Oswald Mosley

INTERNMENT - 1940 

Without Charge or Trial


The night after a special regulation was passed in Parliament, Special Branch detectives came for Mosley to arrest him and throw him into prison. There was no charge, no trial, not even the opportunity to defend himself against the lies and rumours that would inevitably follow.

This was May 23, 1940, the time of the Phoney War before the reality of war between Britain and Germany truly came home.

Defence Regulation 18b was passed without Mosley knowing about it and implemented immediately for the sole purpose of imprisoning every member of British Union and, thereby, ending his legitimate campaign for a negotiated peace.

Those caught up in the net were defined as “any member of any movement to be imprisoned whose leaders had had ‘association’ with the leaders of the countries with whom we were at war”. It seemed to miss the point that Mosley had not seen either Hitler or Mussolini for over three years while Neville Chamberlain had “associated” with them at Munich much more recently.

This was retrospective legislation, framing the victim for something that he had been doing perfectly legally before it was deemed a “crime”. But what was the “crime”? It was certainly not an act of treason or any other kind of treachery.

In a private committee to consider 18b cases, Norman Birkett discussed the issue with Mosley:

Mosley: There appear to be two grounds for detaining us – (1) A suggestion that we are traitors who would take up arms and fight with the Germans if they landed and (2) that our propaganda undermines the civilian morale.

Birkett: Speaking for myself, you can entirely dismiss the first suggestion.

Mosley: Then I can only assume that we have been detained because of our campaign in favour of a negotiated peace.

Birkett: Yes, Sir Oswald, that is the case. As Mr Justice Birkett, he presided as a judge at Nuremberg meting out a different form of justice.

Lord Jowitt, in a House of Lords debate on December 11, 1946, stated:

“… After all, let us be fair to those people who were imprisoned under Order 18b, and let us remember that they have never been accused of any crime; not only have they not been convicted of a crime but they have not been accused of a crime. That should be remembered in all fairness to them”.

Did that “fairness” extend to the affects imprisonment had on mental and physical health, social standing and on family and friends? Interrogation amounting to torture took place at MI5’s interrogation centre at Ham Common, where British Union members were screened. Many were released at the end of the war broken men.

While he was imprisoned, silenced and defenceless, Mosley heard that the Conservative MP, Sir Thomas Cook, had publicly called him a traitor. Cook was sued for slander and forced to make a public apology and pay damages. Others merely maintained a whispering campaign, which did not come to Mosley’s attention until after the war.

British Union’s policy on defence had been clarified many times before the outbreak of war.

In a speech on June 15, 1934, he said, “We will immediately mobilise every resource of the nation to give us an air force equal in strength to the strongest in Europe. We will modernise and mechanise our army, and at the end of that process our army will cost less, but will be the most modern and effective striking force in the world”.

In Action, on May 9, 1940, he wrote, “According to the press, stories concerning the invasion of Britain are being circulated … in such an event every member of British Union would be at the disposal of the nation. Every one of us would resist the foreign invader with all that is in us. However rotten the existing government and however much we detest its policies, we would throw ourselves into the effort of a united nation until the foreigner was driven from our soil. In such a situation no doubt existed concerning the attitude of British Union”.

Two weeks later they came for him with a warrant for his arrest. He spent three and a half years in prison and a further year and a half under house arrest.

A further eight hundred prominent members of British Union were held under the same Defence Regulation in various prisons and concentration camps.

Robert Edwards  

©2002   'Sir Oswald Mosley and the British Union of Fascists by Robert Edwards'

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