World War 2 Stories for Sheffield

The Fifth Column
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Fifth Column

People like Archibald Ramsay and Barry Domville were described as members of the Fifth Column (a group within a nation or faction that sympathizes with and works secretly for the enemy). During the Blitz the government began to arrest more and more people they considered to be supporting the enemy. By August 1940 there were over 1,600 people had been arrested and were being held in detention without trial.

People were also persecuted for Fifth Column offences. In June 1940 a school teacher who was imprisoned for "advancing defeatist theories" to his pupils. It was reported that he told his pupils that the Germans would land in Ireland and blockade the United Kingdom, and that the children would be reduced to eating cats and dogs.

In 1940 William Saxon-Steer, a member of the British Union of Fascists, was caught posting details of a Nazi 'New British Broadcasting Station' in a telephone kiosk. He was found guilty and sentenced at the Old Bailey to seven years in prison.

MI5 also infiltrated pacifist groups such as the Peace Pledge Union. In June 1940 six members of the PPU were arrested and charged with causing disaffection by publishing the poster, 'War will cease when men refuse to fight. What are you going to do about it?' The six, Alexander Wood, Morris Rowntree, Stuart Morris, John Barclay, Ronald Smith and Sidney Todd, were defended by John Platts-Mills and he managed to save them from going to prison.

In July 1940 a 25 year old aircraftwoman was arrested for starting false rumours about a German invasion. A man claimed he heard her say in a cafe that German parachutists had landed in England. The woman was guilty and sentenced to three months in prison.

That month also saw the arrest of Marie Louise Ingram and William Swift in Southsea. Ingram, the wife of a senior officer in the Royal Navy, was accused of persuading Swift to recruit Nazi sympathizers into the Home Guard. Ingram and Swift, both members of the British Union of Fascists, were both found guilty of various Defence Regulations charges. Swift was sentenced to fourteen years' imprisonment. Ingram, who had been born in Germany, received ten years.

By the summer of 1941 only 400 people were still being detained under Defence Regulation 18B. In November, 1943, Herbert Morrisoncontroversially decided to order the release of Oswald Mosley from prison. There were large-scale protests and even his sister-in-law, Jessica Mitford, described the decision as "a slap in the face of anti-fascists in every country and a direct betrayal of those who have died for the cause of anti-fascism."

At the end of the Second World War, two prominent supporters of the British Union of Fascists who had fled to Nazi Germany were arrested and tried for treason. John Amery (December, 1945) and William Joyce (January, 1946) were both executed.

JOYCE William (Lord Haw Haw) 

Lord Haw-Haw, William Joyce, became a figure of fascination and hate in World War Two. Lord Haw-Haw's voice was heard on German radio especially during the dark days of the Blitz when the fighting spirit of Great Britain was put to the test.

Haw-Haw started off his broadcasts with "Germany calling, Germany calling". This was the call sign of a Hamburg radio station which broadcast nightly news bulletins in English to the British people. The voice of the speaker belonged to William Joyce - nick-named Lord Haw-Haw by the "Daily Express". In fact, possibly as many as three men were Lord Haw-Haw with Joyce being the most infamous. Another radio commentator was a former army officer called Norman Baillie-Stewart. However, Joyce is the name most frequently associated with the "Germany calling" nightly bulletins.

Joyce was Irish by blood, American by birth and carried a British passport. He had belonged to the Oswald Mosely's British Fascist Party - a political party in Britain that attempted to copy the Nazi Party in Germany.

Joyce's broadcasts were anti-Semitic and poked fun at the British war leader Winston Churchill. It is thought that on average six million people listened to Joyce each broadcast. Many found the broadcasts so absurd that they were seen as a way of relieving the tedium of life in Britain during the war.

However, Joyce's  broadcasts also provided the British public with information which had been censored at home. On one occasion, Joyce asked the British public to question the Admiralty over the aircraft carrier "Ark Royal". In fact, nothing had happened to the "Ark Royal" but the seeds of doubt had been sown.

Other stories were told by Joyce to unnerve the British public. He told the listeners things happening in Britain, which he could only have known about through the German's spy machine established in Britain. This also helped to unsettle the British public even if most of what he said was nonsense. Joyce was also credited with saying things in his broadcasts which he clearly did not say - such was his reputation at the time.

At the end of the war, Joyce was arrested by British Military Police, taken to London where he was tried and found guilty of treason. He was hanged in 1946.


