In a secret meeting in Washington, D.C., Sir Roger Casement, an Irishman and former British diplomat, met with Franz von Papen, a German military attaché, to discuss the possibility of aid in an Irish rebellion against British rule. Casement had worked as a clerk and consul among British diplomacy in Africa, witnessing the Boer War and performing investigations on human rights in the Belgian Congo and Peru. The horrors he saw of imperialism changed him forever, causing him to work against the notion of empire. In 1911, he was knighted for his international work, and he subsequently resigned for “health reasons.” Two years later, he helped found Irish National Volunteers, aimed at drumming up support for Irish independence.
Casement sought support for the Germans to free Irish prisoners of war and to form up an Irish Brigade to fight against the British. Papen, however, had been thinking. The initial push of the Germans toward France had ended, and a series of attempts at flanking were beginning. If neither army flanked the other, ultimately running to the sea, battle lines would be drawn up and the Western Front could be nothing more than a stalemate. If Germany were to win this war quickly and with minimal loss, they would have to fight in places other than France.
While sending troops to Ireland directly was questionable, Papen vowed to send armaments and officers to train a growing Irish Revolutionary army. In November, Berlin announced, “Should the fortunes of this great war, that was not of Germany’s seeking, ever bring in its course German troops to the shores of Ireland, they would land there, not as an army of invaders to pillage and destroy, but as the forces of a government that is inspired by good-will towards a country and a people for whom Germany desires only national prosperity and national freedom.” Casement returned to Ireland and worked diligently toward the Irish plan of an uprising during Easter of 1916.
At Papen's suggestion, the German Chief of Staff von Falkenhayn elected to invest armaments and soldiers into campaigns to interrupt British and French empires. In February of 1915, India erupted in rebellion, though many of the early ringleaders were caught and executed. Singapore, Afghanistan, and numerous French colonies followed. On April 24, 1916, Dublin declared independence, and Irish soldiers armed with German rifles and trained by German officers, began the Irish Civil War. London was petrified, extremely short on men to cover all of the revolts and watching its empire crumble. In 1917, Russia collapsed and dropped from the war; many in Parliament suggested Britain do the same before they lost everything.
However, also in 1917, the Germans had pushed too far with diplomatic warfare. The Zimmerman Telegram to Mexico offering aid if it were to go to war with the United States, should the US enter the war, roused the neutral Americans into action. They offered up thousands of fresh troops, and 1918 would prove a miserable year of defeat for Germany on the battlefield. In November, an armistice was called. The subsequent Treaty of Versailles attempted to sort out the convoluted state of the world.
Germany was reduced and punished for its actions, stripped of colonies and made to pay enormous reparations. Austria and the Ottoman Empires were split up by their people groups into “Balkanized” countries. Despite being the winners on paper, both Britain and France found that they could not quell their uprisings. Many cried for the freed-up armies to move to the colonies, but as war-weariness and dogged economies dragged through the 1920s, the last of the European empires called quits. Britain and France formed commonwealths with their few loyal colonies and gave independence to the others. Civil wars erupted and continued for years throughout South America, Africa, and Asia as well as in Ireland, which was diplomatically separated between North and South in 1928.
The United States, seemingly the only “winner” of the World War, returned to neutrality and economic abundance as it gave resources for Europe to rebuild over the 1930s. Fascism, strong government tied to renewed Nationalism, grew in the wake of the shattering of empire. New bids for domination from Japan, Germany, and Russia would launch another World War in 1946 with the invasion of Scandinavia after Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Poland had already been dominated.
In reality, Papen could not be convinced to aid Ireland more directly than a promise of liberation should the war bring Germany to the Emerald Isle. Roger Casement was captured just days before the Easter Uprising and executed for treason some months later. The battles during the week of Easter 1916 in Ireland would be bloody, and the rebellion would be ultimately crushed as 16,000 British troops arrived in Dublin. Some 20,000 German rifles and 10 machine guns were given to the Irish by the Germans, but they were scant in comparison with Irish needs and no German officers came to offer training for the newly developed weapons.