Luftwaffe funeral in Wexford

Published in 20th-century / Contemporary History, General, Issue 3 (May/June 2011), Letters, The Emergency, Volume 19

Luftwaffe funeral in Wexford 1Sir,—Your valuable article by David O’Donoghue on the IRA and the Nazis in the last issue (HI 19.2, March/April 2011, pp 36–9) prompts me to submit a photograph taken at one particular burial ceremony in Wexford on 11 June 1941. While official photos were taken for Irish Army intelligence by a Kodak representative, an audacious young box camera lad, John Scanlon, snapped away until he was caught. His work was confiscated and only emerged in the 1990s, along with other official Luftwaffe military funeral photos (published in N. Furlong and J. Hayes, Wexford in the rare old times, 1996). The German legation secretary, who usually attended Luftwaffe funerals and made brief speeches, was Dr Henning Thomsen, who was, I understand, an enthusiastic Nazi. He seems to have been forgotten in the recent emphasis on Dr Eduard Hempel.


Of all the photos, this capture by John Scanlon is one of the most dramatic, and certainly the most perilous had it fallen into media hands in beleaguered Britain. The ceremonies at the graveside are over and the German diplomat is being ushered away from the scene by his escorting army officer. The rector of Wexford, Canon Hazely, who officiated for the Lutheran Church, is seen removing his stole at left. Suddenly, from amongst the bystanders, a man in civilian dress steps forward towards Herr Thomson and gives a proper Irish army-style salute. The astonishment is evident in the reactions of the army officers at right with Crosstown graveyard administrator John Sutton, while Herr Thomson appears to be acknowledging the gesture. Who was the man? He resembles from behind one of the IRA figures of the period, some of whom had already been interned by the de Valera government—and more were about to be interned. This startling photograph had been in custody for several years, but the mystery surrounding it remains unsolved.—Yours etc.,




Wexford Historical Society


For a fuller account by the letter-writer of this bizarre incident (and other photos) check out ‘Swastika over the Slaney’ in HI 5.3, Autumn 1997, pp 5–6 (


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