Failed Attempts at Subterfuge: The Irish Revolt and Germany

April 25th, 2016

German intelligence in 1912 began planning for eventual war with Great Britian by exploring what parts of the British Empire could be effectively subverted in time of war.  At the time German intelligence identified two main places where British Imperial power was not well regard: in the Muslim areas of the Indian subcontinent, and in Ireland.  Other areas of British control, such as Hindu India and relations with several commonwealth states were considered possible points of pressure, but were not felt to be as vulnerable to outright revolt as the first two groups.

Efforts at encouraging an Irish revolt surrounded supporting various factions of Catholic Irish Republicans.  The main problem with this support was that the Germans had no real connections to these groups and little political synergy.  Monarchist German intelligence officers had difficulty attracting the attention of Irish patriots, and Irish patriots often felt dealing with Germany would hurt rather than help their cause.  A further problem was that Germany at the time did not want to provoke Great Britian in case it could be seperated from France at the 11th hour.  No real headway could be made with an Irish underground until after war was either declared, or close enough that if the plot was discovered it would not ruin other German foriegn efforts.  

Although various intelligence groups in Germany were better suited to subvert Ireland, much of the contacts with the Irish revolutionary groups were handled directly by the German foriegn office, often by diplomats such as Zimmerman and Bernstorf.  German diplomats felt, probably correctly, that interfering in Ireland too openly could cause international problems outweighing the problems it would cause Great Britian.  Many collaborators such as Roger Castment would feel later that Germany was not actually interested in a successful revolt, but in diverting British attention and troops to Ireland with the threat of a revolt.  A British soldier stationed in Ireland for a revolt that never came was more useful than one who spent a few months clearing up a revolt that actually made it out of the planning stage.

Roger Castment came to the attention of the Germans when he publicaly supported the Howth gun-running incident, a public relations campaign aimed at bringing the Irish Republican movement popular support among the average Irish citizen.  Castment was a former diplomat who had resigned from the service and now spent his time advocated a wide range of causes, including Irish independence, and was aqcuanted with pre-war diplomatic circles.  Although not trusted by the more militant Irish, and lacking clear support for his mission, he began seeking to recruit an Irish Brigade from Irish prisoners in Germany in September 1914, and arranged for a shipment of Nagant rifles to be landed in Ireland by steamer.

The problem for German plans was that, from their view, the Irish were not the reliable partners they had hoped.  German orders - transmitted through contacts such as Castment, were usually ignored by Irish rebels and no coordination was found possible between German planners (who had arms and equipment to offer) and Irish resistance brigades.  Recruiting Irish soldiers for German service proved impossible: most were volunteers and few had any sympathy for their former enemies.  In addition, Bristish intelligence had penetrated German intelligence in many places.  Roger Castment's lover Adler Christensen had betrayed Castment in 1914, and much of the German communications with Castment were compromised when they were intercepted on international telegraphy cables and decoded.

In the end the Easter Uprising would occur with little German assistance as a true independence movement and fail for lack of weapons to face British combat troops, and the Irish "second front" Germany hoped for was not to arise.

East Uprising Starts in Ireland

April 24th, 2016

Royal Sovereign, second of the Revenge class battleships, commissioned

April 18th, 2016

Gabrielle Petit, Belgian spy against the Germans, executed

April 1st, 2016

Revenge, first of the Revenge-class battleships, commissioned

February 1st, 2016