Irish Neutrality 1939-45: How Much of It was a Sham?


louis bernard 11

Active member
Joined
May 27, 2018
Messages
206
After the war, Admiral Eberhard Gott told his British interrogators that German U Boats were able to surface, rest, and repair in Irish territorial waters, and up to the end of the war were receiving information about anti Uboats minefields.
The admiral was most probably making it up as he went along and telling his interrogators what he thought they wanted to hear.
 

Malcolm Redfellow

Well-known member
Joined
Sep 29, 2009
Messages
3,958
Website
redfellow.blogspot.com
Twitter
mredfellow
After the war, Admiral Eberhard Gott [rectē: Godt] told his British interrogators that German U Boats were able to surface, rest, and repair in Irish territorial waters, and up to the end of the war were receiving information about anti Uboats minefields.
I'm off my comfort zone here, but allow me a shot ...

As I understand, minelaying can be 'defensive' or 'offensive'.

With the former there's good reason for letting the location be known: a pragmatic 'Keep off the grass' sign. in any case, the defender doesn't want own goals to be scored.

With the latter, it's more opportunist, and would be more applicable to Allied operations along the coast of occupied Europe.

There is a two-part webpage about WW2 minelaying here and here, which — to me — seems detailed to a fault.

My only other thought: considering the number of mines deployed (apparently in the hundreds of thousands) and the 'hit'-rates achieved, there would seem to be of lot of time, materials and energy expended for not-very-much reward.
 

Nebuchadnezzar

Well-known member
Joined
Mar 15, 2011
Messages
10,756
The air corps had hawker hurricanes more than a match for the focke wulf condors that that the Germans were operating.

The air corps had a limited number of HH but chose not to engage with enemy aircraft.
.....and reading back again over Fisk’s In Time of War has several interesting paragraphs based on General Richard Mulcahy’s personal papers. At a meeting with Dev on 30/Jan/1941 he related how the Luftwaffe had recently started flying their Condor patrol aircraft from Brest along our west coast attacking British shipping along the way and then continuing on to Stavanger.

The manouverability of these bombers is not high.....Nests for fighters jumping off the west coast of Ireland could be very destructive, and could practically stop any great volume of this.
......I think it’s very obvious from those quotes that he had a significantly more significant fighter force than our 3 operational gladiators or 2 patched up hurricanes(which at that point were not to enter service with the Air Corps for another year). Nor does it sound like a policy of choosing to ignore their presence but rather it sounds to me that he was highlighting the fact of our inability to do anything about it.

Fisk goes on further that locals noted the daily overflight of these Condors....

At the deserted port of Berehaven, local people watched the big four engined Condors flying over them every morning enroute to the Atlantic convoy lanes, undisturbed by British fighters or anti aircraft fire.
So according to this we had German aircraft regularly flying overhead one of the Treaty Ports to take a shortcut and probably a navigational fix along their patrol route. Of course this was without any consent from us but it does somewhat counterbalance the Donegal Air Corridor benefit that was used by the RAF and Air Fleet Arm.

James Dillon raised this issue at a Fine Gael meeting in March 1941.....

The Anglo-American alliance is in danger of defence by the Brest Stavanger tactics but fighters from Ireland would break this patrol.
In Time of War, page 301/302
 

Oliver Cromwell McIvor

Well-known member
Joined
May 14, 2018
Messages
2,956
I think it’s very obvious from those quotes that he had a significantly more significant fighter force than our 3 operational gladiators or 2 patched up hurricanes.
Did I see one of those planes on display in Collins Barracks?
 

Nebuchadnezzar

Well-known member
Joined
Mar 15, 2011
Messages
10,756
....as against that there does seem to be at least a tacit understanding that British aircraft could enter our territorial airspace in hot pursuit of German aircraft.
 

sgtharper

Well-known member
Joined
Apr 20, 2008
Messages
10,997

Expose the lot of them

Well-known member
Joined
Jan 15, 2009
Messages
20,950
There's also a theory that Churchill's occasional public rants about Irish neutrality were designed to put the Axis powers off the scent, and make them less suspicious of potential Irish collusion with the Allies. This was particularly important given that the Irish diplomatic bag was regularly used by the British to get secret papers couriered throughout Europe (in particular via the Vatican).
First I have heard of that. Any verification?
In 1971, however, R Harris Smith asserted in his book, The O.S.S., that the Irish diplomatic corps smuggled espionage material out of Italy for the Americans in the Irish diplomatic pouch.

