Excerpt from Robert Fisk, "In Time of War: Ireland, Ulster, and the Price of Neutrality 1939-1945"
In the early days of the war, German naval commanders were in the chivalrous habit of rescuing the crews of the ships that they had torpedoed and depositing them on the nearest landfall. Thus on October 3, according to Irish military records in Dublin, the German submarine U 35 sank the 8000-ton Greek freighter Diamantes forty miles west of the Skelligs and coolly sailed into Dingle Bay next day to put the rescued crew ashore.’8 The twenty-eight Greeks had been taken aboard the U-boat before the submarine fired three torpedoes at The Diamantes, which bad been en route from South Africa to Barrow-in-Furness.
According to the Greeks, U35 had
‘cruised along for some time’ off the Kerry coast ‘seeking a deserted part to
land its passengers’. Among the first to see the submarine after she entered
Dingle Bay was an Irish customs officer, ‘the only official in the immediate
neighbourhood’ . The U-boat lay on the surface ‘some little distance from the
shore’ at Ventry while the rescued crew were rowed to the land four at a time
by a German sailor in a small collapsible boat. Gardai patrolling the coast
also caught sight of the U-boat after the survivors had been landed and ‘rushed
to the spot, but, while they were still some distance away the submarine moved
off and submerged.’20 De Valera’s Irish Press emphasised that the Greek crew
‘were treated with every courtesy and were given food and cigarettes’ during
their thirty hours aboard the submarine.
But while Michael Long, the
Lloyd’s agent at Dingle, looked after the survivors, whose Captain publicly
praised the gentlemanly conduct of the Germans who had just sunk his ship, the
Irish Government was experiencing some embarrassment. ‘It was pointed out in
Dublin circles,’ the Irish Press reported, ‘that the incursion of the submarine
into Irish waters was exclusively for the purpose of landing a ship-wrecked
crew.’ The Diamantes had not exactly been ‘ship-wrecked’ although it was perfectly
true that the submarine commander had been acting from humanitarian motives.
But the Germans were apparently so, confident they would not be apprehended by
the Irish authorities that they had cheerfully waved goodbye to the Greek
survivors before they submerged at Ventry and rumours began circulating in
Dingle town that the U-boat’s Captain had visited Kerry before the war and had
consequently bid his Greek captives farewell with the rather startling adieu:
'Give my best wishes to Mickey Long.' *
On this occasion, de Valera
fulfilled his promise to Maffey by instructing the Irish authorities to
wireless news of the U-boat’s presence ‘to the world’ for the benefit of the
British Admiralty. Maffey later noted the ‘instant report of [a] German
submarine in Dingle Bay’ as an example of the Eire Government’s helpfulness
towards Britain.26 On the morning of October 6, an RAF Coastal Command aircraft
was ordered to ‘locate and if possible attack’ the U-boat. But the instruction
also carried a warning to the British aircrew that ‘EIRE territorial waters are
NOT repeat NOT to be infringed.’
* The veracity of this will never
be established. Michael Long died in Dingle shortly after the war ended. The
submarine’s Captain, together with his ship’s papers, perished when U 35 was
sunk north-west of Bergen by three British destroyers two months after the landing
Notes from Hans Mair:
1) German naval commanders were not "in the chivalrous
habit of rescuing the crews of the ships that they had torpedoed and depositing
them on the nearest landfall". The Diamantis incident is unique.
2) The submarine's captain, Werner Lott, did not perish when U
35 was sunk.