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

11 Surprising Facts About Sylvester Stallone

Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

As streetwise boxer Rocky Balboa (in eight films) and haunted Vietnam veteran John Rambo (in five films), the man born Michael Sylvester Gardenzio Stallone has made his brand of muscular melodrama a staple of the action film genre across five decades.

The latest Rambo chapter, Rambo: Last Blood, opens September 20. In the meantime, check out some of the more intriguing facts about the actor, from his modest beginnings as an accidental porn star to his peculiar rivalry with Richard Gere to his waylaid plans to run a pudding empire.

1. An errant pair of forceps gave Sylvester Stallone his distinctive look.

Many comedians have paid their bills over the decades by adopting Sylvester Stallone’s distinctive lip droop and guttural baritone voice. The facial feature was the result of some slight mishandling at birth. When Stallone was born on July 6, 1946 in Manhattan, the physician used a pair of forceps to deliver him. The malpractice left his lip, chin, and part of his tongue partially paralyzed due to a severed nerve. Stallone later said his face and awkward demeanor earned him the nickname “Sylvia” and authority figures telling him his brain was “dormant.” Burdened with low self-esteem, Stallone turned to bodybuilding and later performing as a way of breaking through what seemed to be a consensus of low expectations.

2. sylvester Stallone attended college in Switzerland.

A publicity still of Sylvester Stallone from the 1981 film 'Victory' is pictured
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Despite a tumultuous adolescence in which he was kicked out of several schools for misbehavior, Stallone eventually graduated high school while living with his mother in Philadelphia. He went on to attend American College, a university in Leysin, Switzerland, where he also worked as a gym teacher and dorm bouncer in addition to selling hamburgers on campus. It was there he became interested in theater—both acting and writing.

Stallone continued his education at the University of Miami before moving to New York with the hopes of breaking into the entertainment industry. While auditioning for parts, Stallone worked as a movie theater usher and cleaned lion cages at the zoo. He was fired from the theater for trying to scalp tickets to a customer. Unknown to Stallone, the customer was the theater owner.

3. Sylvester Stallone’s mother was an expert in “rumpology.”

Stallone’s parents separated while he was still a child. His father, a beauty salon owner named Francesco Stallone, was apparently prone to corporal punishment, and would cuff his young son for misbehavior. (Stallone was once caught swatting flies with a lead pipe on the hood of his father’s brand-new car.) His mother, Jackie Stallone—whom he once described as “half-French, half-Martian"—later grew interested in the study of rumpology, or the study of the buttocks to reveal personality traits and future events.

4. Sylvester Stallone had a small part in a porno.

Actor Sylvester Stallone is pictured during a promotional tour for the film 'Rambo' in Madrid, Spain in January 2008
Carlos Alvarez, Getty Images

While struggling to make it as an actor, Stallone was talked into making an appearance in Party at Kitty and Stud’s, a 1970 softcore adult film that was not as explicit as other sex features of the era but still required Stallone to appear in the nude. While he was initially hesitant to take the role, Stallone was sleeping in a bus shelter at the time. He took the $200 for two days of work. Following the success of Rocky in 1976, the film’s producers capitalized on their now-valuable footage and re-released it under the title The Italian Stallion. In 2010, a 35mm negative of the film and all worldwide rights to it were auctioned off on eBay for $412,100.

5. Sylvester Stallone wrote a novel.

In addition to his acting ambitions, Stallone decided to pursue a career in writing. After numerous screenplays, he wrote Paradise Alley, a novel about siblings who get caught up in the circus world of professional wrestling in Hell’s Kitchen. Stallone finished the novel before deciding to turn it into a screenplay. Paradise Alley was eventually produced in 1978. The book, which was perceived as a novelization, was published that same year.

6. Sylvester Stallone was not a fan of the Rambo cartoon series.

After the success of 1982’s First Blood and 1985’s Rambo: First Blood Part II, Stallone was confronted with a litany of Rambo merchandising. Speaking with the Chicago Tribune in 1986, he said he disliked that the psychologically-tortured war veteran was being used to peddle toys. “I couldn’t control it,” he said. “I tried to stop it, but I don’t own the licensing rights.”

On the subject of Rambo: The Force of Freedom, a 1986 animated series featuring a considerably softened-up version of the character, Stallone was resigned. “They’re going to make this Saturday morning TV cartoon show for kids with what they tell me is a softened version of Rambo doing good deeds. First of all, that isn’t Rambo, but more important, they tell me I can’t stop them because it’s not me they’re using. It’s a likeness of a character I played and don’t own.” The show lasted just one season.

7. Sylvester Stallone never planned on the Rocky series enduring as long as it has.

Through the years, Stallone has made some definitive declarations about the Rocky series, which has been extended to eight films including its two spin-off installments, 2015’s Creed and 2018’s Creed II. Speaking with movie critic Roger Ebert in 1979 shortly before the release of Rocky II, Stallone indicated Rocky III that would conclude the series. “There’ll never be a Rocky IV,” he said. "You gotta call it a halt.” In 1985, while filming Rocky IV, Stallone told Interview magazine that he was finished. “Oh, this is it for Rocky,” he said. “Because I don’t know where you go after you battle Russia.” In 1990, following the release of Rocky V, Stallone declared that “There is no Rocky VI. He’s done.” Upon the release of Rocky Balboa in 2006, Stallone once more declared he was finished. "I couldn't top this," he told People. "I would have to wait another 10 years to build up a head of steam, and by that point, come on."