According to Smith, the “Vessel Project”— originated when the Vatican’s acting secretary of state, Monsignor Giovanni Montini (later Pope Paul VI), offered the Americans strategic information from a Vatican source in Japan. But there was no corroboration of this, or of the Irish co-operation.
https://www.irishexaminer.com/breakingnews/views/analysis/how-a-cork-medium-helped-to-create-black-propaganda-about-irelands-wwii-neutrality-861705.html
 

Malcolm Redfellow

Well-known member
Joined
Sep 29, 2009
Messages
3,958
Website
redfellow.blogspot.com
Twitter
mredfellow
.....and reading back again over Fisk’s In Time of War has several interesting paragraphs based on General Richard Mulcahy’s personal papers. At a meeting with Dev on 30/Jan/1941 he related how the Luftwaffe had recently started flying their Condor patrol aircraft from Brest along our west coast attacking British shipping along the way and then continuing on to Stavanger.[/I]
Fair enough.

But hold on! Am I allowed not to be wholly convinced, yet again, by Churchill's flight of oratory? The Fw200 Condor was 'the scourge of the Atlantic'? That phrase resonates through every on-line discussion and web-page. Can anyone pin it down? Give an exact citation? Is it, by any chance, merely a Churchillian afterthought?

The Fw200 was a converted airliner — a good one, by all accounts. It wasn't quite as successful as a warplane. It had maintenance problems. It could only achieve the desired military range by installing additional fuel tanks in the fuselage — which were especially vulnerable to tracer and incendiary ammunition, commonplace in British interceptor gunnery. Proof was as early as 20 July 1940, when Hauptmann Roman Steszyn and crew of 1./KG 40 were taken out by AA-guns near Hartlepool. Just four nights after, Hauptmann Volkmar Zenker of 2./KG 40 and crew, sent from Lüneburg via Brest to drop magnetic mines on Belfast Lough, had to ditch in the sea.

End of the Condors as mine-layers. The new career: spotting for the U-boats — and that is what Churchill could grieve over.

However, those regular patrols over West Cork ... more hmmm. The Condors of I./KG 40 operating out of Bordeaux-Mérignac (significantly well beyond any RAF fighter strike range) had a paper strength of nine aircraft, which was down to just seven three weeks later (one piled into the mountain at Cloghane, Co. Kerry). Rarely were more than three or four operational.

Yes, the Condors had successes, especially against unarmed small merchantmen; but one particular strike was the trooper, the Empress of Britain (26 October 1940) (though it was U-32 that had to finish the job).

It was a I./KG 40 crew that missed Liverpool and bombed Dublin as a worthy substitute (20-21 December 1940).

Any Condor threat was negated by improved armament of merchantmen, by the convoy system (particularly when CAM ships began to carry Hurricanes in June 1941 — nine launches, four Condors despatched), but finally by the deployment of convoy-carriers ('baby flat-tops').

If anything, the best use of long-range Condors was meteorological.

One further quibble: if the Condors were such a threat, why was the RAF tasked with pointless raids on U-boat pens of the Biscay coast, when the airfields were barely protected?
 

pinemartin

Well-known member
Joined
Jun 7, 2006
Messages
6,737
Don't understand that.

All air-traffic across the Atlantic is under the control of Shanwick, Reykjavik, Gander and Santa Maria Oceanic Control Areas. We are interested in Shanwick OCA.

Before 1966 this was shared and duplicated between Ballygireen and Birdlip, and reported through Prestwick. Now it's all through National Air Traffic Services at Prestwick. Nowadays any individual aircraft can be tracked with extreme GPS accuracy through its transponder — which is what makes flightradar24.com such fun (as I write, BA195 is at 34,000 ft over Connemara, en route to Houston).

However, we are not wholly under the British heel. In 2015 the Irish Aviation Authority and the Irish Defence Forces undertook to spend €10 million on radar to watch for aircraft with transponders not switched on. For obvious reasons, they are the interesting ones.

