Xander Clayton’s Aud (a second edition of which is soon to be released) contains every conceivable detail about the ship, its journey and its crew. His talk was entitled ‘The Casement Ship’. The ship in which 20,000 rifles, 10 light machine guns, 1 million rounds of ammunition and 400kg of explosives were brought to the Kerry coast was the former SS Libau, a four hold ship which had been captured by the German Navy in August 1914 when it was sailing on a commercial voyage as the Castro. The Castro was disguised as the Aud, a Norwegian timber carrier supposedly on a trading run from Scandinavia to the Mediterranean, using the ship’s real papers. Contrary to the British claims at Casement’s trial, the weapons on board were neither obsolete nor inadequate, as recent dives have shown. Some were recent Lee Enfields and Mausers, several were machine guns, and there were three different types of weapon including American guns the British and, later, anti-treaty forces intended to use once they were raised from the sunken Aud. The ship’s great drawback was that it did not have the capacity to produce electricity and couldn’t have a wireless set on board, having been built before the start of World War I.
Casement had elected to travel ahead of the the arms shipment to warn the IRB that neither artillery nor German officers were forthcoming, and that the Rising was doomed as a result. A photo of Casement boarding the U-19 also shows Schweiger, who, as captain of the U-19, had given Raimund Weisbach, now the captain of the U-20, the order to fire the torpedo which would sink the Lusitania. Shortly before leaving, Casement tried and failed to contact Count Plunkeet at Berne to let him know that no German officers were going to Ireland. After the German vessels had left, John Devoy sent a message from the IRB that the landing must take place on the 23rd of April, rather than the 20th, as perviously arranged. The U-19 sailed into Tralee Bay, some eight hours after the Aud. Both German vessels waited to be guided to shore. Robert Monteith recorded Roger Casement’s depair at the absence of the expected signal. He knew that the mission had failed.
Donal O’Sullivan remarked that it was hard to follow such a presentation as Clayton’s; however, the Ballykissane tragedy forms part of the whole mystery of the failure of the German mission
. Dinny Daly, who was in charge of the party, had been instructed by Seán MacDermott to raid Atlantic College in Caherciveen for two wireless sets: one for Galway, and the other to transport to Ballyard, outside Tralee, to contact the Aud. According to their instructions, this would arrive in Fenit on 23 April. Con Collins, who was sent from Dublin to direct communications with the arms ship under Austin Stack’s guidance, was to meet them with an armed escort to bring them to Ballyard. The problem with that plan was that the Aud had no wireless on board.
Charlie Monaghan, Donal Sheehan, Con Keating, Dennis Daly, Thomas McInerney, and Colm O’Lochlainn travelled from Dublin. On arrival, they separated and drove in two cars. The car driven by McInerney contained Charlie Monaghan, a mechanic and a wireless installation expert, Donal Sheehan, who had worked at the British War Office and knew Admiralty codes, and Con Keating, a radio officer. McInerney did not know the way and was supposed to follow the first car, but a breakdown intervened. McInerney took a wrong turn and drove off Ballykissane Pier. He was the only survivor of the occupants of the car. The second car, driven by Sam Windrim, who had no knowledge of the operation, waited in vain at the rendezvous point before driving to Caherciveen. It was only when they drove past the Atlantic College with still no sign of the missing car that Dennis Daly decided to abort the mission. The party drove to Killarney where Daly and O’Lochlainn took a train back to Dublin. Thomas McInerney was imprisoned in Frongach internment camp in Wales and was released with other prisoners who had been detained without trial after the 1916 Rising in December 1916. He fought in the War of Independence and was killed in 1920 while testing a landmine.
Liam Mellows, writing anonymously in the Gaelic American in 1917, had good reason to lament the failure to land the arms, as the Galway brigade under his command mustered 1500 strong in spite of the confusion caused by the cancellation of the plans for Easter Sunday, but with only with 30 rifles and 70 shotguns at their disposal. According to Austin Stack, (Ryan, p. 81) the initial plan was to land in the West of Ireland in late 1915. It may have been abandoned due to British knowledge of the plan, which led to a high level of surveillance in early 1915 (O Broin p.27). The decision was made, and transmitted to Germany, to land the arms at Limerick, but this was short-lived. Kerry became the preferred option. There is no indication that the Military Council harboured any misgivings about the British naval blockade given that the RMS Lusitania and the SS Arabic had both been sunk near Kinsale, a relatively short distance away from the proposed landing point of Fenit, on the 17th of May and 19th of August 1915. Roger Casement wrote from prison:
Emmeline, if only they had landed me at Carraroe, things might have gone differently! They were waiting for me at Carraroe – armed men who would have protected me and hidden me. But the Germans chose instead to land me on an open beach at Tralee. (Mitchell, p. 59)
Fenit seems to have been the Military Council’s choice, however: John Devoy’s recollected that Diarmuid Lynch consulted with I.R.B. men in Tralee, Dingle and Listowel in the late autumn of 1915 before reporting to Pearse in favour of Fenit. According to the account of Joseph Cotton, which Florence O’Donoghue was at pains to dismiss, Patrick Pearse met Austin Stack, commandant of the Kerry Brigade, and Cotton,acting vice-commandant of the Tralee battalion, in Dublin in autumn of 1915 to give orders for the reception of the Aud. They were given a broad outline of how the arms were to be distributed and told that – in contrast to the mass Volunteer and Fianna mobilisation in the case of the Howth and Kilcoole gun-running – they had to make arrangements for landing and distribution locally. Stack and Cotton pointed out the obvious dangers of the British blockade, and the possibility that the arms ship might not arrive to a strict timetable. They also asked if the landing could be staggered to obviate the risk of detection, but Pearse replied that the Germans would not agree to this, and that the plans had been made and would not be altered.
