In this centenary year of the Easter Rising of 1916, and in light of our offerings of Framed 1916 Active Service Medals and 1916 Active Service Medals Presentation Boxes, it is fitting to look back on the events of that momentous time.
The Rising was mostly based in Dublin city centre. It began on Easter Monday (April 24), and continued until the following Sunday, April 30.
The rebels in Dublin comprised an estimated 1,200 men and women, mainly drawn from three organisations: the Irish Volunteers (a nationalist militia), the Irish Citizen Army (a socialist trade union group), and Cumann na mBan (which translates as ‘The Women’s Council’, and which had a strong military flavour).
The Rising was planned by seven men: Padraig Pearse, James Connolly, Tom Clarke, Sean McDermott, Thomas MacDonagh, Joseph Plunkett, and Eamon Ceannt. The plans were top secret and were not even known to other leading members of the Volunteers or the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB).
It was foreseen that rebels would rise up in locations all round Ireland, armed with guns smuggled from Germany, that were to be delivered under cover of darkness to Banna Strand in County Kerry on Good Friday. The British intercepted this shipment however, and arrested the man who was due to receive them (Sir Roger Casement himself formerly a high-ranking diplomat in the British Foreign Service). As a result, fighting was confined only to Dublin and just a few other centres, including Galway, Ashbourne (County Meath), and Enniscorthy (County Wexford).
The fighting in Dublin saw the rebels occupy several strategic locations, such as the GPO (General Post Office), the Four Courts, the South Dublin Union, Boland’s Mills, St Stephen’s Green, and Jacob’s Biscuit Factory. It was from the GPO after the first tranche of fighting that Pearse proclaimed an Irish Republic, with himself as President, and Connolly as Commander in Chief.
The rebels had some success in the early days of fighting as their 1,200 volunteers vastly outnumbered the estimated 400 British troops who were in the city at the time. However, over the course of the week, the British shipped in some 16,000 more, along with artillery and naval gunboats. Meanwhile, rebel numbers rose to only about 1,600.
The tide turned, and Pearse formally announced a surrender on April 30. All the rebel leaders were arrested, and sixteen were executed: fifteen of them in the two-week period that followed, and Roger Casement the following August, following a landmark court trial.
The Rising had not at first enjoyed popular support, but the executions changed the national mood, and momentum began to gather towards gaining independence.
The first Dáil (Irish Parliament) was established three years later, in 1919, and so began the breakaway from London rule that eventually saw Ireland being officially declared a republic.
In 1941, the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Eamon de Valera who had himself been a junior commander during 1916 commissioned 2,500 medals for distribution to all who had taken part in the Rising.
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