Journal Volume 5 2006

John Francis O'Reilly and John Kenny: Irishmen sent by the Germans to spy in Ireland during World War 2 (continued/2)

A very full and comprehensive account of this service will be found in David O'Donoghue's book Hitler's Irish Voices, published by Beyond the Pale Publishing and available through booksellers.

In September 1941, O'Reilly was interviewed by Herr Bock of the Propaganda Ministry after which he took part in a voice test on 24th September 1941 at the Radiofunkhaus. O'Reilly was successful in his application and began work as a script writer, progressing to making broadcasts under the name of' Tim O'Brien before revealing his true identity in late October 1941. The British and Irish authorities monitored all these broadcasts. True to form, after a period of time, O'Reilly began to act up. He initially refused to read the suggested text of Wolfe Tone's diaries as he considered them uninteresting but later read them. He also criticised the selection of music played on the station and in 1942 began to seek work in other directions.

O'Reilly later claimed that in June 1942 he met an American working for the S.S., later identified as Howard Marsggraff, who told him that there might be work for him in Spain contacting those who might have news of Northern Ireland. Marsggraff served in the Waffen - S.S., worked with German Radio and had assisted Norman BaIlie - Stewart in getting work in Germany. Norman BaIlie - Stewart was a British officer court-martialled in 1933 under the Official Secrets Act for passing low grade intelligence information to the Germans. On conviction, he was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment which he served in the Tower of London and had the distinction of being the last British citizen imprisoned there. In 1940 Bailie-Stewart became a German citizen. At the end of World War 2, he was captured by the Americans in Austria and handed over to the British. Because there were doubts that a prosecution for high treason might not succeed, he was prosecuted by the British on the lesser charge of 'committing an act likely to assist the enemy', and on conviction was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment. He later moved to Ireland and died in Dublin in 1966.

It appears that Marsggraff also acted as a freelance recruiter for both the Abwehr and its arch competitor and rival, the S.D. The S.D. was the intelligence branch of the S.S. responsible for the security of Adolf Hitler, the Nazi hierarchy, the Nazi party and the Third Reich. For his part, O'Reilly indicated that he would be more interested in being sent to Northern Ireland on a mission and it is possible that Marsggraff may have reported this willingness to work for a German intelligence service to his superiors.

O'Reilly applied to work as a German intelligence agent / V - man (trusted agent / reliable information source) and in June 1942 was interviewed by the S.S. This may have been the S.D. as the vetting of applicants and the carrying out of security checks would have come within their remit. O'Reilly continued to work for German Radio until September 1942 when he was called back by the S.S. / S.D., informed that his application to work as a German intelligence agent had been approved and that he would now be required to undergo a period of training. O'Reilly then submitted his resignation to German Radio with Dr. Hartmann trying to persuade him to stay but he refused this request and was only released by providing a replacement Irishman in his place, Liam Mullally, who had formerly worked in the Berlin Berlitz School and shared an apartment with him.

On 17 September 1942, O'Reilly reported to the Abwehr training school in Bremen to commence preparations for his mission to Northern Ireland which was assigned the code name Isolde for which he was to collect intelligence from Derry / Londonderry, Belfast, Liverpool and Lough Foyle. In the early planning stage of the mission, consideration was given to basing him in London and have various I.R.A. contacts in Britain bring him relevant information. Another intention was that he would be either landed on the Irish west coast by cutter, travel from Lisbon, or dropped by parachute over Ireland.

Towards the end of 1942, plans were made to send him to Ireland by submarine but when he returned from leave in January 1943, he was told that this plan had been dropped. The Abwehr also considered obtaining a transit visa for O'Reilly from William Warnock, the Irish Charge d'Affair in Berlin but his idea was abandoned. The decision to cancel O'Reilly's Irish mission was taken by Dr. Edmund Veesenmayer, the Irish specialist in the Foreign Ministry, who was more concerned in trying to arrange Frank Ryan's return to Ireland and considered the O'Reilly mission a waste of precious resources. Veesenmayer had O'Reilly secretly assessed with the investigating officer considering O'Reilly a 'pig headed individual’. The Abwehr still wanted to proceed with the O'Reilly mission but following discussions with Veesenmayer, Admiral Canaris, head of the Abwehr, cancelled the operation even though it had been suggested, as mentioned earlier, that O'Reilly should obtain the relevant travel papers from William Warnock at the Irish Legation in Berlin to enable him to legally travel from Lisbon to Ireland from where he could then enter Northern Ireland or Britain to carry out his mission.

Although O'Reilly completed a telegraphy refresher course, the Abwehr had no further use for him once his mission to Ireland was cancelled and was released from their service. But the S.D. was still interested in him and planned their own special operation for him without Veesenmayer or the Abwehr being aware of what was going on.


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