Burke, 11438 Private Henry, in Royal Dublin Fusiliers.

harry burke, irish brigade

burke, medal card burke forfeited medals

Keogh on Burke

Keogh on Burke

Roll of Irish Brigade in Zossen confirms him with this service number. Born 1895 in Dublin. He was a tailor before he joined Royal Dublin Fusiliers around Nov 1912. Went to France 22 August 1914, and was captured a few weeks later. His trail though Limburg, Zossen and Danzig mirrors the other Brigade members. His rank seems to have been originally L/Cpl but the April 1915 pay book shows him at full Corporal, I assume when Mahony was demoted Burke got promoted. He was relatively hard line to the extent that he signed up for the Egypt operation if called upon. He does not however appear to have been an NCO when he was sent to Quadsow Punishment Camp in 1917

After the armistice he worked for O'Toole in German Foreign Office, and did trips to Munich to get Brigade men to return to Ireland as O'Toole wanted to use them as a message conduit to nationalists in Dublin. When Burke got back to Ireland, probably early in 1919, Burke joined the Old IRA. He appears to have become more hard line, and gone to England as part of the IRA bombing campaign, and been arrested and imprisoned in England. He lost touch with his family around 1940, but Keogh believes he was still alive in 1940.

1894 Dec 8. Henry Burke born to William M Burke and Mary Burke (nee Conroy) 56 Cook Street, Dublin

1901 census

1901 census Living at Wood Quay, Dublin with his mother and sister. His mother is "married" not widowed, but the father is not at home. Presumably tailoring ran in the family as his mother is a tailoress.

1911 census His previous job given as "tailor" in Casement's records.The 1911 census shows Henry Burke aged 16, and a tailor, living with his Uncle and Aunt, John and Ellen Cumiskey at 18.5 Wood Quay, Dublin. The Cumiskeys have no children of their own, and living in the house is also Ellen Burke, aged 11, who is Henry's sister. Henry Burke is given as born City of Dublin on the census, circa 1895. His father W F Burke was obviously alive in 1911, as he later applied for his son's medals in November 1921, but I have not tracked him down in 1911 census.

1912 Nov. His service number points to enlistment about Nov 1912

1914 Taken prisoner, and followed the rest of the Irish Brigade through Limburg, Zossen and Danzig

1915 Oct 24. Hahn writes to Casement that he is having problems with L/C Burke. L/C Burke got 3 days in prison and last week went into hospital as he had a "peculiar attack of deranged mind"

Monteith says of him "He was easily the most gorgeously caparisoned member of the brigade. So perfect was the fit of his clothes that one would think that his uniform had been made and that he had been poured into it in a liquid state and afterwards hardened up. I never came into contact with him without an apologetic feeling for my own ill fitting clothes. But let it not be imagined that although a tailor and a dandy, that he could not fight. Far from it, I had a demonstration of this fact"

I assume this refers to Burke

File WO 141/9 includes a summary of the evidence compiled by MI5 re the men and NCO’s reported to have joined the German-Irish Brigade. It suggests that the evidence is strong enough for pay, allowances etc be stopped. His medals were later forfeited, and medal card shows his father applied on his behalf W F Burke, 2 Meckenburgh Lane, Cumberland St, Dublin.

1916 Jan. He gives 6 Russel Place, N. C Road, Dublin as the address of his next of kin. 6 Russell Place no longer exists, but the 1911 census gives a James Pierce and family lived there with two boarders. A family mamber guesses that this was his great grandfathers brother and that one of the boarders left and was replaced by William Burke, Harrys father.

1916 May 11 Letter adressed to St John Gaffney via Keogh from Pte H .Burke, Abt Irlander, Irische Brigade, Iruppenplatze,  Zossen. Accordin to Quinlisk, Monteith had summarily reduced Corporal Burke for laughing at him sometime in early 1916.

