Plan Kathleen

Plan Kathleen

Plan Kathleen, sometimes referred to as Artus Plan, was a military plan for the invasion of Northern Ireland sanctioned by Stephen Hayes, Acting Irish Republican Army (IRA) Chief of Staff, in 1940.[1] Plan Kathleen is frequently confused with Operation Green, the German military plan to invade Ireland drawn up in 1940.[citation needed]


Immediate context

Kathleen took place in the context of then IRA Chief of Staff, Seán Russell, being incommunicado in the United States as he pursued the propaganda arm of the S-Plan. Russell was attempting to arrange passage to Berlin (see Operation Dove), having left Stephen Hayes as Acting Chief of Staff back in Ireland.

While Russell's movements were unknown to Hayes, he sanctioned the drawing up an invasion plan to end partition and reunify the island of Ireland. The plan was written by an IRA volunteer called Liam Gaynor.[2] Gaynor created the plan in early 1940, sometime before it was decided to send the plan to Nazi Germany via courier. Hayes had a couple of reasons for doing this; he wanted German assistance for IRA operations in Ireland, and he wanted to re-establish the IRA link with German Intelligence (Abwehr) to secure arms and money.[3] The courier for transporting the plan to Germany was a Dublin businessman with German heritage named Stephen Carroll Held.[4] Held left for Germany and arrived on 20 April 1940. His first call was to the door of the first Abwehr contact in Ireland, Oscar Pfaus.[5] Pfaus then took Held to Berlin to meet with Abwehr Section-Leader, Kurt Haller. Held was instructed to produce a previous agreed means of identification that would prove that he was an emissary sent by the IRA.[6] During this first meeting, he did not meet Hermann Görtz, an Abwehr agent who was preparing to leave for Ireland, but he was introduced to him later.[7] Due to his nervousness, the Abwehr were suspicious and they found the plan he carried extremely amateurish.[8]

His mission complete (delivering the plan and an invitation from Hayes for a German officer to be sent to Ireland), Held returned to Ireland two days later. The Abwehr II war diary briefly records the entire incident beginning 20 April 1940:

"A personal emissary of the chief Irish agent (Jim (Seamus) O'Donovan) has arrived in Germany."

Then on 24 April:

"The representative sent from Ireland to Germany on behalf of Abwehr II's chief Irish agent departed according to plan on April 23 for Belgium by secret route."[9]

Details of Plan Kathleen

According to Görtz, Kathleen consisted of a map, on which was the suggestion of a German landing similar to that at Narvik, in the vicinity of Derry — an amphibious assault. The aim of the plan was the conquest of Northern Ireland via a simultaneous IRA insurgency and use of German forces. The IRA were to be concentrated in the county of Leitrim on the border facing Lough Erne and Upper Lough Erne awaiting the arrival of German forces in Northern Ireland. However, the IRA plan gave no thought to how German troops were to be brought to Derry, how control of the sea approaches was to be obtained or where and how the coast of Northern Ireland was fortified. Görtz described the plan at the time and its limitations thus: "The plan was therefore completely useless. It nearly broke my heart, since it came from the IRA Chief of Staff."[10]

Hull in "Irish Secrets" describes the plan so:

The plan envisaged a landing in the neighborhood of Derry (in the manner of Narvik Operation Weserübung) and a successful conquest of Ulster with assistance from the IRA. The IRA planned a ground offensive beginning in County Leitrim with a front on the Lower and Upper Lough Erne which would, somehow, lead to the destruction of all British forces in Northern Ireland. The bait for the Germans was supposed to be the change of neutralizing the RAF's use of Lough Erne as a tactical base against the U-boat fleet. The plan called for the deployment of 50,000 German troops."[11]

It is accepted that the plan was poorly constructed, and not treated with any seriousness by the Abwehr, or German Foreign Ministry although at this stage they did not recognise the IRA as "hopelessly immature".[12] In so much as the plan was considered, it was considered a measure of IRA intent — willingness to assist.[13] It is not known whether any serious planning was done around Kathleen, although the plan appears to have been widened in scope, maybe by Görtz, or perhaps Kurt Student, who presented a similar plan to Hitler in January 1941, to include parachute drops of German troops around Divis Mountain and Lisburn in combination with the amphibious assault on Lough Swilly and Magilligan Point.[14]

Aftermath of Kathleen

Plan Kathleen was sent to Germany in April 1940, and arrived around two weeks before Görtz was to parachute into Ireland as part of Operation Mainau on 5 May. Before his departure, Görtz was instructed to begin contact with the IRA, assess the strength of the IRA and the feasibility of the plan. He did discuss the plan and strength of the IRA with Hayes upon his arrival in Ireland.[15] By the time of these discussions, Russell was still alive, he had arrived in Berlin the day Görtz left although they did not speak together.[16]

