'Irish' Agent files

'Irish' Agent files

This release includes a number of files on agents used by the Germans in an attempt to incite a rebellion in Ireland against the British during the Second World War, or who sought to use Ireland as a means of entry into the UK. The files generally show the level of co-operation between the relevant British and Irish authorities to gather intelligence during the Second World War.

Frank Ryan

(KV 2/1291-1292)

Frank Ryan was born in Limerick in 1902. A committed socialist and supporter of the IRA, he joined the International Brigade and fought on the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War. Captured and imprisoned by Franco's forces, he was the last British subject remaining in captivity in Spain after the war, and was released after German intervention. He travelled to Berlin, where he was involved in plans to supply arms to the IRA. Ryan himself went on one mission by submarine in August 1940, which was abandoned after the death in transit of the leader of the Irish party. Ryan returned to Germany and continued to work for the German intelligence services, even after the attack on Russia, and is reported to have died in Dresden of tuberculosis in June 1944.

KV 2/1291, a reconstituted file, covers 1929-1941. It includes copies of material produced by the International Brigade Association, who were campaigning for Ryan's release, and investigations to discover what became of Ryan after this release. By 1941 the Security Service was preparing for him to attempt to re-enter the UK from Portugal, and circulated a port watch alert with his photograph, which is included.

KV 2/1292, also reconstituted, contains correspondence attempting to track Ryan's activities up to his reported death, and includes statements from various witnesses, including a number of Double Cross agents who encountered him during their training and believed that he worked for the German intelligence services. This file includes photographs of Ryan.

Hermann Simon

(KV 2/1293)

Hermann Simon (b. 1881) had been drawn to Security Service notice in 1937 when he was caught making notes of British air defence dispositions, for which he was imprisoned and then deported. He reappeared in June 1940 having landed by small boat near Dingle in south-west Ireland. He aroused the suspicions of the Irish authorities during a train journey from Tralee to Dublin, and was arrested. Simon subsequently admitted to landing illegally, to hiding a transmitter on the beach where he landed, and to having been sent to Ireland to transmit weather reports to Germany. He was sentenced to three years' penal servitude - in Mountjoy prison, Dublin, and then in Athlone. After the war he remained in Ireland until January 1947, when he returned to Germany and was again imprisoned.

The file (covering 1937-1948) includes general correspondence about Simon's pre-war and wartime cases, including a source report on his pre-war activities, several police reports, copies of correspondence with the Irish authorities and a copy of Simon's statement. It also includes a photograph of Simon and a photostat copy of his 1933 German passport.

Werner Unland

(KV 2/1295)

This weeded file on Werner Unland (b 1892) covers 1939-1949, and begins when the Irish authorities alerted the Security Service to suspicious correspondence between Unland, who was based in Dublin, and the 'Dansk Import & Export Co' in Copenhagen. The letters were seemingly written in plain language code (there are copies on the file), and the Irish Department of Defence kept a close watch on Unland's activities, informing the Security Service of all developments. Unland was eventually detained in 1941. After the war, he was permitted to remain in Ireland because it was feared that he and his (English) wife would commit suicide rather than be deported to Germany. The file contains much correspondence between the Irish official Colonel Liam Archer of the Department of Defence and his opposites in London (chiefly Guy Liddell), a lengthy case summary and a photograph of Unland.

Otto Dietergaertner

(KV 2/1296)

All three agents are recorded on Dietergaertner's file, which includes considerable correspondence between Britain and Ireland and with the authorities in South West Africa and India about their past histories, copies of their interrogation reports and statements and photographs of Dietergaertner and Tributh. There is an interesting report on the reaction of all the German prisoners when they were told that they were being moved from Mountjoy to Athlone in May 1942 (which also notes that the Germans received monies passed to them by IRA prisoners). There is also a photograph of the sabotage equipment brought into Ireland, which includes a container for high explosives disguised as processed French peas. Dietergaertner was paroled in September 1946 and deported to Germany in April 1947.

Otto Dietergaertner (b. 1919) was one of three German agents (the others being an Indian, Henry Obed, and Dietergaertner's fellow South West African, Herbert Tributh who landed by small boat at Toe Head near Skibbereen in south-west Ireland in July 1940. They came ashore with high explosives and sabotage equipment, which they intended to infiltrate into the UK to attack unknown targets. However, having been spotted by local officials before they had even landed, the three were swiftly picked up and were arrested at Cork City on 7 July.

