Exactly 100 years ago, the Easter Rising of 1916 began a chain of events that would lead to Irish independence.

This week, we'll be using our brand new collection of previously-secret documents to highlight interesting aspects of this historic event.

These secret intelligence cables between British government officials detail the events as they happened and show how the establishment responded.

These records have never been digitized before, and are free for the public to access until Wednesday April 27th.

Check back every day this week to see what was happening on this day 100 years ago!

Easter Monday, April 24th

The first details of the Rising were widely communicated on Tuesday April 25th. The lack of detailed intelligence in early messages shows that the British were caught by surprise and were initially slow to react.

Here is on of the first classified messages circulated about the Rising:

At first, there wasn't much information to be passed back to the British government. © Crown Copyright Images reproduced by courtesy of The National Archives, London, England.

The opening paragraph reads:

FOR PERSONAL INFORMATION ONLY

REBELLION IN DUBLIN

Sinn Feiners who had collected quietly in Dublin, possibly as Bank Holiday trippers, broke into rebellion about mid-day yesterday the 24th instant and seized the Post Office cutting most of the telegraph and telephone wires.

By 9.40 p.m. the rebels were in posession of the Municiple Buildings, Harcourt Street, and Westland Row Stations and had entrenched themselves in Stephen's Green. They are reported to have machine guns.

The rest of the report goes on to detail how the British troops responded and when and where the first fighting took place. The message closes out with a foreboding description of how the rebellion is spreading throughout the city and the number of rebels that may be involved.

Read the rest of the report

The next day, things would really begin to heat up, as plans were formed and British reinforcements arrived in the city. Check in again tomorrow to see what was happening.

Tuesday April 25th: British forces mobilize

On Tuesday morning, British forces reported the previous night's rebel activities and the current situation:

It is interesting to note the rising failed to spread to the general population. © Crown Copyright Images reproduced by courtesy of The National Archives, London, England.

Later on in the report, the British officer declares "it is not the intention to attack the rebel's main strength in Sackville Street until reinforcements arrive."

The reinforcements were on their way from elsewhere in Ireland and England. It's interesting to see that in this communication, Orders for O.C. Troops Disembarking From England at Queenstown, headquarters of the Irish Command advises caution on troops marching towards Dublin:

© Crown Copyright Images reproduced by courtesy of The National Archives, London, England.

As was already noted, most Irish did not participate in the Rising once violence broke out. This didn't necessarily mean they were loyal to the Crown, however. In fact, thanks in part to the way the British treated the general population during and after the Rising, many would eventually join the revolution.

Fighting on the 25th remained somewhat sporadic and disorganized - most British reinforcements were en route, and initial intelligence was still flowing in, leaving most of the situation still unclear. We can see this from a correction sent on April 26th, setting straight some of the events that happened on the 25th:

© Crown Copyright Images reproduced by courtesy of The National Archives, London, England.

The rebels at Stephen's Green, had killed an innocent civilian for disrupting their barricade the first day of the Rising, and would be hit hard by the British on Tuesday. Showing their inexperience, the rebels had dug trenches in the green to fortify it. Perhaps this would have been a good move a front of the Great War, but a deadly mistake in an urban setting. British soldiers crept onto the rooftops and opened fire on Tuesday morning, as seen in the report above.

Read the rest of General Friend's report for details on the day's skirmishes, how many casualties the Royal forces suffered, and estimates of Rebel activity and intentions.

Read the rest of this report

Wednesday April 26th: The shelling begins

The majority of the British reinforcements arrived on Wednesday, as one commander noted: "Adequate forces at disposal of Military Authorities to cope with the situation."

The day began with heavy artillery shelling of the headquarters of the rebels:

Many of the leaders of the Rising believed the British wouldn't use artillery on one of their own cities. They were wrong. © Crown Copyright Images reproduced by courtesy of The National Archives, London, England.

The British didn't make much of a direct assault on the areas with the strongest Sinn Fein presence. They were instead content to bomb the rebels, forgoing any major frontal attacks on this day.

Although the rebels had been cleared from Stephen's Green, action continued in the area:

The rebels would hold out in these buildings for several more days. © Crown Copyright Images reproduced by courtesy of The National Archives, London, England.

The 1st brigade of reinforcements from England advanced towards Dublin on this day but encountered heavy resistance. In one location, it took them nearly half the day to advance only a few hundred meters, suffering over 200 casualties to only 4 rebels killed.

Interestingly, a transcription of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic, read the previous day by Padraig Pearse can be found labeled as an "appendix" to the April 26th reports.

Explore the rest of the files

Thursday April 27th: More fighting, casualties

Some of the heaviest fighting of the conflict began on Thursday, as the remainder of the British forces arrived and frontal assaults began after heavy shelling of rebel positions the previous days.

This report from mid-afternoon on the 27th summarizes the state of the rebel positions:

© Crown Copyright Images reproduced by courtesy of The National Archives, London, England.

Reports also rolled in of the reinforcements who had to battle their way towards Dublin at Beggarsbush barracks the previous day:

The day's reports noted that despite the rebels holding out in some key locations, much of Dublin still functioned normally, although anyone in uniform was still in danger:

© Crown Copyright Images reproduced by courtesy of The National Archives, London, England.

After shelling the rebel positions near the Four Courts, the British made repeated attempts to take the area by direct assault. Here the rebels inflicted heavy casualties on the British in some of the most intense house-to-house fighting of the whole affair.

The British, frustrated at lack of progress and casualties, killed many unarmed civilians in this area as they became more desperate and less cautious about disloging the rebels.

Read the full day's reports

Read more: How to explore our Easter Rising history