“It Was A Proper Ambush”

On Wednesday 26 April the 2/7th and 2/8th Battalions, Sherwood Foresters arrived at Kingstown (Dún Laoghaire) in order to put down the Rising. The regiment was made up mostly of raw recruits with very little training. The 2/7th suffered heavy losses at Mount Street bridge while trying to enter the city.

After the battle was over and the Volunteer positions taken, the next day the 2/8th were ordered to make their way to the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham, headquarters of the British forces. Unknown to them the Volunteers under Commandant Éamonn Ceannt had taken over the South Dublin Union (SDU), a vast complex of buildings which lay right in their path.

Cyril Willingham, a member of ‘B’ Company, 2/8th Battalion recalls that as his company approached the Union they came under heavy fire.

We was told to give covering fire if it was at all possible. But we couldn’t give a lot of covering fire.

Two officers managed to get to the gate of the Union only to find the windows and doors were barricaded. They had to use grenades in order to clear them. During Easter Week the SDU was to see some of the most intense fighting between the Volunteers and the military. Despite their best efforts, the British forces failed to take the SDU.


Cyril Willingham was interviewed for the television series 'Ireland A Television History', 24 September 1979.

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