Günter Schütz

(KV 2/1297-1302)

Günter Schütz (b.1912) was a German agent whose cover was that of a commercial traveller in heavy chemicals, in which guise he first came to the attention of the Security Service in June 1938 when he entered the UK. A member of the public, Mr H Westbury Preston, reported that Schütz was a suspicious character, and initial investigations were made before he left for Belgium shortly before the outbreak of the war. Schütz soon emerged in Barcelona, where the German agent Walter Unland wrote to him in plain language code. It emerged that Schütz had asked a female Jewish friend to photograph plans for him before the war, and it became clear that he was a German agent (and he later admitted to espionage activity in Belgium before the war as well).

Schütz was parachuted into County Wexford, south east Ireland, in March 1941, using the alias Hans Marchner with false South African papers, and a plan to rendezvous with Unland. He was, however, quickly picked up by the Irish local defence forces, in possession of his wireless transmitter, and was interned in Mountjoy prison, Dublin. Schütz escaped in February 1942 and was at liberty in Dublin for 74 days before being recaptured, and eventually moved to Athlone barracks. After the war he was paroled to get married in May 1947, and soon thereafter was deported to Germany. It is believed that his mission was to report economic intelligence on conditions in Britain back to Germany.

KV 2/1297 (covering 1938-1941) chiefly concerns the following up of the initial leads on Schütz and in particular establishing that the Schütz in Barcelona whom Unland was writing to was the same man suspected by Westbury Preston. The file includes Westbury Preston's original letter, copies of the intercepted correspondence from Unland provided by Archer in Dublin and the interview report of Margot Fischmann, the female photographer who had assisted Schütz before the war. It also details the social circle in which Schütz moved in Britain, including the Harbottle family (Mabel Harbottle was for a time Ribbentrop's secretary, but most of this Anglo-German family was resident in Britain and served with the British forces).

KV 2/1298 is the file on the supposed Hans Marchner, and shows the process that was gone through to eventually establish that he and Schütz were one and the same. The file, which covers 1939-1941, includes several photographs of Schütz provided by various contacts in Britain (including one taken at Hindhead at Easter 1939 showing him with his imported Alvis motor car). Contact was re-established with Westbury Preston, who provided details of Schütz's pre-war girlfriend, Pamela Hall, and other contacts made by Schütz were thoroughly investigated and recorded on the file.

The investigations continue on KV 2/1299 (1941-1942) and this file includes several letters sent by Schütz (all still using the name of Marchner) from Mountjoy prison, which were tested for secret writing. Many of the letters are to his supposed fiancée in Hamburg, Lilo Heinze.

The investigation continues into KV 2/1300, which also covers Schütz's escape from Mountjoy in 1942. The file includes a supposed photo of Heinze, copies of Garda and Royal Ulster Constabulary wanted persons notices for Schütz, including photographs, and a Garda reward poster offering £500 for information leading to Schütz's arrest. After this poster was distributed, there are numerous reported sightings recorded on the file as well.

Schütz was re-arrested in April 1942 by chance, during a Garda raid on the house in Temple Gardens, Ranlegh, Dublin, of Mrs Cathal Bragha, with whom he was hiding. The object of the raid was Bragha's daughter, who was to be interned for membership of the IRA.

The details are recorded on KV 2/1301, which also contains reports into the method of escape used, and the identities of those who had assisted Schütz from inside Mountjoy (a warder Kearns and a trusty English prisoner, Rossbain. The file includes interrogation reports and statements of Rossbain (who had been released from Mountjoy before Schütz's escape and was by July 1942 back inside Lewes prison), which include his assessments of all the German internees who had been detained at Mountjoy. The file also includes the interrogation report of Schütz made after his recapture.

KV 2/1302 (1943-1950) completes the story. Schütz saw out the war at Mountjoy and subsequently Athlone barracks, from where he was paroled in May 1947 to get married, shortly before he was deported to Germany. The file includes photographs of Schütz and a photostat of his false passport in the name of Marchner. After his return to Germany, he was interrogated again by the US Army, and a copy of their report is also on the file.

Wilhelm Preetz

(KV 2/1303-1306)

Wilhelm Preetz (b.1906) had married an Irishwoman, Sarah Josephine Reynolds of Tuam, County Galway, in 1935. He first came to MI5's attention when he sent a letter to his father-in-law from Germany in March 1940. Investigations into his movements and activities were begun, while independently coded radio messages sent from Dublin by a German agent were intercepted and deciphered. Preetz was the agent, and the Security Service also knew of him through his cover identity, John Patrick Mitchell. It was only when Preetz was arrested by the Irish police in August 1940, following an independent lead to 'Mitchell' (through a discarded hotel bill Preetz had left behind when he returned to pick up his hidden radio transmitter), that the connections were made. Preetz had in fact landed by sea with a radio transmitter receiver at Minard, County Kerry in June 1940. He was interned as an illegal entrant in Mountjoy Prison (later Athlone barracks).

