Archibald Ramsay

Archibald Ramsay

Archibald Ramsay, the son of Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Ramsay, was born in Scotland on 4th May, 1894. Educated at Eton and Sandhurst Military College, he joined the Coldstream Guards in 1913. During the First World War he served in France (1914-1916) and at the War Office (1917-1918).

Ramsay married the eldest daughter of 14th Viscount Gormanstan, and the widow of Lord Ninian Crichton-Stuart, the son of the 3rd Marquess of Bute. After their marriage the couple lived in Kellie Castle near Arbroath.

A member of the Conservative Party, Ramsay was elected to the House of Commons in 1931. Over the next few years he developed extreme right-wing political views. A strongly religious man, he became convinced that the Russian Revolution was the start of an international Communist plot to take over the world. In 1935 two secret agents from Nazi Germany established the anti-Semetic Nordic League. The organization was initially known as the White Knights of Britain or the Hooded Men. Ramsay soon emerged as the leader of this organization. The Nordic League was primarily an upper-middle-class association as opposed to the British Union of Fascists that mainly attracted people from the working class.

The Nordic League described itself as "an association of race conscious Britons" and being at the service of "those patriotic bodies known to be engaged in exposing and frustrating the Jewish stranglehold on our Nordic realm. In Nazi Germany the Nordic League was seen as "the British branch of international Nazism".

During the Spanish Civil War he was a leading supporter of General Francisco Franco and his Nationalist Army. In 1937 he formed the United Christian Front, an organization that intended "to confront the widespread attack upon the Christian verities which emantes from Moscow, and which is revealing itself in a literary and educational campaign of great intensity."

At first the United Christian Front gained the support of several church leaders. However, it soon became clear that it was a front for extreme right-wing politicians. In November 1937 William Temple, Archbishop of York and Donald Soper, a Methodist minister, wrote to The Times to condemn the United Christian Front: "We regret that so admirable an inspiration as the union of all Christians in resistance to the enemies of the Gospel should be bound up with judgments on contemporary events which are certainly precarious and to us appear mistaken."

Lothar Kreyssig
Archibald Ramsay

On 28th June 1938 Ramsay introduced a Private Member's Bill entitled the "Aliens Restriction (Blasphemy) Bill". The main objective of the legislation was "to prevent the participation by aliens in assemblies for the purpose of propagating blasphemous or atheistic doctrines or in other activities calculated to interfere with the established religious institutions of Great Britain".

Ramsay was now the unofficial leader of the extreme right in Britain. His close associates Admiral Barry Domville, Nesta Webster, Mary Allen, Oswald Mosley, John Becket, William Joyce, A. K. Chesterton, Arthur Bryant, Major-General John Fuller, Thomas Moore, John Moore-Brabazon, and Henry Drummond Wolff.

In the House of Commons Ramsay was the main critic of having Jews in the government. In 1938 he began a campaign to have Leslie Hore-Belisha sacked as Secretary of War. In one speech on 27th April he warned that Hore-Belisha "will lead us to war with our blood-brothers of the Nordic race in order to make way for a Bolshevised Europe."

In May 1939 Ramsay founded a secret society called the Right Club. This was an attempt to unify all the different right-wing groups in Britain. Or in the leader's words of "co-ordinating the work of all the patriotic societies". In his autobiography, The Nameless War, Ramsay argued: "The main object of the Right Club was to oppose and expose the activities of Organized Jewry, in the light of the evidence which came into my possession in 1938. Our first objective was to clear the Conservative Party of Jewish influence, and the character of our membership and meetings were strictly in keeping with this objective."The Daily Worker described Ramsay as "Britain's Number One Jew Baiter".

Lothar Kreyssig
Archibald Ramsay

Members of the Right Club included William Joyce, Anna Wolkoff, Joan Miller, Norah Briscoe, Molly Hiscox, A. K. Chesterton, Francis Yeats-Brown, E. H. Cole, Lord Redesdale, Duke of Wellington, Aubrey Lees, John Stourton, Thomas Hunter, Samuel Chapman, Ernest Bennett, Charles Kerr, John MacKie, James Edmondson, Mavis Tate, Marquess of Graham, Margaret Bothamley, Randolph Stewart, 12th Earl of Galloway and Cecil Serocold Skeels.