                                      British Union of Fascists (BUF)

In 1931 Oswald Mosley founded the New Party. Early supporters included John Strachey, John Becket, Harold Nicholson, Cyril Joad, William Joyce, Mary Richardson, William Allen, Robert Forgan and A. K. Chesterton, but in the 1931 General Election none of the New Party's candidates were elected. In January 1932 Mosley met Benito Mussolini in Italy. Mosley was impressed by Mussolini's achievements and when he returned to England he disbanded the New Party and replaced it with the British Union of Fascists.

The British Union of Fascists was strongly anti-communist and argued for a programme of economic revival based on government spending and protectionism. Mary Richardson later commented: "I was first attracted to the Blackshirts because I saw in them the courage, the action, the loyalty, the gift of service, and the ability to serve which I had known in the suffrage movement". In October, 1932, Mosley published The Greater Britain, his manifesto for a Fascist state.

Mosley attracted members from other right-wing groups such as the British Fascisti, National Fascists and the Imperial Fascist League. By 1934 the BUF had 40,000 members and was able to establish its own drinking clubs and football teams. The BUF also gained the support of Lord Rothermere and the Daily Mail. Oswald Mosley appointed William Joyce as the party full-time Propaganda Director. Joyce, along with Mosley and Mick Clarke, were the organisations three main public speakers. On 7th June, 1934, the British Union of Fascists held a large rally at Olympia. About 500 anti-fascists including Margaret Storm Jameson, Vera Brittain, Richard Sheppard and Aldous Huxley, managed to get inside the hall. When they began heckling Mosley they were attacked by 1,000 black-shirted stewards.

Several of the protesters were badly beaten by the fascists. Jameson argued in The Daily Telegraph: "A young woman carried past me by five Blackshirts, her clothes half torn off and her mouth and nose closed by the large hand of one; her head was forced back by the pressure and she must have been in considerable pain. I mention her especially since I have seen a reference to the delicacy with which women interrupters were left to women Blackshirts. This is merely untrue... Why train decent young men to indulge in such peculiarly nasty brutality? There was a public outcry about this violence and Lord Rothermere and his Daily Mail withdrew its support of the BUF. Over the next few months membership went into decline.

The popularity of the BUP declined even further after the outbreak of the Second World War. On 22nd May 1940 the British government announced the imposition of Defence Regulation 18B. This legislation gave the Home Secretary the right to imprison without trial anybody he believed likely to "endanger the safety of the realm". The following day, Oswald Mosley was arrested. Over the next few days other prominent figures in the BUF were imprisoned. On the 30th May the BUF was dissolved and its publications were banned.

Norah Elam joined the British Union of Fascist (BUF) in 1934. Later that year she became the BUF County Women's Officer for West Sussex. It was not long before Elam became very close to Oswald Mosley. The author of Femine Fascism: Women in Britain's Fascist Movement (2003) has pointed out: "Elam's status in the BUF and the sensitive tasks with which she was entrusted offer some substance to the BUF's claim to respect sexual equality. While, in principle, the movement was segregated by gender and women in positions of leadership were meant to have authority only over other women. Elam was quite evidently admitted to Mosley's inner circle." 

While, in principle, the movement was segregated by gender and women in positions of leadership were meant to have authority only over other women. Elam was quite evidently admitted to Mosley's inner circle." 

In November 1936 Norah Elam was one of ten women the British Union of Fascists announced would be candidates in the next general election. Elam was selected to fight the Northampton constituency. Mosley used Norah's past as one of the leaders of the Women's Social and Political Union to counter the criticism that the BUF was anti-feminist. In one speech Norah Elam argued that her prospective candidacy for the House of Commons "killed for all time the suggestion that National Socialism proposed putting British women back in the home".

Under the influence of William Joyce the BUP became increasingly anti-Semitic. In December, 1934 it became official policy. The verbal attacks on the Jewish community led to violence at meetings and demonstrations. In November 1936 a serious riot took place when left-wing organisations successfully stopped Mosley marching through the Jewish areas of London.

The activities of the BUF was checked by the passing of the 1936 Public Order Act. This gave the Home Secretary the power to ban marches in the London area and police chief constables could apply to him for bans elsewhere. This legislation also made it an offence to wear political uniforms and to use threatening and abusive words.

The BUP anti-Semitic policy was popular in certain inner-city areas and in 1937 Joyce came close to defeating the Labour Party candidate in the London County Council election in Shoreditch.

Joyce argued that the BUP should take a more extreme position on racial issues. Mosley disagreed and began to feel that Joyce posed a threat to his leadership. He therefore decided to sack Joyce as Propaganda Director. In an attempt to save money another 142 staff members also lost their jobs.

