Karl Spindler (naval officer)

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Karl Spindler (1887-1951) was a German Naval Officer who was involved in an attempt to bring German arms ashore in Ireland on behalf of Irish rebels as part of the Easter Rising of 1916.[1]

Early life[edit]

Spindler was born in the small town of Königswinter, near Cologne, Germany on 29 May 1887, the son of a quarry owner, Hubert Spindler and his wife Elise (née Fuchs). At an early age Spindler decided to go to sea rather than join the family business, serving for a period as a watch officer on a Lloyd line steamship. He subsequently enlisted in the marine school in Bremen and the naval academy in Sonderburg, then part of Germany. He served on several ships of the German Imperial Navy and at the outbreak of the Great War, he was commanding the Polarstern, a guardship for the port of Wilhelmshaven.

Naval career[edit]

On 20 March 1916 Spindler was given instructions by his senior officer to undertake a highly secret and dangerous mission on board a disguised merchant ship and to pick five officers and a crew of 16 to join him on the journey. He was given command of a vessel named Libau,[2] a captured British vessel formerly named "Castro" and informed that it was to be falsely flagged as a Norwegian freighter and carry a cargo of weapons to the West Coast of Ireland along with a passenger, Sir Roger Casement. It was part of a plan to land German arms in Ireland to assist Irish republicans in staging what would become the 1916 Rising. Spindler travelled to Berlin for further orders and met Casement there. However Casement preferred to travel on board a submarine which would accompany the Libau which was to be renamed the Aud, the name of a real Norwegian ship, once it went to sea. Casement was later put ashore at Banna Strand in Co. Kerry from the submarine by means of a small collapsible boat. However Casement was arrested soon afterwards on Good Friday, 21 April 1916, and taken prisoner in the Tower of London on charges of High Treason against the United Kingdom. He was subsequently executed by hanging at Pentonville Prison on 3 August 1916. The uprising had failed. Meanwhile, Spindler's ship, now renamed the Aud, was intercepted by British naval vessels near the Blasket Islands and forced to sail for Cobh (then known as Queenstown) where the British had a major naval base. However Spindler instructed his crew to open the ship's sea-valves and blow an explosive charge in the hold. As they left the sinking ship the crew took down the false Norwegian flag she was flying and hoisted the German Imperial flag in its place. They then left the vessel on board two dinghies and were taken prisoners by the British. After some questioning they were taken as prisoners of war to Donington Hall. From there they later escaped only to be recaptured the following day. Spindler was in a weakened state after several bouts of ill-health, and in a prisoner exchange shortly before the end of the war he was transferred to the Netherlands. He subsequently travelled to the United States where he went on a lecture tour speaking of his ill-fated trip to Ireland and his connections with the Easter Rising. In 1921 Spindler published a book on the "Aud" episode which was translated into English as "The mystery of the Casement ship" or "The Mystery Ship" [3] and had significant sales and was translated into several languages. He was feted by Irish-American groups in the US and received numerous awards.

Later life[edit]

Although he made several returns to Germany to see his family, Spindler remained in the United States for the rest of his life. During World War II he was detained in an internment camp as an enemy alien as he failed to get permanent residency or naturalization in the US. He was released in poor health at the end of that war. Karl Spindler died on 29 November 1951 in Bismarck, North Dakota.[4]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Captain Karl Spindler, Siebengebirge e.V.
  2. ^ Shipwrecks of Cork Harbour Archived 2013-06-24 at Archive.is
  3. ^ German Describes Effort to Arm Irish, New York Times, 3 January 1921
  4. ^ Karl M Spindler, findagrave.com