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The Casement Secret

“A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence.”

David Hume.[1]

Premiss: there is no record of the bound-volume diaries now held in the UK National Archives being shown to anyone in 1916. CID chief Basil Thomson stated that he found one diary only and a cash ledger[2].

The passing of what has been criticized as ‘conservative Catholic Ireland’ and the arrival of the digital era with the ‘Celtic Tiger’ and now the Facebook generation coincided with the emergence of an entire culture of Casement the homosexual martyr which is ultimately based upon the unproven authenticity of the diaries. Since no scientific or other credible proof has been found for authenticity, it is clear that socio-cultural factors have played a major role in the general acceptance of authenticity of the diaries. And among these factors are widespread and radical changes in attitudes to sexuality.

The number of people who have studied the Casement story in depth and impartially is probably less than fifty and their judgments on authenticity are probably equally balanced each way. A much larger number have read at least some of the books and have seen the TV documentaries and the many press reports. This larger number has been tutored by a small number of authors & journalists to reach a rather superficial consensus. Nonetheless, certain basic facts remain: there is no ‘hard science’ proof that Casement wrote the diaries; there is no witness to Casement’s authorship; there is no evidence that the National Archives diaries were shown in 1916; there is no certain provenance for the NA[3] diaries.

This latter fact is of fundamental importance. It is axiomatic in law and in common sense that the provenance of incriminating evidence must be above doubt. The crucial evidence cannot be conjured out of a hat at a convenient moment. No prosecutor would enter court without incontrovertible proof of the provenance of his incriminating evidence. The principle in law is ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat, often translated as ‘innocent until proven guilty’ but which is better understood as meaning that the onus of proof rests on the accuser, not on the defence. It is therefore for those who claim authenticity to prove beyond doubt the provenance of the diaries. This has not been done in 100 years. The authors of the principal studies of Casement – Reid, Inglis, Sawyer and Ó Síocháin – have not given proof of provenance and have preferred not to dwell on this delicate anomaly whilst acknowledging its existence.

There are today no less than six versions of provenance none of which agrees with the others. Four of these conflicting versions have a single source – CID chief Basil Thomson. The other two versions are published in official documents held by the NA: the interrogation transcript and the police list of the alleged contents of Casement’s trunks. From these six versions it is impossible to ascertain if diaries were found, when diaries were found or if diaries found are the NA diaries. It is possible to ascertain that trunks were found but not how or when. None of the six versions answers the most basic questions convincingly. Collectively, the six versions confirm only the existence of trunks in police custody.

Whispers, Rumours, Secrets

The fatal error is one of conflation; ‘the diaries were shown to …’ is simply false. ‘Typescript pages were shown to …’ is true.

Duffy Letter to Smith

Smith refused to allow an appeal to the House of Lords thereby denying Casement’s last realistic chance of a reprieve.  (Courtesy of the National Library of Ireland).

In June 1916 before Casement’s trial, rumours were circulating of a secret diary with unspeakable content. His solicitors, Duffy and Doyle, attempted to trace the source of the rumours and to see the typed pages which had caused the rumours. They spoke to officials and journalists but none admitted ever seeing the typed papers and no material trace of them could be found. It looked like a conspiracy to defame but the conspirators were invisible. Just as Duffy & Doyle failed ever to set eyes on the mysterious papers, others who had seen those typed papers failed to set eyes on the secret diary. The many journalists, diplomats, editors, officials and influential figures of the day who had indeed seen the typed pages, none of these ever recorded seeing the diaries now held in the NA. Not even King George V was shown the diary; he too had to be content with the alleged typed copies.[4] Someone was keeping tight control over an operation which was obviously a defamatory campaign based on whispering, innuendo and insinuation. It was, in short, a masterpiece of black propaganda. Secrecy is “an instrument of conspiracy”[5] but what was being kept secret?

One hundred years have passed since those days; many books have been written and read, much research done, conferences held and many once-secret documents revealed. An information revolution has taken place. But that secret of a century ago remains intact.

Six Versions of Provenance

The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the … opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism … constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power. …We are governed, our minds are molded … largely by men we have never heard of… who understand the mental processes … of the masses. Edward Bernays: Propaganda, 1928.[6]

Version 1 – published in The Times, 1921 by Basil Thomson.

Version 2 – published in Queer People, 1922 by Basil Thomson.

Version 3 – published in English Life, March 1925 by Basil Thomson.

Version 4 – published in The Scene Changes, 1939 by Basil Thomson.

Version 5 – interrogation transcript HO 144/1636 Ref 20261; incomplete.

Version 6 – MEPO 2/10672, official but incomplete list of contents of trunks.

Clearly, as head of CID and as Casement’s principal interrogator, Thomson is a key figure in the creation of the conflicting versions. Versions 1-4 were published after his forced resignation in November 1921. The reasons for his resignation are often given as a dispute with Lloyd George; on 4th March 1921 Home Secretary Edward Shortt admitted to the House of Commons that government officials had forged copies of Pravda. Thomson’s Scotland Yard department was believed to be involved.

The six versions make sixteen distinct statements and yield some 56 instances of contradiction from the four basic contradictions which are: date of police possession of trunks, how trunks came into police possession, request for keys, finding of diary / diaries.

The conflict between the versions concerns every aspect of the alleged discovery of the diary or diaries including when, how and where. Two versions give 25th April as the date of police possession of the trunks. Four versions give alternative times of possession ranging from late 1914 to 23rd April, 1916. Version 6 states that the trunks were delivered to Scotland Yard by a former landlord whereas Version 2 states that the police seized the trunks from Casement’s former lodgings in Ebury Street. One version records events which do not appear in the transcript. Version 6 is dated a full three months after the alleged delivery on 25th April. The transcript contradicts three versions concerning alleged requests for keys to the trunks. It also contradicts four versions concerning both dates and diaries. Most importantly, Thomson’s four versions record the alleged finding of one diary only – that of 1903.