Creed was released nine years later. Following Creed II, he posted a message on Instagram that served as a “final farewell” to the character. Several months later, in July 2019, Stallone told Variety that, “There’s a good chance Rocky may ride again” and explained an idea involving Rocky befriending an immigrant street fighter. It would be the ninth film in the series.

8. Sylvester Stallone was offered the lead role in Beverly Hills Cop.

Actor Sylvester Stallone is pictured during production of the 1978 film 'Paradise Alley'
Central Press/Getty Images

In one of the more intriguing alternate casting decisions in Hollywood history, Stallone was originally offered the Axel Foley role in 1984’s Beverly Hills Cop. Not wishing to make a comedy, Stallone rewrote the script to focus more on the action, as Detroit cop Foley stampedes through Beverly Hills to find his friend’s killers. Stallone described his version as resembling “the opening scene from Saving Private Ryan on the beaches of Normandy” and said his climax involved a game of chicken between a Lamborghini and an oncoming train. Producers opted to go in another direction. It became one of Eddie Murphy’s biggest hits. Stallone would later use some of his ideas for a rogue cop in the 1986 film Cobra.

9. Sylester Stallone does not get along with Richard Gere.

While filming 1974’s The Lords of Flatbush, in which Stallone and then-unknown actor Richard Gere both played 1950s street toughs, the two actors apparently got off on the wrong foot. Stallone recalled that Gere drew his ire for being too physical during rehearsals—and worse, getting mustard on Stallone during a lunch break. Incensed, Stallone demanded the director choose one of them to stay and one of them to be fired. Gere was let go and replaced by Perry King.

10. Arnold Schwarzenegger once tricked sylvester stallone into starring in a box office bomb.

Actors Sylvester Stallone (L) and Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) are photographed during the premiere of 'The Expendables 2' in Hollywood, California in August 2012
Frazer Harrison, Getty Images

Stallone has often discussed his rivalry with Arnold Schwarzenegger, as the two action stars were believed to be the two biggest marquee attractions in the 1980s. Recalling his 1992 bomb Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot, Stallone told a journalist in 2014 that he believed Schwarzenegger was to blame. “I heard Arnold wanted to do that movie and after hearing that, I said I wanted to do it,” he said. “He tricked me. He’s always been clever.”

11. sylvester Stallone wanted to create a pudding empire.

In 2005, shortly before Rocky Balboa resurrected his film career, Stallone embarked on a line of fitness supplements. His company, Instone, produced a pudding snack that was low-carb and high in protein. Stallone even appeared on Larry King to hawk the product. A legal dispute with a food scientist over the rights to the concoction dragged on for years and Instone eventually folded.

Highclere Castle—the Real-Life Downton Abbey—Is Available to Rent on Airbnb

Highclere Castle, used as the setting for Downton Abbey
Highclere Castle, used as the setting for Downton Abbey
Emily_M_Wilson/iStock via Getty Images

Have you ever wanted to spend a night in a castle? And not just any castle—the Downton Abbey castle, Highclere Castle? On November 26, one lucky couple will get the opportunity to relive the TV show and movie, when castle owners Lady and Lord Carnarvon will cordially invite one person and their guest of choice to spend the night in the castle, which is located in Hampshire, England—about 45 miles west of London. On October 1 (Airbnb reservations go live at noon BST) anyone with a verified profile, positive reviews, and passion for Downton Abbey can vie for the opportunity. Even though the castle has 300 rooms, they are only making one bedroom available, for $159.

Upon arrival, the royals will host cocktails with the guests in the saloon. Visitors will hear stories from more than 300 years of Highclere Castle history (construction on the castle began in 1679, and has been in the Carnarvon family ever since).

“I am passionate about the stories and heritage of Highclere Castle and I am delighted to be able to share it with others who have a love of the building and its history,” Lady Carnarvon said in the Airbnb listing.

The Earl and Countess will host a dinner for the guests in the state dining room, and afterwards have coffee in the library. Before bed, the guests’ butler will escort them to their gallery bedroom. The next morning, guests will receive a complimentary breakfast, a private tour of the 100,000-square foot castle and 1000-acre grounds, and a special gift from the Carnarvons. (Airbnb will also make a donation to The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.)

It should be noted the castle doesn’t have Wi-Fi or central air, but it does have fireplaces and central heat. There are a few rules guests must follow, though: all newspapers must be ironed; one butler per person; cocktail dress is required at dinner; gossip is restricted to downstairs; the listing is midweek because, as the Dowanger once said, “What is a weekend?”

If you don’t win the opportunity to stay at Highclere, all is not lost: you can tour the castle year-round.

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