Munich, 1919. The corporal lay on the ground, badly beaten and bleeding profusely. The irate German soldiers continued to slam their jackboots into his face and body. A flash of steel indicated that bayonets had been drawn. The corporal prepared to die.
And then a volley of gunshots exploded above the heads of his attackers, echoing furiously around the gymnasium walls. As the soldiers fled the scene, the 30-year-old corporal glanced through bleeding eyes to try and identify his saviour.
Into his vision stepped eight armed men, headed up by an Irishman. By chance, the corporal had served alongside the Irishman on the Western Front less than a year earlier. On this particular evening in the spring of 1919, the Irishman was in charge of the Munich barracks. He had been resting when informed that a riot had broken out in the gymnasium. As he marched to quell the riot, the Irishman was informed that the catalyst for the unrest was a corporal who had unwisely attempted to woo the soldiers with his fascist rantings ahead of the upcoming municipal elections.
Once the mob had dispersed, the Irishman instructed the corporal that, for his own safety, he was placing him under arrest and taking him to the guardroom. Even as the moustachioed corporal limped to safety, he continued to harangue anyone who would listen with his political views.
In 1930, the Irishman went to Nuremburg to watch one of the infamous Nazi party rallies. That was the first time he had seen the corporal since saving his life in Munich eleven years earlier. The corporal now stood at the centre of a platform which was swathed in Swastika flags. Tens of thousands had gathered to hear him speak.
The corporal’s name was Adolf Hitler. And within three years of the Nuremburg rally he had become the leader of Nazi Germany.
The Irishman who saved Hitler’s life in 1919 was Michael Keogh, a policeman’s son from Tullow, Co. Carlow. His story has recently come to light with the publication of his extraordinary memoirs, “With Casement’s Irish Brigade”. In these pages, Keogh reveals how he saved the German dictators life, only to narrowly avoid execution by Hitler’s henchman during the “Night of the Long Knives.” He managed to slip out of sight twenty minutes before his would-be assassins arrived.
Less fortunate that fateful night was Keogh’s former commander Ernst Roehm who, as leader of the paramilitary Storm Troopers, had helped Hitler secure power. Roehm and Hitler subsequently fell out. Keogh estimates that Roehm was one of 5,000 “political opponents” dragged from their homes and executed.
As Hitler’s Germany slowly goaded the rest of the world into the deadliest war in our history, Keogh must have had good cause to reflect on how he should have just let the angry soldiers finish off the troublesome agent back in 1919.
But when Michael Keogh began to compile his memoirs during the late 1920s, he had many things to reflect upon. His life had been exceedingly adventurous practically since his birth in Tullow in 1891.
He came from rebellious stock. His Wexford forbears were killed in the 1798 Rebellion. His grandfather Mathew Keogh led the resistance during the infamous Coolgreany Evictions in Co. Wexford in 1887. His great-uncleMyles Keogh was Colonel Custer’s second-in-command and died at the Battle of Little Big Horn. His uncle Jack Tynan was a Fenian who tried to blow up Westminster Bridge. His father Laurence Keogh (sometimes Kehoe) was an officer in the Royal Irish Constabulary.
Michael grew up in Tullow and, at the age of 14, won a County Council scholarship to the seminary school of St Patrick’s Monastery. Between 1903 and 1906 he was a member of the O’Growney Branch of the Gaelic League in Tullow and competed in singing and dancing. In 1907, he sailed for New York to live with his aunt Mary Keogh. He joined the National Guard, became a member of Clan-na-Gael in New York and befriended Sir Roger Casement. Their paths would cross again in Germany during the war.
In 1910 he spent ten months battling against Mexican guerrillas on the Texan frontier, but was obliged to leave the army with a gunshot wound to his abdomen. He went to work as an engineer on the Panama Canal before sailing home in 1913. He joined the Royal Irish Regiment and was sent for training in Clonmel which, given his training in the USA, he felt was rather superfluous. He states that his reason for enlisting in the British army was so that he could recruit trained Irish soldiers from within to join the Republican cause.
In March 1914, the British officers at the Curragh Camp announced their intention of resigning en masse rather than obeying the command to fight against the Ulster Unionists. The event prompted heated words from Private Keogh and, in May, he was tried by court-martial, convicted for “sedition” (ie: talking politics in the barracks) and sentenced to 28 days in the cells.
Upon the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914, he went with the Royal Irish to France, reasoning that it was always his intent to make it to the German lines. He was awarded the Mons Star for his service during the retreat from Mons in the early stages of the First World War. He was captured and taken to Sennelager Camp in Westphalia as a prisoner of war.
Whilst in the camp Keogh made contact with Casement who was then in Germany and whose opinion Keogh rated very highly. Casement was in the process of building an Irish Brigade from Irish prisoners willing to wear a German uniform and fight against the British. Keogh was placed in charge of the recruitment drive for the Irish Brigade amongst 1,500 Irish prisoners at the POW camp.
A comrade from this era described Keogh as ‘a quiet dispositioned man, of plump and short physique, prone to follow the line of least resistance, but possessed the knack of getting things done’. He was also known to like the German ladies and the same source recalls how Keogh mastered the German language with the aid of ‘a charming human dictionary who made the study of language a labour of love’.
By early 1915, Sergeant Major Keogh had only secured 56 recruits for the Brigade. On Casement’s suggestion, these men were moved to the rather more upmarket Zossen Camp south of Berlin. However, the Germans never took the Brigade seriously and the recruits were rarely treated any different to other POWs. On the eve of theEaster Rebellion in Dublin in 1916, Casement was arrested in Co. Kerry and charged with treason. His subsequent execution spelled the end for his Irish Brigade although Keogh would spend the rest of his life defending Casement’s reputation. As Kevin Snr puts it, “my mother lived with Casement’s ghost for forty years.”
In the winter of 1916, Keogh took charge of around 30 of the Irishmen charged with installing a new gas tank in Dirschau, West Prussia (now part of Poland). ‘Engineering being my line, I greatly enjoyed this activity and new life”, he wrote. It is assumed these 30 men were all that remained of Casement’s Irish Brigade.
By 1918, he had joined the German Army for its Spring Offensive, for which he was awarded the Hindenburg Cross. He commanded a machine gun company with the Bavarian 16th Infantry Regiment at Ligny on the French border. It was here that Field-Lieutenant Keogh was first briefly introduced to Lance Corporal Adolf Hitler who was in the same regiment. The future dictator was lying on a stretcher outside a field-dressing post, recovering from a wound to his groin which, Keogh suggests, ‘made it impossible for him [ie: Hitler] to become a father’.
Keogh was stricken with Spanish Flu at the end of the war but recovered and joined the Freikorps, a right-wing militia group entrusted with keeping Munich free of dastardly Communists. At about this time the brown-eyed Carlow man married a Bavarian nurse called Annamarie Von Seuffert with whom he had three sons and three daughters. The sons were bestowed with tellingly patriotic names: Roger Casement Keogh, Joseph Plunket Keogh and, now living in Swords, Kevin Barry Keogh. One of his comrades in the Freikorps was Jeremiah O’Callaghan, ‘a useful boxer’ from Mallow, who married Annamarie’s sister.
In February 1919, a Bolshevik-inspired Marxist revolution led to the declaration of a short-lived Bavarian Soviet Republic in Munich. Keogh was one of 30,000 Freikorps sent to Munich to quash the Reds. Three days of intense fighting ensued, in which over 1,000 people were killed, many summarily executed by the Freikorps. Keogh operated a machine gun company during the battle, for which he was later awarded the Siegfried Dagger of Honour with a personal dedication from his commanding officer’s deputy, Ernst Röhm. Röhm went on to found the Nazi Party’s Storm Battalion but was executed on Hitler’s orders during the Night of the Long Knives.
One evening, several weeks after the Bavarian Republic was crushed, Keogh was the officer on duty at theTurken Strasse barracks in Munich when news arrived that a riot had broken out in the barrack gymnasium. Two right wing political agents had been addressing the soldiers in a bid to win their support ahead of an upcoming municipal election. The speech had not gone well and by the time Keogh arrived with a sergeant and six soldiers, the two agents had already been dragged to the floor and were being beaten up by an angry mob of 200 soldiers, including ‘some some tough Tyrolean troops.’ When he saw the bayonets flashing, Keogh ‘ordered the guard to fire one round over the heads of the rioters. It stopped the commotion.’
He recalls how he hauled the future dictator out of the gymnasium “cut, bleeding and in need of a doctor … the crowd around muttered and growled, boiling for blood.” While they waited in the guardroom, Keogh questioned them. ‘The fellow with the moustache gave his name promptly: Adolf Hitler. It was the Lance Corporal of Ligny. I would not have recognized him. He had been five months in hospital, in Passewalk, Pomerania. He was thin and emaciated from his wounds.’
