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


owedtojoy

Well-known member
Joined
Feb 27, 2010
Messages
45,183
I think one could look further still. 1938 perhaps and the aircraft orders placed by both France and Britain in that year?

Following the Munich Crisis both France and the UK placed significant orders for American aircraft....approx 500 each. The British sent a mission(Group Capt Arthur Harris amongst others) to USA in that year to evaluate American types. They were not particularly impressed with what they saw, judging that the B17(“Flying Fortress”) and the PBY4 Catalina to be unsuitable but did recommend that orders should be placed for training and patrol aircraft. Orders were subsequently placed for 200 Lockheed Electras high speed passenger aircraft(to be converted into Hudson martime patrol aircraft) and several hundred Texan trainers. Far larger orders followed on in 1939, 1940 etc....

The French were far less fussy/far more desperate and they placed orders for Douglas DB7 Havocs, Martin 167 Marylands bombers and Curtis P36 Bell P39 and later Cutiss P40 fighters. The French instigated the establishment of the Allied Purchasing Commission in 1939 based in New York to coordinate Anglo French orders for American aircraft. One of the leading advocates of post war European unity, Jean Monet, was central in the establishment of this office. It’s interesting to note that these French aircraft were for the very latest American types and Roosevelt approved these orders inspite of serious objections by the American army.

Prefiguring his public Arsenal of Democracy statement Roosevelt privately assured Chamberlain in December 1938 that he would “have the industrial rescources of the American nation behind him in the event of war with the dictatorships”.
You could almost say America began to plan for a war when it started to expand the Army and Air Force around that time (it already had a Navy that could span the globe), and appointed George C. Marshall as Army Chief of Staff in 1939. Roosevelt jumped Marshall over about several Generals more senior to him, but he was already Acting Chief of Staff, and his organising genius was recognised.

The speed that the US went from having the 17th largest army (I think) in the world to one of the largest, probably the most mechanised and best supplied, was nothing short of stunning. It says something about the character of the nation, and it did shorten the war.
 

Nebuchadnezzar

Well-known member
Joined
Mar 15, 2011
Messages
10,756
Portuguese neutrality during WW2......

Interesting to note that the Portuguese maintained neutrality whilst also allowing the Allies(after a certain amount of arm twisting)to establish air bases in the Azores in mid 1943.

The British equipped the Portuguese military with significantly more aircraft than they supplied to us in the earlier years of the war....15 Gloster Gladiators and 12 Curtiss P36 Mohawks. According to wiki those Gladiator were used by the Portuguese in the Azores to provide air cover for allied convoys but I cannot find any other references to that anywhere else. Sounds a bit odd.
 
Last edited:

Nebuchadnezzar

Well-known member
Joined
Mar 15, 2011
Messages
10,756
There is a pervasive myth that Irish neutrality 1939-1945 was scrupulously even-handed and principled.

That was not true. One historian (Joe Lee) described De Valera's policy as "anglophile", adding that Dev did not have to endure from the Allies the same bullying endured by the Spanish, Swedes and Swiss from Hitler.

Ronan Fanning in Independent Ireland takes from British Cabinet records a list of the way Ireland helped the Allied cause - a list that surprised even its most anti-Irish members.

Below, They = The Irish (my own comments are in [])

  1. They agreed to the use of Lough Foyle for naval and air purposes.
  2. They agreed to an air corridor for aircraft taking off from Lough Erne.
  3. They agreed to the transmission of information regarding submarine activity.
  4. They broadcast reports by their Air Observer Corps of aircraft sighted over Southern Ireland.
  5. They arranged for the extinction of trade and business lighting in coastal towns [so as to confuse German aircraft].
  6. They continued to supply meteorological reports [one of which was vital for D-Day]
  7. They agreed to the use of two radio-direction-finding stations at Malin Head.
  8. They arranged for staff talks on the question of co-operation in the event of a possible German invasion of Southern Ireland.
  9. They interned all German fighting personnel reaching Southern Ireland. On the other hand, Allied personnel are returned.
  10. They have agreed to return German prisoners-of-war who escape from Northern Ireland to Southern Ireland.
  11. They continue to exchange security information.
  12. They agreed to establish a radar station in Southern Ireland.
De Valera, by means of the strictest censorship ever in the history of the state, kept these facts from the Irish public, who were led to believe that our neutrality was a reality.

