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Roger Casement: Belfast family uncovers First World War letter referring to patriot

Letter written by George McCrudden in a First World War German prisoner-of-war camp

A FIRST World War letter from a Belfast man being held a German prisoner-of-war camp has been made public almost 100 years after it was written.

Soldier George McCrudden, from Lancaster Street in north Belfast, wrote to his mother in April 1916 saying he had seen Irish patriot Roger Casement, from Co Antrim, in the camp at Limburg an der Lahn in western Germany.

After Casement was captured in Co Kerry in late April 1916, shortly before the Rising, Mr McCrudden wrote: "I read about R Casement. Very sorry, although I am a soldier. I seen him in my camp. Have said a little prayer for him."

Casement travelled to Berlin in 1915 to seek German military help for a possible rising. He was taken by a German submarine and put ashore in Tralee Bay, Co Kerry, in the early hours of April 21 1916. But he was captured and hanged at Pentonville Prison in London on August 3 1916 for his part in the Easter Rising,

The McCrudden family kept the letter which was rediscovered in a wardrobe 10 years ago.

George McCrudden wrote to his mother: "I am busy at present and likely to be busy till I land in Ireland and I am looking to the future so tell Grace to do the same. I hope none of you forget me in your prayers as I have not been to Easter Duty through no fault of my own."

"Let me know what all the family are doing. Tell Bridget Rose (his sister) I am not as good at wrestling as I used to be. I am a wreck. Don't worry. Take things as they come."

George McCrudden's grandson John McCrudden said he never met his paternal grandfather, who died before he was born. He also said younger members of the family never knew that George McCrudden had served in the British Army or been held in a prisoner-of-war camp.

"I thought it would be interesting for people to see the letter coming up to the 1916 anniversary," he said. "It's interesting to read about Casement at the time."

John McCrudden said his grandfather became a cobbler after the First World War and later ran a second-hand shop on Lancaster Street with his wife Grace. The couple had six children - four boys and two girls.

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