Stack discussed the matter again with Pearse on more than one occasion in 1916. Cotton established small Volunteer camps near Banna Strand and Fenit with the intention of having small parties encamped there during the crucial days of the landing. However, as part of the move against the Volunteers which saw Volunteer organisers Ernest Blythe and Liam Mellows deported to England, Cotton was served a notice by the British authorities forbidding him from returning to Cork or Kerry. He wished to return, but Seán MacDermott ordered him not to defy the ban. Cotton acknowledged that this made sense because of the close surveillance that was kept on him; but no-one continued the camps in Cotton’s absence. Murt (Mortimer) O’Leary, the pilot who was to meet and guide the Aud and the U-19, believed that the whole scheme broke down due to the Volunteer executive expecting the arms ship running to time like a train, and the fact that a lone ship must inevitably be commented on by those who had no idea of its function. “Ní foláir go raibh lámh Dé san obair – God must have intervened.”
Desmond Ryan’s summary of the plans for the country brigades is as follows
… the Cork, Clare, Tipperary and West-Limerick Volunteers were to seize railways and barracks in their immediate areas, disarm the police, surround Limerick and march to the relief of the city battalions. The plan assumed that the barracks would be taken without a hitch, the Limerick attack maintained, that the arms-train would pass without interference from police and military and, most important of all, that the arms would be landed safely from the Aud. (Ryan, p. 88)
Florence O’Donoghue’s account has the arms also being distributed by road, although how this was to be managed is not clear. It cannot be doubted that Dublin was the focus of the Military Council’s attention, and that, for them, the success of the Rising rested there. All the plans for the western part of the country, including the Aud landing, depended on a plan very conditional on a fragile chain of events, any one of which failing would ruin the whole plan, whereas the Dublin Rising was able to go ahead even after the countermanding order was issued. Even if the arms had been landed safely, the strength of the R.I.C., and their function as very efficient intelligence gatherers might have thrown an obstacle in the way of their distribution.
As Ryle Dwyer put it in The Irish Examiner in 2006, the failure of the Kerry landing was a particularly unfortunate case of Murphy’s Law. That the Rising went ahead in spite of this setback is not to be attributed to a failure of British intelligence, but to the resilience and insight of the IRB Military Council. Dublin Castle officials believed that Casement’s capture guaranteed the destruction of the rebellion, and were actively planning the arrest and internment all prominent Volunteer leaders (Macardle, p. 162). So far as the planned countrywide rebellion was concerned, the Rising was doomed; but, anticipating the destruction of the revolutionary movement, and with it all plans for future rebellion, the IRB Military Council focused on mobilising its Dublin leadership for rebellion with the revised military object of holding the city for three days. The Dublin Castle administration, complacent in the aftermath of the failure of the Kerry landing, was caught so unprepared that the Volunteers were able to hold on for almost a week.
The high level of secrecy involved, with only regional, IRB-affiliated, Volunteer leaders knowing of the plans for the Rising, though necessary, was one reason for the failure of the Aud landing. However, this in itself enabled the IRB Military Council to circumvent MacNeill’s cancellation order and confound the confidence of British intelligence. Casement’s interrogators at Scotland Yard refused his request to make a public appeal for the Rising to be called off. According to Eunan O’Halpin, the failure of the Director of Naval Intelligence to inform Dublin Castle of intercepts which detailed plans for the Rising meant that those best able to deal with such information were left in the dark. This misses the whole point, that in deciding how intelligence of national importance should be used and suppressed, “Blinker” Hall usurped the functions of government. It would not be the last time.
For military historian and former intelligence officer Florence O’Donoghue, the military objective of the 1916 Rising was subservient to a political one:
That objective was the declaration of national independence – the proclamation of an Irish Republic – in such terms and in such circumstances that, no matter how the rising ended, the event would take an authentic place in historic succession to earlier armed efforts to achieve freedom; that it was on a scale and of a duration which would ensure that it could not be dismissed either as unrepresentative or as a mere riot; and that it re-defined in modern terms the unchanging aspiration of the Irish people for sovereign control over their own destinies
That aspiration had to be set on the highest moral plane and expressed publicly in a definite form hence the Proclamation. If the rising failed to achieve this objective, it would fail completely. Military defeat was accepted as possible, perhaps even probable, but attainment of the supreme objective had to be ensured. (O’Donoghue, p. 3)
While he failed in his mission to stop the Rising, therefore, Casement may ultimately have succeeded in “his last and greatest crusade, the crusade nearest to his heart: to raise the “Irish question” from a mere political debate on to an international plane.” (Ryan, p. 12)
Xander Clayton, Aud, G.A.C., Plymouth, 2007
John de Courcy Ireland, The Sea and the Easter Rising, Maritime Institute of Ireland, Dublin, 1996
Diarmuid Lynch, The I.R.B. and the 1916 Insurrection, Mercier Press, Cork, 1957
Dorothy Macardle, The Irish Republic, Dublin, 1951
Angus Mitchell, ‘‘An Irish Putumayo”: Roger Casement’s humanitarian relief campaign in Connemara (1913-14), Irish Economic and Social History, 31, (2004)
Robert Monteith, Casement’s Last Adventure, Dublin, 1953
Leon Ó Broin, Dublin Castle and the 1916 Rising, Dublin, 1966
Desmond Ryan, The Rising: the Complete Story of Easter Week, Dublin, 1949
Karl Spindler, The Mystery of the Casement Ship (foreword by Florence O’Donoghue), Tralee, 1965