Since four of the versions come from the pen of Thomson himself these must be scrutinized. That there are four conflicting versions of the timing of possession of the trunks – and therefore, presumably, possession of the diary or diaries – would strongly indicate to an impartial observer that important facts are being withheld and concealed. The most important fact relates not to how the trunks were found and brought into police custody but when this happened. Thomson offers three versions of this event; “when we first had evidence of Casement’s treachery” = late 1914; “some months earlier” = 1915-1916; first interrogation =23rd April; a fourth version is cited in official records of the interrogation and the list of contents of the trunks – last interrogation = 25th April.

Thomson’s inconsistency regards the trunks and not what he claimed to find in the trunks. In this he is strangely consistent; he found one diary only.  Yet the official police list dated three months later records three diaries found in Trunk No. 1. In all four of Thomson’s versions he claims to have found one diary and at no time ever mentions three diaries. And yet there are three diaries in the NA today.

What can explain Thomson’s repeated reference to the single 1903 diary and the absence of any reference to the 1910 and 1911 diaries in any form? In 1922 Thomson possessed the 1910 typescript but he never referred to this version in writing at any time. To answer this question we can turn to the principal authors on Casement; Inglis, Reid, Sawyer and Ó Síocháin[7].

Inglis, perhaps the most widely-read Casement author, completely ignores Thomson’s versions. So does MacColl. Sawyer refers to the question but dismisses it as errors by a careless author. Reid refers to the question but carefully edits his quotations from Thomson’s versions in order to conceal the gravity of the contradictions. None of these authors had access to MEPO 2/10672 released in 2001. Ó Síocháin had access to MEPO 2/10672 and to more sources than any earlier author and he mentions Thomson’s versions but appears to agree with Sawyer.

That five of the principal Casement authors chose to avoid the question of provenance requires explanation.  The most salient point ignored or overlooked by all these authors is, strangely, the only consistent aspect of Thomson’s versions.  As stated above, that aspect is that Thomson records the alleged finding of only one diary in the trunks, that for 1903. Nowhere does he mention the 1910 or 1911 diaries. That this single aspect of one diary is consistent in Thomson’s versions of provenance lends it an aura of credibility which is entirely dependent on the non-finding of the other two diaries listed in MEPO 2/10672 as being in the same trunk. More precisely, it is not credible that Thomson found three diaries but chose to state four times that he had found only one. To this must be added that part of Thomson’s 1925 statement, suppressed by author B.L. Reid; “He must have remembered afterwards that there was something more than clothes in the trunks, for when we had returned everything except a diary and a cash book to his solicitors, they wrote to complain that some of his property had been detained.” If we are to believe that the 1910 and 1911 diaries had also been found in the trunk, we must also believe they had not been read and we must believe that they were duly sent to Casement’s solicitors after the list was dated on 28th July. This in turn constrains us to believe that Gavan Duffy later returned these incriminating diaries to the Metropolitan Police where they allegedly remained until 1925 after which they passed to The Home Office until 1959. No impartial and intelligent person would believe this four-part sequence. No impartial and intelligent person would believe any part of this absurd sequence. Either one diary only was found or none were found in the trunk.

It is highly improbable that all aspects of Thomson’s four versions are false. Two aspects have a higher veridical probability: a) the trunks were possessed some months before the arrest, b) a 1903 diary (and no other) was found in one of the trunks. That these aspects are asserted six times in the four versions favours their truth probability but does not guarantee their truth. If they are true, the other aspects are false as are the interrogation transcript and MEPO 2/10672.

Since both the interrogation transcript and the police list of contents assert 25th April as the date of possession, this deserves some scrutiny. The transcript reveals the following anomaly:

The interrogation of 25th April contains 1,719 spoken words which occupy from 8.6 to 17.2 minutes depending on speech rate. An average estimate would be 12.9 minutes as the duration of the interrogation. There are two references only to trunks, both by Thomson; the first occurs after 5.37 minutes and the second after 12.37 minutes. This gives a time lapse of only 7 minutes. Here are the verbatim references to the trunks:

Reference 1 – “A.C.C.: Have you got some trunks at 50 Ebury Street? I propose having them down and examined.

Sir R.C.: There’s nothing in them.”

Reference 2 – “A.C.C.: Sir, Roger, your trunks are here but there are no keys.

Sir R.C.: Break them open.”

These 34 words are the only reference to trunks in the transcript and there are no references to diaries. Two aspects of these references are cause for grave suspicion.

Aspect 1 – The first reference demonstrates that there are trunks at Ebury Street belonging to Casement and which Thomson intends to obtain for examination. The second reference demonstrates that the trunks are now in Scotland Yard, locked and without keys and that Casement has given permission to force them open. The anomaly is that only seven minutes have passed between the first reference and the second, which means that the trunks have been located, uplifted and brought to Scotland Yard within seven minutes. This is an impossibility.

Aspect 2 – The first reference also indicates that Thomson is aware of the existence and location of the trunks before he purportedly orders their seizure. That he specifies ‘trunks’ rather than possessions or property indicates either that he has knowledge of the trunks from an earlier police visit or that he already has possession of the trunks from an earlier police seizure. In both cases, there is obvious knowledge of the trunks which can only come from an earlier police visit.

It is verified both by the transcript itself and by Thomson later that the shorthand writer was dismissed at some point or points during the three-day interrogation. Therefore the transcript is incomplete and the last interrogation is headed “excerpt”.[8] However, the question-answer dialogue in that interrogation appears logically intact so that both references to trunks seem out of place and irrelevant to the discussion.

