1916: April 24
Since the outbreak of war, Irish nationalist Sir Roger Casement had been reaching out to Germany to convince them to aid an Irish rebellion. He argued it would benefit the Germans by drawing British forces away from the war. Although hoping for more, Casement was eventually offered a shipment of guns and ammunition but as he tried to return to Ireland the boat was detected by the British. The captain scuttled the ship and the German crew were taken as prisoners of war, Casement was arrested and later executed for treason.
Back in Ireland a group of nationalists were continuing their plans for a rebellion with neither weapons nor Casement. At midday on Easter Monday, April 24, Patrick Pearse led 2,000 supporters into Dublin where they seized the general post office and other key buildings. The rebels had been hoping for the public to rise up and join them but little support came and the British quickly mobilised their troops. By Thursday around 12,000 British forces had arrived and Dublin was surrounded. Over the course of a few days, various gun battles in the city’s main streets caused a high number of casualties and demolished much of the centre. Estimated figures say 64 rebels and 132 British forces died in the violence; some 300 civilians are also believed to have lost their lives. Overall more than 2,500 people were wounded.
Following the Rising 3,000 men were arrested: half were later released but the other half were imprisoned in Britain without trial. Of these men 100 were sentenced to death and 15 were executed by firing squad in May.
The rushed executions caused a public outcry and by June the majority of the public was sympathetic towards the rebels. So despite its lack of success at the time, the subsequent handling of the rebels caused an increase in anti-British sentiment in Ireland – a fact that no doubt played a role in the War of Independence that would begin in 1919.