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Thread: Internment in Eire

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    Default Internment in Eire

    What was the policy of the Irish authorities regarding interned airmen? Were the majority of Commonwealth airmen interned in Eire routinely released to the U.K. after a brief internment that would satisfy Eire's status as a neutral power, or were some of them kept in Eire for the duration of the war? I must assume that members of the opposition also blundered into Eire on occasion; were they afforded similar treatment?

    My question is prompted from a trolling of RCAF casualty lists where I encountered a Canadian airman Sgt. Paul Osborne WEBSTER R/58435 reported interned in Eire in a December 1941 casualty list. He is on CWGC, now as P/O J/18280 killed 24 July 1942 while on 236 Sqn, commemorated Runnymede. He had a relatively brief Irish holiday.

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    Default Internment in Ireland 1939-1945

    Paul O Webster was interned in October 1941 when his Blenheim V5728 came down in the sea off Cork, Ireland. He was flying with 236 Sqn and of the crew that day, Sgt. Charles S Brady was similarly interned while Sgt. Douglas A Woodman died of his injuries and is buried in Ireland.

    The two airmen were interned in the Curragh Camp in the following days and remained there until Webster made good his escape on the 15th of April 1942. He was able to abscond due to a mix up with his parole forms.

    I'm going to risk a very quick interpretation of the 'policy' of the Irish Government, and I'm sure Messers Gleeson and Kearns who frequent this board can give a better one from the Irish point of view.

    The policy 'developed' over the 1939-1941 period as events presented themselves.

    If you refer to my site:
    www.skynet.ie/~dan/war/crashes.htm you will see in the crew lists those who were interned (Int) or not.

    Basically, the policy developed such that crews of aircraft flying 'operational' missions were to be interned. It was ai think never written down exactly what 'operational' meant but aircraft crashing or landing whilst on their way to patrols in the Atlantic, bombers lost returning from the continent or fighters chasing German aircraft and in some cases shooting at them certainly fell into this category. German aircraft were always on operational missions when in the region of Ireland hence the survivors of all German aircraft reaching and crashing/landing in Ireland were interned. One injured German airman was repatriated via the UK.

    The majority of Allied crews were interned during 1940 and 1941. More of the aircraft were on actual operational missions. During 1943-1945, aircraft crashing or landing in Ireland were more likely to be Ferrying or on training missions. In these years, crews were briefed to say they were on training missions etc so aid in their not being interned.

    With the american entry into the war, I think it is fair to say that the Irish Government did not wish to antagonise the American government so that no American, US Navy or US Army Air Forces crew was ever interned. That said, it is also fair to say that almost all those American aircraft were on ferry flights from the Atlantic and had become lost or short on feul. To the best of my knowedge, none of the USAAF aircraft were returning from bombing raids or patrol missions when they landed/crashed with survivors.

    During 1942 only one POlish airman was interned and in 1943, only the Allied crew of a Wellington bomber were interned.

    In october 1943, a group of 20 airmen were released, men whose missions should have been classed more properly as non operational, although this again is not perhaps strictly true. The balance of airmen who were not released in October 1943 and who had not managed to escape prior to this remained interned until June 1944 when they too were released. Three men were realeased between October 1943 and June 1944 for medical reasons.

    I hope I have not rambled to much. As I say above, others will have other interpretations of the 'policy'.

    Some sources, and I won't vouch for accuracy:
    Guests of the State by T Ryle Dwyer, brandon books, 1994 and a article of the same name buy the same author in the book, 'Ireland in World War Two', Merciere Press, 2004

    I created this small sheet to show the flow of Allied internees:
    http://www.skynet.ie/~dan/war/allied_interned.pdf

    In my main wedsite listing, where a man was interned, if he subsequently was killed in action or on active service the letters (DIS) appear after his name, Died in Service, is a catch all term I'm using for now.

    The name of the country in English is Ireland, Eire is the name of the country in the Irish language, similar to Germany/Deutschland. The 1937 constitution of Ireland changed the name from irish Free State to Ireland, with Eire being the name in the Irish language.

    I hope the above answers your questions on internment some what.

    Regards

    Dennis
    Dennis Burke
    - Dublin

    Foreign Aircrew and Aircraft Ireland 1939-1945
    www.ww2irishaviation.com

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    Thank you Dennis for the most informative reply. I had tried your website earlier today before posting my query but it would not load, giving a "404" error. I can access your site now.

    Cheers, Ken

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    Hallo Ken,

    That is a difficult question to answer easily, but Dennis has covered most of the salient points very well and of course he has an excellent website on the aircraft crashes and forced landings. I would like to add a little to what Dennis has written.

    The policy of Irish Neutrality was developed in the 1930s in response to events in Europe and the general drift towards war. However the Irish government's 'policy' towards belligerant airmen who landed here really only evolved during the war, in tandem with the crashes and forced landings. It was recognized at the very beginning of the war by the Irish government that aircrew who landed here would have to be interned for the duration of the war. Beyond that statement of intent, which was quickly communicated to the British, French and German governments on 12 September 1939, little if any detailed planning appears to have been done to meet that eventuality.