The false aspects of Thomson’s versions might be those concerning the date and the modality of finding the trunks. But it is highly improbable that after finding three incriminating diaries, Thomson would forget or deny what he had found and later falsely record four times (1921, 1922, 1925, 1939) that he had found one diary only. The probability of denial can be eliminated since no reasonable motivation can be adduced. The probability of forgetting such a find can be regarded as utterly remote. And if Thomson read one diary, as claimed, he certainly did not leave the other two unread any more than he read them and sent them to Gavan Duffy.

In June 1930 Home Secretary J.R. Clynes referred to Thomson’s published statements about the alleged finding of the diary as being unauthorized.[9] This was certainly true since Thomson was no longer CID chief and had left the Metropolitan Police in late 1921.  The government comment tends to suggest that Thomson’s writings were unreliable because unauthorized by government. In turn this suggests that government statements are reliable by virtue of being issued by the government. This equation of integrity with government will convince very few inside or outside government.

A reasonable explanation for the avoidance by the principal Casement authors of the provenance/discovery anomaly must take account of the possible answers which arise from openly confronting those questions. A reasonable explanation would be one which conforms to common sense and is supported by verified facts and which extinguishes further doubt on the matter. That five authors do not offer a satisfactory explanation indicates either that they considered this to be of little importance or that they were unable to construct such an explanation based on facts and common sense and which would not compromise their shared thesis that the NA diaries are authentic. Only one author makes an attempt; it can speak for itself:

“Later the trail was to be both revealed and confused by Thomson’s contradictory statements about how this material came into his hands. The reason is almost too simple to be grasped; he was a prolific author, and his writings abound with errors of detail.” p.141 – Casement: The Flawed Hero by Roger Sawyer, Routledge, 1984.

“What then of Sir Basil Thomson’s contradictory accounts of how he came by the diaries? Anyone familiar with the reminiscences of senior civil servants and politicians will not be surprised to find numerous errors in their utterances. Had Thomson had much to hide during this part of his life, he would have taken great care to be consistent in his recollections; as it was, he wrote too much and took too little care.” p. 25 – Roger Casement’s Diaries by Roger Sawyer, Pimlico, 1997. [Italics added]

‘Errors of detail’ due to ‘too little care’ is proposed as an explanation for the former chief of the CID forgetting that he had found three incriminating diaries by the world famous Sir Roger Casement. Not only did Thomson forget this crucial detail in 1921 but he continued to forget it over the following 18 years.  If this is convincing, then the term requires generous re-definition. The reason given by Sawyer is indeed too simple to be grasped or believed by any impartial person. Thomson’s ‘amnesia’ affected not only the number of diaries allegedly found but also when they were found and how he came to possess the trunks. Having been on the famous renegade’s trail for some 18 months, having been advised months before his capture by his informer Maundy Gregory that it would be useful to find such diaries, and having triumphed in April 1916, he thereafter becomes confused and cannot quite recall how it all happened. According to Sawyer, the fact that Thomson’s recollections are inconsistent somehow attests to his integrity – he has nothing to hide. Therefore if Thomson is hiding nothing, he is telling the truth that he found only one diary. And he tells that truth four times – consistently. This is further supported by his attestation that only one diary was retained when the property was sent to solicitor Duffy. PRO HO 144/1637/311643/178 refers to the property returned – no diaries were returned.

Thomson’s alleged amnesia allowing him to forget that he had discovered three incriminating diaries rather than one is equivalent to forgetting that three burglars were arrested rather than one only. These alleged ‘errors of detail’ require deeper scrutiny in order to reveal what they conceal. Invariably and of necessity every cover-up requires that truth be mixed with falsehood because this confounds the investigation more effectively than a cover-up composed entirely of lies. On this common sense basis, Thomson’s versions should contain some truth. This truth can be discovered by evaluating the motives for the falsehoods. All aspects of Thomson’s four published accounts are potentially false. Here are the aspects of his versions:

1 – Regarding date of possession of the trunks: any time between late 1914 and 23rd April, 1916.

2 – Regarding how the trunks were possessed: delivered by Germain or seized by police.

3 – Regarding when the trunks were opened: first interrogation 23rd April or later.

4 – Regarding number of diaries found in trunk: one 1903 diary.

The first three relate to the trunks. The fourth relates to a diary. This last is the more important because it evokes the weakest motive for falsehood. The first two contain falsehood. The last two might contain truth.  The first three versions offer many more possibilities for confusion and falsehood. More possibilities for falsehood imply more motives for concealment of truth. Less possibility for falsehood implies fewer motives for concealment.

It follows that the first three above should contain more falsehoods than Thomson’s fourth version which remains unchanged whereas each aspect of the first three changes in each published version.  The first three versions are inconsistent and the fourth is consistent. Inconsistency, by its nature, is an indicator of concealment. Inconsistency is distinct from error as the intentional is distinct from the unintentional. On this basis, Thomson’s intentional concealment would concern when the trunks were found and opened. The motive for this concealment is connected directly to when the alleged finding of one or three diaries took place.  From this concealment derives the story of locked trunks and no keys as reported by both Thomson and by the incomplete interrogation transcript.  Locked trunks and no keys is essential to the timing of the alleged finding of one or three diaries. The timing is crucial because less time between finding and first showing of the typescript pages enhances the probability that the typed pages are authentic copies. Conversely, the greater the span of time between finding and showing decreases that probability. In plain terms, a three month lapse might be sufficient for the invention of the narrative in the alleged typed copies whereas a two week lapse is almost certainly insufficient.  This equation provides the motivation for the story of locked trunks and no keys and, in turn, the raison d’ être of the story is to counteract the earlier finding of the trunks – months before the arrest. The story of the locked trunks has no function unless the trunks were already in police possession months before the arrest. For this reason the story is awkwardly inserted into the last page of the incomplete interrogation transcript – and inserted some time after the last interrogation when the shorthand record was decoded into plain English. That the story appears in the transcript does not prove that it appeared in the original shorthand record.