KV 2/1303 (1940-1941) contains the original correspondence about 'Mitchell' and Preetz, about Preetz's various contacts in Ireland (in particular Joseph Donohoe who knew Preetz from his pre-war visits to Tuam and was briefly arrested with Preetz, before being released and setting up shop in Dublin), and copies of the intercepted coded messages and their decryption. There is correspondence with Archer in Dublin about the best way of handling the case (the Security Service had not, initially, wanted the transmitter to be closed down in case this jeopardised their reading of the code), and detailed discussion of the code (including a circuit diagram of the transmitter/receiver, and a photograph of the equipment). The bulk of the rest of the file consists of intercepted correspondence with Preetz in Mountjoy prison.

There is more intercepted correspondence (including a picture postcard of the Essiinhaus, Lagenstraße, Bremen, sent by Josephine Preetz) in KV 2/1304 (1941-1942), but the main development in this file concerns Joseph Donohoe, who had moved to London and taken a job in a bar in The Strand. There is a vigorous debate on the file about the best way to handle Donohoe, given his known connections to Preetz. The file includes a further photograph of Preetz's wireless equipment. It also contains a picture postcard and a black and white photo-card of Hitler sent by Preetz to one Clare Kelly of York, whom he met while staying at a hotel there and which Kelly had passed to York City Police in 1940.

KV 2/1305 (1942-1944) contains more similar material but also a copy of the interrogation report of Donohoe, taken while he was in custody in Brixton Prison, and a photograph of Preetz taken from his false 'Mitchell' passport.

KV 2/1306 (1944-1947) contains further photographs of Preetz. He was suspected of keeping a secret encoded diary of events when a page of coded writing was discovered when he was sent for an x-ray, but it was assumed that he would have destroyed the other entries when this was discovered. Preetz was deported in April 1947 after American pressure that all the interned Germans in Ireland should be repatriated, and the file includes a copy of his American interrogation report.

Hermann Goertz

(KV 2/1319-1323)

Hermann Goertz (1890-1947) was convicted of espionage in 1936 after copies of plans of Manston Airfield were discovered in his belongings in a house he was renting in Broadstairs. Jailed for four years, he was deported to Germany upon his release on parole in February 1939. His accomplice in this action, Marianne Emig, remained under suspicion although she had returned to Germany before Goertz's arrest, as did a British airman with whom she had made acquaintance, Kenneth Lewis.

Goertz parachuted into Ireland in the early summer of 1940, and his presence became known following the arrest of Stephen Held, whose copy of 'Plan Kathleen' contained Goertz's handwriting. Goertz himself was arrested in Dublin in November 1941, along with a leading IRA man, Pearse Paul Kelly, who was visiting his hiding place at the time. Goertz was interned until after the end of the war, and after being paroled and informed that he was to be deported to Germany, committed suicide by taking poison at the Aliens Registration Office in Dublin in November 1947.

KV 2/1319 (which, like all the Goertz files, is heavily weeded) contains papers relating to Goertz, Emig and Lewis in 1935. These include the sketch plan of Manston made by Goertz, and the statement made by Goertz upon his arrest when he returned to Broadstairs to collect belongings he had left behind at the house he was renting. Lewis was encouraged to keep in contact with Emig, now in Germany, The file also includes copies of the letters he wrote asking for a photograph, and correspondence (including a picture postcard of the port at Hamburg) she sent to him.

KV 2/1320 (1935-1936) contains cuttings and correspondence relating to Goertz's trial and conviction, and includes a statement made by Goertz of his career history.

Goertz was deported upon his release in 1939, and there was much press interest in the case, reflected in the press cuttings in KV 2/1321 (1936-1944). There is a break in the content of the file until enquiries begin to be made about Goertz from Ireland after he was identified as the suspected 'missing parachutist' in the Held case. There is correspondence on the file following the leads to identify Goertz as the author of 'Plan Kathleen', and giving details of his arrest in Dublin. The file also includes photographs of Goertz and Marianne Emig.

There are further photographs of Goertz and Emig in KV 2/1322 (1944-1949). This file also contains Goertz's own gripping account of his activities in Ireland, written in December 1944, and correspondence relating to his release from prison and his suicide.

KV 2/1323 (1940-1945) includes copies of papers (including maps and code tables), relating to 'Plan Kathleen' found when Stephen Held was arrested and correspondence about the meaning and implications of the plan. The file includes an interview report of a meeting with one Liam Gaynor of Drumnacondra, who had been befriended by Held before the war and who claimed to have provided Held with the inspiration for 'Plan Kathleen'.