Elsewhere, there's https://www.uboat.net for the histories and fates of individual U-boats.
I was talking about the capacity of the army to see what is flying in our air space at any given time.

Ireland's army cannot see into its airspace by way of primary radar so if an aircraft is flying with its transponder off we dont see it.

We have giraffe systems used to give a location for approaching aircraft for rbs missile systems and we have flycatcher which is used for radar guided AA artillery. These systems only operate when they are deployed so most of they time they are sitting in barracks switched off. This is why I say we have no radar system.
 

Nebuchadnezzar

Well-known member
Joined
Mar 15, 2011
Messages
10,756
Fair enough.

But hold on! Am I allowed not to be wholly convinced, yet again, by Churchill's flight of oratory? The Fw200 Condor was 'the scourge of the Atlantic'? That phrase resonates through every on-line discussion and web-page. Can anyone pin it down? Give an exact citation? Is it, by any chance, merely a Churchillian afterthought?

The Fw200 was a converted airliner — a good one, by all accounts. It wasn't quite as successful as a warplane. It had maintenance problems. It could only achieve the desired military range by installing additional fuel tanks in the fuselage — which were especially vulnerable to tracer and incendiary ammunition, commonplace in British interceptor gunnery. Proof was as early as 20 July 1940, when Hauptmann Roman Steszyn and crew of 1./KG 40 were taken out by AA-guns near Hartlepool. Just four nights after, Hauptmann Volkmar Zenker of 2./KG 40 and crew, sent from Lüneburg via Brest to drop magnetic mines on Belfast Lough, had to ditch in the sea.

End of the Condors as mine-layers. The new career: spotting for the U-boats — and that is what Churchill could grieve over.

However, those regular patrols over West Cork ... more hmmm. The Condors of I./KG 40 operating out of Bordeaux-Mérignac (significantly well beyond any RAF fighter strike range) had a paper strength of nine aircraft, which was down to just seven three weeks later (one piled into the mountain at Cloghane, Co. Kerry). Rarely were more than three or four operational.

Yes, the Condors had successes, especially against unarmed small merchantmen; but one particular strike was the trooper, the Empress of Britain (26 October 1940) (though it was U-32 that had to finish the job).

It was a I./KG 40 crew that missed Liverpool and bombed Dublin as a worthy substitute (20-21 December 1940).

Any Condor threat was negated by improved armament of merchantmen, by the convoy system (particularly when CAM ships began to carry Hurricanes in June 1941 — nine launches, four Condors despatched), but finally by the deployment of convoy-carriers ('baby flat-tops').

If anything, the best use of long-range Condors was meteorological.

One further quibble: if the Condors were such a threat, why was the RAF tasked with pointless raids on U-boat pens of the Biscay coast, when the airfields were barely protected?
1/KG40 was not the only unit operating Condors. There was also II/KG40(which sank Empress) and also III/KG40. By February 1941 the nominal strength of KG40 as a whole was 36 aircraft(operational numbers would have been significantly less but I expect it was was a lot more than 9.

Consider the allied shipping sunk by this particular unit....during August and Sept 1940 it had sunk 90,000 tons versus approx 550,000 tons by u boats....approx 20% ratio which should also be factored to take into account the assistance rendered to the U boats by this units position reporting of allied shipping(which was a very significant part of its mission). By February I/KG40 alone had sunk 363,000 tons. These were very significant numbers.

Also the Condor was not the only German type to operate along our SW coast. Looking at the crash records for the period from 1940 to 1942 Heikel 111 medium bombers, Blohm & Voss 138 flying boats and Junkers 88 medium bombers crashed in that area during that period. These other aircraft types and units also added further significant numbers to the allied shipping losses.

On your opening point about the quality of the Condor as an aircraft.....yes it was never intended for use as a combat aircraft. It was designed for range and purely for transport purposes. In that it was a fine aircraft...

Aerodynamically, the aircraft was outstanding, with no excrescences and a cantilever wing with an aspect ratio of 9.15(the ratio between span and chord) for high range efficiency.
.....however with the consequent emphasis on the minimisation of weight it was not a structurally robust aircraft and was vulnerable to damage and was also limited in its ability to undertake harsh manoeuvring.

Refs....

Warplanes of the Luftwaffe, Aerospace Publishing, 1994.