    As Dennis has mentioned it was a case of "all or nothing" regarding internment of German (all) and American Armed Forces personnel (none). It was dealing with the British (including Commonwealth and other Allied) airmen that caused the most difficulty. In spite of what is still often written neutral Ireland from the beginning covertly helped the British war effort. The stance of overt neutrality had still to be maintained but trying to reconcile these two positions with regard to the British airmen who landed here was a difficult process for all concerned. It was a situation that was 'managed' to use a contemporary term.

    As Dennis mentioned the policy developed to the point where those British airmen on operational missions should have been interned while those on ferrying & training flights should have been released. There were many exceptions in practice to this aspiration. For example of the first five (British) aircraft to arrive here from September 1939 to June 1940 two were definitely on operational missions, but all five crews and aircraft were allowed depart as quickly as possible. Three were flying-boats so their crews were classed as 'distressed mariners"! The sixth was a Hurricane which crash-landed in County Wexford after a combat and so the pilot had to be interned. There was no way of hiding that ! Also the first German aircraft had crashed here six weeks earlier and that crew had naturally been interned. It was only at this time that proper internment camps for the British and the Germans were built. From the beginning generous recreational facilities were provided for both sides. Such privileges were on occasion withdrawn after certain escape attempts.

    In both 1942 and 1943 only one crew was interned each year, and none afterwards. The aircraft were allowed depart if that was possible or they were recovered and taken to Northern Ireland if sufficiently intact. It should be noted that only 45 British and Allied airmen were ever interned here from 1940 to 1944, with a possible 46th for one night only ! The maximum number held at any one time was probably 34. About 506 British airmen arrived on our shores or landed within our territorial waters during the war. Of these approximately 185 were killed leaving approximately 276 who were released or rescued. Or put it this way a ratio of approximately 1:4:6 interned/killed/released. For comparison 56 Luftwaffe personnel, plus about 210 Kriegsmarine sailors were interned here, and they were only released in August 1945.

    One of the main factors in the evolution of the policy towards the airmen was the cordial relationship at various levels, such as certain government figures on both sides especially senior civil servants. Moreover the tireless work of Sir John Maffey, the British Representative in Ireland and the British Air Attache, Wing Commander Maurice Begg was instrumental in the improvement of relations and trust. Likewise the senior Irish Defence Forces officers built a level of trust and co-operation with their British, and later American, counterparts in Northern Ireland. All this meant the British could extract the most in positive terms for their side, not least in the release of their airmen and aircraft. There are many more aspects to this story, that would take a large book to explain ! The part concerning the airmen only forms a small but significent element to this.

    The Irish Defence Forces drew up procedures for dealing with aircraft and their crews who landed here, and as experience was gained they were revised several times.

    Ken, I am still learning after 21 years. However I hope this has been of some help.

    Regards,

    Martin Gleeson.

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    Martin,
    I've sent you a PM.
    Rgds
    Peter Davies
    Meteorology is a science; good meteorology is an art!
    We might not know - but we might know who does!

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    Many thanks for the information Martin, I have a much better understanding of the internment situation in Ireland now. My question was prompted in part because my brother in law and his crew were interned in Sweden for nine months in 1944, eventually released as a result of a "diplomatic" exchange where the Germans had one of their aircraft returned to them and the RAF crew (161 Squadron) were released.

    Cheers, Ken

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    Quote Originally Posted by Martin Gleeson View Post
    The Irish Defence Forces drew up procedures for dealing with aircraft and their crews who landed here, and as experience was gained they were revised several times.

    Ken, I am still learning after 21 years. However I hope this has been of some help.

    Regards,

    Martin Gleeson.
    My good friend Martin is as usual quite correct in that the question of interning was revised several times by the Irish government. No aircraft were interned. From the early 1942 period the government was anxious that an agreement would be devised for the release of all internees after a holding period for each crew/s on the grounds of cost. The stumbling block was the attitude of the Senior Service at Whitehall ie the Royal Navy who were anxious that perhaps there could be German internees ( Naval) with U Boat experience ( of which in fact there were none). It should be remembered that the Germans had no way of returning unless given safe passage ....which would never happen. The Sea Lords still insisted that the Allied internees had to stay.

    As Martin correctly states Sir John Maffey played a vital part as the diplomat in Dublin and to a very large extent played a key role in the co operation between the two countries.
    In one force landing incident of a Swordfish the Irish Army officer had almost to plead with a young Sub Lt not to destroy his onboard radar and that he was arranging for the pilot to make a phone call to the British air attache in Dublin who would explain the situation that he would not be interned and that his equipment would not be interfered with.

    I hope that Martin will not mind me saying that the Germans were not actually released in August 1945 but rather they were handed over to the British and taken to POW camps in Belgium where they were roughly treated until the Irish Government through the Red Cross intervened. A German pilot remarked to me how he and some of his fellow internees were embarassed in the POW camp because they looked so well and well fed as compared to the thousands of under nourished prisoners.

    Ireland was indeed neutral, but neutral in favour of the Allies!
    Tony K

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    Thank you Tony, Martin and Dennis,

    Your replies are the most informative posts on this subject that I have seen on this or any other forum.

    Cheers , Ken

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    Well thank you Ken for the glowing praise, now where did I leave that halo!
    Regards
    Tony K

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    The old links above have changed to

    http://www.ww2irishaviation.com/allied_interned.pdf
    And the website: www.ww2irishaviation.com
    Dennis Burke
    - Dublin

    Foreign Aircrew and Aircraft Ireland 1939-1945
    www.ww2irishaviation.com

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