In September 1919, Keogh was discharged from the German army and returned to Ireland. He met Michael Collins, Arthur Griffith and Erskine Childers and was involved in smuggling Mauser guns into Ireland from Hamburg. He also saw action on Mount Leinster when a party of Black and Tans surprise attacked an IRA training session. Shortly after the Truce was signed, he returned to Germany to collect his wife and children and bring them back to Ireland.
Keogh took no sides during the Civil War but later served as an engineer in the Free State army.
From 1930 to 1936, the Keogh family lived in Berlin where Michael Keogh was working as an engineer on the Underground. These were the years in which Hitler secured control of Germany. In August 1930 he attended one of Hitler’s infamous Nuremburg rallies. The Lance Corporal of Ligny stood centre stage on a platform awash with Swastika flags. ‘He was no longer in need of a guardroom for his safety’, observed Keogh dryly. The following month, Hitler’s party won 107 seats in the Reichstag and swept to power. By the time Keogh returned to Ireland in 1936, the German dictator was steering the world into the utter mayhem of World War Two.
‘When my grandfather saw first hand how oppressive the Nazi regime had become on a daily basis, he changed his views. He knew some of the soldiers and civilians who Hitler murdered on the Night of the Long Knives and he became a marked man.’
Keogh established contact with friends in Ireland and began seeking work there so he could move his family home.
‘In 1936 he got a letter from de Valera stating that a job and home would be provided. Unfortunately the promises were broken but he returned to Ireland anyway’.
‘After the war, when the horrors of what had happened were unfolding, he’d say, ‘If we had been a few minutes later that night or Hitler had got a few more kicks to his old wounds or he’d been shot … what if we hadn’t intervened and he had died.’ He and his family were shocked and horrified at the massacre of the Jews and the other horrors when they became known after that terrible war. But he could not have known that Hitler was going to become such a tyrant. He just happened to be on duty that night and stopped a ugly brawl and arrested Hitler for his own safety.’
Back in Ireland, he was employed variously at the Pigeon House power-generating station in Dublin and the sugar-beet factory in Carlow. His memoirs were still unfinished when Keogh was taken ill in 1964 and rushed to the James Connolly Memorial Hospital in Blanchardstown. He brought his papers with him and kept them under his pillow. But his son Kevin (now aged 84 and living in Swords) came in to find his father in a ‘very distressed’ state, calling out for his papers which had vanished. A nurse told Kevin that Michael’s only visitor had been apriest who nobody in the hospital had seen before. It is assumed that Michael, who died two days later, was asleep at the time and that the ‘priest’ removed the papers.
In 2005, Michael’s grandson Kevin Keogh Jnr, now 52, a paving contractor from Ard na Greine, was surfing the internet when he came upon a reference stating that his grandfather’s memoirs were held in the University College Dublin Archives. To his further surprise, they were bound up with papers handed in by Moss Twomey, former Chief of Staff of the Irish Republican Army.
The identity of the priest and the reason why Keogh’s papers were concealed in the Twomey archives remains a mystery. Kevin Snr says he did not know Twomey and that he never heard his father mention him. The family have considered whether Michael might have requested a priest safeguard his papers and then became delirious and forgot what he had done.
But Kevin Jnr rejects this theory. “I think my grandfather would have trusted my Dad and his family above anyone else. And surely, after they were in a safe place, Michael’s family would have been notified about it, instead of me stumbling upon them forty years later?”
‘I think a more likely scenario is that the papers were taken under false pretences, and some of them were removed. For what ever reason? Perhaps we will never know? Not unless someone comes forward or the missing papers are recovered. But we’d love to know what else he wrote.”
Kevin is particularly curious to know what happened to his grandfather’s writings on the period between 1920 to 1964, little of which was to be found in the UCD papers.
“We’ve recovered fragments he wrote for the Sunday Chronicle in 1952 and a good part from the Catholic Bulletin. We know he was very critical of some politicians from 1922 right up to 1964 and felt they were putting themselves first and not the good of the country. I am sure if he had allied himself to the big politicians of the time he could have had the pocket full of silver, but he would always speak his mind and that’s the man he was.’
“Our family didn’t know a lot of the stuff in the diaries”, says Kevin. “My father and his siblings had heard some of the stories that he and their mother would tell. They knew about how he’d saved Adolf Hitler’s life because they lived in Germany during the 1930s and he’d tell them. He was pro-German but he didn’t like the Nazis. He hadn’t paid much attention to saving the guy’s neck at the time but when Hitler became dictator, he felt differently about it. If he’d had a flash of the future, I think my grandfather would probably have shot Hitler dead that night in Munich”.
‘With Casement’s Irish Brigade’ is available online from Choice Publishing Ltd. Drogheda, visit http://www.choicepublishing.ie
To listen to a 2011 RTE radio documentary about Michael Keogh, his journals and his incredible life, click here.
With thanks to Kevin Keogh Snr, Kevin Keogh Jnr, Michelle Flemming and Liam O’Brien (DocOnOne, RTE Radio 1).
Michael Keogh is a difficult man to research. His writing of his surname even varies between “Kehoe” and “Keogh”. On the one hand he has probably left more written records behind than any of the other men in the Irish Brigade except Kavanagh and Monteith (and Monteith only was involved with the Irish Brigade for a few months – 23 Oct 1915 to 11 April 1916). The problem is that Keogh’s writings are inconsistent, and vary over time. Perhaps it is best summed up by the Director of the Bureau of Military History, who puts a preface to Keogh’s Witness Statement which reads ” his claims to importance, which he parades on every occasion, are regarded by those who have come into official contact with him as grossly exaggerated and completely unreliable. Representing himself in the beginning to have been an NCO in the Brigade, his most recent letters to the press indicate that he now claims to have been a Captain and ADC to Roger Casement.” I have therefore tried to sift the facts from his various writings ranging from Witness Statements to Bureau of Military History, his newspaper articles, his book of memoirs (published after his death by his family). Much of it can be cross checked with other events – could he have saved Hitler from the mob in Munich in 1919, yes he could, Hitler was in the barracks that day and so was Keogh. However there are a number of glaring changes in fact, in his witness statement he claims to have gone to Germany to found the Irish Brigade with Casement – while in fact he was captured while a serving British soldier, interned and only joined the Irish Brigade when recruiting started under Casement. He owes his position of Sgt Major of the Brigade to having been the first to volunteer, along with Quinlisk. If one reads the record you see that he started as a corporal in the Brigade, and was promoted as more men joined.
Zerhusen said of Keogh “It is wise to take everything Keogh said with a grain of salt”. It should be said that Zerhusen did not like Keogh, and in turn Keogh did try a petition of the men to get Zerhusen dismissed. Zerhusen says that Keogh was involved in canvassing for recruits, but after Monteith arrived to command the Brigade, Keogh took very little interest in Brigade affairs. Then after their move to Danzig, Zerhusen says Keogh moved out of camp and rarely returned. He was working as a civilian at Dirschau for most of the time.
Many of the important questions are glossed over. One has to put more credence on his earlier writings than on his later writings.
- He emigrated to America and became an American citizen, why did he return? I assume things did not work out for him in the USA.
- He joined the British Army, why? I assume it was to earn a living.
- His movements in 1914, 1915 and 1916 up to the move to Danzig can be checked and followed
- Having arrived in Danzig it is unclear what he was doing on a verifiable basis from Jul 1916 to Nov 1918, more than half his POW time. One can put together a reasonable timeline from other men’s correspondence
- He gives a short, vague account of joining the German Army and fighting in France in 1918. I conclude this is not true. His Hindenburg Cross certificate is for a non combatant medal
- He certainly marries a German woman but I have not been able to find out when, nor check the German birth dates of his 2 sons
- There are inconsistencies in his story as to what he did from Sept 1919 (left German army) until Apr 1922 ( arrival in Ireland, for a second time, with his family)
- He appears to have re-joined the British Army and has a “new” post Aug 1920 service number, indicating service after that date.
- He appears to leave no record of what he did during the Irish Civil War
- His Witness Statement of Feb 1955 which is about Plunkett’s visit to the Irish Brigade, is so factually wrong that one has to discount it
- His other witness statement of Oct 1952 is factually wrong in too many places to be of much value. For example when he was taken POW he was not working in Germany in 1914, he was in the British Army. And he alters Casements last letter to the Irish Brigade which read ” Mr St John Gaffney is commissioned to look after the wants of the men” to read ” Adjutant Lieutenant M S Boyle Kehoe is commissioned …”
However his story is a story that must be told. He was the senior NCO in the Irish Brigade, and was privy to some, but certainly not all, of the machinations that took place up to Casements departure to Ireland just before Easter 1916. I have removed from his memoirs those facts that are grossly untrue, and tried to distill out what were true.
