At 8am, the shelling of an empty Liberty Hall began. The Helga, a British Fisheries Protection vessel was anchored on the Liffey opposite the Custom House. It had arrived from Kingston the previous day.
It trained its gun on the empty Liberty Hall and blasted it for one hour. The traumatised caretaker escaped unscathed, but the building was reduced to a shell. Liberty Hall had been abandoned by the Citizen Army.
The Irish Times, reporting on the significance of the quayside HQ, said: “For many years past Liberty Hall has been a thorn in the side of the Dublin Police and the Irish Government. It was the centre of social anarchy, the brain of every riot and disturbance.”
He was told that more than 2000 British reinforcements were advancing towards his position at Mount Street from Kingstown (Dun Laoghaire), presumably looking for Trinity College.
As they marched, the soldiers were given food by some members of the Irish public.
James Stephens recored the mood on the day. “Most of the female opinion I heard was not alone unfavourable but actively and viciously hostile to the rising. This was noticeable among the best-dressed class of our population; the worst-dressed, indeed the female dregs of Dublin life, expressed a like antagonism, and almost in similar language. The view expressed was, ‘I hope every man of them will be shot.’ And, ‘They ought to be all shot’.”
When they ran into the 3rd Battalion in Northumberland Road, what followed was one of the bloodiest episodes of the Rising.
Michael Malone and his small band men held up the advance of two full British battalions, inflicting heavy casualties.
Many of the British reinforcements were arriving to Dublin for the first time.
This section of military were known as the Sherwood Foresters, hailing from Nottingham and Derbyshire. They were young, and inexperienced men, and some presumed they were in France.
From his position at 25 Northumberland Road, Lieutenant Malone, from his position in a bathroom, saw the troops approaching the junction of Northumberland Road and Haddington Road.
At 12 noon, 300 yards from Mount Street Bridge, the vulnerable troops in the middle of the street came under fire from 25 Northumberland Road.
The first volley of shots claimed the lives of 10 men and by the time the British troops gained entry to the rear of the house, they had sustained heavy casualties.
One of those at Clanwilliam House, Thomas Walsh, recalled to RTE the scene that day.
“I saw a man in English uniform running from Percy Lane along Percy Place and up the steps of a house. I fired for the first time from my Howth gun, and for that matter from any other rifle! I do not know what happened to me, or how long I was unconscious. In the excitement I did not heed the lectures and did not hold the weapon correctly. The result was, the butt hit me under the arm and knocked me out.”
After Walsh came to his senses he fired until the “rifle heated so much it was impossible to hold it” and moved to another window at the house.
“From here we could see terrible confusion among the enemy. They were being attacked from 25 Northumberland Road, held by Mick Malone and Jimmy Grace. Those who managed to get by ’25’ ran towards [Mount Street] Bridge and took cover anywhere they could find it, on house steps, behind trees, and even in the channels on the roadway. We kept on blazing away at those in the channels, and after a time as they were killed, the next fellow moved up and passed the man killed in front of him. This gave one the impression of a giant human khaki-coloured caterpillar.”
Ordered to charge again — receiving direct orders via telephone from General Lowe to overwhelm the posts around Mount Street Bridge — the Foresters were gunned down in their dozens as they charged with fixed bayonets.
“They went down on the Bridge again, and again they made the attempt, but they did not survive. By now there was a great pile of dead and dying on the Bridge,” recalled Walsh.
The Sherwood Foresters again suffered casualties as they attempted to take the nearby Schoolhouse, Volunteers firing into their ranks at point blank range before fleeing out the back.
Clanwilliam House was the next battle scene. Bodies littered the road as the rebels defending their position repelled the charging soldiers as they advanced up Northumberland Road towards the bridge at Mount Street.
Medical staff from the nearby Sir Patrick Dun’s hospital on Grand Canal Street brokered a brief ceasefire to take the wounded from the battlefield.
“From the moment the first civilian got to the Bridge not one shot was fired by either side, and when the last civilian was out of sight the firing started again, and the Bridge was rushed as before but with the same result. Again the Bridge was filled with dead and dying, and again cleared by the civilians who now had white sheets to carry the wounded on,” recalled Thomas Walsh.
On the sound of a whistle the British soldiers charged the Volunteers’ position and cleared Clanwilliam House by throwing grenades into each room.
Official British casualties amounted to four officers and 216 other ranks killed or wounded during the engagement at Mount Street.
“The casualties were so great that I, at one time, thought we had accounted for the whole British Army in Ireland. What a thought! What joy! What a day! But a lot of their losses was their own fault. They made for sitting ducks for amateur riflemen. But they were brave men and, I must say, clean fighters,” said Walsh who escaped through a window at Clanwilliam House along with Jim Walsh, Jim Doyle and Willie Ronan after using up their last rounds.
The greater number of British eventually overpowered the rebel resistance. Jimmy Grace had taken cover and hid under a table until after the battle but Malone was shot dead in No25, which he had defended for five hours with the aid of just one companion.
In the nearby Jacob’s, de Valera was unable, or unwilling, to affect the battles raging around him as he expected to have to defend his position, although little or no artillery was directed at the factory.
At 2pm, the GPO shook as heavy artillery hit Sackville Street and fires raged. General Sir John Grenfel Maxwell with orders to “take such measures as may in your opinion be necessary for the prompt suppression of the insurrection” was dispatched from London.
His major decision was to refuse anything less than unconditional surrender from the rebels — a factor which would be aided by their exhaustion and hunger as they desperately clung to their positions in burning ruins.