September 13

This Day in History

World War I

Sep 13, 1914:

Irish nationalist seeks German support

In Washington, D.C., on September 13, 1914, the former British diplomat Sir Roger Casement secretly meets with Franz von Papen, the German military attaché, to seek Germany’s support in the effort to win independence from British rule for Ireland.

Born in Dublin in 1864, Casement earned international acclaim for his work as a British consul in Mozambique, Angola, the Congo and Brazil. He was rewarded with a knighthood in 1911. That same year, he retired from diplomatic service, citing ill health. Returning to Dublin, Casement helped found the Irish National Volunteers in 1913 and his trip to the United States in the summer of 1914 was aimed at garnering support for the nascent organization.

In his meeting with Papen—who in 1932 would briefly serve as chancellor of Germany before becoming vice chancellor under Adolf Hitler the following year—Casement suggested that an Irish Brigade be formed to fight alongside the Germans against Britain and the other Allies in World War I. Casement continued his campaign for German support with a trip to Germany soon after; by the time he left, he had persuaded the German government to issue a declaration stating that "Should the fortunes of this great war, that was not of Germany’s seeking, ever bring in its course German troops to the shores of Ireland, they would land there, not as an army of invaders to pillage and destroy, but as the forces of a government that is inspired by good-will towards a country and a people for whom Germany desires only national prosperity and national freedom."

Casement failed to secure Germany’s direct support, however, in the form of sending troops to Ireland. He also failed to recruit any German military officers to assist in the planned Easter Rising, scheduled to take place on April 24, 1916. He consequently aimed to discourage his fellow organizers from going ahead with the uprising, on the grounds that they were not sufficiently prepared. On his return to Ireland from Berlin, however, Casement was arrested by the British and tried in London for treason. The Easter Rising went ahead without him, and was easily crushed by police and government forces. Casement was executed by hanging on August 3, 1916; his body was returned to Ireland years later, where he was given a state funeral and remembered as a hero of Irish nationalism.

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