No. 311  NAI DFA Berlin Embassy 48/16

Letter from Frederick H. Boland to William Warnock (Berlin)
(206/194D) (Copy)

DUBLIN, 16 August 1943

I am sending you herewith, for your information, a copy of the Master's statement relative to the circumstances of the sinking, last June, of the 'Irish Oak' by what was almost certainly a German Submarine.1

As you probably know, the sinking of this vessel was the subject of a good deal of discussion and criticism of the Government in the Dáil and during the elections. In particular, the allegation was made that the 'Irish Oak', having sighted a German submarine, signalled the presence of this submarine to a British convoy which was in the neighbourhood. There is not the slightest justification for this allegation which has been denied in most emphatic terms both by the Taoiseach and by Messrs. Irish Shipping. Another criticism which was made hinged on the fact that the Master of the vessel, Captain Jones, was born in Liverpool. This is correct as a statement of fact but the deductions which have been drawn from it and the insinuations made in connection with it are completely unjustifiable and without foundation. Captain Jones has spent almost his entire life on Irish ships and the suggestion that he would have done anything prejudicial to the safety of his ship and crew, and the interests of his owners is ridiculous.

For your information, we had already prior to this incident, drawn the attention of the Departments concerned to the undesirability of employing persons who are not Irish citizens on Irish ships. If Captain Jones and a few other non-nationals were, and are still, employed, it is only because owing to the expansion of our shipping tonnage we have found it impossible to obtain Irish citizens with the requisite experience and qualifications and because certain categories of marine officers, and in particular ship's engineers, are extremely difficult to obtain. When the German Minister mentioned to the Department once or twice this question of the employment of non-Irish nationals on our ships, it was pointed out to him that any non-Irish nationals employed belong to the categories such as that of Master, First Engineer, etc. in which the supplies of personnel available are short of requirements not only here but in Great Britain; that any such non-nationals still employed had served on Irish ships for many years and that the only effect of their dismissal now would be to handicap our shipping and to present our neighbour with supplies of the very kinds of marine personnel of which she is most in need.

In view of the impossibility of identifying positively the submarine which fired the torpedoes at the 'Irish Oak', it was decided not to make a formal protest to the German Government. Actually, however, there is very little in fact no doubt that the submarine responsible was German and, therefore, while not making any kind of official protest or representation, you should take advantage of any suitable opportunities which may present themselves to you in conversation with German officials to speak to them on the usual lines about the sinking of the 'Irish Oak', emphasising the resentment which such incidents create here, their bad effect on our relations with Germany, the harm done to Germany by the comparison inevitably instituted between the action of the United States in giving us this ship and the action of the Germans in sinking it, and the importance of issuing such instructions to the Naval authorities, and of visiting any breach of the instructions with such penalties as will obviate the risk of similar incidents occurring in future.

The 'Irish Oak' was of course one of the two vessels placed at our disposal by the American Government in 1941. The other, the 'Irish Pine' disappeared off the American coast in November 1942, while on an outward voyage in ballast from Ireland. No explanation of her loss has ever been obtained and all the members of her crew went down with her.2

1 Not printed. Irish Oak was sunk by U-607 on 15 May 1943 in the mid-Atlantic Ocean.

2 Irish Pine was sunk by U-608 on 15 November 1942 in the mid-Atlantic Ocean.

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