In 1938 several members of the BUF left the organization and founded the National Socialist League. This included John Becket, William Joyce, William Allen, Robert Forgan and A. K. Chesterton.

The Right Club

Archibald Maule Ramsay

Captain Archibald Henry Maule Ramsay (4 May 1894 – 11 March 1955) was a British Army officer who later went into politics as a Scottish Unionist Member of Parliament (MP). From the late 1930s he developed increasingly strident antisemitic views. In 1940, after his involvement with a suspected spy at the United States embassy, he became the only British MP to be interned under Defence Regulation 18B.

Family and early life
Ramsay was from an aristocratic family (he was a descendant of the Earls of Dalhousie). He attended Eton College and the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, joining the Coldstream Guards in 1913. On the outbreak of World War I he served in France for two years. He later received a severe head injury before being invalided out and transferred to the War Office in London. Here he met and married on 30 April 1917 Lady Ninian Crichton-Stuart, née Hon. Ismay Preston, daughter of Viscount Gormanston and widow of Lord Ninian Crichton-Stuart MP, who had been killed on active service in the war. His wife was already the mother of three surviving children. The couple went on to have four sons together, the eldest of whom died on active service in 1943.

As the war was coming to an end, Ramsay served at the British War Mission in Paris. He retired from the Army with the rank of Captain in 1920. He spent the 1920s as a company director, near Arbroath, Angus, and became active in the Conservative Party. In the 1931 general election, Ramsay was elected as MP for Peebles and Southern Midlothian. He was regarded as a likable and charming man (he was nicknamed 'Jock' among friends), who had a sincere and earnest approach and was an engaging and persuasive public speaker. However, Ramsay was not considered as a potential candidate for high office: the most senior appointment he obtained was as a Government member of the Potato Marketing Board.

Spanish Civil War
After the Spanish Civil War broke out, Ramsay became a strong supporter of the Nationalists under Franco, largely arising out of his opposition to the anti-clericism of the Spanish Republicans and their attacks on the Roman Catholic Church (despite being an Anglican himself). In the early months of the war he objected in Parliament to what he saw as bias in BBC news reports on Spain, and pointed to links between Spanish Republicans and the Soviet Union. Late in 1937, Ramsay formed the 'United Christian Front' to combat attacks on Christianity "which emanate from Moscow". Many distinguished peers and churchmen joined, but the organisation was criticised in a letter to The Times by senior religious figures including William Temple (Archbishop of York) and Donald Soper. The objectors said that, while they supported Christian unity, they could not support the United Christian Front as it was mainly concerned with the Spanish Civil War and "adopts a view of it which seems to us ill-founded".

Ramsay became aware of a plan to hold a conference of freethinkers in London in 1938, which was being organised by the International Federation of Freethinkers. Together with his supporters in Parliament, he denounced this as a "Godless Conference" which was organised by a Moscow-based organisation. On 28 June 1938 he asked for permission to introduce as a Private Member's Bill the "Aliens Restriction (Blasphemy) Bill" (which would have prohibited conference attendees from entering Britain); he won the vote by 165 to 134, but the bill went no further. Ramsay's opposition to Communism led him to look to other countries for examples. On 13 January 1938 he had given a speech to the Arbroath Business Club in which he observed that Hitler's antipathy to Jews arose from his knowledge "that the real power behind the Third International is a group of revolutionary Jews". Some time later in 1938 he read "The Rulers of Russia" by priest Denis Fahey CSSp, which contended that of 59 members of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1935, 56 were Jews and the remaining three were married to Jews. At the same time, Ramsay was also becoming more sympathetic to Germany: in September he wrote to The Times to defend the right of the Sudetenland to self-determination.

On 15 November 1938, Ramsay was invited to a luncheon party at the German Embassy in London, where he met some noted British sympathisers with Nazi Germany, including Barry Domvile. In December he introduced another Private Member's Bill called the "Companies Act (1929) Amendment Bill", which would require shares in news agencies and newspapers to be held openly and not through nominees. In his speech promoting the Bill, Ramsay claimed the press was being manipulated and controlled by "international financiers" based in New York who wanted to "thrust this country into a war". Ramsay was given permission to introduce his Bill by 151 to 104; again it went no further. In December 1938 The Fascist (journal of the Imperial Fascist League) declared that Ramsay had "become Jew-wise" (a term which indicated someone who had come to believe in a Jewish conspiracy).