With regard to one or three diaries, both assertions can be false but only one can be true. It is necessary therefore to adduce a credible motive for falsehood by Thomson. More precisely, if his published claim from 1921 onwards of finding one diary only was false it was nonetheless motivated. Lies are intended to conceal facts from others. The version which Thomson might have been tempted to relate in 1921 was that he had found three diaries when, in truth, he had found none or only one.  A motive must be adduced for his not relating that he had found three diaries – ever. Even if untrue, it would have been a lie which no-one would have refuted in 1921 or later. That he was not so tempted indicates that the option was not available to him rather than his choice being a matter of integrity. If the option of a three-diary version was not available to him in 1921 and later, it entails that he did not know of three bound-volume diaries. He knew at most of one bound-volume diary only. If he did not know of three bound-volume diaries in 1921, he did not know of them in 1916[10]. To this must be added, yet again, that there is no record of anyone being shown three bound-volume diaries in 1916.

The number of people who in 1916 saw the alleged copy typescripts can only be guessed but probably amounted to more than thirty including journalists, civil servants, ambassadors, cabinet ministers, religious, political and legal figures.  It is not credible that of these people none noted the absence of the bound-volume diaries as conclusive evidence. Therefore, it is highly probable that some of these persons were not fully convinced by the alleged copies alone. In July and later, in order to counterbalance this lack of conviction, several attempts at corroboration were provided.[11] Principally these were a number of ‘affidavits’ sworn at the British Legation in Christiana (Oslo) by seven or eight Norwegians before British Vice-Consul Henry Charles Dick within ten days from 11th to 21st July[12]. A second attempt was made by consulting two psychiatrists who examined the typed pages dated 1911 and gave their opinions on July 10th. A third attempt was a post-mortem anal probe by the prison medical officer who declared certain proof of the signs of sodomy. But obviously it would have been simpler and more conclusive if the bound-volume diaries had been produced to convince the skeptics. But they were not produced. The corroboration attempts had no function other than to reinforce the case for authenticity of the unseen bound-volume diaries rendering it ‘unnecessary’ to see them.

The First Viewing

“ … after the trial of Sir Roger Casement I threatened to resign from the Cabinet unless this traitor was executed… I gave them choice of Casement or myself. Nothing gave me greater delight than the execution of Casement.”  F. E. Smith – Lord Birkenhead, Attorney General. Boston Post, Jan 14, 1918.

In 1916 Stephen Gaselee was a FO official, one of those responsible for showing the alleged typed copies of the diary materials allegedly found in Casement’s trunks. Among others, he showed these to Alfred Noyes who was convinced without ever seeing any bound-volume diaries. Many years later Noyes realised how he had been manipulated by his colleagues[13].

On 7th December, 1921, one day after the signing of the Treaty, Gaselee wrote the following letter from the FO to Lt. Colonel Carter at New Scotland Yard[14].

Dear Carter,

We have seen with interest that there will shortly begin in the New York “Nation” what is said to be the hitherto unpublished manuscript of the personal diary of Sir Roger Casement. It is said to begin at the time of Casement’s mission to Germany in 1914, but contains a retrospect of the period from 1904 to 1914.

This naturally should interest us a good deal, and we shall watch the instalments carefully. The object of this letter is to ask whether you still have in your possession the original diary about which we were in correspondence with your department at the end of July and the beginning of August 1916.

Considering the nature of the diary, I trust there will be no necessity to refer to it, but if this new publication contains anything outrageously untrue about Casement’s activities in those years, it might be necessary to check it by that which was formerly in your possession.

Yours sincerely.

Carter’s handwritten note at top: Spoke to – Gaselee + told him I had made exhaustive enquiries + everything pointed to the Diary being here, but that it had probably been put away very carefully + it could not at present be traced. 12/12/21 (Note: C.I.D. are looking also)

There are several things to note about this letter and its note of a verbal response: a) it refers to a single diary, b) which was purportedly held in New Scotland Yard from 1916 to 1921 c) but after exhaustive enquiries d) could not be traced. Note also that Gaselee does not identify the diary by year but that Carter knows which diary is referred to. Note too that Gaselee is seeking one diary and not three. Further, he is not seeking a typed version but the original.

The motive given for Gaselee’s request is tenuous if not false; the original diary is not needed in order to check details in the New York publication since a typed version would serve this purpose equally if not better. Further, it is unclear how the events of ten years could be cross-checked with the events in a single-year diary especially if that diary relates to a year prior to the period 1904 to 1914. Certainly all three diaries would enable him to check a longer period but he does not ask for all three diaries. It follows that either Gaselee knows that the other two diaries are located elsewhere and he already has access to them or that he does not know of the existence of the other two diaries as bound volumes.  Which diary is he seeking and for what purpose? The answer might lie in the following fact; two months after the date of this letter, on 6th February 1922, two bound-volume diaries were shown to Michael Collins in the House of Lords by ‘arrangement’ with Birkenhead, Casement’s prosecutor[15]. From their description as ‘common office diaries’ these were the 1910 and the 1911[16].  If Gaselee knew in December of their location in the Lords, it follows he was seeking the 1903 diary at Scotland Yard. If in December he did not know of their existence, it follows that he was seeking the 1903 diary. If the 1903 diary could not be found at Scotland Yard after “exhaustive enquiries” then it seems highly improbable that Carter would have been able to trace the 1910 or the 1911 diaries in the Metropolitan Police HQ had he been asked. That Gaselee did not ask for either the 1910 or 1911 indicates that he either knew their true location or did not know of their existence. Yet, officially, throughout this period after 1916, all three diaries were held at Scotland Yard until 1925. Obviously all three were not at Scotland Yard.