Eunan O'Hailpin in Defending Ireland puts it differently. He says the British and Americans "extracted a considerable price for tolerating Irish neutrality, which was large paid in secret". But it was a price Dev was more than willing to pay so as to display a faux "even handedness" to his pro-German Republican adversaries. He feared these internal enemies more than he feared the Allies.

So, was 1939-1945 Irish neutrality a "sham"? It was certainly more pragmatic than principled, but where you set the bar between sham and sincerity probably depends initially on your own bias and political affiliation.
Another one for your list? Irish intelligence and code breaking cooperation with the British. Just started a separate thread.

Richard Hayes...Ireland’s code breaker and unsung hero.
 

Nebuchadnezzar

Well-known member
Joined
Mar 15, 2011
Messages
10,756
There is a pervasive myth that Irish neutrality 1939-1945 was scrupulously even-handed and principled.

That was not true. One historian (Joe Lee) described De Valera's policy as "anglophile", adding that Dev did not have to endure from the Allies the same bullying endured by the Spanish, Swedes and Swiss from Hitler.

Ronan Fanning in Independent Ireland takes from British Cabinet records a list of the way Ireland helped the Allied cause - a list that surprised even its most anti-Irish members.

Below, They = The Irish (my own comments are in [])

  1. They agreed to the use of Lough Foyle for naval and air purposes.
  2. They agreed to an air corridor for aircraft taking off from Lough Erne.
  3. They agreed to the transmission of information regarding submarine activity.
  4. They broadcast reports by their Air Observer Corps of aircraft sighted over Southern Ireland.
  5. They arranged for the extinction of trade and business lighting in coastal towns [so as to confuse German aircraft].
  6. They continued to supply meteorological reports [one of which was vital for D-Day]
  7. They agreed to the use of two radio-direction-finding stations at Malin Head.
  8. They arranged for staff talks on the question of co-operation in the event of a possible German invasion of Southern Ireland.
  9. They interned all German fighting personnel reaching Southern Ireland. On the other hand, Allied personnel are returned.
  10. They have agreed to return German prisoners-of-war who escape from Northern Ireland to Southern Ireland.
  11. They continue to exchange security information.
  12. They agreed to establish a radar station in Southern Ireland.
De Valera, by means of the strictest censorship ever in the history of the state, kept these facts from the Irish public, who were led to believe that our neutrality was a reality.

Eunan O'Hailpin in Defending Ireland puts it differently. He says the British and Americans "extracted a considerable price for tolerating Irish neutrality, which was large paid in secret". But it was a price Dev was more than willing to pay so as to display a faux "even handedness" to his pro-German Republican adversaries. He feared these internal enemies more than he feared the Allies.

So, was 1939-1945 Irish neutrality a "sham"? It was certainly more pragmatic than principled, but where you set the bar between sham and sincerity probably depends initially on your own bias and political affiliation.
I came across this thesis submission a few weeks ago....MILITARY AVIATION IN IRELAND 1921- 1945, Michael O’Malley.....it’s an excellent work....full of detail, lots references and IMO gives a very accurate and vivid description of the early history of the Air Corps up to 1945.....eg the nearest thing the Air Corps had to a suitable meteorology service until well into the 1950s was that provided by the keen amateur, Father Bill O’Riordan, the Air Corps Chaplain.

Some particular points in relation to this thread that I think haven’t been made so far.

1. Rineanna ......Maritime patrol at British Request?
The hurried posting of a detachment to Rineanna on 30th August 1939 to carry out maritime patrol along the western and southern coast. Initially patrols were carried out twice a day but this was reduced to once a day due to lack of serviceability and manpower and even then the operation still struggled to achieve this. This operation was poorly equipped and it’s support services and facilities at Rineanna were extremely basic. Three aircraft were destroyed within its first year of operation(no lives lost).

“It is not easy to understand how the Chief of Staff could stand over the initial ill-judged decision except to the extent that it was almost certainly directed by government, without estimate or evaluation of any description, but for good political reasons.”

