Saturday, 2 August 2014

From Kiel to Kerry

2nd August 1914 "British ships seized at Kiel. German troops invade Luxembourg and enter Ciréy. Russian forces cross German frontier at Schwidden.  Romania declares neutrality". War Illustrated 'Our Diary of the War'

I idly wondered when reading this entry what the ships were seized at Kiel and found it was a liner called 'Castro' and a collier  The coal carrier was unnamed but when I went looking for the 'Castro' what a story I found. Built by Earls Shipbuilding in Hull (1911) it was the second of three ships named 'Castro' which would be owned by Wilson and Son (later to be taken over by the more famous Ellerman Lines).  On capture the Castro was used by the German Navy and renamed the Libau  in 1915 only to take on another identity in 1916 being disguised as the Norwegian steamer Aud. Loaded with weapons it set sail for the Kerry coast in Ireland and the Irish Republicans planning the Easter Rising in Dublin.  Despite wonderful attention to detail such as even having buttons on the crews uniforms imprinted with a Norwegian company name it failed to rendezvous with the U.19 which was carrying Sir Roger Casement returning from Germany (where he had been trying to form an Irish Brigade from Irish prisoners of war for the uprising against the British).  The 'Aud' failed to land the arms and in April 1916 was intercepted and ordered to Queenstown Harbour (now called Cobh) for examination. If it had landed they would have found  20,000 rifles, machine guns, giant "clockwork" bombs and one million rounds of ammunition but it was scuttled by its captain, Karl Spindler while under the Royal Navy escort of the ships Bluebell and Zinnia (its crew surrender when they were in the lifeboats).  A description of the Aud operation is found in an article about Karl Spindler here Casement eventually landed in a collapsible boat on Irish soil but was soon captured by the British.

The anchors of the Aud were recovered in 2012 from the seabed and it is anticipated that they will be displayed in the centenary commemoration of the 1916 Irish uprising.
A model of the Aud at the Cork Museum with a photo of it in the background of when it was sailing as the Castro (photo taken by Bjørn Christian Tørrissen on Wikimedia Commons)

'Aud' Anchor recovery (photo from Sea Hunter)

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