Carter’s “exhaustive enquiries” did not produce the 1910 or 1911 bound-volumes either nor does he even mention them. The previous correspondence of July/August 1916 referred to by Gaselee also concerned only the 1903 diary. If all three bound-volumes existed in 1916 it is highly probable that they would have been kept together in a secure place. There is no reason to think that one diary was more important than the others and no reason why they should be separated and kept in different places. But in 1921/22 they were in different places. Since there was no reason to separate them it can be inferred that they were not separated because they were never together in the period 1916 to 1922. This means they were not found together in the same trunk on any date. Therefore the MEPO 2/10672 list is false. More than false it is incomplete and fails to account for four trunks and is unsigned. These circumstances support the argument that Thomson never knew of the 1910 and 1911 bound-volumes in 1916. Nor did he learn of them in the years following.[17]

That Gaselee required the original rather than an officially typed ‘copy’ links his request to Birkenhead’s arrangement to show Collins the diary or diaries. It is therefore reasonable to deduce that Birkenhead instigated the request for the 1903 diary as part of his plan to manipulate Collins and through him, the new Free State government. That he succeeded is clear not only in the later silence of that government on this topic but also in Collins’ own remark of 6th December, 1921; “I believe Birkenhead may have said an end to his political life. With him it has been my honour to work.[18]” That Collins found it an honour to work with Birkenhead is perplexing because in 1916, Birkenhead was the most influential figure in the destruction of Casement and publicly boasted of his role.

Therefore Collins was favoured over the monarch with a viewing of two bound volumes. If the typescript pages shown to the monarch were not genuine copies of Casement diaries, it follows that the monarch was misled by a government conspiracy to deceive him. The only way in 1916 to verify the authenticity of the typescript pages was to examine the bound-volume diaries. There is no record that anyone did this. However, at any time the monarch might have demanded to see the bound volumes and his demand could not have been easily refused. Apprehension about this possibility provides a substantial part of the motivation for the fabrication of the bound-volume diaries now held in the NA.

Collins did not and could not have demanded to see the bound-volume diaries. The offer to see them came from Birkenhead at an opportune moment. Collins accepted and viewed two volumes but left no written comment. Six months later Collins was dead.

There is no record that the monarch ever demanded to see the bound-volume diaries. There is a record that Collins viewed the 1910 and 1911 diaries. That Collins left no written comment after the viewing means that he did not formally refute them. Equally he did not authenticate them. The absence of a Collins’ refutation conditioned the Free State government to shun the question of authenticity as of lower priority when crippled by a civil war, serious economic and administrative problems and anxiety over partition and the Boundary Commission.

Why was Collins shown the diaries and not the monarch? Which of them was the greater danger to the conspiracy? The monarch could be trusted to act within an established constitutional tradition and was duty bound to protect the reputation of his country and his government. Collins was an experienced conspirator with a network of spies and informers; he had contacts and sympathisers within the British establishment. He had evaded capture with a price on his head for at least two years. He had organised the destruction of the British intelligence apparatus in Ireland. In short, Collins was, even in 1922, potentially still a dangerous man. Collins represented to Birkenhead the greatest future danger to the conspiracy over the diaries and that is why Birkenhead offered to Collins that which was not felt necessary to offer to the monarch. Birkenhead gambled on obtaining Collins’ silence after seeing the diaries and he won. The bullets which killed Collins on August 22nd, 1922 removed the danger definitively.

A Second Viewing

The destruction of Casement was not completed at his bodily execution: the meaning of his destruction continued to resonate for decades after 1916. On 23rd or 24th of January, 1925 a second viewing of the diaries took place[19]. Peter Singleton-Gates, a young relatively unknown Fleet Street journalist was allowed the same privilege as Michael Collins three years earlier.  Again two diaries but this time the location was probably Scotland Yard since the proposal to show was made and fulfilled by Wyndam Childs, Thomson’s successor at the CID. Singleton-Gates was in possession of alleged typescript copies of two diaries which had been given to him in 1922 by Thomson and by 1925 he had prepared these for book publication. A day after the showing of the alleged originals, Birkenhead blocked publication by threatening publishers with prosecution under The Official Secrets Act. A week later the home of Singleton-Gates was searched for the typescript papers which he had already concealed elsewhere.  Singleton-Gates had to wait 34 years before he could publish his version of the ‘Black Diaries’ in Paris, an event which ‘induced’ the British Government to transfer their diaries to the PRO and allow very restricted access under controlled conditions.

The government’s action in blocking publication[20] and attempting to confiscate the typed papers has a self-evident motive. Publication of the alleged copies was a threat to the long-term plan of concealment. Publication in 1925 would have led to questions in Britain and in Ireland concerning the bound-volume diaries, to demands to see them. Having generously circulated the typed papers in 1916, the same authorities later determined that the bound-volume diaries would remain totally under their control.

The Daily Mirror - Casement Trial

The Casement trial was front-page news in the wartime press which had announced his treason since December 1914.

A Paradigm Shift

Paradigm crisis occurs when anomalies in an established explanatory model can no longer be ignored as before and its credibility is threatened. Paradigm shift occurs when a new explanatory model is found which not only resolves the anomalies but also offers greater probative power[21].