The author surmises that this operation was at British behest. He bases this on the fact that there was no prior planning for this deployment....it’s conception seems to have come completely out of the blue. When you read the detail on the deployment and the major difficulties in fulfilling the mission I think the author’s contention is probably correct.

2. Allied Aircraft Recovery...
In addition to the return of allied aircrew(although some were interned for short periods of time) there is also the not inconsiderable number of aircraft that were returned to the allies. Many of these were simply refuelled and in somecases after minor repairs by the Air Corps were sent on their way.

“Subsequently at least twenty-nine British and eighteen US aircraft were facilitated in a similar manner. Col. W.J. Keane suggests that the Air Corps rendered assistance in about thirty-one of those cases and that a total of 7,900 gallons of fuel was supplied.”

In addition to these 47 aircraft which flew back to allied territory after Irish assistance a further 27 damaged aircraft were transported to the border on Air Corps trailers or in the cases of larger aircraft on British low loaders which were allowed to enter our state.

http://mural.maynoothuniversity.ie/5262/1/Michael_O_Malley_20140722095807.pdf

This above link is a goldmine of info about the Air Corps in its earlier years.
 
Last edited:

kerdasi amaq

Well-known member
Joined
Aug 24, 2009
Messages
4,694
We were neutral enough for the Germans.
 

raetsel

Well-known member
Joined
Jun 5, 2017
Messages
6,719
I don't know if it's been referenced on the discussion at this point as I haven't read all the responses but there's a fascinating book called "That Neutral Isle" by Clair Wills which gives an interesting perspective on the period. Wills, the daughter of an English father and an Irish Catholic mother is in probably a better position to make neutral judgements on the behaviour of both sides, than most of the rest of us.
 

owedtojoy

Well-known member
Joined
Feb 27, 2010
Messages
45,183
I also came across an interesting piece of writing ... an account (not published) of the USN aircraft "Damnyankee" that ditched off North Mayo in September 1944.

The plane (a Liberator bomber converted to anti-submarine use) was flying from Labrador to Iceland, before intended to fly on to Scotland and Devon to start its antisubmarine mission. However, defective equipment seems to have made it wander off course, and the crew lost contact with the Iceland radio beacon. A distress call got a response from Northern Ireland, and they headed for Ireland but ran out of fuel and ditched in rough seas.

Four of crew drowned, the pilot and commander (Lt James Trudeau) and five of the crew escaped in a life raft. They drifted south east and eventually ended up in the vicinity of Slyne Head lighthouse. Efforts to row to land were frustrated by the heavy winds blowing from the shore, but after 33 hours at sea they came ashore near about two miles from Ballyconneely, in the vicinity of Bunowen Bay. One of the crew had died, but Trudeau and another man (Gunner Joseph Vigeant) had enough strength to make their way to a cottage, where the owner gave them brown bread and whisky. The local Observation Post was alerted, and searchers soon found the raft and its exhausted crew.

The men were brought by ambulance to Clifden Hospital, under the care of the local doctor. The first of them to reach the North of Ireland was the dead man, whose body was passed to the authorities at Belleek, Co Fermanagh within a matter of days.

But the surprising thing is that there was never was any question but that Trudeau and his surviving crew would follow as soon as they were healthy enough. Internment just did not arise. A Irish Army officer turned up, and wanted to move them straightaway, but deferred to the local doctor, who said they were not well enough to travel.

Eventually, the Americans were whisked quietly over the border at Belleek, later in the month. No reports reached the Irish newspapers, and the life raft disappeared. When Vigeant visited Ireland in 1985, he had difficulty finding evidence any Americans had even been in Clifden in September 1944. After he left, a local woman turned up some photographs that showed it had really happened.

The story illustrates Irish attitudes to the Aliies in late 1944. The Americans were so well treated in the Saorstat that they felt totally cold-shouldered in Northern Ireland and Britain. They were flown back to the US, survived the war, and lived happy, productive lives.
 