Unknown to Ramsay, MI5 agents had infiltrated the Right Club. This included three women, Joan Miller, Marjorie Amor and Helem de Munck. The British government was therefore kept fully informed about the activities of Ramsay and his right-wing friends. Soon after the outbreak of the Second World War the government passed a Defence Regulation Order. This legislation gave the Home Secretary the right to imprison without trial anybody he believed likely to "endanger the safety of the realm" On 22nd September, 1939, Oliver C. Gilbert and Victor Rowe, became the first members of the Right Club to be arrested.

In the House of Commons Ramsay attacked this legislation and on 14th December, 1939, asked: "Is this not the first time for a very long time in British history, that British born subjects have been denied every facility for justice?"

Ramsay also continued his campaign against Leslie Hore-Belisha and even distributed free copies of right-wing magazines that included articles attacking the Secretary of War. Eventually Neville Chamberlain decided to remove Hore-Belisha as Secretary of State for War and appoint him as Minister of Information. Lord Halifax objected, claiming that it was "inappropriate to have a Jew in charge of publicity." In January 1940 Hore-Belisha was sacked as Secretary of State for War.

On 20th March, 1940, Ramsay asked the Minister of Information a question about the New British Broadcasting Service, a radio station broadcasting German propaganda. In doing so he gave full details of the wavelength and the time in the day when it provided programmes. His critics claimed he was trying to give the radio station publicity. Two Labour Party MPs, Ellen Wilkinson and Emanuel Shinwell, made speeches in the House of Commons suggesting that Ramsay was a member of a right-wing secret society. However, unlike MI5, they did not know he was the leader of the Right Club.

By this time Ramsay was being helped in his work by two women, Anna Wolkoff and Joan Miller. Unknown to Ramsay, Miller was a MI5 agent. Wolkoff was the daughter of Admiral Nikolai Wolkoff, the former aide-to-camp to the Nicholas II in London. Wolkoff ran the Russian Tea Room in South Kensington and this eventually became the main meeting place for members of the Right Club.

In the 1930s Anna Wolkoff had meetings with Hans Frank and Rudolf Hess. In 1935 her actions began to be monitored by MI5. Agents warned that Wolkoff had developed a close relationship with Wallis Simpson (the future wife of Edward VIII) and that the two women might be involved in passing state secrets to the German government.

In February 1940, Wolkoff met Tyler Kent, a cypher clerk from the American Embassy. He soon became a regular visitor to the Russian Tea Room where he met other members of the Right Club including Ramsay. Wolkoff, Kent and Ramsay talked about politics and agreed that they all shared the same political views.

Kent was concerned that the American government wanted the United States to join the war against Germany. He said he had evidence of this as he had been making copies of the correspondence between President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. Kent invited Wolkoff and Ramsay back to his flat to look at these documents. This included secret assurances that the United States would support France if it was invaded by the German Army. Kent later argued that he had shown these documents to Ramsay in the hope that he would pass this information to American politicians hostile to Roosevelt.

On 13th April 1940 Wolkoff went to Kent's flat and made copies of some of these documents. Joan Miller and Marjorie Amor were later to testify that these documents were then passed on to Duco del Monte, Assistant Naval Attaché at the Italian Embassy. Soon afterwards, MI8, the wireless interception service, picked up messages between Rome and Berlin that indicated that Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, head of German military intelligence (Abwehr), had seen the Roosevelt-Churchill correspondence.

Soon afterwards Anna Wolkoff asked Joan Miller if she would use her contacts at the Italian Embassy to pass a coded letter to William Joyce (Lord Haw-Haw) in Germany. The letter contained information that he could use in his broadcasts on Radio Hamburg. Before passing the letter to her contacts, Miller showed it to Maxwell Knight, the head of B5b, a unit within MI5 that conducted the monitoring of political subversion.