The discussions Görtz had with Hayes were entirely unproductive.[17] Hayes and Görtz's had begun their negotiations on 17 May, meeting in the home of Stephen Held. Prior to this Görtz had probably already met with Seamus O'Donovan who had briefed him on the state of the IRA. At this meeting Hayes listed the strength of the IRA, which Görtz reported as "5000 sworn in members, of whom 1500 [are in] Northern Ireland. Hayes counts on a further 10,000 Northern Irish and 15,000 Southern Irish in the case of an armed revolt in Northern Ireland".[18] However, Görtz expressed disappointment with Hayes:

"I do not think it is necessary for me to describe the disappointment which I felt when I met Stephen Hayes, although I had already been warned. I expected someone like Léon Degrelle [leader of the Belgian Rexists] or like the leaders of the Breton independence movement, or the Ukrainian leaders with whom I had become acquitained in Berlin. Hayes was an ex-footballer. At first he showed himself as a man of good personal qualities but that is not enough for the leader of nationalist extremists. Later his character deteriorated. I think from alcohol and fear."[19]

At this meeting, Görtz claims that he directed Hayes to cease operations in Éire and instead concentrate operations on Northern Ireland.[20] Görtz reports that Hayes said he would issue orders to that effect. Hayes is also reported to have said that the Irish Government had made contact with him via a priest, "Father O'Hara", with a view to incorporating the IRA within the Irish Defence Forces.

Görtz reports that Kathleen was discussed:

"We discussed the plan of a German invasion of Ulster on the basis of ′Plan Kathleen′ which Held had brought to Germany. I did not tell Hayes what I really thought about the plan but used the discussion about it only as a pretext to learn something about the real strength and state of readiness of the IRA. I said that the plan was the subject of a lively discussion in Germany but that one needed more military intelligence about Ulster before the plan could be executed. Thereupon Hayes asked what sort of information was needed.... Hayes then told me that the IRA had no weapons for any sort of major action. When I learnt of all that was needed in the way of weapons, I wondered exactly what was the military value of the IRA. I told Hayes flatly that the landing of a consignment of arms was just as impossible on the Ulster coast as on that of Éire. The one possibility was delivery on the high seas and that would only be feasible for small quantities. Hayes jumped at this idea. I immediately regretted having spoken about this at all because my remark led to wild and fantastic IRA discussions as to which island could be used for U-boat replenishment and which impossible bogs and mountains could be used as airfields."[21]

Görtz was to say later:

"We always discussed the same things. In Ulster nothing was achieved on IRA initiative, in Éire the order to discontinue activities was not strictly obeyed."[22]

Görtz claims that after this meeting he sat down and worked out the details of shipping and landing arms in Ireland.

Capture of the Plan

On 22 May 1940, Held′s house was raided and equipment brought by Görtz to Ireland including his parachute and Plan Kathleen were seized. The Garda waited for Held to arrive at the house and arrested him.[23] They also found, in Görtz′s room, a typewriter and a file that contained military details about Irish harbours, airfields, bridges, roads, landing places, and the distribution of Irish Defence Forces.[24] Around the same time, wife of Francis Stuart, Iseult Stuart (daughter of Maud Gonne) was arrested on suspicion of also harbouring "Heinrich Brandy", the name Görtz was travelling under.[25] Plan Kathleen was blown, and the Irish authorities were to immediately send it to MI5 in London who later sent it to the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) in Belfast. The details of the plan were to form the nucleus of joint Irish and British wargaming the following year, under the auspices of Plan W — the combined response to a German invasion.

Hempel would try to negate the fear generated within the Irish political establishment by the discovery of Plan Kathleen.[citation needed]He was instructed to do this by underscoring German offers of military assistance should Britain invade Éire.[26]

The Kurt Student Plan 1941

Plan Kathleen, or a widened variant of the plan to take over Northern Ireland appears to have surfaced again in Nazi Germany during January 1941. During an audience with Hitler, General Kurt Student, commander of the German 11th Airborne Corps, discussed a plan to take over Northern Ireland and leave the territory of Éire free from, and unoccupied by, German troops.[27] The discussions took place at the Obersalzberg on New Year's Day where Student was recovering from wounds received during the invasion of Holland. At this point, Hitler was still obviously considering an invasion of Britain, and it was within this context that Student suggested a diversionary paratrooper attack on Northern Ireland to coincide with German landings on the south coast of England. Student suggested a plan whereby dummies dressed as paratroopers would also be dropped to confuse the enemy. According to Student:

" even longer discussion followed on the question of the position of the Irish Free State. Hitler stated: 'Éire's neutrality must be respected. A neutral Irish Free State is of greater value to us than a hostile Ireland. We must be glad that Ireland has remained neutral up to the present. But we could not avoid trespassing on a small scale, through units losing their way by emergency landings at night, by dropping in the wrong area.'"[28]

Student suggested the best date for the operation would be in April, on the 25th Anniversary of the Easter 1916 Rising. His plan was to drop 20,000 paratroopers and 12,000 airborne troops by night on two areas of Northern Ireland. The first and larger force would land in the triangle between the northern half of Lough Neagh and Divis Mountain above Belfast, capturing the RAF fields at Aldergrove, Langford Lodge and Nutts Corner. At the same time, a second force of paratroopers would be dropped near Lisburn to destroy the planes on the Long Kesh airfield and cut road and rail links between Belfast and the south. Student's dummies would meanwhile be dropped over the Mourne and Sperrin Mountains to add to the confusion. At daybreak, Luftwaffe fighter squadrons would then fly in from Brittany and land on the captured airfields.