Last edited:

owedtojoy

Well-known member
Joined
Feb 27, 2010
Messages
45,183
I also came across an interesting piece of writing ... an account (not published) of the USN aircraft "Damnyankee" that ditched off North Mayo in September 1944.

The plane (a Liberator bomber converted to anti-submarine use) was flying from Labrador to Iceland, before intended to fly on to Scotland and Devon to start its antisubmarine mission. However, defective equipment seems to have made it wander off course, and the crew lost contact with the Iceland radio beacon. A distress call got a response from Northern Ireland, and they headed for Ireland but ran out of fuel and ditched in rough seas.

Four of crew drowned, the pilot and commander (Lt James Trudeau) and five of the crew escaped in a life raft. They drifted south east and eventually ended up in the vicinity of Slyne Head lighthouse. Efforts to row to land were frustrated by the heavy winds blowing from the shore, but after 33 hours at sea they came ashore near about two miles from Ballyconneely, in the vicinity of Bunowen Bay. One of the crew had died, but Trudeau and another man (Gunner Joseph Vigeant) had enough strength to make their way to a cottage, where the owner gave them brown bread and whisky. The local Observation Post was alerted, and searchers soon found the raft and its exhausted crew.

The men were brought by ambulance to Clifden Hospital, under the care of the local doctor. The first of them to reach the North of Ireland was the dead man, whose body was passed to the authorities at Belleek, Co Fermanagh within a matter of days.

But the surprising thing is that there was never was any question but that Trudeau and his surviving crew would follow as soon as they were healthy enough. Internment just did not arise. A Irish Army officer turned up, and wanted to move them straightaway, but deferred to the local doctor, who said they were not well enough to travel.

Eventually, the Americans were whisked quietly over the border at Belleek, later in the month. No reports reached the Irish newspapers, and the life raft disappeared. When Vigeant visited Ireland in 1985, he had difficulty finding evidence any Americans had even been in Clifden in September 1944. After he left, a local woman turned up some photographs that showed it had really happened.

The story illustrates Irish attitudes to the Aliies in late 1944. The Americans felt so well treated in the Saorstat that they felt totally cold-shouldered in Northern Ireland and Britain. They were flown back to the US, survived the war, and lived happy, productive lives.
As an addendum, not all bodies of Allied servicemen were returned - Ballyconneely Cemetry (by coincidence, not far from from where the raft came ashore) contains the body of a serviceman in the Royal Canadian Air Force that was washed ashore during the war. There are others along the west coast of Ireland, well cared for by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
 
Last edited:

Malcolm Redfellow

Well-known member
Joined
Sep 29, 2009
Messages
3,958
Website
redfellow.blogspot.com
Twitter
mredfellow
The earliest list (that I can find) of Irish 'winking' at strict neutrality is Maffey's report to the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, dated 26 October 1939 — see National Records Office, Cabinet Papers WP97 (39), CAB66/2/47. That came at the moment Churchill (still at the Admiralty, remember) was frothing about Berehaven.

Maffey identified seven 'consolation prizes' that might assuage Churchill, the last read:
Exclusion from instructions to coastal organisations of any mention of aircraft. Today our aircraft are flying over the headlands of Éire, and even inland, and nothing is being said.
 

Nebuchadnezzar

Well-known member
Joined
Mar 15, 2011
Messages
10,756
I also came across an interesting piece of writing ... an account (not published) of the USN aircraft "Damnyankee" that ditched off North Mayo in September 1944.

The plane (a Liberator bomber converted to anti-submarine use) was flying from Labrador to Iceland, before intended to fly on to Scotland and Devon to start its antisubmarine mission. However, defective equipment seems to have made it wander off course, and the crew lost contact with the Iceland radio beacon. A distress call got a response from Northern Ireland, and they headed for Ireland but ran out of fuel and ditched in rough seas.

Four of crew drowned, the pilot and commander (Lt James Trudeau) and five of the crew escaped in a life raft. They drifted south east and eventually ended up in the vicinity of Slyne Head lighthouse. Efforts to row to land were frustrated by the heavy winds blowing from the shore, but after 33 hours at sea they came ashore near about two miles from Ballyconneely, in the vicinity of Bunowen Bay. One of the crew had died, but Trudeau and another man (Gunner Joseph Vigeant) had enough strength to make their way to a cottage, where the owner gave them brown bread and whisky. The local Observation Post was alerted, and searchers soon found the raft and its exhausted crew.

