British Crush Easter Rising

Erik Sass is covering the events of the war exactly 100 years after they happened. This is the 233rd installment in the series. 

April 24-29, 1916: British Crush Easter Rising 

While the world was distracted by the bloody drama of Verdun, in spring 1916 Ireland continued to bubble with anger at the island’s English overlords, who had put Irish Home Rule (independence) on the back burner when the war broke out and now appeared to determined to ignore the aggrieved Irish population’s demands altogether. 

The situation was made worse with the advent of conscription; although Ireland was exempt for the time being, many Irish Catholics – with plenty of reason to distrust the British government – believed it was only a matter of time before compulsory military service was introduced to Ireland.

This seething frustration finally erupted in the Easter Rising of 1916 from April 24-29, 1916, when a militant organization within the Irish independence movement, the Irish Republican Brotherhood Military Council, led an armed rebellion against British rule in Dublin. 

The rebellion received some covert support from Germany in hopes of distracting the British from the war, but the main organizer of German support, Sir Roger Casement, changed his mind at the last minute because he believed the Germans weren’t fully committed (in any event Casement was apprehended after landing from a German submarine, U-19, on the Irish coast on April 21, 1916, and later executed).

A Long Shot 

The Easter Uprising, so named because it began on Easter Monday (April 24 in 1916) was always going to be a long shot. The total armed strength of the Irish rebels probably came to less than 5,000, many of whom never actually fought; the actual fight strength of the Irish rebels was probably around 1,100 in Dublin when the uprising began. These rebels faced the combined might of the British Empire, and although it’s true the British were mired in an unprecedented war on the continent, they were extremely unlikely to sit idly by while one of the “home islands” violently challenged British rule. 

The Irish rebels originally hoped to catch the British unawares, enabling the Germans to land several thousand troops on the west coast of Ireland, before proceeding to capture isolated British strongpoints across Ireland before they had a chance to react. However the German failure to follow through with their bold, implausible part of the plan (which didn’t take account of the Royal Navy) made an already difficult strategy almost impossible. The only hope was to trigger an uprising by the broader Irish population by winning support from ambivalent Irish moderates. 

As it happened, for the most part the rebellion remained confined to Dublin, where the Irish Volunteers, as the rebels were called, at first succeeded in gaining control of a number of key buildings across the city beginning around 10 am on April 24. The British responded cautiously, withdrawing three of the main regiments guarding Dublin to the government’s headquarters at Dublin Castle in order to protect the civilian administration (altogether British troops numbered around 2,400 at the beginning of the rising, most located west of the city). 

Around 12:45 pm on April 24 one of the leaders of the rising, Patrick Pearse, proclaimed the formation of a new Irish Republic, replacing the British monarchy as the government of Ireland (above). The proclamation read, in part:

We declare the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland, and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies, to be sovereign and indefeasible. The long usurpation of that right by a foreign people and government has not extinguished the right, nor can it ever be distinguished except by the destruction of the Irish people… Standing on that fundamental right and again asserting it in arms in the face of the world, we hereby proclaim the Irish Republic as a Sovereign, Independent State, and pledge our lives and the lives of our comrades-in-arms to the cause of its freedom, of its welfare, and of its exaltation among the nations. 

The rebels would soon be forced to make good on the pledge of their lives. While they succeeded in occupying most of Dublin in the first day of the rising, they had less success coordinating armed action by the rest of the Irish Volunteers scattered around the country. Meanwhile the British were able to immediately call up reinforcements from their nearby base at Curragh, about thirty miles southwest of the city, as well as from other British garrisons in Ireland and the rest of Britain. 

What followed was classic urban street warfare, as the rebels erected barricades (below) and fortified key positions including the General Post Office, City Hall, and Royal College of Surgeons, from which they rained rifle fire against small British scouting parties trying to get the lay of the land. At the same time the rebels failed to capture the British armory at Magazine Fort in Phoenix Park, ultimately opting to blow it up instead, while the British succeeded in sending about 200 reinforcements to Dublin Castle. For their part a number of civilians – far from rising up to join the rebels – began looting shops in downtown Dublin, further complicating the situation.