Student claimed after the end of World War II that he thought the first part of the operation would have been a success, but if the landings in Britain had gone badly, he and his men would have fought through to the territory of Éire and asked to be interned rather than be captured by the British Army. Despite this sentiment, Student was unaware of the cooperation between Dublin and London around Plan W, and most likely any invasion of German forces would have triggered an invasion by the British. Hitler made no decision on the matter and Student was told the next day by Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring:

"Do not trouble yourself needlessly about Ulster [Northern Ireland]. The Führer does not want to invade Great Britain. From now on Gibraltar will be the main task for you."[29]


  1. ^ "Plan Kathleen" was the name given to the plan by Abwehr agent Hermann Görtz, all other German documentation referred to the document as "Artus Plan". Since "Plan Kathleen" is most commonly used to refer to the plan it is used as the title for the article. For sake of brevity, here it is referred to simply as "Kathleen".
  2. ^ For Gaynor's involvement see Fisk P.348-349
  3. ^ See Bowyer Bell P.184-185. There is some indication that Hayes was attempting to usurp Russell with this move, although with no way to contact him and probably acting under orders to continue trying to foster links with Nazi Germany he acted on his own initiative. It is noteworthy however that in Abwehr war diary entries immediately after Held's visit on 3 May, Russell is described as "Sean Russell, former Adjutant to the IRA leader.."
  4. ^ Held was the illegtimate son of an Irish mother and adoptive German father, he was a middle class businessman who while sympathising with the IRA and their aims, was not an IRA volunteer; he had been chosen for the courier job because of his "clean sheet" with the authorities.
  5. ^ See Stephen P. 107-108
  6. ^ A torn in half pound note which had been given to Seamus O'Donovan in February 1939. The half Held carried would match the half in German possession.
  7. ^ Görtz left on 5 May 140 as part of Operation Mainau, so he most likely took part in discussions on Kathleen.
  8. ^ Haller eventually pulled a gun on Held due to his suspicions, and demanded that he confess to being a double agent, once Held broke down and protested his innocence the Abwehr found his story more believable, See Stephan P.109
  9. ^ Stephen P 110
  10. ^ Stephan P.109
  11. ^ See Hull P.91
  12. ^ Hull Page. 8
  13. ^ This willingness to assist would be thrown into sharp relief once the Abwehr and Foreign Ministry came to realise that the IRA were incapable of assisting; it did take until 1943 for them to realise this however.
  14. ^ Fisk disputes this and says that the entire plan was the work of Gaynor, although this does not account for Görtz not mentioning parachute drops in his original estimation of the plan. See Fisk P. 349. Handwritten notes by Görtz were found on the plan when it was captured by Garda Síochána Special Branch, and this could be where the confusion on what Gaynor had originally planned arises.
  15. ^ See Stephan P.122
  16. ^ The only transmitter that was working was operated by the German Legation in Dublin, the radios Görtz had brought were destroyed on landing and the IRA's transmitter had been seized in December 1939. Both Görtz and Hayes stayed away from the Legation due to Irish Military Intelligence (G2) surveillance- both were wanted men. Eduard Hempel, head of the Legation was unaware of the majority, if not all, of the Abwehr missions into Ireland although he was in radio contact with Berlin and reported on Held's capture and the rumours of a German spy.
  17. ^ See Stephen P.182
  18. ^ Hull Page 92
  19. ^ Stephan P.121
  20. ^ An attempt had been made to seize a mailbag the previous day. This had resulted in the serious wounding of two Garda and triggered a national manhunt. Éire is also known as "Ireland" during the period.
  21. ^ Stephan P.122-123. Far from having no arms, the IRA, for its "Northern Campaign" September - December 1942, was able to assemble a total of 12 tons of arms and explosives from pre-existing weapons dumps. It is assumed that none of these weapons came from Nazi Germany.
  22. ^ Stephan P.182
  23. ^ Görtz escaped and remained at large for another 18 months.
  24. ^ Held explained himself with the story that Görtz had introduced himself in Dublin using the assumed name "Heinrich Brandy". Held had then agreed to let the room to him. He was disbelieved and sentenced via the Military Tribunal. A typed copy of invasion plans were found, which as previously noted Görtz claims to have been working on, this could explain the difference between the plans found and the plan originally presented to the Abwehr.
  25. ^ See Stephan P124-126.
  26. ^ See Stephan P.190
  27. ^ This was during wider discussions on using airborne troops to conquer Britain. Irish operations were ever important only in that context as Hitler prized Irish neutrality over everything else. See recollections of Student about the discussions on Britain here.
  28. ^ See Fisk P.263
  29. ^ See Fisk page 264

Further Information/Sources

Notable Abwehr Operations involving Ireland

See also

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