Primary Documents - General Maxwell on the Easter Rising, April 1916

Sir John Maxwell Reproduced below is the official report produced by General Sir John Maxwell into British military operations during the Easter Rising.  Maxwell was sent to Dublin by the British government to quell the Irish nationalist uprising and to restore order.

Click here to read the Irish Proclamation which initiated the uprising on 24 April 1916.

Official Report by General Sir John Maxwell on the Easter Rising, April 1916

The rebellion began by Sinn Feiners, presumably acting under orders, shooting in cold blood certain soldiers and policemen.  Simultaneously they took possession of various important buildings and occupied houses along the routes in the City of Dublin which were likely to be used by troops taking up posts.

Most of the rebels were not in any uniform, and by mixing with peaceful citizens made it almost impossible for the troops to distinguish between friend and foe until fire was opened.

In many cases troops having passed along a street seemingly occupied by harmless people were suddenly fired upon from behind from windows and roof tops.  Such were the conditions when reinforcements commenced to arrive in Dublin.

Whilst fighting continued under conditions at once so confused and so trying, it is possible that some innocent citizens were shot.  It must be remembered that the struggle was in many cases of a house-to-house character, that sniping was continuous and very persistent, and that it was often extremely difficult to distinguish between those who were or had been firing upon the troops and those who had for various reasons chosen to remain on the scene of the fighting, instead of leaving the houses and passing through the cordons.

The number of such incidents that has been brought to notice is very insignificant.

Once the rebellion started the members of the Dublin Metropolitan Police - an unarmed uniformed force - had to be withdrawn, or they would have been mercilessly shot down, as, indeed, were all who had the bad luck to meet the rebels.  In their absence a number of the worst elements of the city joined the rebels and were armed by them.  The daily record of the Dublin Magistrates' Court proves that such looting as there was was done by such elements.

There have been numerous incidents of deliberate shooting on ambulances and those courageous people who voluntarily came out to tend to the wounded.  The City Fire Brigade, when turned out in consequence of incendiary fires, were fired on and had to retire.

As soon as it was ascertained that the rebels had established themselves in various centres, the first phase of operations was conducted with a view to isolate them by forming a cordon of troops round each.

To carry out this streets were selected along which the cordon could be drawn.  Some of these streets, for instance, North King Street, were found to be strongly held, rebels occupying the roofs of houses, upper windows, and strongly constructed barricades.

Artillery fire was only used to reduce the barricades, or against a particular house known to be strongly held.  The troops suffered severe losses in establishing these cordons, and, once established, the troops were subjected to a continuous fire from all directions, especially at night time, and invariably from persons concealed in houses.

To give an idea of the opposition offered to his Majesty's troops in the execution of their duty, the following losses occurred:

Officers 17 killed, 46 wounded
Other ranks 89 killed, 288 wounded

I wish to draw attention to the fact that, when it became known that the leaders of the rebellion wished to surrender, the officers used every endeavour to prevent further bloodshed; emissaries were sent in to the various isolated bands, and time was given them to consider their position.

I cannot imagine a more difficult situation than that in which the troops were placed; most of those employed were draft-finding battalions, or young Territorials from England, who had no knowledge of Dublin.

The surrenders, which began on April 30th, were continued until late on May 1st, during which time there was a considerable amount of isolated sniping.

Under the circumstances related above I consider the troops as a whole behaved with the greatest restraint, and carried out their disagreeable and distasteful duties in a manner which reflects the greatest credit on their discipline.

Allegations on the behaviour of the troops brought to my notice are being most carefully inquired into.  I am glad to say they are few in number, and these are not all borne out by direct evidence.

Numerous cases of unarmed persons killed by rebels during the outbreak have been reported to me.  As instances, I may select the following: J. Brien, a constable of the Dublin Metropolitan Police, was shot while on duty at Castle Gate on April 24th.  On the same day another constable of the same force named M. Lahiff was shot while on duty at St. Stephen's Green.  On April 25th R. Waters of Recess, Monkstown, County Dublin, was shot at Mount Street Bridge while being driven into Dublin by Captain Scovell, R.A.M.C.

All these were unarmed, as was Captain Scovell.  In the last case the car was not challenged or asked to stop.

I wish to emphasize that the responsibility for the loss of life, however it occurred, the destruction of property and other losses, rests entirely with those who engineered this revolt, and who, at a time when the empire is engaged in a gigantic struggle, invited the assistance and cooperation of the Germans.

Source: Source Records of the Great War, Vol. IV, ed. Charles F. Horne, National Alumni 1923

A "red cap" was a British military policeman.

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