Aud’s Kerry mission was doomed from the outset

With no radio, the ship’s captain had no way of knowing he was in Tralee Bay three days earlier than expected.

By Ryle Dwyer, Irish Examiner




The Aud had sailed under orders to deliver the cargo of arms and ammunition at Fenit between Holy Thursday and Easter Sunday. But after it had sailed Patrick Pearse notified Berlin that the ship should not arrive before the evening of Easter Sunday.


The Aud had no radio on board, so Captain Karl Spindler had no way of knowing on arriving in Tralee Bay on Holy Thursday, that he was more than three days ahead of time. There was no sign of the submarine with Casement, and Spindler was perplexed that there was no pilot to guide the Aud into Fenit Pier. He waited in the bay throughout the day and the night for the pre-arranged signal from the pilot.

The U19 arrived in Tralee Bay shortly after midnight on Good Friday, but no effort was made to contact the Aud, which anchored in the bay for the night. When the agreed signal from the pilot had still not come by the morning, Spindler abandoned all hope of landing the arms.

He decided to head for Portugal instead. But around six o’clock in the evening the Royal Navy’s HMS Bluebell intercepted the Aud off the southwest coast and, after firing a shot across its bow, ordered it to accompany it to Queenstown (Cobh) for inspection.

As the two ships were heading for Queenstown another facet of the drama was being played out on land. Five men arrived in Killarney by train from Dublin at around 10 pm. They were planning to steal a radio transmitter from the Atlantic College, a radio training school in Caherciveen.

Con Keating, one of the five men, had been a student at the college, which was deserted over the holiday weekend, so they would have little difficulty stealing the transmitter. They planned to take it to Tralee and use it to contact the Aud to facilitate the landing of the guns at Fenit on Sunday.

The five men split up into two cars, and headed for Caherciveen. The cars got separated and the second car missed a turn outside of Killorglin and drove over Ballykissane Pier, drowning Keating and two colleagues.

As Keating was the radio operator, they had to abandon the whole plan, which was doomed from the outset anyway, because the Aud had no radio. Moreover, the Aud was already heading for Queenstown under a Royal Navy escort.

Next morning, at about 8:30, while about three miles off Queenstown, the crew changed into German uniforms, abandoned the Aud, and scuttled it. They were then picked up by the Bluebell, and spent the remainder of the war as British prisoners.

Eoin MacNeill, the chief of staff of the Irish Volunteers had only learned of the plans for the rebellion during the week. He intended to call the whole thing off until he was informed that the Germans arms were to be landed on Sunday. He then went along with arrangements until he learned on Saturday that the Aud had been intercepted and scuttled.

He sent officers around the country to call off the rebellion, and he inserted the following notice in the Sunday Independent:

“Owing to the very critical position, all orders given to Irish Volunteers for to-morrow, Easter Sunday, are hereby rescinded, and no parades, marches, or other movements of Irish Volunteers will take place. Each individual Volunteers will obey this order strictly in every particular.”

It seemed that anything that could go wrong with the plans for the rebellion had gone wrong.


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