Born 1891, Michael Patrick Keogh, from Tullow, Carlow. The Irish Brigade Roll Book gives him as born in Tullamore, Kings County. There is a birth registered in Apr/Jun 1891 in Kings County.
in his own words
He was the son of Laurence Keogh, and grandson of Michael Keogh of Glenogue, Coolgreany, Co Wexford. The 1911 Census has a Laurence Keogh, age 56 and a widower, living at Glenogue with his sister and 4 servants. Griffiths shows a Mark and a Patrick Keogh only in that townland around 1850. Keogh writes that his father Laurence was thrown out of his home onto the road with a family of ten small children, and the home burned to the ground, and his farm of 100 acres confiscated. I cannot confirm that one way or the other. Four of the Keogh family emigrated to the USA at this time, and the Land Settlement Act replaced two of his uncles Pat and Mark Keogh in their father’s house in Glenogue, but as was the case with most evicted tenants only half the land was restored. And Michael Keogh was buried in Ballyfad Churchyard, born 23 Jan 1819 and died 15 May 1898.
His early boyhood was spent in Tullow, Co Carlow, educated at the National School, and at 14 years old he qualified for the Seminary School of St Patrick’s Monastery with a County Council Scholarship. He was at that school for two years Also between 1903 and 1906 he was a member of the O’Growney Branch of the Gaelic League in Tullow where he competed in singing and dancing
He left Ireland on 7 March 1907 on the SS Majestic (in his memoirs he writes the SS Celtic. but he is mistaken) when invited by his father’s aunt, Mary Keogh, to visit her in New York. His aunt had married Jack Tynan and was living in New Jersey. He travelled 2nd Class, with four to a cabin. He arrived at Ellis Island 16 Mar 1907, and became at some point an American citizen
S S Majestic
1908 He attended school at Fordham College. In New York he became a member of the Gaelic League classes under the Presidency of Major McCrystal in the Emmet Arcade, 59th St and Lexington. Later he became a member of Clan-na-Gael in New York, and later of the same group in Denver, Colorado. He joined the US 69th Regiment National Guard and trained with them at their summer camp near Fort Riley, Kansas.
1909 He writes that he obtained an engineering degree from Columbia University. It seems improbable that he had the time to complete a degree course in a year. There is no record of him getting such a degree. And he makes no other reference to a degree in his memoirs
1911 He was working in New York municipal engineering dept, and when US government called for volunteers for a frontier force to patrol the Mexican border. Keogh remarks that the events were a welcome relief to the monotony of his life as a mining engineer. He joined a mixed bunch of about 300 men in this frontier force. They rode out of Fort Riley for the Texas border after three months training. Twice during the Revolution, the U.S. actually sent troops into Mexico. The first time was in 1914, during the Ypiranga incident. The second was in 1916, the unsuccessful chase in Chihuahua by General John J. Pershing of revolutionary leader Pancho Villa.
The 1911 border crisis appears just to have involved sending troops to the border as a pre-emptive move on March 7, 1911 President Taft orders 20,000 troops to the Mexican border. Keogh may have been among those men. They were not involved with fighting Mexicans. A temporary ‘Maneuver Division’ is activated along the Mexican border – extensive field exercises (including the use of airplanes and radio) to improve the US Army’s low efficiency and this lasts until Aug 1911. The US Army did award medals for Mexican Border Service defined as meaning ” active military, naval, or air service during the period beginning on January 1, 1911, and ending on April 5, 1917, in Mexico, on the borders thereof, or in the waters adjacent thereto.” Michael Keogh does not appear to have been awarded such a medal. I assume that he would have got one if he could.
1911 Dec. He first saw Casement in New York at a Gaelic League concert. Casement did spend a few weeks in the United States in Dec 1911 on his way back to London from South America.
1913 Keogh sailed back from New York with another Irishman in order to “enlist in Irish Regiments in the same spirit and the same aim that had inspired earlier soldier-Fenians” but does not amplify this statement further as regards his motives for enlisting. One assumes that he returned from the USA because things did not work out, and that he joined the British Army for the employment.. He enlisted in the Royal Irish Regiment, and was drafted to Clonmel for training to learn the “soldier’s trade”. Keogh felt that the training was superfluous because of his American National Guard training.
1913 March. His service numbers shows he enlisted in March 1913. At Clonmel Keogh obtained a first class pass in the Army Educational Certificate, of that achievement he was very proud. Autumn 1913 saw him posted to 2nd Battalion at South Raglan Barracks, Devonport.
1914 May. He says he was tried by court-martial and convicted for “sedition” and sentenced to 28 days in the cells. His crime he says was to talk politics in the barracks. Following the Curragh Mutiny (20 March 1914) talking politics in the barracks had been forbidden. Without his service record, I cannot verify this.
1914 Aug 13 he arrives in France with his regiment. On the declaration of war, the battalion embarked at Southampton, and were taken to Boulogne They went up to the front, and on Saturday evening on August 22 they met the advancing German Uhlan patrols near Mons. Keogh found himself in an extreme outpost with 4 Boer War veterans. By noon on the next day, 23 Aug, he found himself with a section of regimental scouts, at the extreme right flank of the front occupied by the British Expeditionary Force. The German artillery was “belching death at short range”. Within half an hour of the fighting starting, the word went out “every man for himself”. They were in a “veritable deathtrap” and officers and men simply acted on their own instincts for defence. He stuck it out till late evening, but by then his battalion were outflanked front and rear, and before long the attacking Germans called out “hande hoch”. Once captured they started walking via Halle in Belgium, Waterloo, Louvain and Liege. And so four days later he found himself with a mixed bag of 250 British soldiers in Sennelager Camp
1914 November. An English speaking German officer stood up in the Irish compound of the camp and made a flattering speech aimed at recruiting Irishmen. And in addition Irish POWs at Sennelager were put in a compound with no barbed wire, and the Catholic Church was open daily. On the last Sunday of November 1914, the Bishop of Paderborn celebrated mass in the camp, and also announced that there would be a new Irish POW camp with two priests to tend to their spiritual needs.
1914 Dec 17. 1500 Irish soldiers including Michael Keogh were taken by rail from Sennelager to Limburg. There was some difficulty apparently in convincing the Germans to only take Catholic Irishmen, as the Germans could not see why there should be a difference in the faiths. Casement believed that the isolation from other nationalities at Limburg, coupled with the Catholic priests, better food and recreation, would soon attract the men to the idea of an Irish Brigade. They marched that morning from the station at Limburg, over the cobbled streets of the old town, to the camp. 34 POWs were buried at Limburg by the time a commemorative Celtic Cross was erected: later more bodies were brought to make the 45 it currently commemorates. The cross was erected from donations made by the Irish prisoners themselves.
Keogh notes that Limburg offered the men better conditions than Sennelager. “Fine wooden huts, each with two rooms to house 50 men: well ventilated, comfortable: beds on wooden trestles, and ample blankets”. The new arrivals found that 300 Irish were already there from other camps, and they had been there 2 weeks and had already had a visit from Casement. By the time they left 6 months later he described Limburg as rat ridden and with poor accommodation.
The British NCOs at Limburg tried to stop recruiting. Because better food and conditions had been promised in the original camps for Irishmen transferring to Limburg, many claimed to be Irish in order to the advantage of these temptations. Keogh worked in the medical room, so that each day he had the opportunity to visit all parts of the camp, and he obtained the history sheets of all the men. He notes that the camp had not only barbed wire, but also an electrified fence
The recruiting went ahead over the next few months on a low key basis. Father Nicholson appears to have generated lists of men suitable for recruitment, and initially the recruits worked “under cover”, that is not declaring that they were Irish Brigade men, but initially acting as recruiting agents. Keogh and Quinlisk were the first to join followed by Dowling ar the end of March 1915, By the time Plunkett arrived to try to organise a better recruiting process on 7th May in Limburg, they only had 7 recruits, with Bailey, Kavanagh, Delamore and Granaghan joining in April.
The file WO 141/9 includes a summary of the evidence compiled by MI5 of the men and NCO’s reported to have joined the German/Irish Brigade. It suggests that the evidence is strong enough for pay, allowances etc be stopped for 6 men including him
MIC does not show his medals being forfeited, and on the contrary a replacement 1914 Star being issued
1915 Jan 15. He tells an extraordinary story about going to Oslo with Adler Christiansen, who got the British Ambassador there to sign a document offering to pay pay Christainsen £5000 if Casement was captured dead or alive. He says that the document was, in 1952, in his mother in laws possession in Wiesentheid Castle, unter Franken, North Bavaria. She was originally Franzisca von Loerner. I have not been able to ascertain her connection with the castle. The Christiansen affair certainly happened, but there is no evidence to show that Keogh was in any way involved. The certainty is that he could not have been involved, there is no reference to him in Casement’s extensive papers on the subject, covered in “Sir Roger Casement’s Diaries, His Mission to Germany and the Findlay Affair”, a book of over 200 pages.
