By Shaun Ivory
Roger Casement was born in Dublin on September 1, 1864. He served for many years as a distinguished British Consul in Mozambique, Angola and the Congo Free State (he came to further prominence in the latter, forcing the King of Belgium by sheer diplomacy and bluff, to re-consider the appalling treatment of the Congolese people in 1908.) and later Brazil.
For his services to Britain he was awarded a knighthood in 1911, retiring from the diplomatic service through ill-health and settling once more in Dublin. Despite his proven loyalty to the Crown, however, he chose to take up the Republican cause, helping to establish the Irish National Volunteers in 1913.
He viewed the outbreak of war between Germany and the Allies in August 1914 as an opportunity to drum up support for the Republicans, calling them to arms.
He travelled to Limburg, Germany to recruit Irish prisoners of war there in prison camps, with the idea of obtaining their release so that they could return to Ireland and fight the British there as a brigade. But the small number who put themselves forward as being prepared to respond gave him little encouragement, all no doubt aware that should the rebellion fail they would be liable for the death penalty.
Nevertheless, he set about securing a shipment of arms for the volunteers in Ireland. In all of these German negotiations two allies assisted Casement: Sergeant Daniel Bailey (or Beverly) and Capt. Robert Monteith, of ‘A’ Company 1st Battalion of the Irish Brigade. Monteith was by far the most able, having served 16 years in the British Army, honourably and with great distinction in several campaigns and battles, from India, the Boer War, Cape Colony and the Orange Free State.
On being honourably discharged in 1911 he worked for several years as a civil servant at Dundalk, eventually marrying a widow with three children.
What turned him from a proud retired British soldier into a member of the Irish Citizens’ Army was witnessing several incidents of brutality and savagery meted out by Dublin Metropolitan Police and the Royal Irish Constabulary for no apparent reason.
So the brigade idea foundered but the shipment of rifles was still promised.
They would provide a German cargo vessel, formerly the Libau, now disguised as a Norwegian trader Aud and 20,000 Russian (Mosin-Nagant) 1891 rifles with ammunition…but no German officers or expertise. Casement protested that the provision should be for at least 100,000 rifles but the Germans baulked at this, saying the vessel would be unable to cope with even half that amount.
Before leaving Germany, Casement handed his personal papers to a good friend, Dr Charles Curry, staying with him at Riederau on the Ammsee, Zungerbecken Lake, Upper Bavaria.
He embarked for Ireland with Bailey and Monteith in the submarine SM U-20 a day after the Aud sailed but not before sending another recruit, Irish-American John McGoey, to travel quickly via Denmark to Dublin with orders to ‘get the Heads in Ireland to call off the Rising and merely try to land the arms and distribute them’.