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