Honorable Sir, As I know your time is valuable I will come to the point at once by asking you to please send an electric iron for the use of the men. I am the tailor and my work is to look after the men's clothes. No matter how bad the clothes may be, when they are thoroughly pressed it makes a suit look a lot better. The sort of Iron I mean is one which can be connected to the electric light here in our barrack room by a wire or insulator.The battery of the usual electric Iron is generally exhausted in a few hours. I am, Yours Obediently, H.Burke, Private

1916 Jul 9. Keogh writing to The Honourable T St. John Gaffney. Dear Sir,  I wish to thank you for the Iron you so kindly sent to the Brigade Tailor and which I received safely yesterday "

1916 Jul 24. Hahn to Gaffney reporting that Burkes conduct gets worse day by day. "He seems to get mad"

1917 Jan 10. They had a hut inspection one day from an American official, who they mistook for someone from Dublin, and gave him information about themselves that they should not have give. Soon after this the NCOs appear to have drawn up a black list of grumblers and men branded as English. And some days later a fully armed section of German troops entered the barracks, and the Irish Brigade NCOs seemed aware of what was happening. Ten names were read out, and the men ordered to have their kit ready to leave in 5 minutes. They were then marched out of the camp under guard and into as Rahilly says "slavery", a punishment camp. Hahn gives a list of the men sent to Quadsow:-

 1917 Jun 20. A letter in Burkes hand and signed by him from Quasdow to The Honourable T St. John Gaffney. Sir, We Irishmen desire to know if you are aware of our position here! Properly speaking we have not unduly committed ourselves to deserve this treatment. The only conclusion we can arrive at after studying the matter carefully is that we are sent here at the instigation of some of the Irish NCO'S in Danzig-Troyl. These men are largely responsible for other men misconducting themselves. When the NCO's in question steal parcels on their comrades who are out working is it any wonder that other men should try to expose the matter. Also when the same NCO's bring in bread and lager and sell it to the Russians for 6 to 7  per loaf. There are men here who are at present under going punishment for practically nothing at all. The writer of this letter was in the foregoing year basely convicted and punished though not tried of a charge of which I am innocent. ...It has grown a habit in Danzig for punishment without any explanation as to why they are being punished. The men on joining the Irish Brigade were given to understand that they would in every respect be treated in the same manner as German soldiers. If our original and courageous leader Sir Roger Casement were alive today he would not fail to see that that understanding was adhered to. We receive the same food as the Russian prisoners. Excellent treatment indeed for Irishmen from our German friends. We request that you take the matter in hand in order to have us" Verpflight" in the same manner as our German guard. This all the more reasonable as we are engaged  daily on heavy work. The rate of pay was ordered to be 30 pfg per day but our employer considered this a very poor remuneration for the amount of labour done and of his own free will offered to pay 1/- per day.We trust that you will give this letter your kind attention.We beg to Remain, Yours etc. H.Burke, G Fulford, T Mc Mahon, G Mc Cabe, Patrick Keogh, Thomas Mc Grath, P Carr

1918 Dec O'Toole, Rahilly and Burke were sent to "preach socialism to various camps where British prisoners were interned. We had no special training in Marxism, but we did our best to earn our money". Rahilly writes that his first speech was on The Brotherhood of Man, telling the British that all workers should unite in peace and no longer be the hired assassins of the monied classes - he says it was well received by most of the Tommies, who were also surprised that a German like him could speak such good English. He progressed through a number of camps with such speeches.

O'Toole is involved with a lot of cloak and dagger work trying to organise his sabotage scheme in Britain. He appears to be running Rahilly and Burke independently as agents whom he want to return to Ireland as messengers. All three give propaganda talks to British POWs and all three worked for Kellermann in the German Foreign Office.Both Rahilly and Burke go on to do nationalist work in Ireland, but neither appear to have had anything to do with O'Toole or each other in Ireland after the war.

1919 Jan 12. Quinlisk writes that he met one of the Irish Brigade regularly in Berlin (the man is just described as "B", but who I believe to be Burke), and they just happened to meet on the Wilhelmstrasse when the Spartacist revolution broke out (which was between January 5 and January 12, 1919).

1919 Jan. Burke had been sent from Berlin, apparently by O'Toole, to persuade the Irish men around Munich to return. However McDonagh wrote "One of the Irish Brigade, Burke, had been sent by the Red Cross to Munich to find us and persuade us to return. In consequence most of us went to Berlin. I was not well enough. He gave my name and address to the Red Cross in Berlin".