1915 Mar 20. Casement requests that Quinlisk and Keogh from among the prisoners, should be sent to him secretly in Berlin. Nothing appears to happen until a month later.
1915 Apr 9. Summonded to see Casement in Eden Hotel, Berlin
1915 Apr 21. Quinlisk, Keogh (and Dowling) go to Berlin to meet Plunkett for the first time. They change into civilian clothes for the train journey and are escorted be two German soldiers
1915 early May. The three men, Keogh, Quinlisk and Dowling, drove to a big tailoring establishment, accompanied by Boehm and Casement, to be measured for their new Irish Brigade uniforms, which were ready for them by the time they returned to Limburg.
1915 May 9. Plunkett arrives at Limburg. Plunkett stays Limburg three and a half weeks. He mentions meeting Keogh (together with Quinlisk and Dowling) 6 times during this period, until he leaves Limburg on 1 June.
1915 Jun 7 The bulk of the new Irish Brigade recruits leave Limburg and go to Zossen.
1915 Jul 15, A letter from Casement to “Corporal Keogh” at Limburg says that Casement will ask for the three of them still recruiting at Limburg to be moved toZossen Camp. Only 55 men have been recruited so far. The 3 men still recruiting at Limburg are Keogh, Quinlisk and Dowling.
25 Oct 1915, Colour-Sergeant Keogh sent a letter to Casement in which he says “This morning Quinlisk, Dowling, Collins and Keogh were in Berlin standing trial for the affair of the Algerians money. I was present and the trial was public. They were tried as Irish Prisoners of War, and not having a Consul to plead for them, they were sentenced to a fortnight’s imprisonment. Dr Lehmann, the prosecutor said that if we made the customary appeal to the Kaiser, they would perhaps suffer a money fine instead of imprisonment” Casement had a bad tempered exchange of letters with the Germans as a result of them being tried as “prisoners of war” and refused to appeal. A little later he agreed to an appeal, but at that point the matter disappears from his correspondence. Casement was particularly concerned as 2 of them (Keogh and Quinlisk) were under-officers.
1915 Oct 26. Robert Monteith arrived in Zossen to take charge of the Brigade. Zerhusen, their German interpreted, says that at this point Keogh lost interest in the Brigade.
1915 Nov 2. Monteith writes to Casement from Limburg (Monteith had gone there with O’Toole and Bailey to recruit) on a suggestion that Sgt Keogh also be sent to Limburg from Zossen to help with recruiting “Regarding Keogh, I am rather in doubt in this matter, I have learned that there are other attraction in Limburg for the Sergeant Major beside recruiting, but he might be able to help things along… up to the present we have little to show for our work, I have interviewed 70 men, about 10 of whom I intend to see again.. the first 25 were inclined to be a bit rusty and insolent ..the men I saw today were of a far better frame of mind … I think we stand to get 8 or 10 of them
Robert Monteith also wrote of the Sgt Major ‘A quiet dispositioned man, of plump and short physique, prone to follow the line of least resistance, but possessed the knack of getting things done’.
1915 Dec 25. The men had a concert. Rahilly wrote That night our Sergeant Major was on his best form, and though naturally rotund became more so to an alarming degree after midnight. He never missed an opportunity for speechmaking, so took advantage of tonight’s audience to rally his men against the hated Saxon, and with drawn sword proclaimed ”Deutschland Uber Alles!”
Michael Keogh in Irish Brigade Uniform and in Irish Army uniform
Leave Pass for Keogh, signed by Monteith, 6 Dec 1915
1916 April. After Casement left for Ireland at Easter 1916, Irish Brigade remained at Zossen, but it was now marginalised by the Germans. Casement himself wrote at this juncture “I think the best thing to do could be to put them to some useful occupation here in Germany till the war is over, and then to send them to America where Father Nicholson is already doing what is possible to provide for their future there”. Casement also drew up a list of the men and their skills, presumably to enable this plan of useful occupation to be put into effect.
When Casement left for Ireland, he transferred their care to Gaffney. “Mr T St John Gaffney, is commissioned by Roger Casement to look after the the wants of the men in the Irish Brigade, during their stay in Germany”. Interestingly, Keogh in his memoirs changes the words “Mr T St John Gaffney” to “Adjutant Lieutenant M S Boyle Keogh”. McDonagh, Rahilly and Kavanagh quite independently quote Gaffney as the man mentioned in Casement’s letter. There is not a shadow of a doubt that Casement’s letter said “Gaffney” and not “Keogh” was to be left in charge of running the Brigade
1916 Jun. Gaffney came to Zossen to attend a concert by the men. However that was the only occasion Gaffney visited the men here or at Danzig. Keogh was not happy about the move to Danzig, but the men appear to have been in favour. However I don’t think there really was very much choice involved. The Germans wanted them out of the way, and the Germans saw no future in training the men as soldiers. Danzig was a solution to this dilemma.
1916 Jul 3. The Irish Brigade men were moved by the Germans to Danzig-Troyl Camp, and Keogh had problematic negotiations with the German authorities to retain some status for the men above ordinary prisoners of war. In the end it was agreed that the NCOs could keep their sidearms, and the men wear belts when in uniform, but training like machine gun work was done away with, and the men were sent out to work in farms and businesses in the surrounding area.
1916 Jul. Keogh writes to Gaffney saying he is very unhappy at Danzig and asks Gaffney to visit danzig
1918 Jul. Keogh writes that he worked around Dirschau. He supervised three or four tradesmen in the gasworks of the town doing the installation of a new gas tank for the town. He remarks “engineering being my line, I greatly enjoyed this activity and new life”. He appears to have left the camp fairly soon and not been involved in the running of the Brigade, such that it was. The others appear to be Kavanagh, Quinlisk and Delamore.
1917 Feb 2. Keogh to Gaffney. Keogh is asking for an advance on his wages. He is working at Gas Works in Dirshau with 3 other Irish Brigade men and altogether there are about 12 Brigade men in Dirshau at this time. It is very cold with snow and frost. Keogh comments that the 10 men on Hahns list for removals are all bad men. Keogh claims he has a wounded knee, sustained while at 7th Cavalry Riding School, Fort Riley, Kansas. For the required operation Keogh needs 3 months pay
1917 Mar 18. Hahn tells Gaffney that he has advanced Keogh 4 months pay on Keogh’s insistence and assurance that he has the authority to demand it, but Hahn says he will not advance Keogh more money without written approval of Gaffney each time.
1917 Spring. A letter from O’Toole to Gaffney at this time, in which O’Toole accused Keogh of living with a married woman in Dirschau – a Frau Rumekewitz. She apparently claims that Keogh beats her, was perpetually drunk, and stole her money, and for good measure stole her overcoat when he eventually left her. O’Toole goes on to state. There are some Irishmen suffering horrors in a punishment camp at Quadsow who have never done half so much hidden harm. By the way these men at Quadsow are suffering through some of this underhand little battle accusations. Some of them are hopeless blaguards but not all. They have allbeen punished for each offence as it was committed but not in addition should they have to undergo months long imprisonment of a type worse than being sent to a Festung. 20 times worse for in a Festung they could look forward to it being over at a certain date but not so at Quadsow. I basically agreed with the removal of some men to a different camp that would have been a good arrangement for everybody but I disassociate myself from sending them to such a place of torment as Quadsow has proved to be. I think a man should not be punished twice for one offence and such punishment – starvation, underground dwelling bugs and worst of all hopelessness. Most of them are Irishmen and I am sorry to say it is Irishmen who sent them to that Hell on Earth. I know what I am talking about as there are 4 men here who have been released namely Ryan, Callaghan, Sweeney, and Burke. I saw them the 1st morning of their release – they were the picture of misery & weak as cats. I believe you signed the order for their removal from Troyl. Its a pity you didn’t make yourself acquainted with the nature of the charge. I am certain you would never have sanctioned it. When poor Sir Roger found we were put into Wiensdorf Lager with the coloured prisoners of war he left no stone unturned until he forced the German Authorities to take us out of it. I say forced advisedly but Sir Roger visited us regularly & kept well in touch with us. We have not had a visit from you since some time before we left Zossen. Weren’t very well treated at Zossen & I objected to the removal – now everyone of us knows it was a ghastly mistake.
