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Thursday, 28 November, 2002, 00:08 GMT
Mosley was tracked by MI5
Mosley addresses a meeting in 1936 in the East End
Mosley was in regular contact with Hitler

MI5 documents released by the Public Record Office show in detail how closely Sir Oswald Mosley, the fascist leader in Britain in the 30s and 40s, was monitored until his arrest and detention in 1940.

The files are among 311 on a range of suspects and spies made public under the more liberal policy of the last few years.

MI5 had (unnamed) informants inside the British Union of Fascists (BUF) but ordinary citizens also wrote in with information.

One anonymous letter, written by typewriter in February 1940, says the writer overheard a meeting on the other side of a curtained off area "while having a late meal" in the Victoria Grill restaurant.

Diana Mosley, wife of British fascist leader Oswald Mosley, in Nazi Germany
Diana Mosley (c) was said to be 'more dangerous' than her husband
The letter says: "A speaker was impressing on his hearers that as people became more and more dissatisfied with the war... so would the chances of seizing power become greater."

The letter went on: "I asked the chef what it was all about, he said that it was a meeting of the fascist party and that (one of the speakers) was Sir Oswald Mosley."

The writer urges the authorities to act: "It surely is time that drastic action is taken to end this sort of thing." In due course, it was.

The same meeting in the Victoria Grill was also written up by a police special branch informant.

The most noticeable feature of the speech was that Mosley repeatedly made venomous attacks on the Jews

Police report
It mentioned that "Mosley explained a somewhat ghoulish scheme by which district leaders should approach relatives of men killed in action and endeavour to convert them to BUF ideals".

The Mosley file begins in 1933 with a report from Detective Constable Edward Pierpoint who had been at a fascist public meeting in Manchester.

It was the first of many such reports as Mosley's extreme views were closely monitored.

Constable Pierpoint adopts the formal style still beloved of the police.

"A strong element of the communist party were present attired in red jerseys", he writes, adding "Sir Oswald Mosley entered attired in a lounge suit."

'Defeat the enemy'

A later police report got to the heart of the Mosley message: "The most noticeable feature of the speech was that Mosley repeatedly made venomous attacks on the Jews."

Another said: "The significant feature was to express determination to defeat the enemy (The Jew) if not by the ballot box then by other and more drastic means, a sentiment cheered to the echo."

Oswald Mosley file
The Mosley file began in 1933
One informant listed only as M/R reported that "I feel he (Mosley) is relying on calling up British Union members to provide eventually an armed force which will effect revolution.

"He would at the right moment engender a communist uprising in order to enable the fascists to intervene by force on the pretext of 'saving the country'."

The informant claims that "the Air Force would unanimously back the BUF," which seems unlikely given that the RAF was at that time (March 1940) preparing for what would be the Battle of Britain. Informants, though, tend to exaggerate.

In the file there is a letter from the American poet and fascist sympathiser Ezra Pound who was living in Italy.

It had been intercepted and photographed. Pound recommends that the British fascists reissue a particular book he likes called "The Law on Civilisation and Decay" with the comment: "We must educate the few blokes who can stand education at any level."

Pound has his own MI5 file as well that gives details of his pro-Axis views and broadcasts.

'More Nazi than Nazis'

When Oswald Mosley was eventually arrested for detention in May 1940, he was found to own a number of firearms - three handguns, two rifles, two shotguns and two duelling pistols. But he did have a firearms certificate.

He was held in Brixton prison. In one letter to his wife Diana (opened by the authorities) he asks that she "tear up any writing or speech which could possibly be construed as extolling any foreign system".

Lady Mosley was described by one MI5 informant as "far cleverer and more dangerous than her husband and will stick at nothing to achieve her ambitions".

She is said to have been the "principle channel of communication between Mosley and Hitler" before the war.

Winston Churchill
Churchill's communist cousin was monitored
Her sister, Unity Mitford, was even closer to Hitler and in a file on her, it is said that she is "more Nazi than the Nazis".

But MI5 was also tracking communists and their sympathisers from well before the war.

One of them was a cousin of Winston Churchill, Clare Sheridan.

She was a Soviet propagandist in the 20s who was disparaged by one informant for being a believer in "free love".

Whether she was a Soviet agent as well was never fully established, though she was in contact with two of them.

Brixton Prison
Mosley was held in Brixton Prison
Churchill himself said he wanted nothing to do with her and told MI5 that he "wouldn't stand bail for her" if she was arrested.

Another woman followed closely was the exotic sounding Moura Budberg, formerly Countess Benckendorff.

One of her friends in London was Guy Burgess.

He used to go to her drinks parties at which, an informant said "she can drink an amazing quantity, mostly gin".

There is even a comment in her file in August 1950 that someone in Burgess' position should not mix with her.

That was before Burgess was exposed as a Soviet spy.

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08 May 99 | Europe
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