1919 Mar. Rahilly found Burke at his Foreign Office chief's house. Burke did not stay long as he had joined the Republican army, and was on duty that night. Rahilly never did find out why Burke was there, nor did he ever see Burke again.

1919 Mar 17. Quinlisk and his companion "B" (whom I think is Burke) decided to leave Germany, and to try and get back to Ireland. They gave themselves up at the British Embassy in Berlin, and were given British uniforms. They travelled together to Cologne, where both of them were arrested on St. Patrick’s Day, 17th March 1919. B was arrested when a revolver and some incriminating papers were discovered on him. Quinlisk reported himself as an ordinary prisoner of war at the British Expeditionary Camp. His identity was discovered and after being brought before the Town Major he and his companion were confined for 14 days in prison. While there three other members of the Irish Brigade were brought in. These men had been in Munich for most of the time post war, and had handed themselves up to the British military authorities in Berlin. At the end of 14 days they were marched through the streets of Cologne. Quinlisk and his companions sang German war songs as they were marched along under an armed guard through the streets. At the railway station they were placed on board a special leave train for Calais. Here they were detained for four days in a compound and brought before the Deputy Assistant Provost Marshall. They were then released without prejudice and conveyed under escort of a Scottish military officer to Folkestone. From Folkstone Quinlisk left for Dublin. In a letter which he wrote to his companion – all the correspondence is in German – Quinlisk suggested that they should make an attempt to return to Germany, and stated that he would try and secure passports. It is of interest to note that Quinlisk approached a Dublin publishing firm to sell his story of the Casement Brigade, but the negotiations came to nothing.

1919 Apr. According to a newspaper story, Quinlisk and 4 others from Casement's Irish Brigade were sent to Calais in April 1919. The tale of their journey came from an Private in the Royal Dublin Fusiliers who had been in the Irish Brigade. An order came through that they were to be released without prejudice, and they were taken back to England under the escort of a Scottish officer. Quinlisk and 3 of the others were immediately given leave, and went to Dublin. The writer (Burke?) was detained in England for 2 months - I suspect the writer was Burke, it fits in with "B" and the Royal Dublin Fusiliers..

Active in Old IRA after WW1 1920 - 1921 in IRA intelligence service according to Keogh

1920 Nov 24. Arrested by RIC and ADRIC raid on where he was living in Dublin

He gets transferred to Mountjoy

1921 Feb 19 He was handed over to a military escort. Mountjoy register says no more than that

1922 Feb 14. The above photo is of Liverpool Coy of IRA taken after their release from Dartmoor on this date. Harry Burke appears to be the man with the cane, sitting on the left

Emily Burke was my grandmother and Harry's sister. My father was the only one to talk about Harry and they kept in touch up to his disappearance in the 1939 / 1940. My father who was born in 1921, told me that Harry was in the IRA  and on the run up to his disappearance in England 1939 1940. The family believed Harry to have disappeared / been killed in England 39/40. for some reason they thought he may have died as a result of a direct hit in a bomb shelter but that does not ring real. His sister Emily died in circa 1955. Jack & Ellen Cumiskey were still alive in early 50s. I find it hard to believe he would have made no contact but life is strange. Apparently he always carried two revolvers. He would post my dad a picture post card with a view of some part of England / Scotland  they would simply read "Dear Anthony at the top of the card and Harry at the bottom nothing in between. It was also believed that Harry tailored some of the IRB/IRA uniforms during the troubles.

1944 Sep 29 There is a record of Henry Burke being among civilian war dead in CWGC . Cpl., Home Guard; of 468 Forest Road. Husband of Beatrice Harriet Burke. Died at 468 Forest Road, Walthamstow. His wife also died there that night, so it would have been a bombing raid, and her CWGC . Another death at 472 Forest Road. This would correspond to the family story of him being killed in an air raid. This appears to be a Harry Burke who married a Harriet Beatrice Smith in England in 1923

1957 May 20. He does appear to be alive from the newspaper report.

1960 alive according to Keogh - but Keogh was not a reliable witness, and I cannot substantiate this remark by him.

I am not certain what happened to him. The balance is that the air raid man ws not him, and that he was alive in 1957

Casements Irish Brigade Recruits