Right Wing Extremists

Right Wing Extremists

(KV 2/1335-1368)

Lady Diana Mosley

(KV 2/1363-1364)

Lady Diana Mosley (1910-2003) was one of the daughters of Lord Redesdale, and had the reputation of being the most beautiful and dazzling of the 'Mitford girls'. She married the heir to the Guinness company, Brian (later Lord Moyne), at the age of 18, but subsequently left him and then married the British fascist, Oswald Mosley. She was introduced to Hitler by her sister, Unity, and maintained a life-long admiration for him and his political beliefs.

KV 2/1363 commences with the Security Service taking an interest in Diana Guinness (as she then was) when her association with Oswald Mosley first came to its attention in 1934. The file includes reports of her frequent movements to and from Germany by air, a report of her secret marriage to Mosley in the presence of Hitler and Ribbentrop in 1936, and various pieces of intercepted mail and phone conversations. Her baggage was inspected at Heston Airport in August 1938 on her return from a visit to Germany, and the suspicious contents (including a new autographed photo of Hitler) were reported to the Service. Diana Mosley was not interned on the outbreak of war, and remained at liberty for some time. There is a Home Office letter of May 1940 explaining the Home Secretary's decision not to intern her at that time, and then correspondence from her former father-in-law, Lord Moyne, which seems to have resulted in her detention the following month. A copy of the form requesting her detention is on the file. She was interned in Holloway prison, and there are reports of her visitors there, and also a transcript of her appeal hearing against her detention.

KV 2/1364 continues the story, with further reports of Diana Mosley's visitors at Holloway from 1941 until her release from detention in 1943. The Home Office warrant on her was eventually suspended in December 1946. After this, the Security Service decided that there was no further justification for maintaining a separate file on Diana Mosley, and later correspondence relating to her can be found on the joint files with her husband already released (KV 2/884-897). Both files contain reported comments and correspondence from members of Diana Mosley's family.

Arthur Kenneth Chesterton

(KV 2/1345-1350)

A K Chesterton (1896-1973) was a cousin of the writer G K Chesterton (who worked for Britain's War Propaganda Unit during the First World War). He became prominent in British fascist circles in the 1930s, speaking at British Union of Fascist (BUF) meetings and writing a life of Oswald Mosley, Portrait of a Leader. Chesterton broke with Mosley during the Second World War because he opposed Mosley's 'stop the war' policy, believing instead that the way to advance the fascist movement in Britain was to defeat Germany. Chesterton served as a transport officer during the early stages of the War, and later worked as a journalist. He founded the National Front in December 1944.

KV 2/1345 covers the early years of the Security Service's interest in Chesterton, and there are numerous reports of his activities and attendance at various BUF events. On leaving the army he applied for a post as home news editor for the BBC, and the Security Service recommended against his appointment, despite a satisfactory war service. The BBC did not hire him, and from September 1943 a Home Office warrant against Chesterton was enforced. The file gives some details of informants' opinions as to the reasons for Chesterton's breach with Mosley in 1938.

The monitoring of Chesterton's activities continues through files KV 2/1346-1350, featuring intercepted correspondence and phone conversations and reports from sources. KV 2/1346 includes letters from both Chesterton's wife and his girlfriend giving insight into his domestic arrangements covering 1943-1944, and these continue in KV 2/1347-1348 (1944-1946). KV 2/1348 also includes a source report of the meeting of the initial session of the National Front, organised by Chesterton, and reports of subsequent meetings. There is a summary history of the National Front's early months at serial 296ab. Chesterton's activities seem to have declined thereafter, although the warrant was maintained and the product recorded and analysed through 1946-1948 (KV 2/1349) and 1948-1953 (KV 2/1350).

Arnold Leese

(KV 2/1365-1367; KV 3/60-63)

Arnold Leese (1878-1956) was a fanatical anti-Semite who before the war expressed pro-Nazi views (though he moderated these after the German invasion of Norway). Leese had founded the Imperial Fascist League in 1928. He was imprisoned for 6 months in 1936 after being convicted for libelling Jews in the League's monthly paper The Fascist . When named on a detention order issued under the Defence Regulations after the outbreak of the Second World War, he went into hiding, but was eventually detained in November 1940.

Leese was released on conditions in December 1943 because of ill health, but resumed his anti-Jewish activities. He wrote anti-Semitic tracts (most notably The Jewish War of Survival which was privately published in the United States), and was involved in a conspiracy to assist escaping Nazis on the 'wanted list for war criminals' to evade capture and flee to South America, for which he was convicted in 1947. He resumed his activities upon release, but was increasingly a peripheral figure on account of his age (despite such late flourishes as successfully conducting his own defence when accused of libelling Sir Harold Scott, Metropolitan Police Commissioner, in the pages of his publication Gothic Ripples in 1950).

The reconstituted and heavily weeded files KV 2/1365 (1937-1944), KV 2/1366 (1944-1946) and KV 2/1367 (1946-1951) all contain similar material: copies of correspondence with Leese intercepted under Home Office warrant, copies of Home Office and Director of Public Prosecution reports and letters relating to various cases against Leese, Security Service case summaries, complaints by Leese about the seizure of his property and copies of his various publications. KV 2/1365 also includes correspondence about Leese's wife, Winifred, who assaulted police at the time of his arrest in 1940 and was subsequently convicted. The first mention of Leese assisting escaped Nazi prisoners in 1946 occurs in KV 2/1366, and correspondence about his trial and conviction and about his co-conspirators (who, the file suggests without uncovering any evidence, were funded by the Duke of Bedford) is in KV 2/1367, along with a copy of The Jewish War of Survival.

The reconstituted subject files about the conspiracy to assist escaped prisoners of war flee to Spain or Argentina are in KV 3/60-63, and of course contain further details about Leese, the other conspirators and their activities. The prisoners, Dutch Nazis Meijer and Tiecken who had escaped from Kempton Park Prisoner of War camp in June 1946, made contact with supporters of the Imperial Fascist League, who conducted them through a number of hiding places until they settled at Littlehampton Road, Worthing, where the police eventually arrested them in December 1946. The conspirators were tried and convicted in 1947.

KV 3/60 (1946) includes intercepted material revealing the plot and correspondence about the handling of the case, including police records of a raid on a chicken farm at Findon, West Sussex where the prisoners were thought to be hiding. There are also Security Service minutes about the difficulty in presenting photographs of intercepted letters as evidence in court, and discussions about the possibility of letting the escapees remain at large to encourage the conspirators to develop their organisation. There is a note of the successful capture of the prisoners and copies of interrogation reports. The file includes a list of escaped prisoners of war still at large in Britain in autumn 1946.

Meijer and Tieckens' statements, which are in KV 3/61 (1946-1947), incriminate all the conspirators, including some not previously identified by the Security Service. This file includes further intercepted correspondence of the conspirators, and a report on the case by West Sussex police.

KV 3/62 (1947) includes photographs of Meijer and Tiecken, and the conspirator Edmunds, as well as photographs of Leese's house on Powley Hill, Guildford. There is a copy of the lengthy Metropolitan Police report on the case with exhibits (including the conspirator Alford's ration book) prepared for the trial, including statements by all the main characters in the story. The file also includes a copy of a note of January 1947 to be used by the Director General of the Security Service to brief the Prime Minister on the case.

KV 3/63 concludes the tale, with further intercepted correspondence, notes about the progress of the trial and, finally, speculation about the 'liquidation' of Meijer and Tiecken after their release and return to Holland.