1917 Jul 6. Keogh writes to Gaffney from Hotel Alte Post in Limburg, explaining his presence in Limburg
- he requests back pay
- 4 of the men removed have been released from Quadsow Punishment Camp
- they blame Keogh and he fled for his life
- he got metal filings in his left eye while working, and for this reason his health is bad.
- he arrived the day before at Limburg
1917 Aug 24. Hahn writes to Gaffney. Keogh got 8 days punishment, suspended if his behaviour is good. This is presumably as a result of disappearing to the Limburg Hotel
1917 Oct 20 Dowling writes to Mrs Grabisch. He complains about Hahn, saying that Hahn is a friend of the West Britons such as Keogh. Dowling suggests that Hahn is removed, and that Dowling and Zerhusen run the Brigade affairs.
1918 Apr, when news of Dowling’s capture in Clare reached him, Keogh was working at the Flying Corps aerodrome workshops at Stolp. He got a pass that enabled him to get from Danzig to Berlin in April, but does not say what he did there. At this point Keogh’s narrative is vague and I am inclined to ignore his tale about serving in the German front line as a machine gunner. There is no corroborating evidence, nor does he go missing for a long period from the Danzig area – the system of scrutiny that they were under simply would not have allowed him to be away for months without Zerhusen, Hahn, or one of the NCOs writing to Gaffney about it.. He appears to have gone to Limburg and run up an (unpaid) hotel bill.
1918 May 1. Zerhusen tells Gaffney that he heard from Kavanagh that Keogh was behaving badly, had been drunk, misbehaved in Dresden, and that Keogh had misappropriated the St Patrick’s Day funds from the previous year that Gaffney had sent the Brigade
1918 May. O’Toole had written to Gaffney saying that he had had to report Keogh to Camp Commandant for obtaining a pass by deception from commandant at Dirschau and going to Berlin and Limburg for 12 days. At this point Keogh approached Mrs Grabisch for a loan. He ran up a bill in a Limburg hotel and they are after him for the money. He faces court martial. Mrs Grabisch offers to lend him the money and Hahn and Gaffney are to speak on Keogh’s behalf at the court martial. Mrs Grabisch writes to Gaffney and remarks wryly that it was the usual problem with Keogh of “cherchez la femme”.
Kavanagh claims that Keogh had gone to Munich to see Gaffney about the Brigades problems, but it would seem unlikely that he needed to stay in Limburg (north of Frankfurt). I would go with Mrs Grabisch’s view that it was a case of “cherchez la femme”. In November 1915 Monteith had made much the same point“Regarding Keogh, I am rather in doubt in this matter, I have learned that there are other attraction in Limburg for the Sergeant Major beside recruiting”
1918 May 20. Zerhusen writes to Gaffney about problems
- Keogh and O’Toole have gone to Berlin without leave
- O’Toole sold 8 pairs of boots belonging to the men in Stolp, in order to get money for Keogh
- Keogh is missing and has gone to Leipzig under the name Georg Kellermann
- Keogh stole money from Stacey and Granaghan. (Granaghan later writes to Gaffney saying that Keogh did not steal his money)
1918 May 28. Mrs Grabisch writes to Hahn about pending trial of Keogh. She says that the Limburg hotel bill has been settled and that Gaffney would speak on Keogh’s behalf at his trial. It appears that Keogh ran up a hotel bill in Limburg and did not pay it. Kavanagh confirms that Keogh was returned to Danzig under open arrest, escorted by 2 German NCOs and was in the Brigade’s Danzig barracks. Keogh puts his trial at August 1918 and says this was aa pleasant time as when in the company of his escort, a German Sgt-Major, they were free to spend many an agreeable day in the cafes of Danzig.
1918 Jun 10. Keogh to Gaffney, suggesting that the whole Brigade is transferred to Bavaria. That 30 men chosen by Hahn, Kavanagh and Keogh are employed as an active unit in the Bavarian Army. And that 10 men should be removed and sent to work in a factory, these being presumably the ones who do not want to fight.
1918 Sept. In early Sept , he says went down with Flu which necessitated him entering the garrison hospital at Danzig. The widespread virus by now was a mutation the earlier flu, in that most of those who recovered from first-wave infections were immune, but it was now far more deadly, and the most vulnerable people were those who were like the soldiers in the trenches—young, otherwise healthy adults.He suffered a month of high fever, which reduced his weight considerably.
1918 Oct. By early Oct he had recovered enough to get back on his feet. He went to Berlin, where he parted company with O’Toole in Berlin for the last time (O’Toole had gone to Berlin in Jan 1918 as part of an elaborate scheme to infiltrate the West of Ireland, that never seems to have happened). They apparently stayed with Mrs Grabisch
1918 Nov 7. Gaffney gets a letter from a group in the Brigade, who denounce Gaffney and Chatterton Hill as not being “true Irishmen”. The letter is signed by Keogh, Kavanagh, Forde, Mallon. Delamore, Carroll, Collins, Wilson, Daly, P. McGrath
1918 Nov 12. O’Toole tells Gaffney that Keogh and Kavanagh want to get Gaffney replaced by Hansen, a German-American, as their “leader”
Nov 1918 Keogh then returned from his convalescent break to the Danzig hospital to get signed off, and then on to the Danzig Troyl camp at the start of Nov. When the German surrender came on Nov 11, a Soldiers Council General Committee was set up by the Germans in Danzig. And Zerhusen, Michael Keogh, Kavanagh, Jeremiah O’Callaghan and Forde were elected to represent the Irish Brigade. Any member of the Irish Brigade should get a free rail warrant to any provence in Germany. As Danzig was about to be occupied by a squadron of the Royal Navy, the Irish were keen to get out. Each Irish soldier got a soldiers council passport, with an assumed German name, a weeks rations and a suit of civilian clothes, as well as the rail travel voucher. Keogh and Jeremiah O’Callaghan, who by now was his great friend, were, he says, the last Irishmen to leave Danzig, just as the British Navy arrived. They had a two day train journey to Munich. However once gathered in Munich in the barracks no help coming from any of their contacts round Munich and most of the Irish Brigade drifted away from their gathering in Munich.
1918 Nov 15 circa. Kavanagh writes that he and Zerhusen went to Berlin, then on to to Munich where they met Keogh, Granaghan and Delamore. Kavanagh says after their meeting
- Keogh and Jeremiah O’Callaghan left for Stolp near Danzig where Keogh had been working
- Granaghan remained in Danzig
- Delamore went to Kiel where he got a job with the orchestra. He was a good clarinet player
- Kavanagh, Forde and Meade went to Dirschau
- Kavanagh then went on to Hamburg where he joined the German Army in Jager Battalion, Begleit-Batterie
1918 Nov 20. Keogh claims to have gone to Gaffney’s villa at Munich with a “delegation of 4 Irishmen” (whom I take to be Irish Brigade members plus Dr Charles Curry. Keogh says that Gaffney refused to help them and that a few days later Gaffney crossed the frontier into Switzerland. Keogh could have gone to Gaffney’s house then, but Gaffney did not leave Germany for at least two months, Rahilly says he met Gaffney in Munich in Feb 1919, and Gaffney’s own writings that also quote early 1919 for his eventual exit to Switzerland – Gaffney had no passport in November or December 1918. However the probability is that they did meet Gaffney at this time.
1918 Nov 25 Joins the the 3rd Bavarian Army Corps, with Jeremiah O’Callaghan, and served in the German Army until Sept 1919. Sgt Major Keogh’s cover name was Kurt Schwarz in his post war service in Germany. He was transferred to General HQ of this Army Group. He says they were working in Army Secret Service Staff attached to War Department. His rank was Feldwebel the highest NCO rank or on a different account Feldwebel-Leutnant, a Army Reserve officer ranked with the Commissioned Officers, but was always inferior to the lowest Leutnant.
Keogh gets married. I have been unable to establish the exact date of his marriage. As nobody mentions it before the end of the war, I assume it was after November 1918. Jeremiah O’Callaghan marries Keogh’s wife’s sister on 31 May 1919, and there are the same people in the 2 wedding photos, but they look older in May 1919, hence my assumption that Keogh married around December 1918. He appears to be wearing German uniform, but the 2 soldiers are wearing German uniform. The soldier beside the bride is Delamore , the other I think may be Granaghan
Michael Keogh’s Wedding
Michael is in uniform in the centre of this photograph with Annamarie. The young German in uniform is Andreas Braun who married Gunda Sueffert, sister of Katherina and Annamarie. Annamarie Seuffert first met Michael Keogh when she was nurse on a red cross train, he was apparently wounded with shrapnel in the back of his neck. She said it was his brown eyes that caught her eye. It is believed that he was in her care in the hospital too, were he was recuperating after which they started dating.
