John Charles Byrnes or Jack Jameson

A British Intelligence Officer named John Charles Byrne, alias Jack Jameson, succeeded in ingratiating himself with the IRA in late 1919 & early 1920 and in winning for a short time the confidence of Michael Collins. Working originally for A2, the military intelligence department which had the job of countering Bolshevikism in Britain, Byrne had infiltrated the socialist scene in London. He was spotted by the IRA while pretending to be a Bolshevist , but really an agent provocateur, in London. When he went to Ireland Jameson relied for his credentials on his position as General Secretary of the SSAU and his role with the British Socialist Party. Jameson impressed Collins with schemes to obtain arms and money from the Soviet Government. His handler in Ireland was believed to be Alan Bell - and Bell in turn reported to Basil Thomson in London. Thornton's Witness Statement records that "he came within an ace of securing his [Collins] capture "

Eventually the IRA decided to test their suspicions on who Byrne was really working for. Collins allowed Jameson to see parts of a false document referring to papers in the possession of a pro-British ex-mayor of Dublin. Jameson in turn dutifully told Dublin Castle and soon afterward the British raided the ex-mayor's home. This convinced the IRA that Byrne was a spy. Jameson's body was found a few weeks later in a Dublin suburb. Byrne was shot as a spy by members of the Squad led by Paddy Daly and Joe Dowling near Albert College, Glasnevin, Dublin. 

1891 census byrnes

1885 Jun 9. He was born John Charles Byrnes in his parents' home at 17 Barfett Street, Queens Park, London on 9 June 1885. He had two younger brothers and a sister. Both of his parents were English but his grandfather, a naval veteran of the Crimean War and the Indian Mutiny, was an Irishman from County Wexford. Peter Byrnes, his father, was the manager of a china shop in London's Savile Row.

1901 census byrnes

1901 census shows Jack Byrnes to be a Plumbers Labourer at the age of 15. The family are living in part of 11 Woodfield Place. London

1907 May. Jack Byrnes married 20 year-old Daisy Harper, a tailor's daughter, at Chadwell Heath, Essex.

1908 Apr 7, His army record shows that he joined the Royal Artillery Territorials on this date, but had earlier been in Essex Volunteer Artillery. His initial Territorial engagement was for 4 years, but he extended this in stages to another 5 years, so was a serving Territorial when WW1 broke out.

1911 census byrnes

The 1911 census has him with his new wife and family at 92 Craigdale Road, Romford. His work is a as fitter. He later moved to "An unpretentious two storey semi-detached house in a quiet part of Mildmay Road largely inhabited by the working classes."

medal card byrnes

1914 Aug 5. Embodied as a reserve Sergeant.

1914 Nov 28. Promoted a/BSM

1915 Jun 4. Appointed WO II

1916 Aug 3. Reverts to Sergeant at his own request

1916 Aug 9 posted abroad.

1916 Oct 20. Arrives Salonika. And serves in Salonika for just over a year.

1917 Dec 26 Left Salonika by ship, arriving back UK 1917 Jan 7.

1918 Jul 6. Discharged as unfit for service. He got a SWB and that states sickness as his reason for discharge.And he was in 57th Brigade of RFA at that date.

He somehow was recruited by Basil Thomson and paid from an account controlled by Major Mathews at Scotland House, the base of Basil Thomson's Directorate of Intelligence. Major Charles St. John Rowlandson, another of Thomson's intelligence officers operated from here

At Thampson's behest, Byrnes got involved with the Gaelic League in London and if Neligan's later testimony is correct, then Michael Collins would have been told about Byrnes around 3 August 1919

1920 Dec 5. Byrnes, travelling under the alias of "Mr John Jameson", left London by train and arrived in Dublin the following day, and stayed in Dublin 8 days. Apparently Collins initially liked Byrnes, though Thornton and other of his key men did not. So a situatiuon developed with Byrnes trying to trap Collins, and Thornton trying to trap Byrnes. It is believed that Byrnes met Collins around Mon Dec 8. Whilst in Ireland he came in contact with a number of people including Capt Reddy as well as Collins

For his meeting with Collins Byrne was blindfolded for the last few yards of the journey to the meeting place, so that he did not know where the meeting actually took place. It appears to have been in an Alley off St George's Street south of the Fruit and Poulty Market. Byrnes found himself in a room with Collins, Mc Gabe, and another unknown man.

1919 Dec 18. Lieutenant-Colonel Ralph Isham was involved in secret negotiations over a transfer to Thomson's Dublin operations in a key position. He appears to have become involved in giving Byrne orders

1919 Jan 20. Collins by now was certain that Byrnes (Jameson) was a spy. Collins told Art O'Brien " I have absolutely certain information that the man who came from London met and spoke to me, and reported I was growing a moustache to Basil Thompson. I may get some more information. In the meantime will you get in touch with him somehow and show him my paragraph on himself in the other memo."

1920 Jan 23. Byrne returns to Wales for a few days

1929 Jan 29 Byrne returns to Ireland. And has a number of meetings with Tobin. Various negotions take place, but Byrne does not meet Collins. The IRA set up a trap operation and feed details to Byrne, there is a raid on the premises, which "proves" Byrne is a British spy. Byrne then appears to return to England

1920 Feb 28. Byrne comes back to Dublin and stays at the Granville Hotel. All IRA men by this time had been ordered to avoid Byrne

Byrnes accisently bumped into one of Collin's aides, Joe O'Reilly. Byrnes claimed he was going to depart for London on that evening's ferry and urgently needed to talk to Collins before leaving. Byrne met O'Reilly again and pushed for anohher meeting with Collins. However, Thornton states: "He arrived back and contacted me one morning at the New Ireland stating he wanted to see Mick Collins. I put him off and made an appointment to meet later that afternoon and finally the information of his arrival back was conveyed to G.H.Q. and an instruction given that he was to be executed. The following morning he was met by appointment and he was brought off to meet Michael Collins. He protested to the very last that we were shooting one of the best friends that Ireland ever had."

He died when shot by a Squad led by Paddy Daly and Joe Dowling. Joe Dolan says that he, Tom Kilcoyne, and Ben Barrett were involved.

byrnes death in Times

Times report

He left the Granville Hotel at around 4 pm with O'Reilly and members of the Squads. They took Byrnes to a tram to Glasnevin,on the northern edge of Dublin, where they told Byrne that Collins would meet him. They got off the tram around 5.15 pm and walkedalong the road leading to the Model Farm, Glasnevin. Byrnes was then told by Daly he was to be shot as a spy. Byrnes apparently then stood to attention and was shot in the back and a coup de grace was fired through his temple. He died instantly. According to O'Connor, Byrnes' final words were "We are only doing our duty and I have done mine"; Daly remembered Byrnes' saying "That's right. God bless the King. I would love to die for him". The IRA searched his room in Glanville Hotel, and documents found there. Byrnes' body was found around 5.30pm by a local farm worker and taken to the Mater Hospital.

Daly says after they shot Jameson, the group fled on the mail boat.

1920 May 31. A British ministerial meeting held to review IRA victories included a statement by the First Lord of the Admiralty, Walter Long who said that the IRA had killed, "The Best Secret Service man we had", Jack Byrnes.

Scotland Yard Spies