On 10 January 1939 the Hon. Mrs Ismay Ramsay gave another speech to the Arbroath Business Club, at which she claimed the national press was "largely under Jewish control", that "an international group of Jews ... were behind world revolution in every single country" and that Hitler "must ... have had his reasons for what he did". The speech was reported in the local newspaper and attracted the attention of the Chief Rabbi for Scotland, Dr. Salis Daiches, who wrote to The Scotsman challenging Mrs Ramsay to produce evidence. Ramsay wrote on her behalf citing Father Fahey's booklet, and the resulting correspondence lasted for nearly a month—including a letter from 11 Ministers of the Church of Scotland in the County of Peebles repudiating the views of their MP.

Some members of Ramsay's local Conservative Association in Peebles were not pleased by what they considered negative publicity. However, Ramsay reassured them that he would continue to be a supporter of Neville Chamberlain and the National Government. Ramsay made attempts to make controversial speeches to private meetings rather than in public. On 27 April he spoke to a branch of the (anti-semitic) Nordic League in Kilburn, attacking Neville Chamberlain for introducing conscription "at the instigation of the Jews" and claiming that the Conservative Party "relies on ... Jew money".

The Right Club
After the controversy over Mrs Ramsay's January speech died down, Ramsay decided that he needed to make others aware of the threat so that they would rid the Conservative Party of Jewish control. To this end he set up the "Right Club" in May 1939, noting down those who had joined in a red leather-bound and lockable ledger (the "Red Book"). There were 135 names on the men's list and 100 on a separate ladies' list; the members of the Right Club include a broad spectrum of those known to be anti-semitic (including William Joyce and MP John Hamilton Mackie), those who were in some respects "fellow travellers" with anti-semitism, and some friends of Ramsay who may have joined without knowing the actual functions of the club. At its early meetings, the 5th Duke of Wellington took the chair. The logo of the Right Club, seen on its badge, was of an eagle killing a snake with the initials "P.J." (which stood for "Perish Judah").

While Ramsay was attempting to launch the Right Club, he spoke at a meeting of the Nordic League at the Wigmore Hall at which a reporter from the Daily Worker was present and reported Ramsay as saying that they needed to end Jewish control, "and if we don't do it constitutionally, we'll do it with steel" – a statement greeted with wild applause. The popular magazine John Bull picked up on the report and challenged Ramsay to contradict it or explain himself. Ramsay's local constituency newspaper, the Peeblesshire Advertiser, made the same challenge and Ramsay responded by admitting he had made the speech, citing the fact that three halls had refused to host the meeting as evidence of Jewish control.

Outbreak of war
On the second day of World War II (4 September 1939), Ramsay sat in the library of the House of Commons writing a poem, a paraphrase of "Land of Hope and Glory", which was later to be printed and distributed by the Right Club. It ran:
Land of dope and Jewry
Land that once was free
All the Jew boys praise thee
Whilst they plunder thee
Poorer still and poorer
Grow thy true-born sons
Faster still and faster
They're sent to feed the guns.
Land of Jewish finance
Fooled by Jewish lies
In press and books and movies
While our birthright dies
Longer still and longer
Is the rope they get
But—by the God of battles
'Twill serve to hang them yet.

When the Secretary of State for War Leslie Hore-Belisha (a frequent target of antisemitism) was forced out of office, Ramsay distributed in the House of Commons many copies of Truth (a magazine closely connected to Neville Chamberlain) which argued that Hore-Belisha was no loss to the government. He also put down a motion which cited the regretful reactions of many newspapers to Hore-Belisha's sacking as evidence of Jewish control of the press.

Privately, Ramsay had been invited to some of the "Secret Meetings" at which right-wing opponents of the war discussed tactics. However, after they grew to be dominated by Oswald Mosley and his supporters, Ramsay withdrew. The Right Club spent the Phoney War period distributing propaganda in the form of leaflets and "sticky-backs" (adhesive labels containing slogans), with Ramsay later explaining that he wanted "to maintain the atmosphere in which the "Phoney War", as it was called, might be converted into an honourable negotiated peace." In addition to Ramsay's "Land of dope and Jewry" rhyme, the slogans included "War destroys workers" and "This is a Jews' War"; some of the leaflets asserted "the stark truth is that this war was plotted and engineered by the Jews for world-power and vengeance".

