John Amery

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John Amery (March 14, 1912 - December 19, 1945) was a British anti-Communist who proposed to Hitler the forming of a British volunteer force (what became the British Free Corps), made recruitment efforts and propaganda broadcasts for Germany during the war. He was later hanged for treason.


John Amery was the son of Conservative Member of Parliament and cabinet minister Leo Amery. He was a staunch anti-Communist and believed in National Socialism. He left Britain to live in France after going bankrupt in the early 1930s. In Paris he met the French fascist leader Jacques Doriot, with whom he traveled to Austria, Czechoslovakia, Italy and Germany. Amery claimed to his family that he joined Franco's Nationalists during the Spanish Civil War in 1936 and was awarded a medal of honour while serving as an intelligence officer with Italian "volunteer" forces. However, this was untrue, although the lie achieved wide circulation. Amery first visited Spain in 1939 after the civil war had ended and only stayed for a few weeks before returning to France. He remained in the country even after the German invasion and the creation of the Vichy government.

Amery soon ran foul of the Vichy government and made several attempts to leave the area but was rebuffed. It was German armistice commissioner Graf Ceschi who offered Amery the chance to leave France and go to Germany to work in the political arena. Ceschi was unable to get Amery out of France but later, in September of 1942, Hauptmann Werner Plack got Amery what he wanted and in October, Plack and Amery went to Berlin to speak to the German English Committee. It was at this time that Amery suggested that the Germans consider forming a British anti-Bolshevik legion. Adolf Hitler was impressed by Amery and allowed him to remain in Germany as a guest of the Reich, where he made a series of pro-German radio broadcasts to Britain.

The idea of a British force to fight the Communists languished until Amery encountered Jacques Doriot during a visit to France in January of 1943. Doriot was part of the LVF (Legion des Volontaires Francais), a French volunteer force fighting with the Germans on the eastern front. Amery rekindled his idea of British unit and aimed to recruit 50 to 100 men for propaganda uses and also to seek out a core base of men with which to gain additional members from British prisoners of war. He also suggested that such a unit could also provide more recruits for the other military units made up of foreign nationals.

Amery's first recruiting drive for what was initially to be called The British Legion of St George took him to the St Denis POW camp outside Paris. Amery addressed between 40 and 50 inmates from various British Commonwealth countries handing out recruiting material. This first effort at recruitment was a complete failure, but he persisted and eventually he recruited a number of individuals to his cause. Amery ended up with two men, of which only Kenneth Berry would join what was later called the BFC. Amery's link to the BFC ended in October, 1943, when the Waffen-SS decided Amery's services were no longer needed and it was officially renamed the British Free Corps. Amery continued to broadcast and write propaganda in Berlin until late 1944 when he traveled to northern Italy to lend support to Italian dictator Benito Mussolini's rump Salo Republic. Amery was captured by partisans there in the last weeks of the war.

After the war, Amery was tried for treason; in a preliminary hearing, he argued that he had never attacked Britain and was an anti-Communist. At the same time, his brother Julian Amery attempted to show that he had taken out Spanish citizenship by producing fraudulent documents, and thus would have been incapable of committing treason against the UK. His counsel tried to show that he was mentally ill. These latter attempts failed, and he pleaded guilty at his trial to eight charges of treason.


He was sentenced to death on 28 November 1945, and hanged by Albert Pierrepoint on 19 December of that year. This is believed to be the only case of a man pleading guilty to a charge of treason in the UK.

See also

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