On 18th May, Knight told Guy Liddell about the Right Club spy ring. Liddell immediately had a meeting with Joseph Kennedy, the American Ambassador in London. Kennedy agreed to waive Kent's diplomatic immunity and on 20th May, 1940, the Special Branch raided his flat. Inside they found the copies of 1,929 classified documents, including the secret correspondence between Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. Kent was also found in possession of what became known as Ramsay's Red Book. This book had the names and addresses of members of the Right Club and had been given to Kent for safe keeping.

Anna Wolkoff and Tyler Kent were arrested and charged under the Official Secrets Act. The trial took place in secret and on 7th November 1940, Wolkoff was sentenced to ten years. Kent, because he was an American citizen, was treated less harshly and received only seven years.

Ramsay was surprisingly not charged with breaking the Official Secrets Act. Instead he was interned under Defence Regulation 18B. Ramsay now joined other right-wing extremists such as Oswald Mosley and Admiral Nikolai Wolkoff in Brixton Prison. Some left-wing politicians in the House of Commons began demanding the publication of Ramsay's Red Book. They suspected that several senior members of the Conservative Party had been members of the Right Club. Some took the view that Ramsay had done some sort of deal in order to prevent him being charged with treason.

Herbert Morrison, the Home Secretary refused to reveal the contents of Ramsay's Red Book. He claimed that it was impossible to know if the names in the book were really members of the Right Club. If this was the case, the publication of the book would unfairly smear innocent people.

The government found it difficult to suppress the story and in 1941 the New York Times claimed that Ramsay had been guilty of spying for Nazi Germany: " Before the war he (Ramsay) was strongly anti-Communist, anti-semitic, and pro-Hitler. Though no specific charges were brought against him - Defence Regulations allow that - informed American sources said that he had sent to the German Legation in Dublin treasonable information given to him by Tyler Kent, clerk to the American Embassy in London."

Ramsay sued the owners of the New York Times for libel. In court Ramsay argued that if there had been any evidence of him passing secrets to the Germans he would have been tried under the Official Secrets Act alongside Anna Wolkoff and Tyler Kent in 1940. The newspaper owners were found guilty of libel but the case became a disaster for Ramsay when he was awarded a farthing in damages. As well as the extremely damaging publicity he endured, Ramsay was forced to pay the costs of the case.

Although detained in Brixton Prison he was allowed to submit questions in the House of Commons. This enabled him to continue to make racist comments. For example, on 23rd February, he asked for details of the Jews fighting in the British armed forces. On 3rd August, 1944, he complained about the music of "Oriental and African music" being played on British radio.

During the summer of 1944 several Conservative Party MPs in the House of Commons called for Ramsay to be released from prison. William Gallacher, a member of the Communist Party, argued that he should remain in detention. He pointed out that Ramsay was "a rabid anti-Semite" and that "anti-Semitism is an incitement to murder." He asked "if the mothers of this country, whose lads are being sacrificed now, are to be informed by him that their sacrifices have enabled him to release this unspeakable blackguard." When Gallacher refused to withdraw these comments he was suspended from the House of Commons.

Ramsay was released from Brixton Prison on 26th September, 1944. He was defeated in the 1945 General Election and in 1955 he published his book The Nameless War.

Archibald Ramsay died on 11th March, 1955.

Primary Sources

(1) Letter from William Temple and Donald Soper, to The Times about the United Christian Front (29th November, 1937)

Some of us who are specially eager to promote Christian unity and cooperation felt unable to associate ourselves with this newly instituted movement, because it is mainly concerned with the Spanish conflict and adopts a view of it which seems to us ill founded. We regret that so admirable an inspiration as the union of all Christians in resistance to the enemies of the Gospel should be bound up with judgments on contemporary events which are certainly precarious and to us appear mistaken.

