K-Lines

Internment

Camp
Luftwaffe Royal Canadian Air Force United States Air Force Royal Air Force

The Curragh
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 war. Between September 1940 and June 1941, the fiercest period of the Battle of Britain would be fought in the skies over the British Isles between the German “Luftwaffe” and the British “RAF” and other allied air forces.

  "K-Lines" (No.2 Internment camp) was built in 1939 in the East side of the Curragh Camp. The No.1 Internment camp was situated in the West side of the camp and members of the IRA were imprisoned there. The main function of the K-Lines was the internment any servicemen of either the axis or allied forces, who were captured on Irish soil during the Second World War. It would prevent their escape and thus prevent them returning to their respective countries and rejoining the war effort.

  In appearance, K-Lines was very similar to most concentration camps scattered in Europe at that time. It was modeled on the No.1 Internment camp which was built by the British forces during their occupation of Ireland. It consisted of a rectangular perimeter fence made of barbed wire, with large double gates at the outer entrance. There was then an internal barbed wire fence and between it and the perimeter fence, a grass corridor. An elevated gun post marked each of the four corners of the perimeter and was connected by the grass corridor, which was patrolled by the camp guards. The area inside was divided into two compounds by a corrugated iron fence topped with barbed wire. There was separate pedestrian gates to enter each compound. Inside these gates was a parole hut, which crossed the dividing fence and had a door and window in each compound. The entry and exit of the internees was controlled from this hut. One compound was occupied by the German forces, known as "G" camp and the other occupied by the allied forces, known as "B" camp (because the first allied internees were British). 

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.

Oberleutnant (Lieutenant) Kurt Mollenhauer - Commander.

Feldwebel (Sergeant Major) Ludwig Wochner - Navigator.

Stabsfeldwebel Robert Beumer - Pilot.

Unteroffizier (Sergeant) Hans Bell.

Gefreiter (Corporal) Kurt Kyck.

Meteorologist - 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 German internees.

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 locals.

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, Tea and jam were available in the evenings.

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 Biegel.

Unteroffizier (Sergeant) Wilhelm Krupp.

Leutnant (Lieutenant) Konrad Neymeyr.

Feldwebels (Sergeant Major) Erwin Sack.

Feldwebels (Sergeant Major) Ernest Kalkowski.

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.

 

Three pilots baled out of their Blenheim bomber over Co. Donegal.

Sergeant      Douglas V. Newport.

Sergeant      Sydney J. Hobbs.

Sergeant      Herbert W. Ricketts.  

 

Belligerent aircraft would end up on Irish soil for one of two reasons:

1.    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.

2.    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.

Escape 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.