With the arrival of the first reinforcements from Curragh, the situation began to turn against the Irish rebels: by the end of the first day the British forces in Dublin had risen to around 4,500 men, while the rebels could muster around 1,500 fighters at most. As evening fell the British mounted a concerted attack on City Hall, where they regained the first floor after three bloody assaults, leaving the upper floors in the hands of the rebels for the evening. By the morning of April 25, the British occupied a chain of major buildings through the center of the city, straddling the River Liffey, including Trinity College, the Ship Street Barracks, the Royal Hospital, and the Royal Barracks.

On April 25 the basic British plan became clear: they would establish a cordon around the city and divide the Irish rebels, then lay siege to the isolated rebel bands in a methodical “mopping up” operation (below, a British roadblock). After eliminating the rebels from the upper stories of City Hall, the British seized the Shelbourne Hotel and turned their machine guns on a rebel command center at St. Stephen’s Green, a park in southeast Dublin. By the evening of April 25 the rebels had been forced out of most of northern Dublin, although the rebels clung to fortified positions on the north bank of the river.

With more reinforcement flooding in (now armed with grenades, machine guns and artillery, and assisted by the arrival of Royal Navy ships sailing up the River Liffey) from April 26-29 the British set about crushing the remaining rebel strongholds in central and southern Dublin. After fierce firefights and bayonet charges, on April 26 the British recaptured the Mendicity Institution, and the following day closed in on key rebel positions at Jameson’s Distillery and the South Dublin Union. 

During this period the British also began shelling Sackville Street (today O’Connell Street) as they sought to eject the rebels from the General Post Office; Irish nationalists long claimed that the British shelled these positions indiscriminately, without regard for civilian casualties. On April 27 the shelling ignited newspaper in the headquarters of the Irish Times, contributing to a general conflagration in the central city, which generally worked to the advantage of the British as they closed in on the trapped rebels.

Following the fall of the rebel position at South Dublin Union on April 27, the only remaining stronghold was the General Post Office, now in flames as the British tightened their siege. After fierce fighting throughout the night of April 28-29, including a failed breakout attempt, the Provisional Government of the short-lived Irish Republic of 1916 finally agreed to unconditional surrender around 2:30 pm on April 29. In its wake, 485 people lay dead, including rebels, soldiers and civilians. 

The Easter Rising was over, but the cause of Irish independence lived on. Indeed, although the rebels failed to stir the enthusiasm of the broader population during these days, the British government’s vindictive response – executing over a dozen leading rebels on grounds of treason – did more to stir sympathy for the martyrs, and the cause of Irish nationalism, than the rebellion itself. British rule would continue in Ireland through the end of the war, but the post-war years promised even greater turmoil. 

See the previous installment or all entries

10 Rad Gifts for Hikers

Greg Rosenke/Unsplash
Greg Rosenke/Unsplash

The popularity of bird-watching, camping, and hiking has skyrocketed this year. Whether your gift recipients are weekend warriors or seasoned dirtbags, they'll appreciate these tools and gear for getting most out of their hiking experience.

1. Stanley Nesting Two-Cup Cookset; $14

Amazon

Stanley’s compact and lightweight cookset includes a 20-ounce stainless steel pot with a locking handle, a vented lid, and two insulated 10-ounce tumblers. It’s the perfect size for brewing hot coffee, rehydrating soup, or boiling water while out on the trail with a buddy. And as some hardcore backpackers note in their Amazon reviews, your favorite hiker can take the tumblers out and stuff the pot with a camp stove, matches, and other necessities to make good use of space in their pack.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Osprey Sirrus and Stratos 24-Liter Hiking Packs; $140

Amazon

Osprey’s packs are designed with trail-tested details to maximize comfort and ease of use. The Sirrus pack (pictured) is sized for women, while the Stratos fits men’s proportions. Both include an internal sleeve for a hydration reservoir, exterior mesh and hipbelt pockets, an attachment for carrying trekking poles, and a built-in rain cover.

Buy them: Amazon, Amazon

3. Yeti Rambler 18-Ounce Bottle; $48

Amazon

Nothing beats ice-cold water after a summer hike or a sip of hot tea during a winter walk. The Yeti Rambler can serve up both: Beverages can stay hot or cold for hours thanks to its insulated construction, and its steel body (in a variety of colors) is basically indestructible. It will add weight to your hiker's pack, though—for a lighter-weight, non-insulated option, the tried-and-true Camelbak Chute water bottle is incredibly sturdy and leakproof.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Mappinners Greatest 100 Hikes of the National Parks Scratch-Off Poster; $30

Amazon

The perfect gift for park baggers in your life (or yourself), this 16-inch-by-20-inch poster features epic hikes like Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park and Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. Once the hike is complete, you can scratch off the gold foil to reveal an illustration of the park.

