Witness accounts of 1916 Rising and War of Independence unveiled
Dramatic new eyewitness accounts are available online for first time
The 1916 Rising is online – with graphic eye witness accounts now available to the public for the first time.
Reports from witnesses to the Rising and the War of Independence that followed are online.
The Irish state’s military archives have been digitised and the once secret documents from the Bureau of Military History 1913-1921.
Ireland’s Defence Forces have unveiled limitless access to the records at www.militaryarchives.ie.
The Irish Times reports that the site features the personal recollections of hundreds of men and women who participated in the Rising and the War of Independence.
Minister for Defence Oscar Traynor created the Bureau of Military History in 1947.
It was established to gather first-hand accounts from virtually all the surviving figures in the political struggles from the formation of the Irish Volunteers in 1913 to the truce with Britain in July 1921.
The memories of those involved were taken over a 10 year period in witness statements from members of organisations including the Irish Volunteers, Cumann na mBan, the IRB (Irish Republican Brotherhood), Sinn Féin and the Irish Citizen Army.
The documents were regarded as confidential and remained secret until now.
Capt Stephen Mac Eoin of Military Archives told the paper: “The material was then locked away in the Department of An Taoiseach for some 45 years until 2001, when it was transferred to the Defence Forces to prepare it for release into the public domain.”
The report states that the scale of the project was vast as a team of military archivists transferred the huge collection of 1,773 witness statements containing 360,000 pages of name- and word-searchable documents; rare photographs; and voice recordings onto the website.
The Irish Times printed the following statements from the website:
“As we got out the door into Henry Street, we lined up ‘two deep’ with the O’Rahilly standing in front and Patrick Pearse by his side . . . Our gallant attempt to break through failed and the survivors ended in an old burnt-out ruin in Moore Street. I saw O’Rahilly fall wounded and my nearest comrade, Pat O’Connor, was killed just in front of me, and falling on me pinned me under him.”
– Easter 1916: Éamonn Dore (Irish Volunteers, Limerick who was in the GPO, Dublin)
“After that I got so sick of the slaughter that I asked to be changed. Three refused to have their eyes bandaged … they all died like lions. The rifles of the firing party were waving like a field of corn. All the men were cut to ribbons at a range of about 10 yards.”
– Easter 1916: Capt E Gerrard, aide-de-camp to Gen Sir Hugh Jeudwine, OC 5 Division (British army) describes the executions of the 1916 leaders
“When the Black and Tans behaved in such an excited and unsoldierly way by endangering my daughter’s life when she was playing in St Stephen’s Green, I resolved to give all the help in my power to the resistance movement headed by Michael Collins. … I also gave him [Batt O’Connor] a latch key of my house, 15 Ely Place, and prepared that apparently impassable cul de sac so that Collins, if hard pressed, could use my garden and appear in St Stephen’s Green.”
– The War of Independence, 1919-1921: Oliver St John Gogarty, Dublin
“In April 1920, we decided to call an unofficial strike at the docks as a protest against the treatment meted out to the Irish political prisoners who were hunger-striking at Wormwood Scrubs. The dock labourers and the crews of the cross channel boats – BI, Cork, Limerick, Dundalk and Newry – came out to a man . . . The number employed was 5,024 and out of that number 5,016 came out on strike, completely crippling the movement of all ships in the port of Liverpool.”
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