(2) Archibald Ramsay, letter to The Times (13th September, 1938)

Are we going to war to stultify the democratic principle of self-determination of national minorities laid down at Versailles and exemplified actually in the setting up of the Czechoslovak State itself? Are we to send millions to their death in order that Czechs may continue to deny to the Sudeten Germans that same degree of self-determination which we recently granted to the Southern Irish?

(3) Archibald Ramsay, Peeblesshire and South Midlothian Advertiser (13th January, 1939)

There was not the smallest doubt that there was an international group of Jews who were behind world revolution in every single country at the present time. That fact a great many people in this country were inclined to pooh pooh, but it was more or less generally accepted over the whole of Europe. People had come to the conclusion that a menace did actually exist, and that the Third International was unquestionably mainly controlled by Jews. They did not agree in this country with Hitler's methods with regard to the Jews, but he must, she said, have had his reasons for what he did. Did it not strike them that a man of Hitler's ability would not turn out an enormous section of the people from his country, and have half of Europe howling at him, unless he had some reason for doing so? The dictator States had discovered the terrible menace that they were facing at the present time.

(4) A MI5 agent attended a meeting of the Militant Christian Patriots at Caxton Hall on 23rd May, 1939.

Captain Ramsay rose to terminate the meeting. We have heard, he said, a most inspiring speech from Mr Chesterton. I am not an apostle of violence, he went on, but the time has arrived for action, and I solemnly state (with slow deliberation) that if our present method fails I will not hesitate to use another. The Jewish menace is a real menace. The time at our disposal is getting short. Take with you, said the Captain dramatically, a resolution in your hearts to remove the Jew menace from our land.

(5) Fred Pateman wrote about the Nordic League in The Daily Worker on 12th July, 1939.

At the last meeting, the audience of rabid Jew-baiters was addressed by Captain A. Ramsay, M.P. for Peebles and Southern, who spoke on the alleged Jewish control of the Press. After a long and wearisome diatribe against Jews in general this elected Member of Parliament said:-

'We must change the present state of things (meaning the so-called Jewish control) and if we don't do it constitutionally we'll do it with steel. (Wild applause).

A serious inquiry into Captain Ramsay's activities is urgently needed.

(6) Archibald Ramsay, The Nameless War (1955)

The main object of the Right Club was to oppose and expose the activities of Organized Jewry, in the light of the evidence which came into my possession in 1938. Our first objective was to clear the Conservative Party of Jewish influence, and the character of our membership and meetings were strictly in keeping with this objective. There were no other and secret purposes. Our hope was to avert war, which we considered to be mainly the work of Jewish intrigue centred in New York.

(7) Report by an MI5 agent on Archibald Ramsay and the Nordic League (September, 1939)

These individuals are agreed in their hatred of Jewry and their conviction that Jews are responsible for the 'misunderstanding' between Germany and Britain, and are the instigators of the present war. There is, however, a wide range of views among them as to their own action now that the country is actually at war. Whilst very few are willing to bear arms against Germany, the majority feel that nothing should be done which might prejudice this country's interests and that they should play their part in civilian defence and humanitarian work, striving at the same time to enlighten those with whom they come into contact as to the 'real' nature of the factors which brought about the war.

Captain Ramsay MP has expressed himself as willing to continue his anti-Jewish propaganda and has enlisted the support of the above-mentioned.

He intends to proceed on two lines:

(a) The distribution among MPs; in clubs; in the Services, of a carefully prepared memorandum or leaflet aimed at refuting the Prime Minister's statement that Hitler cannot be trusted, dealing with the issues of Austria, Bohemia and Poland and designed throughout to show that World Jewry are the instigators of the war.

(b) Leaflets and adhesive labels bearing purely anti-Semitic propaganda. It is intended that these latter shall be printed secretly and distributed during the night.

Captain Ramsay has been in touch with Sir Oswald Mosley with a view to arriving at a basis for cooperation, and it is reliably reported that the two have reached agreement. In this connection two articles which appeared in the current issue [16 September] of 'Action', headed 'Peace Aims' and 'War Aims' respectively, may be significant - they are framed on very similar lines to those of Ramsay's proposed memorandum.

