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New Zealanders at Trinity College Dublin Easter Week 1916

Your readers may be interested in research I am doing on the 5 New Zealand soldiers who assisted in the defence of Trinity College Dublin during Easter Week 1916.
The 5 New Zealanders are listed in the 1916 Rebellion Handbook published by the Irish Times soon after the Rising, but their involvement has never been widely acknowledged in subsequent publications. In most accounts of the Rising they are described as ‘Anzacs’ and are assumed to be Australians. The 1916 Rebellion Handbook lists only 1 Australian soldier who served in the Trinity College garrison.
The New Zealanders were Sergeant Frederick Nevin NZMC from Christchurch, Corporal Alexander Don NZFA from Dunedin, Corporal John Garland NZMC from Auckland, Lance Corporal Finlay McLeod NZE from Milton and Private Edward Waring NZR from Northland. All five men were in Dublin on Easter Monday when the shooting began and they were directed to Trinity College where the university staff and OTC cadets were defending the buildings against the rebels.
Don, McLeod and Waring had served on Gallipoli and were convalescing in Great Britain before rejoining their units on the Western Front. Nevin and Garland were medical orderlies from the New Zealand Hospital Ship Marama but their non-combatant status did not prevent them from picking up rifles with other Dominion troops to help defend the university. Garland had previously served in the New Zealand occupation of German Samoa in 1914. Letters by Garland, Don and McLeod were published in New Zealand newspapers soon after the Rising and these provide interesting eyewitness accounts of events.

 

The letters recount the initial shooting by the rebels was directed at unarmed British soldiers on the streets of Dublin. The slouch hats worn by the New Zealanders appeared to confuse the rebel marksmen and they managed to escape being hit. The letters describe the chaos on Dublin streets as the rebels rushed to occupy buildings, with civilians being hit in the crossfire. Garland claims he was shot at by Countess Markievicz as she sped past in a motorcar!  Don recounts how he saw the rebels barricading buildings and he observed James Connolly standing with arms folded on the steps of the GPO.
There were 14 Dominion soldiers in the Trinity College garrison by Monday evening. The other Dominion troops present were 6 South Africans and 2 Canadians. An Anzac sharpshooting squad was soon formed comprising the 5 New Zealanders and the 1 Australian present, Private Michael McHugh, 9th Battalion, AIF. All 5 New Zealanders must have been handy with a rifle as they were often called upon to counter rebel snipers. The university was reinforced on Tuesday by British troops and later that week it became the Headquarters of Brigadier General W.H.M. Lowe.
For 3 days the Anzac marksmen occupied the roofs of the university and exchanged shots with the rebels. They shot and killed Irish Volunteer Gerald Keogh as he cycling past the university early Tuesday morning with 2 other comrades. On Friday the Anzacs ventured from the university to clear nearby buildings, including the belfry of St Andrew’s Church and Westland Row Railway Station. Both Garland and McLeod claim that the Anzacs killed around 30 rebels, however this tally is suspect given the total rebel deaths for Easter Week is 64. It is probable in the smoke and haze the Anzacs misjudged how many rebels they accounted for.

 

Irish Commandant W.J. Brennan-Whitmore describes the compassion shown to him and other rebel prisoners by a cheerful ‘Australian sergeant’ from Trinity College. Frederick Nevin was the only Anzac sergeant at Trinity College so it must have been him who gave the prisoners a tin of biscuits and a jug of cold tea before they were marched off to imprisonment. Brennan-Whitmore also congratulated the Anzacs on the accuracy of their shooting.

 

Film footage of the Easter Rising on the Imperial War Museum website clearly shows Sergeant Nevin and Privates Waring and McHugh walking from the gates of Trinity College soon after the surrender carrying rifles and smoking cigarettes!

 

After the Rising the New Zealanders travelled back to England to rejoin their units. In August 1916 they were each sent a small silver cup commemorating their role in the defence of Trinity College. Edward Waring later served on the Western Front with the 6th Hauraki Company, Auckland Regiment and was invalided back to New Zealand in early 1918. He succumbed to influenza in November 1918 aged 26.

 

Frederick Nevin and John Garland rejoined the Hospital Ship Marama for a return sailing to New Zealand. Nevin was a machinist with the New Zealand Railways and he died in Christchurch in 1953 aged 58. John Garland was still living in Auckland in 1950.

 

Alexander Don served on the Western Front with the New Zealand Field Artillery and was ‘reduced to the ranks’ in 1917 for striking a superior officer!  He was selected for officer training in 1918 but the Armistice prevented this. He returned to New Zealand in 1919 and became a school master in Wellington. Don served in the Home Guard during the Second World War, dying in 1954 aged 57.

 

Finlay McLeod was gassed on the Western Front in 1917 and was invalided home to New Zealand.  He was still living in 1967 when he claimed his bronze commemorative Gallipoli Medallion and Gallipoli Veteran’s lapel badge from the New Zealand Government.

 

The New Zealanders Army Service files make no mention of their unofficial ‘Active Service’ in Dublin during the Easter Rising.   However, there is a letter on Waring’s file from his nephew on the 50th anniversary of the Rising in 1966 seeking confirmation from the Ministry of Defence that his uncle was in Ireland in 1916.  I  would be keen to hear from any of your readers who may have more information on these 5 New Zealanders.

 

 

Hugh Keane

Hamilton

New Zealand