1940 - 1944
In September 1939 the then Irish
Taoiseach, Eamon de Valera, announced that his government intended to keep
Ireland out of the Second World War, a declaration of Irish neutrality. Eire
(Rep. of Ireland) would be closed to all belligerent ships and aircraft of the
The first internees of the war were
six German Airmen who had crashed their plane at Mount Brandon, Co. Kerry on the
20 August 1940.
(Lieutenant) Kurt Mollenhauer - Commander.
(Sergeant Major) Ludwig Wochner - Navigator.
Robert Beumer - Pilot.
(Sergeant) Hans Bell.
(Corporal) Kurt Kyck.
- Eric Kruger.
On the 31 August 1940 four of the
Germans were conveyed to K-lines and two admitted to the Curragh General
Military Hospital for injuries received in the crash. They joined their comrades
12 days later.
Members of the Irish Local Defence
Forces (LDF) interchanged the guard duty of both No.1 and No.2 Internment Camps
on a regular basis. There was a tense relationship between the guards and the
IRA internees and initially this tension would effect the attitude of the Irish
soldiers towards the new internees of K-Lines.
For the first few weeks, security
at the camp was tight and the internees privileges were limited. The General
Officer Commanding Curragh Command, Colonel Thomas McNally considered the
internees to be prisoners-of-war and stated "These prisoners in my opinion
are the type who consider it a duty to effect escape at the first available
opportunity". This attitude was also adopted by Commandant James Guiney, OC
of both No.1 and No.2 Internment camps and thus would pass down the chain of
command. In September of 1940, the German minister to Ireland, Edouard Hempel,
visited K-Lines where he found the German internees to be uncomfortable with the
conditions of their imprisonment. Hempel requested that there be a relaxation of
the prison like procedures and during October 1940, the Irish Department of
External Affairs agreed to grant certain liberties and privileges to the German
internees. The German officers were paid £3 per week and the other ranks £2
per week as well as each to purchase civilian clothing.
These payments were billed to the German government.
The internees were allowed to attend religious services.
They were given garden tools to cultivate their own vegetables. They were
facilitated with a wireless radio for entertainment and keep in touch with the
affairs of the war. Internees could avail of a postal system, which was however
strictly censored. There was also a
limited parole system introduced for all ranks allowing them to leave the
compound, on their word of honor that they would return by the times laid down.
The next internee of K-Lines was a
British pilot, Flying Officer Paul Mayhew. He was forced to make an emergency
landing in his "Hurricane" fighter plane near Kilmuckridge, Co.
Wexford. on the 29 September 1940. He was on a mission from his Bristol Air base
to intercept German bombers approaching the south of England. After downing one
German bomber, he lost his bearings and running low on fuel, decided to land in
a field in what he thought to be southern Wales. He arrived at K-Lines on the 17
October 1940. Unlike the German internees, the British government insisted that
Mayhew received his full salary. He received all the privileges afforded to the
While on parole, the Curragh Camp
offered the most modern sports and recreation facilities in the country at the
time. These included a gymnasium, indoor swimming pool, tennis, squash and
handball courts and playing fields for all outdoor sports. The initial strict
parole system was relaxed gradually in order to avail of these facilities.
Parole consisted of a signed statement on paper declaring:
" I hereby promise to be back
in the compound at o'clock
and, during my absence, not to take part in any activity connected with the war
or prejudicial to the interests of the Irish state".