Annamarie’s father Edmund was head Forrester at Wiesentheid estate and I have heard, but yet to confirm that his wife Franciscka Seuffert was Baron von Loerner’s sister. In the wedding photo the Baron is sitting to the right with documents or newspaper in his hand. Wiesenheid is NW of Nuremberg
They went on to have 6 children, Roger Casement Keogh, Joseph Plunkett Keogh, and Kevin Barry Keogh, the three daughters, Rosaline, Margaret (Renee), Annamarie. Only Roger, Kevin and Renee are living in 2010.
Annamarie Von Seuffert and Michael Keogh in formal wedding photograph
1918 Dec 25 He was at his wife’s home in Nuremberg on leave.
1919 Jan 25. He gets married. His marriage certificate is difficult to read the year (it could have been 25 Jan 1918). However Jan 1918 would have been difficult because of his status as a POW
Freikorps entering Munich
Men of Von Epp Freikorps
“Freikorps” was a name for the paramilitary organizations that sprang up around Germany as soldiers returned in defeat from World War I. Many German veterans felt disconnected from civilian life, and joined a Freikorps in search of stability within a military structure. Others, angry at their sudden, apparently inexplicable defeat, joined up in an effort to put down Communist uprisings or exact some form of revenge. They were used to defeat the Bavarian Soviet Republic in 1919. We know that Keogh, Jeremiah O’Callaghan and Patrick Sweeney and probably Scanlon , J Murphy and J Carr were involved with in the Freikorps. He records that he served in Munich and Nuremberg while in the Freikorps, and found himself in many “tight places”.
1919 Feb the German government finally agreed to facilitate the repatriation of the Irish Brigade men who wished to return, but could not guarantee what treatment they might receive. Many of the Irish Brigade men did use this offer to get repatriated.
1919 Feb 11 Freikorps von Epp was formed in Ohrdruff. It was at first not allowed to recruit or train in Bavaria by the Bavarian government but after the intervention by Gustav Noske, a compromise was reached, recruitment was allowed in Bavaria, but training had to take place in Thuringia. It saw action against the Münchener Räterepublik in Munich Apr-May and in the Ruhr Apr 1920. Keogh certainly joined Epps Freikorps
1919 Feb 21 Patrick Sweeney, one of the Irish Brigade died, Keogh records that he died near Munich, and one assumes that he was close to the place of Sweeney’s death at that date. Sweeney was reported dead by a Private Daniel Murphy, as being stabbed by Private Carr of South Lancashire Regiment at Tutzing which is about 25 miles SW of Munich.
Kurt Eisner, the first prime minister of the Bavarian Republic, was assassinated on the same day as Sweeney died, 21 February 1919 in Munich. I have no reason to suppose that the events were connected. Keogh was bitter towards Eisner, from whom he expected help, but got none. Eisner’s death triggered the establishment of the short-lived Bavarian Soviet Republic. Keogh hints that a member of the Irish Brigade may have been part of the group that shot Eisner, but does not give enough details to substantiate the facts, so I would discount that.
Many of the NCOs and officers of the List Regiment left their barracks in Turken Strasse as the barracks were taken over by soldiers cooperatives
1919 April 27. Keogh writes that he fought his way into Munich after 3 days bitter fighting with his machine gun crew in Freikorps Epp. Keogh actually puts the date at Jan 20 in one of his much later newspaper articles, but it had to be the fighting that took place in the 3 days from 27 April. Epp had been given with command of the infantry stationed in Bavaria. Epp’s adjutant was Ernst Rohm, and Keogh knew Rohm, and says that Rohm presented him with a Siegfried Dagger of Honour. These daggers had the blade etched with “Meine Ehre heist Treue” (My Honour is Loyalty), the reverse with maker’s logo. Black wooden grip inlaid with silvered eagle and enamelled circular SS device. They seem to date from about early 1930s, so one assumes he got his gift from Rohm at that date in Berlin.
Over 30,000 Freikorps men stormed the city. The communists outer ranks were quickly overrun. Parts of the city came under artillery fire and there was vicious fighting. Flame throwers were used in house to house fighting. The Free Corps soldiers were in a state of fury because Russians, who had been defeated on the battlefields of Russia, were now operating in Bavaria. The unit of Russian war prisoners were rounded up and slaughtered in a stone quarry. As they had done in Berlin, the Freikorps ripped into the city. Opposition, when it was encountered, was swiftly crushed – altogether only 70 Freikorps men lost their lives as opposed to the hundreds of Red Army men. The last stand of Munich’s Red Army was at the city’s central railway station. The next day the city was secured . Cheered on by relieved citizens, one brigade of Free Corps, wearing swastika designs on their helmets and armbands, goose-stepped through the city. Over 1,000 people, it is estimated, lost their lives within the space of six days in deaths and summary executions.
When the Free Corps were fighting their way into Munich, they had been greeted by gun shots from the Turken Strasse barracks where Hitler was quartered as a Junior NCO. Only a few shots had been fired by a few Red sympathizers who hoped to draw the barracks into the fray, but the anger of the Free Corps troops had been aroused. The “neutrality” of the regular army detachments in Munich during the political crises did not fare well with the Free Corps and they distrusted the Munich garrison. The short tempered troops stormed the Turken Strasse barracks. Everyone in it, including Hitler, was arrested and marched through the streets, hands above their heads, and imprisoned at a local high school.
The officers of Hitler’s regiment, who had been forced to flee Munich during the Soviet period, returned with the Free Corps and were soon in control of the city. An investigation was started to determine who had sided with the Reds. When they began to investigate the incident that occurred at Hitler’s barracks, some officers recognized Hitler, testified to his character and war record, and ordered his release. Hitler’s unwavering hostility to Marxism and his cooperation with the Commission soon placed him above reproach. This was the same Turken Strasse barracks that Michael Keogh met Hitler a few weeks later
1919 May. However although the Reds had been driven from the streets but there was still a teeming underground opposition. Those like Hitler, who had the courage to testify against the Reds, were often badly beaten or died mysteriously. The second time he saw Hitler was in Munich in mid May (Keogh ties it to about two weeks after his arrival in Munich which was May 2) when there was all types of political unrest, and according to the article while in the Freikorps he arrested Hitler. Apparently a mob that was beating Hitler up and the arrest saved Hitler from further injury. Keogh was the officer of the day at the Turken Strasse Barracks when at 8 in the evening he got called out because a riot had broken out over two political agents in the barracks gymnasium. The representatives of political parties were allowed into the barracks to make speeches, but this one had caused a riot. Keogh took a sergeant and six men with fixed bayonets at the double to the scene. It transpired that the 200 Tyrolean troops that the political agents were haranguing had taken exception to whatever was being said. The 2 men were on the floor getting beaten up, and some of the soldiers had drawn their bayonets to use as knives, and their lives were in danger. Keogh ordered a round to be fired into the ceiling, and with that the riot was quelled. The two political agents were badly beaten, and Keogh put them under arrest with their agreement, for their own safety. When questioned in the guardroom, one gave his name, Adolf Hitler, the same Lance Corporal that Keogh had seen months before in the hospital at Ligny. Keogh records that Hitler was much emaciated after 5 months in hospital in Pasewalk, Pommerania. The other man with Hitler was Zimmer. The next day Hitler was transferred to hospital and had his wounds stitched up.
The Freikorps Von Epp were integrated eventually into the new German army as 21 Brigade of the Reichswehr. New uniforms were issued and the Freikorps Von Epp members “melted” into the Bavarian garrisons.
Keogh received at least three German medals which he continued to wear in Ireland.
Colour photos of one of Michael Keogh’s award
1. The German Wound Badge. In recognition for wounds received in combat, German military personnel were awarded the Wound Badge in one of three classes. The Black Wound Badge was awarded for less than three wounds; the Silver Wound Badge was awarded for three or more wounds; and the Golden Wound Badge was awarded for severe wounds that permanently injured or disfigured the recipient. It is not possible so say from the photo which is his grade. The colour photo of this medal that the family have looks as if it has been painted, so one cannot be sure what grade Michael Keogh actually received. Technically it is a badge not a medal, and was not worn with a ribbon. It is in fact the ribbon in the photo is of the “1916 Medal” instituted in 1942 by the Irish Government
2. The German General Service Medal, also called the “Honour Cross” or “Hindenburg Cross”. The Cross for frontline service is bronzed and has crossed swords between the cross’s arms. The combatants cross was awarded to all who had served in a battle. 6,202,883 combatant crosses were distributed. Again someone seems to have added paint to his medal. However the medal does not tie up with the certificate that he has, which shows he was awarded a non-combatants medal as an “Dem Ingenieur [The Engineer] George Kehoe ” in Berlin and is dated 1934. It is genuine certificate awarded to Michael Keogh (George Kehoe, being one of his known aliases during WW1)
- Honor Cross for Combatants (Ehrenkreuz für Frontkämpfer) – for soldiers who fought on the front.
