of barbaric pockets of murder throughout the suburbs which were provoked by chaos and confusion. According to the archives at the Bureau of Military History, Captain E. Gerard was approached by one of his sentries at Beggar’s Bush on Tuesday evening.
“I beg you pardon, sir, I have just shot two girls.’ ‘I said, ‘What on earth did you do that for?’ He said ‘I thought they were rebels. I was told they were dressed in all classes of attire.’ At a range of about 200 yards I saw two girls — about 20 — lying dead.”
Inside City Hall, Helena Molony and her comrades had come under heavy artillery fire and were forced to give up their position as troops stormed the building. Lord Wimborne was about to declare martial law in a city that was to spiral further out of control and the British gunboat the Helga moved ominously up the Liffey as the fighting intensified.