On 15 January, 1943, Frank Ryan was laid low by an apoplectic fit. Francis Stuart visited him in the Charite and found him with his eyes half closed and his right arm paralysed. Ryan recovered, but one complication followed another. “He went to various hospitals. It was a bad time to be ill. All hospitals were crammed full with wounded. Food was poor and scarce and air attacks heavier and heavier.”
Life in Berlin was now a complete nightmare for the dying man. Ryan’s German friends had left the capital. Dr Hoven was now a parachute officer at the front. As one of General Ramcke’s staff officers he was finally captured in the garrison at Brest.
Ryan died in June 1944 at a hospital in Loschwitz in Dresden. His funeral in Dresden was attended by Elizabeth Clissmann and Francis Stuart. Clissmann eventually forwarded details of Ryan’s fate to Leopold Kerney in Madrid. According to Stuart and Clissmann, the cause of death was pleurisy and pneumonia.
In 1963, historian Enno Stephan located Ryan’s grave in Dresden, German Democratic Republic. Three volunteers of the International Brigades, Frank Edwards, Peter O’Connor and Michael O’Riordan travelled to East Germany as a guard of honour to repatriate Ryan’s remains in 1979. On 21 June his remains arrived in Whitefriar St. church – his local church when he was in Dublin. The church was packed with all shades of Republican and left-wing opinion, as well as those from his past such as the anti-Semites Francis Stuart and the Clissmanns, as well as Peadar O’Donnell (who spoke at the service), George Gilmore, and ex-comrades and sympathizers from all over the world.
The cortege on its way to Glasnevin Cemetery halted at the GPO in memory of the dead of 1916. His coffin was borne to the grave in Glasnevin Cemetery by Irish veterans of the Spanish Civil War, Frank Edwards, Peter O’Connor, Michael O’Riordan and Terry Flanagan. Con Lehane delivered the funeral oration while a piper played “Limerick’s Lamentation”.
So ended the Hidden History of Herr Hoven himself. But of Francis Stuart and his admirers there is still much to tell, even until this day..And for the 1,000 civilians, men, women and children, who lost their lives due to the Nazi bombing of Belfast 75 years ago following the activities of the Abwehr, there has been no oration…and no Lament.
To be continued