Parole was initially for a period of three hours each
afternoon but gradually extended to two nights a week to attend the three
cinemas in the Curragh. This soon expanded to cinemas in the neighboring towns
of Kilcullen, Newbridge and Kildare. While going to these towns the internees
had to ware civilian attire and they were forbidden to enter pubs or hotels,
talk to the locals or visit their homes. The Irish soldiers would also follow
the internee's movements mainly for their own protection. There would have been
a threat to the British from IRA elements and to the Germans from pro-British
Officers and NCOs were accommodated
two to a room. The enlisted men were housed in 20 X 120 foot wooden huts divided
into six rooms containing a bed, table, chair, electric light, chest of drawers,
wardrobe, mirror, curtains and a mat. The huts were heated by small coal burning
stoves. Two of these huts had abolitions attached containing two toilets, two
showers and three wash hand basins. Hot water was available from 0800 hrs until
2130 hrs. Meals were served three times daily. Breakfast consisted of bacon,
eggs, tea, and bread and butter. At 1300 hrs the main meal usually consisted of
roast beef, turnips and potatoes with creamed pudding as desert. Fish was served
on Fridays. Bread and butter,
The next group of German internees
arrived at K-lines on the 01 Dec 1940. Their Flying boat landed beside
Innishvicillaun, one of the Blasket Islands off the coast of Kerry on the 25 Nov
1940. The crew of the reconnaissance mission consisted of:
Unteroffizier (Sergeant) Hans
Unteroffizier (Sergeant) Wilhelm
Leutnant (Lieutenant) Konrad
Feldwebels (Sergeant Major) Erwin
Feldwebels (Sergeant Major) Ernest
On the 21 Dec 1940, five British
airmen were interned. Two of these
pilots were forced to land there Miles Master aircraft near Dundalk, Co. Louth,
thinking it was Northern Ireland. They were:
William A. Proctor from
Blairgowie, Perthshire, Scotland.
Aubrey R. Covington from Kingston on Thames.
pilots baled out of their Blenheim bomber over Co. Donegal.
Douglas V. Newport.
Sydney J. Hobbs.
Herbert W. Ricketts.
Belligerent aircraft would end
up on Irish soil for one of two reasons:
The allied pilots would land, mistaking Eire for Britain. This was quite
common considering that aircraft navigation systems then were very basic
compared to today’s standards.
Aircraft would either be damaged during battle or run low on fuel,
forcing the pilots to crash or emergency land. In the case of allied pilots they
sometimes could not make it to Britain or Northern Ireland. Luftwaffe pilots
would land in Eire in preference interment in Britain.
When a warplane was forced to land
in Eire, the crew would destroy all documents, maps and as much of the aircraft
as possible, before they were captured. Allied pilots, on realizing where they
had landed would attempt to travel to the North of Ireland, although not usually
with much success.
from K-Lines for German internees would prove undesirable, as France was the
nearest axis occupied country to Ireland and traveling there, especially via
England would prove very difficult. On the other hand, if British internees
succeeded in escaping they would only have to travel little over one hundred
miles in order to cross the boarder into Northern Ireland. However, the practice
of breaking parole in an attempted to return home was condoned by the respective
governments as it was seen as an abuse of privilege. Each internee had a duty to
affect his escape but this would have to be done legitimately in the form of a
break out from the camp. It was also the duty of the military guard in K-lines,
to the escape or rescue of the internees. The guards were armed with rifles but
ordered not to fire at internees who attempted escape. Even if an internee
successfully effected escape from the compound, the Curragh Camp and surrounding
towns were populated with off duty troops stationed in the Curragh. It was not
long before Irish authorities had a good intelligence network known as G2, to
counter escape attempts. Yet many pro British people were willing to aid the
allied internees and an organization known as the “Escape Club” was formed.
It was headed by Dr. Hugh Wilson who was a veteran of the First World War and
established by M19, British Military Intelligence. The “Escape Club” would
organize and aid many British internees to attempt escape during the war.
Conditions continued to improve in K-lines and in January 1941, it was authorised for parole to be extended to three hours a day for exercise and four hours each evening for recreation. The parole area consisted of the Curragh, and the three neighboring towns of Kildare, Newbridge and Killcullen. The British senior officers were allowed to telephone their diplomatic representative at any time. The ban on frequenting hotels in the local towns was lifted. Internees who were married were given extended parole from 1030 hrs to 2230 hrs to spend with their wives who traveled over to visit them. German internees took English lessons from local teachers every afternoon. Oberleutnant Kurt Mollenhauer incessantly fought with the Irish authorities for further concessions for his men. In May 1941, it was decided to extend parole to the neighboring town of Naas and internees were permitted to engage in horse riding. The restriction on visiting private homes was lifted and internees were permitted to attend local dances and functions. Tickets were obtained for the German and British officers to attend the Irish Derby at the Curragh racecourse that month.
This K-lines site is still under construction and any information or photos would be greatly received.