FW 200 Condor Units of WW2, Osprey Publishing, 2016.



PS Interesting mission account of a III/KG40 aircraft .....

Took off at 0205hrs, 17 July 1941 from Cognac on a combined weather and armed recon mission over the Atlantic. Shortly after 0800hrs whilst flying at 50’ above the sea, spotted a Convoy OB 346 sailing northwards off the west coast of Ireland. Noted that there were 36 freighters of up to 10,000 ton, 4 frigates, as well as a single Armstrong Whitworth Whitley patrolling overhead. The later immediately turned towards the Condor.

In the running battle that lasted 6 minutes the Condor was hit in one of its inner engines and its radio operator was fatally wounded. However return fire from the Condor hit the cockpit wounding 3 of its crew, starting a fire and also damaging an engine. The Whitley subsequently ditched but were rescued by an escort ship. The Condor landed wthout further incident at Brest at 1200 hrs. This particular Condor ditched later in the war in Norway in 1942. The wreck was recovered in 1999 and is now under restoration in the Technikmuseum in Berlin.
 

Catalpast

Well-known member
Joined
Nov 17, 2012
Messages
26,262
1/KG40 was not the only unit operating Condors. There was also II/KG40(which sank Empress) and also III/KG40. By February 1941 the nominal strength of KG40 as a whole was 36 aircraft(operational numbers would have been significantly less but I expect it was was a lot more than 9.

Consider the allied shipping sunk by this particular unit....during August and Sept 1940 it had sunk 90,000 tons versus approx 550,000 tons by u boats....approx 20% ratio which should also be factored to take into account the assistance rendered to the U boats by this units position reporting of allied shipping(which was a very significant part of its mission). By February I/KG40 alone had sunk 363,000 tons. These were very significant numbers.

Also the Condor was not the only German type to operate along our SW coast. Looking at the crash records for the period from 1940 to 1942 Heikel 111 medium bombers, Blohm & Voss 138 flying boats and Junkers 88 medium bombers crashed in that area during that period. These other aircraft types and units also added further significant numbers to the allied shipping losses.

On your opening point about the quality of the Condor as an aircraft.....yes it was never intended for use as a combat aircraft. It was designed for range and purely for transport purposes. In that it was a fine aircraft...



.....however with the consequent emphasis on the minimisation of weight it was not a structurally robust aircraft and was vulnerable to damage and was also limited in its ability to undertake harsh manoeuvring.

Refs....

Warplanes of the Luftwaffe, Aerospace Publishing, 1994.

FW 200 Condor Units of WW2, Osprey Publishing, 2016.



PS Interesting mission account of a III/KG40 aircraft .....

Took off at 0205hrs, 17 July 1941 from Cognac on a combined weather and armed recon mission over the Atlantic. Shortly after 0800hrs whilst flying at 50’ above the sea, spotted a Convoy OB 346 sailing northwards off the west coast of Ireland. Noted that there were 36 freighters of up to 10,000 ton, 4 frigates, as well as a single Armstrong Whitworth Whitley patrolling overhead. The later immediately turned towards the Condor.

In the running battle that lasted 6 minutes the Condor was hit in one of its inner engines and its radio operator was fatally wounded. However return fire from the Condor hit the cockpit wounding 3 of its crew, starting a fire and also damaging an engine. The Whitley subsequently ditched but were rescued by an escort ship. The Condor landed wthout further incident at Brest at 1200 hrs. This particular Condor ditched later in the war in Norway in 1942. The wreck was recovered in 1999 and is now under restoration in the Technikmuseum in Berlin.
Interesting 'Dog Fight' between a Condor & a Whitley!

Neither were designed for 1 on 1 aerial combat

+ the range must have been fairly close to have effect.
 

Nebuchadnezzar

Well-known member
Joined
Mar 15, 2011
Messages
10,756
Interesting 'Dog Fight' between a Condor & a Whitley!

Neither were designed for 1 on 1 aerial combat

+ the range must have been fairly close to have effect.
Illustration of that particular ‘dog fight’.



There were several instances of aerial battles of the Condors versus other large multiengined aircraft such as Lerwicks, Sunderlands and Liberators. I think there is even an case of a small Avro Anson having a go(unsuccessfully) against a Condor.
 

