U-638 & Irish Elm-How tourism saved an Irish ship from sinking.

IRISH ELM 1941-45

Even though Ireland was a neutral country during WWII it didn’t escape the war completely unscathed.It was especially it’s mercantile marine which was affected by the German Navy.

Admiral Karl Dönitz had issued a standing order to U-boats on 4 September 1940, which defined belligerent, neutral and friendly powers. Neutral included “Ireland in particular”. The order concluded: “Ireland forbids the navigation of her territorial waters by warships under threat of internment. That prohibition is to be strictly observed out of consideration for the proper preservation of her neutrality. Signed, Dönitz”

Nazi_Personalities-_Grossadmiral_Karl_Doenitz_(1891-1984)_A14899

However this order was not always obeyed, and the punishment for disobeying this order were very mild or non existent.

The City of Limerick,Luimneach,Clonlara,Kyleclare had all been encountered by U-Boats and sunk.

The Irish Elm however fared better.On 20 March 1943 U-638, commanded by Kapitänleutnant Heinrich Oskar Bernbeck stopped Irish Elm. Rough seas prevented Elm’s crew from pulling their rowboat alongside the submarine to present their papers.

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The interview was therefore conducted by shouting. In the course of the conversation, Elm’s Chief Officer Patrick Hennessy gave Dún Laoghaire as his home address. Bernbeck asked if “the strike was still on in Downey’s”, a pub near Dún Laoghaire harbour. (The Downey’s strike started in March 1939 and lasted 14 years.

downey strike

 

The Irish Elm was allowed to continue its journey

Clearly Heinrich Oskar Bernbeck must have been a visitor to the emerald isle. It just goes to show that tourism is a very important industry to Ireland in more was than one.

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