The men were brought by ambulance to Clifden Hospital, under the care of the local doctor. The first of them to reach the North of Ireland was the dead man, whose body was passed to the authorities at Belleek, Co Fermanagh within a matter of days.

But the surprising thing is that there was never was any question but that Trudeau and his surviving crew would follow as soon as they were healthy enough. Internment just did not arise. A Irish Army officer turned up, and wanted to move them straightaway, but deferred to the local doctor, who said they were not well enough to travel.

Eventually, the Americans were whisked quietly over the border at Belleek, later in the month. No reports reached the Irish newspapers, and the life raft disappeared. When Vigeant visited Ireland in 1985, he had difficulty finding evidence any Americans had even been in Clifden in September 1944. After he left, a local woman turned up some photographs that showed it had really happened.

The story illustrates Irish attitudes to the Aliies in late 1944. The Americans were so well treated in the Saorstat that they felt totally cold-shouldered in Northern Ireland and Britain. They were flown back to the US, survived the war, and lived happy, productive lives.

Some allied flight crew (perhaps only British?) were interned during the earlier war years. Seemingly the official policy was that flightcrew engaged in training or search and rescue operations were not conducting ‘war’ flights and so could be repatriated. It seems that allied pilots were ‘encouraged’ by the Irish authorities to state that they were conducting ‘peaceful’ flights. However, in some cases it was judged that this was beyond the bounds of credibility and so these pilots were detained for at least a short period of time.

During the period a total of 537 Allied aircrew survived crashes and forced landings in our territory. The vast majority of these were not detained however 45 RAF crew were interned and according to Michael O’Malley 11 of these escaped.

“One pilot who could not make a claim to being on a training flight made a force-landing near Athboy (Meath) on 21 August 1941. His Hawker Hurricane II had long range fuel tanks (and twenty gallons of fuel) and no less than ten Browning machine guns with about 900 rounds of ammunition remaining.125 On the following day the Irish Press carried a brief report under the headline ‘British plane down in Co. Meath’.”

(I think the above is wrong in saying it had 10 machine guns.....most early Hurricanes were armed with 8x303s, some were armed with 12x303s, and later versions had 4x20mm canon.)

Ref Military Aviation 1922-45, Michael O’Malley.
 

Sweet Darling

Well-known member
Joined
Jan 2, 2017
Messages
4,153
Some allied flight crew (perhaps only British?) were interned during the earlier war years. Seemingly the official policy was that flightcrew engaged in training or search and rescue operations were not conducting ‘war’ flights and so could be repatriated. It seems that allied pilots were ‘encouraged’ by the Irish authorities to state that they were conducting ‘peaceful’ flights. However, in some cases it was judged that this was beyond the bounds of credibility and so these pilots were detained for at least a short period of time.

During the period a total of 537 Allied aircrew survived crashes and forced landings in our territory. The vast majority of these were not detained however 45 RAF crew were interned and according to Michael O’Malley 11 of these escaped.

“One pilot who could not make a claim to being on a training flight made a force-landing near Athboy (Meath) on 21 August 1941. His Hawker Hurricane II had long range fuel tanks (and twenty gallons of fuel) and no less than ten Browning machine guns with about 900 rounds of ammunition remaining.125 On the following day the Irish Press carried a brief report under the headline ‘British plane down in Co. Meath’.”

(I think the above is wrong in saying it had 10 machine guns.....most early Hurricanes were armed with 8x303s, some were armed with 12x303s, and later versions had 4x20mm canon.)

Ref Military Aviation 1922-45, Michael O’Malley.
Rule was. If you landed armed, You were interned. So allied crews who were capable of the safe forced landing dumped the weapons before landing. Canadians for some reason were inclined to land with weapons still on board.
 

owedtojoy

Well-known member
Joined
Feb 27, 2010
Messages
45,183
An article by T Ryle Dwyer on internment of Allied and German airmen. The title is a bit misleading.

