An Cosantóir

June 2012

An Cosantóir the official magazine of the Irish Defence Forces and Reserve Defence Forces.

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Page 26 of 35

took up positions in and around Sackville St (now O'Connell St). Commandant Cathal Brugha, with an estimated 70 men and wom- en, took command of what was to become known as 'The Block', a section of the city consisting of 14 buildings on the east side of Sackville Street that stretched from the corner of Cathedral St up to Findlater Place. Comprising four hotels and a number of smaller buildings, the Block had been turned into a fortress by means of mouse-holing (a technique that involved burrowing through in- ternal walls to connect each position and not exposing one's men to enemy fire). Anti-Treaty commanders such as Eamon De Valera, Séan T O'Kelly and Austin Stack joined Brugha in the defence of the buildings. As the battle for the Four Courts drew to a close, General En- city as the office disintegrated into a cloud of dust. Whether a shell or a mine caused the explosion is not known. Smoke and debris littered the courts as the beleaguered garrison clung on, many of them hoping in vain for a relief column while some planned a breakout. As the shelling and machine-gun fire increased the position became untenable and the anti-Treaty headquarters staff that included Rory O'Connor and Liam Mellows decided to surren- der. At 1600hrs on 30th June 1922, having held out for three days, the Four Courts garrison, consisting of 140 men, unconditionally surrendered to the Free State forces. Casualties consisted of three anti-Treaty forces killed and eight wounded. The Free State forces had seven killed and 70 wounded. However, the battle for Dublin was far from over. As the battle raged at the Four Courts, other anti-Treaty units history | 27 nis turned his attention to the centre of the city and the task of removing the anti-Treaty forces from the Block. On Monday 3rd July at 0200hrs he moved his troops into position. Fire-fights erupted between the rival factions as Free State forces attempted to a gain a foothold. Free State armoured cars and personnel carriers careered onto the city's streets disgorging their cargo of troops. Machine-gun fire from the turrets of the armoured cars ripped along the frontage of the Block. A cordon was estab- lished around the centre of the city and by 0315hrs Free State forces had completed their enveloping movement. Artillery was moved into position and the bombardment of the Block commenced. Small anti-Treaty units fought from each post within the Block and when their position became untenable they withdrew further into the labyrinth of tunnels that linked each building. At 2000hrs on Tuesday 4th July, Free State forces unleashed their final assault on the Block. Artillery fire, rifle fire, rifle grenades and machine-gun fire were directed on to the row of buildings. However, it wasn't until 1700hrs on Wednesday 5th July that the last Anti-Treaty stronghold, the Hamman Hotel, was in flames. The building burned fiercely as Commandant Brugha, realising his position was untenable, ordered his unit to surrender. With his pistol drawn, Brugha calmly walked out the front door Irish Free State Armoured Personnel Carri- ers (APCs) during the Civil War (Courtesy of Military Archives) towards the waiting Free State troops. He was shot and seriously wounded, a bullet severing his femoral artery. Though he received immediate medical attention, he died two days later on July 7th in the Mater hospital. Cathal Brugha's death was just one of a long list of prominent figures that would, in the following months, lose their lives during the Civil War. Though the battle for Dublin had ended, the battle for Ireland had just begun. (Further recommended reading: 'The Fall of Dublin' by Liz Gillis - €11.69, Mercier Press, ISBN: 9781856356800) About the author: Paul O'Brien, who holds an MA in history, has published three books on 1916. His latest, Crossfire: The Battle of the Four Courts 1916, was reviewed in last month's magazine. Paul can be contacted at: THE DEFENCE FORCES MAGAZINE Four Courts c.1920, before the explosion of 30th June 1922 (Courtesy of the South Dublin Librar- ies, from the T.J. Byrne Collection)

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