Michael O'Toole, Private Irish Guards

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In O'Toole's MI5 file in Nat Archives

Michael O'Toole, a Clerk (Accountant) before enlisting according to Casement. "A second division man in the Civil Service" who had been dismissed from the Civil Service for an election offence in 1912. It is difficult to see which election. UK General Election was in Dec 1910. However the Irish Times of 27 Jan 1912 appears to have a reference (I have not checked it, but it has "Michael O'Toole election civil servant dismissed clerk").

During WW1 Mrs Mary O'Toole on British records (his wife) lived at 83 St Ignatius Rd, Drumcondra. And his sister Margaret lived at St Ignatius Road until her death in the early 1970's in No 95

Roll of Irish Brigade in Zossen confirnms service no.

1884 Born Dublin

1901 census, I cannot find him

1911 Census I cannot find a man who is a Civil Servant. His wife and daughter are with her parents at St. Mary's Avenue, Dublin.   

1912 Dec joined Irish Guards from his service number

1914 Aug 13. Lands in France

1914 Sep 2. Taken prisoner, and followed the rest of the Irish Brigade through Limburg, Zossen and Danzig

1915 Apr. He was a married man with children who was given "special permission" to break the "No married men" rule. Became a sergeant in the Irish Brigade. When the recruiting was under way, O'Toole aked for permission to talk to Plunkett as he knew Plunkett personally. Plunkett told Keogh that it would be impossible to prevent O'Toole joining the Irish Brigade. Keogh rather eliptically says that he later learnt how O'Toole had arrived as a soldier in Germany.

Said by Keogh to be "for 20 years a member of the IRB" and a Gaelic League organiser. Keogh also has him down as being from Dublin and the drill and musketry instructor for the Irish Brigade. The brigade also had Irish lessons from O'Toole, a Gaelic Leaguer who spared theither the men nor himself during their Irish hour.

Monteith says O'Toole could spot trouble a mile away. And goes on to say "He stood about 5 feet 10 inches high, was a Gaelic speaker and singer, an athlete in splendid training: with clear cut features, crisp, curly black hair and was good to look at. To see him on parade one would say "There is a soldier". He was a first rate footballer, boxer and runner. He was human enough, at times. to be everything he should not have been. His normal state was trouble. He did not have to look for it, it came to him, it followed him, it caught up with him, and lived with him. I always trembled for him and his chum Dowling."

1915 Nov 1. Monteith meets Sergt. O'Toole and Bailey at Potsdamer Banhof at 9.30 together with Gafreter Zehusen, one of the interpreters attached to the Brigade.

1915 Nov 2. Monteith writes to Casement from Limburg (Monteith had gone there with O'Toole and Bailey) on a suggestion that Sgt Keogh also be sent to Limburg from Zossen to help with recruiting.

1915 Christmas. Zerhusen says he was disciplined for drunkeness

1916 Mar He had skills as a mason, in as much as Keogh says that O'Toole engraved a headstone make for Holohan when he died in March 1916.

1916 Apr. Listed in pay list as Sergeant, but it indicates that he had detention for some reason and a stoppage of pay

1917 Spring. A letter from O'Toole to Gaffney at this time, in which O'Toole accused Keogh of living with a married woman in Dirschau - a Frau Rumekewitz. She apparently claims that Keogh beats her, was perpetually drunk, and stole her money, and for good measure stole her overcoat when he eventually left her. O'Toole goes on to state. There are some Irishmen suffering horrors in a punishment camp at Quasdow who have never done half so much hidden harm. By the way these men at Quasdow are suffering through some of this underhand little battle accusations. Some of them are hopeless blaguards but not all. They have all been punished for each offence as it was committed but not in addition should they have to undergo months long imprisonment of a type worse than being sent to a Festung. 20 times worse for in a Festung they could look forward to it being over at a certain date but not so at Quasdow. I basically agreed with the removal of some men to a different camp that would have been a good arrangement for everybody but I disassociate myself from sending them to such a place of torment as Quasdow has proved to be. I think a man should not be punished twice for one offence and such punishment - starvation, underground dwelling bugs and worst of all hopelessness. Most of them are Irishmen and I am sorry to say it is Irishmen who sent them to that Hell on Earth. I know what I am talking about as there are 4 men here who have been released namely Ryan, Callaghan, Sweeney, and Burke. I saw them the 1st morning of their release - they were the picture of misery & weak as cats. I believe you signed the order for their removal from Troyal. Its a pity you didn't make yourself acquainted with the nature of the charge. I am certain you would never have sanctioned it. When poor Sir Roger found we were put into Wiensdorf Lager with the coloured prisoners of war he left no stone unturned until he forced the German Authorities to take us out of it. I say forced advisedly but Sir Roger visited us regularly & kept well in touch with us. We have not had a visit from you since some time before we left Zossen. Weren't very well treated at Zossen & I objected to the removal - now everyone of us knows it was a ghastly mistake.

