Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Local man's Granddad may have saved Hitler's life


THE long-lost memoirs of a man who served in Roger Casement’s ‘Irish

Brigade’ in Germany during the First World War have been published –

over 40 years after the first draft of the book mysteriously went missing

from the author’s deathbed.

In 2005 Kevin Keogh (51), from Ard na Greine, first stumbled on the

manuscript for the book, which was written by his grandfather Michael


He had been carrying out some research into his family history when he

came across photos of his grandfather on the internet, and realised soon

afterwards that the raw material of Michael Keogh’s fascinating and

unfinished book lay undiscovered but intact in the UCD archives.

UCD released the book back to the Keogh family, who enlisted the help

of author and historian Brian Maye to cross-reference all the times, dates,

places and events described in the book.

Five years and much meticulous research later, ‘With Casement’s Irish

Brigade’ was published by Choice Publishing Ltd earlier this month, with

an introduction written by Brian Maye.

The book is a fascinating account of an Irishman who led an exciting,

adventurous and at times dangerous life. He boasted the unusual honour

of fighting and being decorated by both sides in World War I. Originally

a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, Michael Keogh joined the

British Army in 1914, winning the George’s Cross for bravery for his role

in the very early stages of the Great War, where he fought in such famous

campaigns as the Battle of Mons.

As a prisoner of war, Keogh joined Roger Casement’s Irish Brigade and

subsequently joined the German Army, fighting on the Western Front and

later against the Munich Soviet in 1919.

He was decorated by the Germans with the Iron Cross for gallantry.

One fascinating episode described in the book is when Michael Keogh

rescued and probably saved the life of a young German soldier who was

being savagely attacked by a gang of his peers over his controversial views.

That man was Lance Corporal Adolf Hitler.

Kevin Keogh told Northside People: “My grandfather crossed paths with

Adolf Hitler on three occasions. “The first time my grandfather took any

notice of Lance Corporal Hitler was September 1918 near Ligny on the French

border. “Hitler was in the same Bavarian 16th Infantry Regiment as my

grandfather. Hitler was being carried on a stretcher outside a field-dressing


“The second time is of more historical interest. I quote my grandfather:
‘I was back in Munich in the late spring of 1919 when, after some days of

bitter fighting, the Frikorps & the regular army had overthrown the Reds.

‘I had fought my way into Munich as a captain in command of the

machine-gun company in the Frikorps Epp - led by General [later Field

Marshal] Epp.

‘A few weeks later I was the officer of the day in the Turken Strasse barracks

when I got an urgent call about eight o'clock in the evening.

‘A riot had broken out over two political agents in the gymnasium. These

"political officers" as they were called, were allowed to visit each barracks and

make speeches or approach the men for votes and support.

‘I ordered out a sergeant and six men and, with fixed bayonets, led them off on

the double.

‘There were about 200 men in the gymnasium, among them some tough

Tyrolean troops.

‘Two political agents, who had been lecturing from a table top, had been dragged

to the floor and were being beaten up. Some of the mob were trying to save them.

‘Bayonets were beginning to flash. The two on the floor were in danger of being

kicked to death.

‘I ordered the guard to fire one round over the heads of the rioters. It stopped the

commotion. We hauled out the two politicians. Both were cut, bleeding and in need

of a doctor. The crowd around muttered and growled, boiling for blood.

‘We carried them to the guardroom and called a doctor. While waiting for him I

questioned them.

‘The fellow with the moustache gave his name promptly: Adolf Hitler. It was the

Lance Corporal of Ligny. I would not have recognised him. He had been five months

in hospital, in Passewalk, Pomerania. He was thin and emaciated from his wounds.

‘Then he began to talk about his "new party". The other man with him was Zimmer.

They had come to the barracks as political agents for the new National Socialist

German Workers’ Party [NSDAP], which Hitler and six others had founded.

‘The next time I saw him, he was no longer in need of a guardroom for his safety. I

was standing on the fringe of a vast crowd. The place was Nuremberg and the year

was 1930. The month was August. Hitler was on a massive platform, furled in the

Swastika flags of his National Socialist German Workers’ Party, much better known

by its abbreviation, Nazi.

‘One month later, his party won 107 of the seats in the Reichstag. And the fate of

Germany lay in his hands.’” Upon his discharge from the German army in 1919,

Keogh came home and took part in the War of Independence, gunrunning for the IRA

from Germany.

Grandson Kevin said it was a thrilling moment for his family when they realised they

had rediscovered their grandfather’s legacy.

“We grew up hearing the stories about my grandfather, and especially about his book

which he spent 30 careful years re-drafting and editing – he never went anywhere

without it,” he stated.

Just before Michael Keogh died in 1964, his son Kevin (now aged 84 and living in Swords)

went to visit him at James Connolly Memorial Hospital in Blanchardstown. His father was

in a very distressed state, and claimed that a man dressed as a priest had taken his papers from

under his pillow. The war veteran died two days later, and it took 40 years for the papers

to resurface.

“The original documents were there, a lot of them in handwriting – although we had been

told the stories many times there were lots of details in the book that even my father had

never known about his father,” added Kevin Keogh.

This fascinating account of a larger-than-life Irishman is a must for anyone interested in

history, war or true-life adventure. Scriptwriters should form a queue.

l ‘With Casement’s Irish Brigade’ is available online from Choice Publishing Ltd. Drogheda,


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