Erskine Childers (Robert Erskine Childers) Biography
(1870–1922), (Robert Erskine Childers), Asgard, The Riddle of the Sands, Dulcibella
British novelist, born in London, educated at Haileybury, and at Trinity College, Oxford. He fought in the Boer War and served in the Royal Naval Air Service during the First World War. In peacetime he was a clerk in the House of Commons (1895–1910). From 1910 he agitated for Home Rule in Ireland and used his own yacht, the Asgard, to supply German arms to the Irish volunteers in 1914. Elected to the Dáil Éireann in 1921, he was Principal Secretary to the delegation for the Irish–UK treaty. After the establishment of the Irish Free State, Childers joined the IRA, becoming Director of Publicity. He was court-martialled and executed in 1922. In The Riddle of the Sands (1903), his only work of fiction, two amateurs attempt to foil a German plan to mass a fleet of boats and barges in the Baltic for an invasion attempt on Britain. The novel is narrated by the socially adept Carruthers of the Foreign Office who joins Davies aboard the Dulcibella, a converted lifeboat cruising among the Frisian Islands. Together they ply the shallow channels between the sands off the coasts of Germany and Holland in pursuit of Dollmann, a former officer in the Royal Navy, now employed by the Germans. The chase builds up as the two amateurs gradually expose the Germans' plans. Though the book was a sensational bestseller, Childers's aim, and achievement, was to draw attention to the menace of an enemy yet to be acknowledged.