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Rebels during the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin, Ireland

Irish Rebels Fought the 1916 Easter Rising With Smuggled Mauser Rifles

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In Dublin, Ireland, on Easter Monday, 1916, nationalists proclaimed the founding of the Irish Republic. Bolstered by some 1,600 followers, they staged a rebellion against the British government in Ireland. They didn’t have planes nor tanks, and only limited use of artillery. Instead, the rebels made a stand using personal weapons and Mauser rifles that had been smuggled into the country two years earlier.

READ MORE about the Easter Rising of 1916

The organizers had been concerned about not having enough weapons – an issue that also dominated previous rebellions since 1798, when pikes were the main weapons. A small group that included writer Erskine Childers scouted for weapons, and went to Germany to buy rifles. The group bought 1,500 single shot, bolt action Mauser model 1871 rifles with 49,000 rounds of ammunition.

The Mausers arrived in July 1914, when the Asgard, a yacht belonging to Childers, sailed into Howth, north Dublin, with 900 rifles. Those were quickly unloaded in 30 minutes, and distributed to waiting Irish Volunteers and boys of Fianna Eireann. The rifles immediately were hidden. On the following day, the remaining Mausers were landed at Kilcoole, Co. Wicklow.

The weapons remained hidden until they were brought out for the 1916 rebellion.

During the Easter Rising, the rebels seized prominent buildings in Dublin, including the General Post Office, and clashed with British troops. Martial law was declared across Ireland, but the fighting was largely confined to Dublin. Within a week, the insurrection had been suppressed and more than 2,000 people were dead or injured. The leaders of the rebellion soon were executed – and some escaped.

One of the rebels, American-born Eamon de Valera, was sentenced to death. He served only a brief prison term, and went on to become one of Ireland’s leading political figures, with a career spanning half a century.

The executed leaders were hailed as martyrs. In 1921, a treaty was signed that in 1922 established the Irish Free State, leading to the modern-day Republic of Ireland.

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