The centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising is rapidly approaching, and as Ireland and those of Irish descent throughout the world brace themselves for the upcoming event, it is a little known fact of how one large brewer in Dublin aided the British military in retaking the city from the insurgents.
On the afternoon of Easter Monday 24th April 1916 Second Lieutenant Godfrey Jackson Hunter and his unit of fifty lancers were detailed to escort five London and North Western wagons laden with ammunition from the docks to the main magazine located in the Phoenix Park, Dublin. Unknown to the troopers an independent Irish Republic had been declared since noon.
As the convoy approached the Four Courts on Kings Inn Quay beside the River Liffey, Irish Volunteers from the 1st Battalion who had occupied a number of buildings in the area opened fire. Soldiers were thrown from their mounts and horses galloped widely as bullets cut through the air. Lieutenant Hunter ordered his men to fall back. The lancers wheeled the wagons around and tried desperately to get out of the line of fire. The unit managed to take cover in Colliers Dispensary and the nearby Medical Mission, just of the quays on Charles Street. Boxes of ammunition were hauled into the mission and wagons were overturned to form a barricade. Taking up firing positions at the windows, the besieged group returned fire on their attackers.
Throughout Monday and Tuesday of that Easter week, the lancers repulsed attack after attack on their position. On Wednesday, in an exchange of gunfire, their commanding officer Second Lieutenant Godfrey Jackson Hunter was shot dead.
Conditions for the lancers were horrendous. Spent cartridge cases littered the floor and the smell of cordite hung in the air. Water bottles had long since run dry and the cries of the wounded echoed throughout the buildings.
Since Monday, Brigadier General W.H.M Lowe had begun manoeuvring his men into position in order to regain control of Dublin city. However, sniper fire from concealed Irish Volunteer positions were inflicting heavy casualties on his men and delaying any attempt to advance into the city.
In order to enter the city under cover a retired Colonel of the Royal Irish Rifles named Henry T.W. Allat devised the idea of constructing two Armoured Personnel Carriers (A.P.Cs) at the Inchicore Railway Works.
The design called for flatbed Daimler lorries to be fitted with large boilers that had been supplied from the Guinness Brewery. In order to protect the driver, the cab of the lorry had been armoured with heavy steel plating. He was able to drive the vehicle by looking through a small slit in the plating. Loopholes were drilled in the sides of the boiler on the lorry-bed, providing firing slits for the troops in the back. A large slit cut into the back door was used as a firing point for a Lewis machine-gun. Each vehicle was capable of carrying twenty men.
The vehicles first went into action to establish a bridgehead on the north side of the River Liffey and from here they were sent to extricate the lancers. Under a hail of gunfire the vehicles backed up the buildings. Bullets ricocheted off the metalwork as the Lancers loaded their dead officer, their wounded and the boxes of ammunition into the back of the car. This action was carried a number of times until the Lancers and their consignment of ammunition were safe. The A.P.Cs enabled the British to regain control of the city and they were to continue in use until the end of the Rising.
So as one relaxes with a creamy pint of the black stuff, they now know that the first APCs of the 20th century were deployed in Dublin city, Ireland. Who says you can’t learn a bit of history in a pub!
Post by Paul O’Brien