Malcolm Redfellow

Well-known member
Joined
Sep 29, 2009
Messages
3,958
Website
redfellow.blogspot.com
Twitter
mredfellow
1/KG40 was not the only unit operating Condors. There was also II/KG40(which sank Empress) and also III/KG40. By February 1941 the nominal strength of KG40 as a whole was 36 aircraft(operational numbers would have been significantly less but I expect it was was a lot more than 9.

[...]

Interesting mission account of a III/KG40 aircraft .....

Took off at 0205hrs, 17 July 1941 from Cognac on a combined weather and armed recon mission over the Atlantic. Shortly after 0800hrs whilst flying at 50’ above the sea, spotted a Convoy OB 346 sailing northwards off the west coast of Ireland. Noted that there were 36 freighters of up to 10,000 ton, 4 frigates, as well as a single Armstrong Whitworth Whitley patrolling overhead. The later immediately turned towards the Condor.

In the running battle that lasted 6 minutes the Condor was hit in one of its inner engines and its radio operator was fatally wounded. However return fire from the Condor hit the cockpit wounding 3 of its crew, starting a fire and also damaging an engine. The Whitley subsequently ditched but were rescued by an escort ship. The Condor landed wthout further incident at Brest at 1200 hrs. This particular Condor ditched later in the war in Norway in 1942. The wreck was recovered in 1999 and is now under restoration in the Technikmuseum in Berlin.
Good stuff, as always from that source.

Even so, I'd defend my earlier points:
  • The Churchill quotation feels iffy. I'm looking for an actual citation.
  • I'm not convinced Fw200 Condors passed over Berehaven on a regular daily bus-run.
This is what I have assumed:
Raeder came mooching up to Der Führer (6 January 1941) to OK co-operation between the Luftwaffe and his U-boats. Since Göring was very precious of his flyers, and the inter-service antipathies went as far as poisonous loathing, Raeder had made sure der dicke Hermann was away, slaughtering the wildlife at Carinhall, or whatever.

In February 1941, splenetic mutterings included, Göring's OKL designated Generalfeldmarschall Hugo Sperrle's Luftflotte 3 (who had commanded the Legion Condor in the Spanish Civil War) to operate Fliegerführer Atlantik. Doubtless Sperrie was fully engaged in doing so, from his well-upholstered eyrie at rue de Vaugirard 15, Paris 6e.

Far from the close and specific liaison Raeder wanted, he found Fliegerführer Atlantik tasked with any and all operations over the Atlantic, the Channel and the Irish Sea. The OC was Generalleutnant Martin Harlinghausen, who had learned the anti-shipping trade in the Spanish business, and was a real, active pilot. Harlinghausen knew what was needed, and what Raeder needed, but found himself cribbed, cabined and confined by Göring's bull-headedness. As a result Fliegerführer Atlantik was — fortunately — far less effective because it lacked aircraft, and Raeder lacked U-boats. Moreover, Harlinghausen was not allowed to focus exclusively on the Western Approaches and convoys, but had to divide his attention and limited resources (Fliegerführer Atlantik never exceeded 100 nominal aircraft of all types and conditions) by attempting to interdict the Straits of Gibraltar. Harlinghausen became assigned can-carrier for the sinking of the Bismarck (27 May 1941).

Nebuchadnezzar, of course, is absolutely correct that Fliegerführer Atlantik comprised three air-groups: I.KG 40, II.KG 40, and III.KG 40. Its initial complement had just eight Fw200 Condors. At full strength, by mid-summer 1941, there were 29 of the marque: even that did not guarantee more than two or three sorties a day — and a sortie into the wild Atlantic managed perhaps three hours on station. What with weather (and a lack of even basic radar until the end of 1942) this was very hit-and-miss. Again, from the merchant mariners' viewpoint, fortunately so.

As for the Condor/Whitley encounter, I recall reading some 'Boys Own Paper' stuff. 5 June 1942 had 75 minutes of fun-and-games when F/Lt Sam Wood's RAAF Sunderland, while depth-charging U-71, was 'jumped' by a Condor — both aircraft suffered significant damage, and the U-boat escaped. Oh, and later on, several excursions between Condors and Liberators.
 
Top