An improvised armoured personnel carrier, Dublin, Easter 1916

Published in 20th-century / Contemporary History, Issue 2 (Mar/Apr 2005), News, Revolutionary Period 1912-23, Volume 13

Over the course of the Easter Rising of 1916, amongst reinforcements moved from England to assist those troops already in Ireland were two battalions of the Sherwood Foresters, recruited from Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. One of the Sherwood battalions had been grievously mauled by the Irish Volunteer snipers defending Mount Street bridge, which controlled the route into the city from Kingstown (now Dún Laoghaire), where the reinforcements were being landed.
Being thus concerned about protecting the troops from rebel fire, a Col. Portal of the Curragh camp mobile column had built at least three improvised armoured vehicles, one of which is shown in the photograph (above). The chassis were Daimler flat back lorries from the Guinness brewery, and the bodies were from locomotive smoke-boxes (rather than boilers) bolted together, with the smoke-box door on the rearmost section acting as the door to the troop compartment. The lorry’s cab was protected by the footplate roof from a train. All this work was carried out in the Inchicore railway workshops of the Great Southern and Western Railway.
These improvised armoured vehicles first went into action late on Thursday 27 April (making this one of the earliest uses of armoured cars or personnel carriers) in an action at Grattan Bridge over the Liffey. This crossing had to be wrested from the Irish Volunteers, whose defence was preventing the British army from cordoning the city from both north and south of the Liffey.
The smoke-box lorries seem to have been used to storm occupied houses that controlled key points in Dublin. They were reversed up to a building and the smoke-box door was opened, whereupon the troops would rush straight out into the house. Once control of the house was seized from the Irish Volunteers, cover was provided for other soldiers storming nearby positions, effecting a slow throttling of the Irish Volunteers’ occupation of Dublin.

Timothy Walls is a civil servant working in Sheffield.

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