- Honor Cross for War Participants (Ehrenkreuz für Kriegsteilnehmer) – for non-combatant soldiers
- Honor Cross for Next-of-Kin (Ehrenkreuz für Hinterbliebene) – for the next-of-kin of fallen soldiers
3. And finally he has this commemorative medal. Medal collectors tell me that this an unofficial Commemorative medal. Hundreds if not thousands of what’s known today by medal collectors as “Patriotika” medals which exist in many forms and sizes, commemorating war achievements and Regiments, often with the head of the Kaiser Wilhelm II or figures like Hindenberg, etc..etc.. However the ribbon (as opposed to the medal itself) appears to be that of the W.W.2 Nazi Kreigsverdienskreuz (KVK) / War Merit Cross.
1919 Aug 20 Nicholson writes to Keogh from Buffalo. Keogh had written to him a month earlier about getting money from the USA, but Nicholson says there is nothing in the offing.
1919 Sept 8. He left the German Army via 5th Demobilization company .E .14th Infantry Regiment, the day before J. O Callaghan. He then says that he got in touch with John Devoy, his “old benefactor” and an “unrepentant Fenian”. He got the necessary documents to travel through Holland with the assistance of a Count in the Papal Empire. He rather poignantly remarks that “John Devoy had proved constant when younger blood had abandoned us to fate”. He was in Cologne in Sept, and bumped into Capt Butler of the Royal Irish Regt on the steps of the cathedral. Apparently Butler recognised the face but could not place his name, and parted without finding out who Keogh was.
1919 Sep 25. He says returned to Ireland in early 1920 along with Jeremiah O’Callaghan. But we know that Jeremiah O’Callaghan returned to Ireland on 25 Sep 1919 (from his army record). This must have been the date Keogh returned to Ireland – the two of them signed up at the same time for the German Army, and must have been discharged together. Their wives stayed in Germany. Michael apparently married for love, whereas Jeremiah and Katherina married because Andreas was on the way, but that cannot be confirmed without a wedding date. He apparently traveled to Dublin with a false British passport under the name of George King (King George backwards). In fact he traveled as a “guest” of King George, as he had rejoined the British Army
In Dublin he writes that he met Michael Collins, Arthur Griffith and Erskine Childers. His meeting with Collins was at the Spa Hotel, Lucan and was in order to work out plans for running guns from Germany to Ireland. Certainly gun running went on from Hamburg, where Kavanagh worked in the Docks Police, to Ireland. It is difficult to accept that this meeting with Collins took place, without an independent verification. The Anita was seized in Hamburg on 21 Oct 1921 laden with arms for Ireland. On 11 November 1921 the Frieda docked in Waterford from Hamburg after a difficult 10 day voyage with 200 rifles and 20,000 rounds of ammunition. And the provisional Irish government purchased the City of Dortmund in early 1922 to run a commercial shipping business between Hamburg and Ireland.
He also says that at this time he “spent many months in my native hills, in my own keeping”. This is odd, as he had left his family in Germany. He records going to war on his bicycle at this time. “The Battle of Mount Leinster”. 20 Volunteers were drilling carelessly on the Kilkenny side of the mountain. When Keogh arrived to give them instruction in guerilla tactics, he saw 100 Black and Tans climbing up the mountain towards the Volunteers, Keogh’s group opened fire and a running fire fight ensued. The Volunteers retreated over the top of the mountain, and Keogh and his 3 companions left, as they had come, on their bicycles. Again I cannot find what this action actually was.
His British Army Medal Index Card shows a new army number of 7109370 (compare Jeremaiah O’Callaghan’s new number of 7109404). The new system was introduced by Army Order 338 in August 1920. Numbers were then a maximum of seven digits. The new Royal Irish Regiment numbers ran from 7,109,001 to 7,143,000, and were only in use till the Irish Regiments were disbanded in 1922. So Michael Keogh has one of the first issued, and was serving in the British Army at that date of August 1920. I believe that like Jeremiah O’Callaghan, he rejoined the British Army by giving himself up in Germany, and stayed in the British Army until his contracted 7 years expired in March 1920.
1920 March. I believe that this is the most probable date that he left the British Army. His wife must have travelled to Ireland in late 1919 or early 1920 as Joseph was born in Carlow.
1920 Apr 23. His first child, Joseph, was born in Tullow Co. Carlow, they were living at Michaels parents house. Annamarie told the family that the Tans raided the house looking for Michael. This raid appears to be the reason that Annamarie returned to Germany with the infant Joseph. From the date of Roger’s birth, conception must have been in Oct 1920, so she must have returned to Germany after that date. I assume that Roger was born in Germany in Jul 1921 before the family, Michael, Annamarie and the children Joseph and Roger, returned to Ireland in March 1922
1921 Jul. Roger their second son was born in Germany
1921 Jul 11. Keogh says he was in Dublin the day the Angle Irish Truce came into effect which was 11 July 1921, and left for Germany “a few days after that”.
1921 Jul 30. He sells a number of documents about the Irish Brigade to Erskine Childers for £50. He must still have been in Ireland at this date
1921 Aug to 1922 Mar. He was in Germany until March 1922, when he he attempted to sail back to Ireland with his wife and 2 children (Joseph Plunkett Keogh, aged 3, and Roger Casement Keogh, aged 1) plus John Kavanagh and his wife and child. The two Keogh children went down with bad whooping-cough during their wait in Hamburg, and went into hospital.
1922 Mar 28. The two families sailed on the Irish owned SS City of Dortmund. They had a very stormy crossing to Ireland, and reached Cork on Sunday 2nd April 1922. At Cork, they were met by Commandant Buckley and Capt Fitzgerald, 1st Cork Brigade of IRA.. They stayed that night at the Thomond Hotel, Georges St, and went up to Dublin the next day.
Kavanagh records that they saw the Minister of External Affairs, George Gavin Duffy, the next day in his offices in Kildare St. However Duffy was very brusque with them and told them they should have stayed in Germany. They then went to Beggars Bush barracks, but were unable to see General Duffy. Next they went see Harry Boland in Stratford St, Boland was not there at the time, but they saw a Humphry Murphy, who did not believe their tales and threw them out.
There is an lack of information now, and Keogh merely says that he was not called on to fire his rifle in 1922 and 1923. At that point his movements are not known. He does describe himself as “Staff Captain, Old IRA, Intelligence Officer GHQ 1920-21”
1922 Dec 6. His third child Rosaleen born at Curragh Barracks, implying that he was in the Free State army by now. Rosaleen died in November 1996 in Wandsworth, London. She married William Albert Doyle in Dublin in 1943 after which they came to live in England, where their son Roger Doyle was born.
1924 July. Keogh and Kavanagh write to the Irish Defence Ministry, asking for assistance in returning to Germany. Kavanagh had just left the Free State army as a sergeant. Keogh appears to be a Corporal in the Free State army at this time. They had served together, and they sent a joint letter to the Irish Ministry of Defence asking for compensation, and putting their losses from joining the Irish Brigade at £723. The Irish government appear to have paid them £50 for the purpose of getting them to return to Germany.
He says that his life was in danger from a plot by “three ex-prisoners of war who were in Germany”. But it is not clear if these were Irish Brigade men or not. I suspect that thy were some of the men who had been sent to Quadsow Punishment camp – Keogh had written while in Danzig, that he had been forced to flee the area because he had been threatened by some of these men from Quadsow.
1925 Nov 7. Another son, Kevin, was born in Arbor Hill Barracks, Dublin 7th Nov 1925, in the married quarters
He later told Zerhusen that he was working for Siemens on the Shannon Project and was a “very important man” on the project. In 1924-25 the new Irish Free State commissioned Siemens-Schuckert, a large German engineering firm, to progress a scheme to build a hydro-electric station from harnessing the waters of the Shannon. The Shannon Scheme was officially opened at Parteen Weir on 22 July 1929. One of the largest engineering projects of its day, it subsequently served as a model for large-scale electrification projects worldwide. Operated by the Electricity Supply Board of Ireland, it had an immediate impact on the social, economic and industrial development of Ireland and continues to supply significant power in the 21st century
1928 to 1936 He worked in Germany. His engineering job had brought him there, and he rejoined the Steel Helmets, the old comrade’s association of the German Army. His job in Berlin entailed work on the underground railway there, and they lived at 35 Judenstrasse
The Keogh family stayed with Andreas (Jeremiah O’Callaghan’s son), his mother (Keogh’s wife’s sister) and step father in the early 30’s in Germany.