1917 Jul 26. O'Toole fined 20 marks for failing to report to police bureau "in accordence with the regulations"

O'Toole as a POW

1917 Aug 3. O'Toole to Gaffney. Writing from Stolp, he thanks Gaffney for the harmonica. Greer has been playing it for them, but now Greer has had an accident, when a drill he was working with slipped and tore the flesh between his 3rd and little finger, and they will now have to wait for it to heal. . The letter refers to a German Lt Hegart during their time at Zossen

1918 Jan. he was called to Berlin for a course of instruction at the Ramsberger Strasse Secret Sevice School under Major Nicholai. He was how to make explosives from everyday materials like "chalk, sugar, etc" He also had a course at Berlin University in communicating with invisible ink. He intended to set fire to the coal dumps throughout Britain, so destroying all her coal supplies and hence cripple the Royal Navy. It is not clear whethe O'Toole's sabotage course was in Jan or Jun 1918

1918 O'Toole had written to Gaffney saying that he had had to report Keogh to Camp Commandant for obtaining a pass by deception from commandant at Dirschau and going to Berlin and Limburg for 12 days. He also complains about not getting paid. O'Toole confesses that he had to pawn the Brigade iron and gramophione to make ends meet, but had now recovered them from the pawnbroker.

1918 Mar 30. Dowling and O'Toole exchange letters over petty differences. "Sgt O'Toole" is the form of address rather than the use of Christian names. Dowling accuses O'Toole of:-

1918 May 20. Zerhusen writes to Gaffney about problems

1918 June. After Dowlings arrest in Ireland in April 1918, O'Toole and Delamore were apparently going to be the next men to go by submarine to Ireland to try to establish a means of landing German arms on the west coast of Ireland. Kavanagh's memoir say that O'Toole and Delamere met a civilian called Herrr Schultz. a German official who came from Berlin to Danzig. Delamore was sent to Kiel Submarine base for the 3 week course the Dowling had undertaken, and O'Toole went to Berlin with Schultz where O'Toole underwent intensive training. O'Toole gave Kavanagh a detailed account of this training, and Kavanagh says that he is quoting from this account.

He was installed in a hotel near Unter den Linden, and next day an interpreter took him to a " private house in a respectible west end quarter". Here he was taken to a room with the name "Karl Basel, Agent" on the door. Basel interviewed O'Toole, and next day O'Toole returned to the same hoose and saw Schultz, Basel and another man called Waller. Waller was the man who made sophisticated "toys" for sabotage work such as incendary devices. He was taken to the Siemens Town district. They taught him how to make very stable high explosives, he mentions Pierine, from common ingredients. He was even taught glass blowing, so that he could make his own bomb making equipment. Day after day he learnt how to maufacture explosives, and their use in sabotage. He also wa shown how to communicate with secret writing, the ink being hidden in bootlaces - interestingly the bootlace secret ink is mentioned by Rahilly

The tuition in explosives, sabotage and communication lasted 3 months. When O'Toole finished the course, he prepared for the voyage by submarine to the Arran Islands wher he knew many of the people. He would get to the mainland, contact Sinn Fein and from that go on to instruct many men in Ireland what he knew about explosives and sabotage. The date of the operation was fixed for mid-November 1918, but it never happened as it was just too late. Kavanagh's account of O'Toole's explosive course and Rahilly's are independent of each other and concur.

1918 Oct Rahilly had a lot to do with O'Toole. He says O'Toole had been in hospital at Danzig and had couriers from the German Foreign office visit him in hospital. Rahilly got instructions from O'Toole to join him in Berlin in Oct 1918. At that time O'Toole was well ensconsed in the Foreign Office, but did not impart much information to Rahilly as to what he actually did. O'Toole had a Foreign Office passport in the name of Herr Thomas, that, like Rahilly's gave him powers of arrest. Rahilly believes that O'Toole also had an Admiralty identity that gave him even more powers. He was so secretive that he never told Rahilly where he was living in Berlin.