Buy it: Amazon

5. National Geographic Adventure Edition Road Atlas; $19

Amazon

Hikers can use this brand-new, updated road atlas to plan their next adventure. In addition to comprehensive maps of all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Canada, and Mexico, they'll get National Geographic’s top 100 outdoor destinations, useful details about the most popular national parks, and points on the maps noting off-the-beaten-path places to explore.  

Buy it: Amazon

6. Adventure Medical Kits Hiker First-Aid Kit; $25

Amazon

This handy 67-piece kit is stuffed with all the things you hope your hiker will never need in the wilderness. Not only does it contain supplies for pain, cuts and scrapes, burns, and blisters (every hiker’s nemesis!), the items are organized clearly in the bag to make it easy to find tweezers or an alcohol wipe in an emergency.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Hiker Hunger Ultralight Trekking Poles; $70

Amazon

Trekking poles will help increase your hiker's balance and stability and reduce strain on their lower body by distributing it to their arms and shoulders. This pair is made of carbon fiber, a super-strong and lightweight material. From the sweat-absorbing cork handles to the selection of pole tips for different terrain, these poles answer every need on the trail. 

Buy it: Amazon

8. Leatherman Signal Camping Multitool; $120

Amazon

What can’t this multitool do? This gadget contains 19 hiking-friendly tools in a 4.5-inch package, including pliers, screwdrivers, bottle opener, saw, knife, hammer, wire cutter, and even an emergency whistle.

Buy it: Amazon

9. RAVPower Power Bank; $24

Amazon

Don’t let your hiker get caught off the grid with a dead phone. They can charge RAVPower’s compact power bank before they head out on the trail, and then use it to quickly juice up a phone or tablet when the batteries get low. Its 3-inch-by-5-inch profile won’t take up much room in a pack or purse.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Pack of Four Indestructible Field Books; $14

Amazon

Neither rain, nor snow, nor hail will be a match for these waterproof, tearproof 3.5-inch-by-5.5-inch notebooks. Your hiker can stick one in their pocket along with a regular pen or pencil to record details of their hike or brainstorm their next viral Tweet.

Buy it: Amazon

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Remembering Rebecca: 11 Facts About Daphne du Maurier's Enduring Novel

Lily James as Mrs de Winter and Armie Hammer as Maxim de Winter in Rebecca (2020).
Lily James as Mrs de Winter and Armie Hammer as Maxim de Winter in Rebecca (2020).
KERRY BROWN/NETFLIX

“Rebecca, always Rebecca. I should never be rid of Rebecca,” laments the second Mrs de Winter in Daphne du Maurier’s beloved 1938 novel Rebecca. Mention the title to any bibliophile and they will no doubt give you many reasons why the novel has charmed and captivated so many generations over the years. So it's hardly surprising that this gothic thriller about a nameless young woman—who is swept off her feet by a wealthy widower, taken to live in his estate off the Cornish coast, and haunted by memories of his first wife—is the subject of Netflix’s next big-budget original.

The film, which stars Lily James (Downtown Abbey) and Armie Hammer (Call Me By Your Name) arrives on Netflix on October 21, 2020. As you wait for the new adaptation to drop, here are a few facts about this enduring novel to keep you curious. **Warning: Spoilers below!**

1. Rebecca was first published in 1938 and has never gone out of print.

Selznick International Pictures, Public Domain // Wikimedia Commons

Since it was published in 1938, Rebecca has never gone out of print [PDF], selling 2.8 million copies between 1938 and 1965. Over time, the novel has transformed from bestseller to cultural classic, with many stage and screen adaptations, including an Oscar-winning film by Alfred Hitchcock in 1940, and a 1993 book sequel by Susan Hill titled Mrs de Winter. In 2017, English bibliophiles voted Rebecca their favorite book of the past 225 years.

2. The heroine of Rebecca, Mrs de Winter, remains unnamed throughout.

Rebecca, after whom the novel is named, is dead when the story begins. She is brought to life via the impressions and memories other characters have of her and her lingering presence in Maxim de Winter's estate, Manderley, via her scent, her handwriting in books, and the carefully preserved clothes that remain in her wardrobe. Mostly, we see her through the eyes of the new Mrs de Winter, the "heroine" of the novel who, paradoxically, remains unnamed—a choice that surprised many fans of the book, including Agatha Christie [PDF].