House of Commons
In Parliament, Ramsay attacked the internment procedure of Defence Regulation 18B and opposed the arrest of anti-semitic speaker Richard A. V. "Jock" Houston under the Public Order Act 1936. On 20 March 1940, he asked a question about a propaganda radio station set up by Germany which gave its precise wavelength, which was suspected by both his allies and opponents as a subtle way of advertising it. On 9 May he asked for an assurance from the Home Secretary "that he refuses to be stampeded ... by a ramp in our Jew-ridden press?" His increasingly open anti-semitism was picked up by Labour and other MPs and referred to in debate.

One of the last members to join the Right Club was Tyler Kent, a cypher clerk at the American Embassy in London. Ramsay gave Kent the ledger containing the list of Right Club members for safe-keeping. Unfortunately for Ramsay, Kent was stealing top-secret documents from the embassy and had already fallen under suspicion for so doing. On 20 May, Kent's flat was raided and he was arrested; the locked 'Red Book' was forced open. Ramsay's involvement with Kent was extremely concerning to the authorities as Ramsay enjoyed Parliamentary privilege: if Kent had given his stolen documents to Ramsay, it would have been impossible to prevent their publication, which could have stopped immediate escalation of war. At the time this was antithetical to the controllers of parliament. The Cabinet decided to extend Regulation 18B to give more power to detain people suspected of disloyalty.

Ramsay was arrested and lodged in Brixton Prison on an order under Defence Regulation 18B on 23 May 1940. From the start he engaged solicitors (Oswald Hickson, Collier & Co.) through whom he attempted to defend his reputation. When Lord Marley said in the House of Lords that Ramsay was Hitler's chosen Gauleiter for Scotland in the event of an invasion, Oswald Hickson, Collier immediately sent off a letter of complaint.

As an 18B detainee, Ramsay's only legal method of challenging his detention was to appeal to the Advisory Committee under Norman Birkett which recommended continued detention. However, as a Member of Parliament, some of Ramsay's colleagues argued that his detention was a breach of parliamentary privilege. The detention was referred to the Committee of Privileges, but on 9 October it reported that detention was not a breach of privilege.

Libel trial
The New York Times published an article on "Britain's Fifth Column" in July 1940 which claimed "informed American sources said that he had sent to the German Legation in Dublin treasonable information given to him by Tyler Kent". Ramsay sued for libel, resulting in a trial in July 1941 in which he asserted his loyalty to Britain. However some of Ramsay's answers did him extreme damage, for example when he was asked if he wanted Nazism to be defeated, and replied, substituting "Germany" for "Nazism": "Not only Germany, but also the Judaic menace". In summing-up the Judge said he was convinced Hitler would call Ramsay "friend" and that Ramsay was disloyal in heart and soul to his King, his Government, and the people.

However, the New York Times could not defend its story, having found no evidence that Ramsay had communicated anything to the German Legation in Dublin, and it was found guilty. The Judge awarded a farthing (¼d) in damages, the customary award for a libel plaintiff who technically won a case but was adjudged to have brought it on themselves. If the defendant in a libel case pays into court beforehand a sum not less than the damages ultimately awarded, they are not liable for costs; as the New York Times had paid £75 into court, Ramsay became liable for both prosecution and defence costs. Another consequence of the trial was that Ramsay's local Conservative Association disowned him completely. They recruited David Robertson, the MP for Streatham who was from Scotland, to represent the constituency; however Robertson found it too expensive to do so and soon gave it up.

Subsequent political activity
Ramsay continued occasionally to put down written Parliamentary questions from jail, sometimes taking up the cases of fellow 18Bs. His eldest son Alec, serving in the Scots Guards, died of pneumonia on active service in South Africa in August 1943. Ramsay was finally released from detention on 26 September 1944, being one of the last few 18B detainees. He immediately returned to Westminster to resume his seat in the House of Commons, causing at least one member to storm out of the chamber. His only significant action in the remainder of the Parliament was a motion calling for the reinstatement of the 1275 Statute of the Jewry passed under King Edward I. He did not defend his seat in the 1945 general election.

In 1952 Ramsay wrote The Nameless War as an autobiography and a plea to justify his actions. Much of the book consisted of an antisemitic conspiracy theory re-interpreting the whole of modern history as a Jewish campaign for world domination, quoting extensively from the the Protocols of the Elders of Zion whose authenticity he took for granted, and adding such assertions as that Calvin had been a Jew whose real name was "Cohen", that Cromwell had been "a paid agent of the Jews" and that the entire English Civil War and the execution of Charles I were staged for the sole purpose of allowing Jews to return to England. The book is still current in extreme-right circles.

Ramsay attended some far-right political meetings but did not attract attention. He died in 1955.