The dominant paradigm has been that the typescript papers were authentic copies of the diaries now in the National Archives. The thesis outlined here requires a paradigm shift: the bound-volume diaries are copies of the typescript papers. Where are those papers today?

Secrecy is the lifeblood of conspiracy. The many secrets around the Casement story have generated an atmosphere of conspiracy for 100 years. The authors who engineered consensus on the Casement narrative have, despite their efforts, signally failed to dispel this atmosphere of conspiracy. Their failure is due to their over-reliance on innuendo and insinuation so as to avoid answering the most basic questions.

That there was a plan to destroy Casement’s reputation is undisputed even by those who believe his execution was morally and legally justified. That the plan involved top-ranking security and government officials is not disputed. That the plan helped to ensure his execution is not disputed. That this plan was founded on truth is disputed. The plan involved the covert circulation of typed papers incriminating Casement and the plan was orchestrated by agents of the British Government. If these papers were proved false then this plan was and remains a conspiracy which is a criminal offence. These typed papers have never been proved authentic in or outside any court of law.

The paradigm shift enables an impartial enquirer to engage with what appear to be valid questions but are in fact duplicitous rhetorical devices signalling a familiar defensive strategy protecting a paradigm in crisis – the false question framed to intimidate response. Ó Síocháin[22], like Inglis et al, cannot resist the resort to such a wornout strategy. Here are his ‘questions’:

1 – “Is it credible that the British authorities would have begun forging such a corpus as early as 1914, when they first got an indication of Casement’s homosexuality, but in the absence of any indication of the likely progress of the war or of his subsequent movements?

Answer: Yes it is entirely credible. But forging of the bound-volume diaries took place after his execution. The invented narratives were prepared before arrest and then typed for the vital smear campaign.

2 – Could they possibly have forged such elaborate documents in the short time between the date given for the confiscation of his trunks in 1916 and the circulation of diary material?

Answer: No, the bound-volume diaries were not forged in that short time. They were forged later and over a longer time span.

3 – Is it credible that limited resources would have been allocated to such a complex enterprise at any of the times mentioned?

Answer: Yes, it is perfectly credible. Vast sums and intensive efforts were spent on all forms of propaganda throughout the war; these included highly skilled forgery in several languages.[23] Resources were not limited; Britain, with the largest empire in human history, was not a poor country. Casement’s was a major showpiece state trial intended to demonstrate the entire rationale for WW1 – the preservation of the British Empire. His destruction had to be achieved at all costs because it represented the destruction of all that threatened that empire.

When the dominant paradigm is stripped of its supporting chicanery and verbal legerdemain what remains is a very unstable structure resting upon insecure foundations. A thesis that cannot withstand logical investigation is a false thesis even if believed by many. A thesis which mixes innuendo with facts has no integrity.

Innuendo, Misinformation, Fallacy

David Hume’s “wise man” measures his belief according to the evidence. Innuendo and gossip are not evidence but they are essential when the evidence is weak or absent. In lieu of evidence and reasoned argument, the engineers of consent offer a toxic blend of innuendo, misinformation and fallacy to drug the reader into confusion. Thus intoxicated the mind loses all critical power, forgets the toxic blend and then believes.  Shakespeare defined the state: “And all their minds transfigur’d so together,/More witnesseth than fancy’s images,/And grows to something of great constancy;”[24]These rhetorical strategies are not arguments and therefore are unworthy of mention but since they play a key role in the deception, they will be mentioned briefly solely to demonstrate their falsity. Here are a few examples of the ingredients in this duplicitous cocktail.


At the close of the 2002 BBC TV documentary The Secret of the Black Diaries, an image is shown of a letter written on 6th June by Casement to an uncle. A voice-over reads the following extract: “Some day a rather interesting account of my doings will see the light I hope, although I shall not be able to revise the proofs. But it will show a side to the picture that people in this jaundiced time don’t understand. I have left a pretty full record.”

This letter is held in the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) reference T3787/19. The text of the complete letter makes very clear that Casement is referring to his German writings of 1914 to 1916 which were published in 1922 in Munich by Dr. Charles Curry and in the USA by The Nation. Despite the clear references in the full letter, BBC producer Paul Tilzey selected an extract which, in the biased context of the broadcast, would easily convince viewers that the references were to the infamous diaries and that this extract is a veiled confession. The innuendo is intentional.[25]

A second example is found on page 439 of the Inglis biography where he clumsily attempts to explain why Casement’s German diary contains no compromising writings. “Of the two other surviving diaries, one was written while he was in Germany, under constant police surveillance he would have been unwise to include any compromising material.” [Italics added]The biased reasoning is self evident. It does not occur to Inglis that the absence of compromising material in the diary might be due to the absence of compromising behavior so he attributes its absence in the diary to constant police scrutiny which inhibited Casement only from recording the behavior but not from indulging in it while aware of constant police scrutiny.

Sawyer cannot resist innuendo and on page 7 of his 1997 edition of the 1910 diaries, he claims that Casement had a scandalous reputation in Rio where he was consul. At the point of his claim, he provides no evidence or source so the unwary reader is unable to verify and the idea is unopposed.

“Although Casement’s sexuality had prompted much gossip when he was serving as Consul-General in Rio de Janeiro from 1908 to 1910, it did not interest British Intelligence …” [italics added]Of this abundant gossip, Sawyer offers not one example but elsewhere, when the suggestion has been securely planted, he does indicate the source of this “much gossip”. A single anecdote published ‘verbatim’ twenty-eight years after 1910 by Ernest Hambloch, Casement’s vice consul in Rio, appears to be the source of ‘much gossip’. Hambloch worked with Casement for only three weeks.  Inglis also mentions this anecdote so that its residue remains as an inference but then he cleans his hands on the reader by taking a skeptical distance. In Hambloch’s 1938 book[26] the trivial anecdote is rendered in direct speech to give it an authentic freshness retrieved intact decades later from the deep freeze of an extraordinary memory. Gossip and hearsay replace evidence.

