Investigation into British Army’s highest-ranking agent in the IRA, said to have operated undercover for 25 years.YouTube

Details have emerged of an Irish Republican Army (IRA) plot to kidnap the future King of England in 1922.

IRA volunteers hatched an audacious plan to kidnap Edward, the Prince of Wales, as he holidayed on an island off England's south coast.

According to newly-released files, the clandestine operation was ordered by IRA chiefs in order to save two Republican colleagues who had been sentenced to death.

The two men, Reginald Dunne and Joseph O'Sullivan - both former British army veterans who had gone on to join the IRA - were scheduled for execution on the first day of August 1922, after they were convicted of murdering leading British establishment figure, General Sir Henry Wilson, less than two months previously.

New documents reveal that Republican figure John Joseph Carr - himself a London-born World War 1 veteran who inherited nationalist sympathies from his Irish father - played a key role in the kidnap attempt.

Carr had been imprisoned as an anti-treaty activist in Athlone, Co. Westmeath, according to the military pensions archives, which were released yesterday,

In exchange for his freedom, he offered to return to London to kidnap a member of the British establishment, an action the IRA believed could be used to force the British government to spare the lives of the two convicted Republicans.

It was decided that Carr should target the future King Edward VIII while he attended the famous Cowes Regatta on the Isle of Wight in July of that year.

Carr is reported to have told the military pensions board "The rough plan of rescue evolved around the possibility that, should a member of the royal English family be kidnapped, and this kidnapping be kept from the press, negotiations should be carried on with the British Government for a remission of the sentence imposed, to a possible lunacy charge."

The documents reveal that once the kidnapping plot was underway, Carr traveled to London, borrowed the equivalent of $160 from his mother to buy a car for the operation and enlisted the help of a cab driver, called Jerry Leydon.

Carr and another IRA volunteer then made their way to Cowes where the Prince of Wales was staying with the mega-wealthy Anglo-German bankers, the Baring family.

But their operation was quickly foiled, as Carr himself explained in his own words: "Unfortunately, in making the necessary questions, Kelleher's accent was commented on by the policemen with the result that we considered the attempt jeopardised."

The Irish Times notes that the pair then switched their attentions to another key member of the British establishment, the Anglo-Irish peer, the Earl of Arran. The plan was to hold the aristocrat on a barge on the River Thames in London, with Carr acting as jailer.

But that plot also fell through, with little explanation for its failure from Carr, other than: "Due to unforeseen circumstances this attempt was abandoned with a quarter of an hour of its completion."

The Irish Times also reports that Wilson, the British Chief of the Imperial Staff, had been shot dead outside his London home after the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty by suspected anti-treaty activists.

The publication notes that he had been a fierce opponent of the treaty and was a military adviser to the fledgling Northern Ireland government. Republicans reportedly blamed him for escalating state violence in the North.

His assassination caused such outrage in British governmental circles that Winston Churchill threatened to send the British army back into Ireland to deal with anti-treaty activists who were occupying the Four Courts.

The growing tension also prompted Michael Collins to borrow two field guns from the British and then to shell the Four Courts - an action which triggered the outbreak of the bloody civil war.

Meanwhile Carr - who had joined the volunteers in 1919 and was arrested along with his brother, Denis, in May 1921 for smuggling arms into Ireland - emigrated to the US after the end of the civil war. He was granted an IRA pension for his five-and-a-half years of service.

Both Dunne and O'Sullivan were executed on August 10 1922. At his trial Dunne reportedly told the jury: "You may, by your verdict, find us guilty, but we will go the scaffold justified by the verdict of our own consciences."

Further information on the archives can be found at