1932 Jun 13. He applied to the Irish army for the job of German translator the full report is here, but in essence the Irish Army had him down as a “troublemaker” and worse.
Michael Keogh was not looked on well by Irish Army
1930 His last daughter Ann Marie born in Germany
1930 Aug. He was in Nuremberg in August 1930 and saw one of Hitler’s rallies there one month before the German elections in September that gave Hitler power.
1932. When Joseph Patrick Dowling (another of Casement’s NCOs) died in August 1932, his body was taken back from London to Ireland for burial, Among those who attended the Requiem Mass were: The deceased’s widow and mother, Sergt.-Major Michael Patrick Keogh, Sergt. Michael O’Toole, Sergt. Sean Casement; Mr. and Mrs. John Nicholson, Mr. John Greer, Irish Brigade Volunteers; and a number of the Connaught Rangers Mutineers. Close on a thousand people attended. His last wish was to be laid to rest with the men of 1916, with whom he had hoped to fight and strike a blow for the freedom of Ireland.
photo taken in the 1950’s in the old Kilgobbin Cemetery. in the middle of Michael and Kevin Keogh is Private Wilson of the Brigade.
1932 As was the custom at the time, Casement’s body had been buried in quicklime in the prison cemetery at the rear of Pentonville Prison, where he was hanged. Michael Keogh writes that he and Tom Casement (Roger Casement’s brother) went to Pentonville Prison in 1932 and removed a bone fragment with a steel plate. His brother Tom knew there would be a plate and that’s the only reason the fragment wasn’t dust, nothing else was left but quicklime. They placed the remains in a cigar box in his mothers grave in the old Kilgobbin Cemetery, Sandyford. The Irish Government knew of this in 1932 as they had refused to go to Pentonville at the time to claim Roger Casements remains.
If this is true, the only tangible remains of Roger Casement still lie today in the Kilgobbin Cemetery. In 1965, Casement’s “body” was politically repatriated to Ireland by the Irish Government and, after a state funeral, was buried with full military honours in the Republican plot in Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin after lying in state at Arbour Hill for five days, during which time an estimated half a million people filed past his coffin. British prison officials observed that there was only ash and dirt. They dug up the ground in the approximate location and sent it to Dublin. The President of Ireland, Éamon de Valera, who in his mid-eighties was the last surviving leader of the Easter Rising, defied the advice of his doctors and attended the ceremony, along with an estimated 30,000 Irish citizens. Casement’s last wish, to be buried at Murlough Bay on the North Antrim coast has yet to be fulfilled as Harold Wilson’s government released the remains only on condition that they not be brought into Northern Ireland. Whatever they did bury in 1965 was nothing but soil and quicklime, it was all a big show.
1934 May He writes an angry letter to Goebals after a Hitler Youth gang attacks a Catholic Scout Camp where his son Roger was staying. Roger had his arm broken. Goebel’s did nothing, but the letter was published in a number of Catholic newspapers under Keogh’s name. He was later concerned that this might have made him a marked man.
Steel Helmet poster, members and flag
1934 Jun 30. Keogh believes he missed death by 20 minutes during the “Night of the Long Knives”. He had been patrolling the streets of Berlin with 20 Steel Helmets. Around midnight her saw groups of agitators outside the bars and cafes, and they were called out twice in half an hour to Vosse Strasse, near the offices of Von Pappen the Vice Chancellor. 20 minutes after his last patrol left, a dozen armed SS men forced their way into Von Papen’s office, killing two of his aides, but Von Pappen escaped out the back door. That night Rohm and 40 of his men were arrested in the Hanselbauer Hotel outside Munich in the early hours of the morning. On hearing this, Keogh disappeared to a friend’s farm for a week until things quietened down. He felt that the letter he had written to Goebels, complaining about the roughing up of his son, could have made him a marked man.
The Steel Helmets was more than just a veterans association, it was a a paramilitary organisation formed in 1918 initially from soldiers with 6 months front line experience, but this requirement was dropped later. From 1924 onwards it provided a standing armed force in support of the Reichswehr beyond the 100,000 allowed by the Treaty of Versailles. And by 1930, with 500,000 members, the Stahlhelm was the largest paramilitary organization of Weimar Germany. Although the Stalhelm was officially a non-party organisation, it became increasing more right wing, and for example banned Jews from membership. Its members became involved in fights with other paramilitary groups.
In 1929 it took on an anti-democratic character and the Stahlhelm joined joined the DNVP, NSDAP under Adolf Hitler and Alldeutscher Verband to form the Harzburger Front, which was a united right-wing front against the Weimar Republic. In 1934 the Stahlhelm was renamed Nationalsozialistischer Deutscher Frontkämpferbund (Federation of the National Socialist Frontline-Fighters) and integrated into the Sturmabteilung and, in 1935, it was dissolved by the Nazis.
1936 Aug. He worked as an interpreter at Berlin Olympic Games as he was fluent in German and English
1936 Sep 8. Michael Keogh returned to Ireland, apparently upon De Valera’s request. Michael believed that de Valera had promised him that there would be a job and a house waiting on his return. There was nothing. I suspect that Michael Keogh had written to de Valera when the problems in Germany started to grow, and was given some sort of vague promise of work. The family lived in a hotel in Pearce Street, Dublin for 8 months, but neither job nor accommodation were forthcoming from the Irish government. So they moved out to a small rented house
He eventually got work on a contract laying a pipeline in Laois, at living at 25 Northumberland Rd, Portlaoise and then Castletown, which lasted 6 months. Then further contract work on a reservoir at Scarriff, Co. Clare for 4 years.
During World War Two the Germans who had been running Pidgeon House Power Station at Ringwood, Dublin, were recalled to Germany. He was able to help in the running of the power station as all the blueprints, instruction manuals and machinery were German
1941 May 24. He is in court in Edendarry for stealing a bicycle.
He worked in the Carlow sugar company for some time after the war but lived in Dublin.
Irish Times Carlow Pictures Dec 1950
His health suffered in his 50s and an enlarged heart led to his retirement, A series of Chronicle articles written by him were published in December 1952. He says that 11 of the old Irish Brigade were still alive at that date. One died 11 Dec 1927 in the Dublin Workhouse (probably Daniel Murphy). They had all, he says, forfeited their British Military Pensions and did not get Irish Military ones.
Roger Casement Mass 1955
His grandson, Kevin, said “my grandfather writings …were later stolen with other important documents from him in mysterious circumstance while he was ill in James Connolly Memorial Hospital in Blanchardstown, Co. Dublin in 1964. He died two weeks later RIP. The fact of the matter is somebody in Ireland in 1964 did not want Michael Keogh’s full story told. Whether it was political or not, I believe it was,”
Michael Keogh died in Sept 1964, and his widow Annamarie, died in Tallacht Ireland in the 80’s.
AN IRISHMAN WHO served in the German army once saved another soldier’s life – only to later discover the man he rescued was Adolf Hitler.
The extraordinary life story of Michael Keogh, a policeman’s son from Tullow, Co Carlow, is to be revealed in a documentary on RTE Radio 1 on April 2 next. Keogh – dubbed the “Irishman who saved Hitler” by historian Turtle Bunbury – had his diaries and letters published in book form two years ago.
With Casement’s Irish Brigade, compiled by his grandson Kevin Keogh, told how Michael met the Irish revolutionary Roger Casement in New York in 1911. The Carlow man became part of Casement’s plan to recruit an Irish Brigade from Irish soldiers in the British Army (who Keogh fought for in World War I) and who became German prisoners of war.
When Casement was captured and executed by the British for treason, the Irish Brigade project was abandoned. Keogh joined the German army and served on the Western front. In 1919, he was in charge of a barracks in Munich and found two soldiers being pummelled by a crowd of around 200, with one continuing to shout out fascist views even as he was in danger of being bayoneted to death. Keogh ordered the mob to disperse and the two were spared.
It was only eleven years later, attending the Nuremberg rallies as an observer when he worked as an engineer on the new subway system, that Michael Keogh realised the man leading the rally was Adolf Hitler, one of the two soldiers he had saved with his intervention in Munich. (Turtle Bunbury wrote an excellent account of Keogh’s exploits on his website here in 2009).
Kevin Keogh Jnr recalled:
When my grandfather saw first-hand how oppressive the Nazi regmie had become on a daily basis, he changed his views. He knew some of the soldiers and civilans who Hitler murdered on the Night of the Long Knives and he became a marked man.
He later returned with his family to Ireland and died in 1964. The memoirs he wrote in his lifetime mysteriously disappeared when he was in hospital on his death bed but his grandson tracked them down in 2005 and they could finally be edited and published.
The documentary was aired just after 6pm on April 2 2011 on RTE Radio 1.