Sawyer also insinuates that British Intelligence was aware of this alleged reputation in 1910 but it was not of importance to them at that time. To be aware of something implies that the thing has a real existence, that the gossip was based on verifiable facts. Naturally Sawyer gives no evidence of this alleged awareness but the unsupported insinuation, once made, goes unquestioned. The insinuation is effected by implicature, an inferred meaning rather than a logical entailment.


When innuendo is too weak, Sawyer turns to misinformation: on p. 140 of Casement: The Flawed Hero he gives a false source for the alleged diary pages shown by Hall to Ben Allen in 1916[27]:

“The original rolled manuscript shown to the Associated Press representative … was later found to have been twenty-two pages torn out of the 1903 diary.”

Sawyer knows very well that Allen stated the pages shown to him were of almost legal size (216mm x 356mm) whereas the 1903 diary pages measure 90mm x 150mm, so that the former is 5.7 times larger than the latter. He also knows that none of his readers will cross-check his ‘facts’.

B.L. Reid’s misinformation takes the form of calculated confusion. Lack of precision in referring to the diary or diaries or typescript pages or photographs is Reid’s tactic of confusion by conflation. On page after page each reference varies so that the confused reader concludes there is no substantive difference between the referents. Here are some random examples of this effective tactic:

  1. 381/2/3/4: 8 references to diaries plural.
  2. 458/9: six references to diary, diaries, photographed pages/facsimiles.

p.474/5: six references to diary, diaries.

  1. 477/8: five references to diaries, photographic copies, typed copy.
  2. 490: six references to diary, diaries.

This amounts to 34 references in only 11 pages to variant forms of the material shown. The references to plural diaries amount to 23, to single diary 6, to photographs 4, to typed ‘copy’ 1.  There are 29 references to diary/diaries and one mention only of the alleged typed copies. 6 of the 29 references are to Reid’s own examination of the bound-volumes in the NA. Therefore the remaining 23 references must be to the alleged typed copies which, nonetheless, he identifies only once. There is no record anywhere in Reid’s 532-page book of those bound-volume diaries being shown to anyone in 1916.

When the reader sees diary or diaries he/she assumes that this refers to the bound-volume diaries now in the NA. The result is that the tiring reader, in order to reach some understanding, believes that the bound-volume diaries were widely shown when, in fact, Reid does not cite a single verifiable instance of this happening. Since Reid was a professor of English who criticized Thomson for slovenly writing, these ‘confusions’ cannot be other than a strategy intended to deceive the ordinary reader.


Sawyer claims that the continued survival of the NA diaries testifies to their authenticity. This is false.

“… the diaries obviously had to be preserved as the only wholly acceptable evidence for refuting the charge of forgery …that they exist today must be attributed to the perpetuation of a continuing wish to rebut a diabolical charge.[28]

They could have been destroyed while in that limbo of official silence but were preserved because they were authentic. Certainly their destruction before 1959 would have convinced many of their falsity. But here again we have the proposal that because an event did not happen to an object it establishes the quality of that surviving object. That George did not eat the banana does not show that the banana was a delicious banana. Therefore the preservation of the diaries in total secrecy demonstrates nothing about the veridical quality of the diaries. Their preservation even in secrecy had a specific motive: if we destroy the diaries we also destroy our credibility and can never hope to convince anyone they were authentic. In order to claim their authenticity we cannot risk destroying them. They do not become authentic because they were not destroyed. Destruction of evidence is suspicious; non-destruction of evidence does not validate the evidence.

The Wise Man

The Casement secret was born in a frenzy of hate and vengeance for the deep embarrassment caused by Casement to imperial pride. For 43 years the secret was officially silenced and then for 57 years the secret was protected by selective access, by the unscientific opinions of selected experts and by publications which carefully and cynically engineered consent.

Hume’s wise man asks to see the evidence and finds only a resemblance in handwriting; he looks at the quantity of innuendo and false information and shakes his head, incredulous. He asks for more verified facts and finds only a few. He asks for proof and is given none. He sees confusion, ambiguity, speculation and inexplicable anomalies everywhere in the long story; he sees secrecy, collusion, denial and manipulation, the ingredients of conspiracy. He notes that authenticity cannot be proven by logical arguments but that it can be disproved by such arguments. Finally and slowly the wise man begins to proportion his belief.

Paul R. Hyde. May 2016



[1]  David Hume – A Treatise of Human Nature. 1738.

[2] Thomson claimed to have found a diary for 1903 and a cash ledger for 1911. Sometimes this latter is also mistakenly referred to as a diary. To avoid confusion the present essay focuses on diaries only.

[3]  The UK National Archives abbreviated as NA throughout.

[4] In the various books no date is given for the monarch’s viewing of diary materials, nor is his reaction reported nor is the identity of the person responsible revealed.

[5] “Secrecy, being an instrument of conspiracy, ought never to be the system of a regular government.” Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation. Jeremy Bentham, 1780.

[6]  Propaganda by Edward Bernays, New York, 1928. Considered the father of modern public relations, Bernays sought to ‘rehabilitate’ propaganda as a respectable profession after WW1. Bernays’ phrase “the engineering of consent” has been here adapted to ‘the engineers of consent/consensus’.

[7] Roger Casement: Imperialist, Rebel, Revolutionary by Séamus Ó Síocháin, Dublin, Lilliput Press, 2008.