1918 Oct. Rahilly writes O'Toole then told me how a few months previously he underwent an extensive course of training in explosives under Major Nicholai at Bamberger Strasse, so that with ordinary substances which are in use in almost every household we would be able to manufacture high explosives, and by the judicious mixing of other simple substances such as sugar, chalk, etc., he could make a very inflammable med1un for incendiary purposes. ...He also served a short time in the Berlin University getting instructions from one of its professors on the art of communicating by means of invisible ink.

He is involved with a lot of cloak and dagger work trying to organise his coal fire scheme in Ireland. 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 work for Kellermann in the German Foreign Office. Both go on to do nationalist work in Ireland, but neither appear to have had anything to do with O'Toole in Ireland

1918 Nov. O'Toole. Rahilly and Burke, were sent to preach socialism to various camps where British prisoners were interned. They had no special training in Marxism, but apparently did their best to earn their money.

1919 Jan 29. A Captain Reynolds, on behalf of the Officer in charge Records, Irish Guards, provided a list of names of members of the regiment who had been taken prisoner up to the 25th December 1914. This was in connection with elegibility for Princess Mary's Christmas gift. The names and details of two men have been overtyped as if to remove them from the list however their details are still decipherable:
3?64 Gdsn M O'Toole Limburg
3152 Gdsn F Sewell Gefl?? Zossen
So it would appear that they were the only two from the Irish Guards to join Casement

1919 Apr. He wrote to Rahilly in 1934 telling a little of his life. He went to Holland with Rahilly in early April and after Rahilly was repatriated back to UK, O'Toole stayed in Holland till August

1919 Aug Returns from Holland to Germany. He spent two weeks recuperating in Osnabruck and with a Professor Hungerland and his Irish wife. He seems to have gone to Berlin looking for Rahilly, then on to Hamburg. He writes that after months of adventures he eventually came back to Ireland. He attached himself to the American Army but was eventually arrested by British Intellegence, who had "been searching all over Germany for me"

1920 Apr 4. O'Toole was in a German jail as an accessory to a bank robbery

1921 Apr 15 O'Toole released from German jail on condition that he left Germany. However tthe British Consul refused on the grounds of cost, the Germans then sent him to Cologne at their expense to see the British Consul in Cologne, but O'Toole got off the train and returned to Hamburg, where he stayed for a few weeks before making his own way to Cologne

1921 Jun 11 O'Toole gives a statement to the British authorities, and they later release him apparently without charge. His statement is interesting in thatthe British seem to have taken little trouble to debrief him. It would appear that by Jun 1921 British interest in Casement was zero. O'Toole told the British Consul that he had no desire to meet his wife and child in Ireland ever again.

1922 Jul 11 He records the day he arrived back in Ireland he saw Cathal Brigha's funeral. "I was filled with disgust and apathy to find find my old collegues murdering each other daily" He never did get in touch with Rahilly until 1934

Micheal was appointed to Irish Civil Service upon is return to Ireland as a Staff Office.

1932 Aug. Attended Joseph Dowling's funeral Among those who attended the Requiem Mass were: The deceased's widow and mother, Sergt.-Major Michael Patrick Keogh, Sergt.  Michael O'Toole, Sergt. Sean Casement; Mr. and Mrs. John Nicholson, Mr. John Greer, Irish Brigade Volunteers; and a number of the Connaught Rangers Mutineers. Close on a thousand people attended. His last wish was to be laid to rest with the men of 1916, with whom he had hoped to fight and strike a blow for the freedom of Ireland.

1935 Aug 5. Attends Casement memorial service in Dublin

1936 died Dublin If Keogh is correct in 1936, then only one man called Michael O'Toole fits the bill, born 1889, died Oct/Dec 1936, vol2, p221

1936 November. Those from the Irish Brigade who attended his funeral were Keogh, Kavanagh, Dowling M, Wilson and Stacey .He is buried in Deans Grange. His wife Mary is buried there too circa 1967 as is his daughter Eileen, named in 1911 census,  who died in 2005. He had two other children, Maura died c Dec1976 and Kevin died c 1993 in Australia.


The Irish Brigade in Germany