3. Daphne du Maurier struggled with writer’s block while writing Rebecca.

Daphne du Maurier circa 1947.Ben van Meerendonk, AHF, IISG, Amsterdam // Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 2.0

Du Maurier struggled with a serious case of writer’s block when she began writing Rebecca. She discarded the first 50 pages of an early draft, telling her publisher: "The first 15,000 words I tore up in disgust and this literary miscarriage has cast me down."

4. Once she got past her writer’s block, Daphne du Maurier wrote Rebecca in four months.

Once she got past her early writing challenges, du Maurier wrote quickly and completed the manuscript for Rebecca in four months. Her secret? Arranging to spend time away from her children. “I am not one of those mothers who live for having their brats with them all the time,” du Maurier later wrote.

5. Rebecca has been celebrated as an important piece of feminist literature.

Initially marketed as a romance novel with Rebecca as the villainous, menacing wife, feminist interpretations of du Maurier’s novel now see it as a critique of gender power dynamics and a sexist society’s fear of powerful women. Some feminist critics suggest du Maurier intended for Maxim de Winter to be the real villain—the controlling husband who not only murders Rebecca when she refuses to play the obedient wife, but also oppresses and alienates the second Mrs de Winter, marrying her after the most unromantic of proposals: “I am asking you to marry me, you fool.”

6. In 2007, to mark the centenary of Daphne du Maurier's birth, the BBC produced two documentaries on the author.

Daphne, directed by Amy Jenkins, was based on Margaret Forster's biography of du Maurier which revealed, for the first time, du Maurier’s bisexuality. For the second documentary, The Road to Manderley, director Rick Stein set off in search of the author's world in Cornwall.

7. Some scholars believe Rebecca's second Mrs de Winter reflected Daphne du Maurier's sexual fluidity.

Some critics have wondered to what extent the character of the second Mrs de Winter was influenced by the author’s complicated and fluid sexuality. As Margaret Forster points out in her 1993 biography, du Maurier didn't think her desire for women made her a lesbian. The word transgender was not yet in common use then, but the author saw herself as female on the outside “with a boy’s mind and a boy’s heart.”

In the novel, the narrator casts herself as an androgyne, a friend and companion to Maxim, "a sort of boy," and obsessively wonders about Rebecca’s absent body, how she wore her coat, the color of her lipstick, her scent “like the crushed petals of azaleas."

8. Rebecca’s Manderley was inspired by two real-life estates.

A photo of Milton Hall.Julian Dowse, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 2.0

The secretive mansion which lends the novel its famous opening line, “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again," was partly inspired by Milton Hall [PDF], an estate near Cambridge that du Maurier spent time at as a child. When she wrote Rebecca nearly 20 years later, du Maurier told Milton Hall's owner that she based Manderley's interiors on her memories of the "big house feel" [PDF] of Milton during WWI.

The other estate du Maurier had in mind when imagining Manderley was the Menabilly estate in Fowey, Cornwall. Du Maurier fell in love with the house when she was 21 years old. Five years after Rebecca was published, she convinced its owners to lease her the home. But just like Manderley is forever lost to Mrs de Winter in a fire, du Maurier was forced to move out of Menabilly in 1969.

9. Daphne du Maurier has been accused of plagiarizing parts of Rebecca from Brazilian author Carolina Nabuco's book The Successor.

Brazilian critics have long argued that du Maurier plagiarized Rebecca from Brazilian author Carolina Nabuco's 1934 book, The Successor. While the two novels do share striking plot similarities, the allegations were never proven one way or another. Du Maurier also faced a lawsuit in 1947 for allegedly plagiarizing Edwina DeVin McDonald’s novel Blind Windows and the short story "I Planned to Murder my Husband." Du Maurier denied any charges.

10. During World War II, a copy of Rebecca was discovered among the possessions of two captured German spies.

British intelligence officers determined that a copy of Rebecca had been used by the Germans during World War II as a code key.

11. Rebecca has been adapted to a variety of media.

Rebecca had been adapted for film several times, but the best-known adaptation is Hitchcock’s 1940 film of the same name. It’s also been adapted to television a number of times, as a radio play, and an opera.