[8]  Both documents are incomplete. The three-page MEPO lists effects allegedly found in only 5 trunks but the last numbered trunk is No. 9. Therefore four trunks are not accounted for.  The interrogation transcript confirms the absence of the shorthand typist and Thomson explained in his writings elsewhere that Casement was reticent when he knew a record was being made.

[9]  The Daily Telegraph, November 17, 1930. Clyne’s letter dated June 1930 was published in The Life and Death of Roger Casement by Denis Gwynn, 1930.

[10] Handwritten letter from Thomson to Blackwell of 26 July 1916 refers to ‘the diary’ singular. HO 144 1637 311643 140.

[11] The three main corroboration attempts are dealt with more fully in Lost to History, Breac, Easter 2016. <>

[12]  Affidavits:  HO 144/1637/311643/140 ref 20261. An excerpt of only one of the eight ‘affidavits’ is printed in Ó Síocháin p. 493. See Lost to History on this site and also in  Breac, Easter 2016. <> for scrutiny of this ‘evidence’. See also Appendix to this present for brief account of the desperate chicanery behind these statements.

[13]  The Accusing Ghost or Justice for Casement by Alfred Noyes, London, 1957.

[14]  Facsimile copy of the Gaselee letter in MEPO 2/10672 from The UK National Archives; also available online.

[15]  Cited in Michael Collins by Rex Taylor, London, 1970, p. 176.

[16] Cited in The Forged Casement Diaries by W.J. Maloney, Dublin, 1936, p. 217. ‘ “Collins told me it was in two volumes, each a common office diary,” states a letter of Senator Gogarty’s in the Casement Collection of The National Library of Ireland.’ Duggan’s statement in the National Library of Ireland also confirms the large format of the diaries.

[17] It would be surprising if the nucleus of conspirators excluded Hall, Smith and Blackwell; Gaselee and MI5 officer Frank Hall might also have participated. Thomson was probably excluded from awareness of the full plot since he had contacts with too many informers.

[18]  Cited in Michael Collins by Rex Taylor, London, 1970, p. 152.

[19]  Cited in Roger Casement’s Diaries by Roger Sawyer, Pimlico, 1997, pp. 13-16.

[20] Singleton-Gates was again prevented from publishing in 1966 a 240 page typescript entitled Casement: A Summing Up. See Roger Casement’s Diaries by Roger Sawyer, p. 22. No reasons for the prohibition are given.

[21] The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn, Chicago, 1962. Kuhn’s lengthy and influential exposition is here presented in synoptic form.

[22]  Roger Casement: Imperialist, Rebel, Revolutionary by Séamus Ó Síocháin, Dublin, Lilliput Press, 2008. P. 491.

[23] Secrets of Crewe House by Campbell Stuart, 1922, gives a retrospective, detailed account of the extent and expertise of British propaganda during WW1.

[24] William Shakespeare: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act V, Sc. 1.

[25] The Secret of the Black Diaries, produced for BBC Television by Paul Tilzey and broadcast in March 2002 to consolidate the results of The Giles Report announced on March 12.

[26]  Cited in British Consul by Ernest Hambloch, Harrap, 1938, p. 74.

[27] Cited in The Lives of Roger Casement by B.L. Reid, 1976, Yale U.P. pp. 382, 383. Allen’s account is very widely reported in the Casement literature.

[28] Cited in Roger Casement’s Diaries by Roger Sawyer, 1997, Pimlico. p. 24.

King George V

King George V.

Of the royal house of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and first cousin of Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany. Smith’s resignation threat prevented the Cabinet from seeking the royal prerogative of mercy for Casement.

Basil Thomson

Basil Thomson

The CID chief was a man of ‘strong convictions’ many of which concerned socialists, nationalists, women, republicans, trade unionists, Jews, liberals and foreigners.

Did You Know?

The photograph below shows part of a page from the 1911 typescript which is held in The National Archives  PRO HO 144/1637/311643/ 139 Ref. 20261.  In the margin beside the entry for 18th September the word ‘Photo’ is handwritten in crayon. It is reasonable to conclude that marginal note is an instruction to photograph this entry or perhaps the entire page*. It is a verified fact that photographs were made and shown. Other pages of the 1911 typescript also show marginal markings in crayon.  The question which arises is obvious; why photograph the typescript rather than the original handwritten page? The answer to this simple question contains profound implications for the long controversy over the veridical status of the diaries held in The National Archives.

There must be a reason which prevented the simple photography of the appropriate pages of the 1911 handwritten diary. That British Intelligence preferred to go to the trouble of first preparing typescript pages and then photographing those typed pages is remarkable and revealing. Most people who consider themselves to be possessed of a functioning intelligence would deduce that the handwritten diary pages could not be photographed because there were no original handwritten diary pages. They would deduce this in the absence of any plausible reason being found for not photographing the handwritten diary pages said to be in possession of British Intelligence. This is the only credible explanation which satisfies common sense. If those handwritten pages did not exist, it follows that the 1911 bound volume diary did not exist at the time of making photographs of typed pages. If the bound volume did not exist at that time, then it did not exist before that time. Therefore it came into existence after that time. It is recorded that the 1911 typescript was completed on 24th June and from this it can be deduced that the 1911 bound volume diary came into existence after that date. Since Casement was in prison at that time and about to undergo trial, it can be deduced that he did not have opportunity of writing the 1911 diary after 24th June, 1916.  Therefore someone else wrote the 1911 bound volume diary after June 24th.

The existence of the bound volume diaries “at the time of the Casement trial” was also questioned by Lord Russell in 1955: PRO HO 144/23455. Lord Russell’s letter to Home Secretary G. Lloyd-George of 6 August received a ‘no comment’ response on 11 August. The existence of the diaries at any time could not be spoken of at that time.