German airmen were guests in Ireland not prisoners

Both were allowed a fairly open regime with weekend paroles etc, but after 1943 many of the Allied servicemen were moved to Gormanstown and quietly released. By that time, the Irish Government had clearly seen the writing on the wall.
 

Malcolm Redfellow

Well-known member
Joined
Sep 29, 2009
Messages
3,958
Website
redfellow.blogspot.com
Twitter
mredfellow
An article by T Ryle Dwyer on internment of Allied and German airmen. The title is a bit misleading.

German airmen were guests in Ireland not prisoners

Both were allowed a fairly open regime with weekend paroles etc, but after 1943 many of the Allied servicemen were moved to Gormanstown and quietly released. By that time, the Irish Government had clearly seen the writing on the wall.
I was once assured, by one who claimed first-hand experience, that the Shelbourne Horseshoe bar was to be avoided at weekends. The number of Brit officers out of the K-Lines had the place stuffed — and, of course, thanks to Irish banks being linked to the London clearing system, they had access to their funds. The same faces would somehow wangle leave for the Horse Show ...
 

cozzy121

Well-known member
Joined
May 26, 2009
Messages
4,976
As an addendum, not all bodies of Allied servicemen were returned - Ballyconneely Cemetry (by coincidence, not far from from where the raft came ashore) contains the body of a serviceman in the Royal Canadian Air Force that was washed ashore during the war. There are others along the west coast of Ireland, well cared for by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
Info about the above crash

http://www.ww2irishaviation.com/dd846.pdf
 

owedtojoy

Well-known member
Joined
Feb 27, 2010
Messages
45,183
The Canadian buried in Ballyconneely is the Pilot Officer Ivor Smithson, and I have not been able to discover how he came to be there. But I imagine the circumstances were the same that brought other Allied airmen, dead or alive, to the west coast of Ireland.
 

cozzy121

Well-known member
Joined
May 26, 2009
Messages
4,976
The Canadian buried in Ballyconneely is the Pilot Officer Ivor Smithson, and I have not been able to discover how he came to be there. But I imagine the circumstances were the same that brought other Allied airmen, dead or alive, to the west coast of Ireland.
I was on Clare Island a few years back and their is a grave in the abbey (Clare Island – The Abbey) which list the names of Canadian Air force members who died in a crash which I assume is the same one.
 
Last edited:

owedtojoy

Well-known member
Joined
Feb 27, 2010
Messages
45,183
I was on Clare Island a few years back and their is a grave in their abbey (Clare Island – The Abbey) which list the names of Canadian Air force members who died in a crash which I assume is the same one.
No, the P/O Smithson grave is in Ballyconneely, the old Cemetery, about 5 miles west of Clifden, not on Clare Island. I was born in Clifden, and the adjacent beach was a family favourite on summer Sundays. He is not listed among the crew of the Clare Island crashed plane.

I think there are almost 2 dozen such graves along the West Coast.

Cecil Woodham-Smith, in her book The Great Hunger about the Irish Famine, mentions those graves in her epilogue, suggesting these men were buried here and not returned as a direct result of the Famine.
 

cozzy121

Well-known member
Joined
May 26, 2009
Messages
4,976
No, the P/O Smithson grave is in Ballyconneely, the old Cemetery, about 5 miles west of Clifden, not on Clare Island. I was born in Clifden, and the adjacent beach was a family favourite on summer Sundays. He is not listed among the crew of the Clare Island crashed plane.

I think there are almost 2 dozen such graves along the West Coast.

Cecil Woodham-Smith, in her book The Great Hunger about the Irish Famine, mentions those graves in her epilogue, suggesting these men were buried here and not returned as a direct result of the Famine.
Then it must have been a different crash, I do recall there was mention of a Sunderland plane.
 

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?
The origin of Churchill’s reputed reference to the Condor as ‘the scourge of the Atlantic’? I think it comes from page 99 of The Grand Alliance, his 3rd book of his multi volume history of WW2.

“To the U-boat scourge was now added air attack far out in the oceans by long-range aircraft. Of these, the Focke-Wulf 200, known as the Condor, was the most formidable’.

Ref The Grand Alliance
 
Top