Operation Seemöwe I

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This was a German unrealised mission planned by the Abwehr’s Abteilung II, on the basis of an original concept Kurt Haller and an expert from Abteilung I-Wi (economic), to deliver an Abwehr agent to northern Scotland to sabotage power-generating facilities in and near Fort William (May/June 1942).

Haller’s selected agent for ‘Seemöwe I’ was an anti-British prisoner of war of Irish origins, who would be parachuted into the Glasgow region and create a three-man team from Irish friends in the area. The team’s targets were to be the electric power station at Fort William and the hydro-electric production facility at Kinlochleven.

In June 1942 ‘Seemöwe I’ was evolved as a companion to ‘Seemöwe II’, both operations being controlled by radio and also liaising with each other by radio. The planning for ‘Seemöwe I’ was launched after the failure of ‘Gastwirt’, and it seems that the Abwehr hoped the training of seemingly compliant Irish prisoners of war, with previous military experience in the British army, would improve the chances of success.

The origins of the parallel ‘Seemöwe I’ and ‘Seemöwe II’ operations can be discerned in the Abwehr’s success in 1940/41 in recruiting agents from Irish prisoners of war held at Stalag XX A (301), also known as Friesack camp. The man chosen as the Abwehr’s tool for ‘Seemöwe I’ was Andrew Walsh (otherwise ‘Agent Vickers’), who had been born at Fethard in County Tipperary, Éire (Irish Free State). He had been taken prisoner by the German army and sent to Stalag XX A (301). Here he met other Irishmen, possibly including IRA volunteer Frank Ryan during his recruitment efforts for the Abwehr. Walsh was recruited by the Abwehr, probably at a time early in 1941, and trained specifically for ‘Seemöwe I’. After completing their training, the agents for ‘Seemöwe I’ and ‘Seemöwe II’ were to be flown to German-occupied Norway for delivery to their target area by Focke-Wulf Fw 200 Condor aircraft.

Shortly before the mission was scheduled to move to Norway, Haller received a call from the headquarters of the Abwehr’s Abteilung II and ordered to return to Berlin with both agents. On the team’s arrival it was explained Walsh had recently confided to another prisoner of war, Thomas Cushing, that he intended to surrender himself to the police on landing in the UK. Walsh and Cushing were arrested by the Gestapo, and ‘Seemöwe I’ was cancelled.