(8) Hansard, proceedings of the House of Commons (20th March, 1940)

Captain Ramsay asked the Minister of Information whether his attention has been drawn to the nightly talks at 10.50 on a short wave-length of 51 metres broadcast by a new station, whose signature tune is 'Loch Lomond', to the effect that international Jewish finance and Continental freemasonry are pursuing a policy of world domination by wars and revolutions and credit monopoly; whether he proposes to reply to this propaganda; and whether he will confer with the British Broadcasting Corporation to demolish these arguments objectively instead of avoiding the issues by merely labelling them as German propaganda.

(9) Instructions given to members of the Right Club about how to distribute 'stickback' leaflets.

Walk on the dark side of the road. Prepare your sticker in advance; it will stick the better and you will not miss your object. Don't stop walking while sticking if possible. Look out for dark doorways; police usually stand in them at night. Stick on Belisha Beacons, lamp posts. Church boards, hoardings, bus stops, phone kiosks. Don't stick on walls as the glue is not strong enough for rough surfaces.

As danger signal talk of the weather, for instance. Colder from the East means someone is approaching from the right. Read your road indication by torch-light and memorise at least two streets in advance.

Take turns in sticking, lookout and route reading. As we leave this house we do so in pairs at a few seconds' interval and are strangers until we meet at midnight at Paradise Walk.

(10) John Field K.C., defending Archibald Ramsay during the New York Times libel trial (July, 1941)

Captain Ramsay denied that he was pro-Hitler. There appeared to be a curious view that if a man was anti-Jewish and anti-Communist he must be pro-Hitler. After the Bolshevik Revolution in November 1917, Captain Ramsay formed violently anti-Communist views. He had been trying for 20 years to fight Communism. A few years ago he formed the opinion that those behind Communism were Jews, and he became very violently anti-Jewish. He believed very firmly that the Jews were the enemy of England and Europe. Captain Ramsay had never been to Germany and he knew very little about it. What he knew of Nazism he did not approve of. His only point of contact with Nazism was its anti-Jewish policy, but he strongly disapproved of the cruelty inflicted by it on individual Jews.

(11) On 25th July, 1941, The Times reported an extract from speech given by the counsel for the New York Times.

Here was a man who was known to a wide circle of friends, many of whom seemed to be no better than himself, to be grossly disloyal to this country, and to be an associate, as he was, of thieves and felons now convicted. Captain Ramsay's whole picture of himself was of a loyal British gentleman, with sons in the Army, doing his best to help this country to win a victory in her life-and-death struggle. Captain Ramsay was, however, a man of no character and no reputation, and was perhaps very lucky only to be detained under the Defence Regulations.

(12) Herbert Morrison, answer to a request by Geoffrey Mander, for the government to publish Ramsay's Red Book (31st July, 1941)

I do not think it would be in the public interest to publish the names of the members of this organisation, or to state which steps have been taken from the point of view of national security. Appropriate steps are taken to watch all kinds of people about whom there may be grounds for suspicion. About many members of the Right Club there are no grounds for suspicion, and about many people who were not members of the Right Club there are grounds of suspicion. To publish the names of people who are being watched would be most unwise: to publish the names of people who are not being watched would be unfair. Secrecy is the essence of any system of supervision.

(13) Archibald Ramsay, question submitted to the Secretary of War in the House of Commons (3rd August 1944)

Captain Ramsay asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that, under the chairmanship of Sir Victor Schuster, the Radio Music Council has been overburdening the music programmes for the Forces with renderings characteristic of Oriental and African races and whether he will ensure that programmes shall contain a greater proportion of music characteristic of the white races and especially those inhabiting the British Isles.

(14) Debate in the House of Commons (12th October, 1944)

Tom Driberg asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will now publish the complete list of members of the Right Club, the activities of which were the subject of police enquiries.

Herbert Morrison: No, Sir. For reasons which I have explained on a previous occasion I do not think that it would be fair or in the public interest to publish this list, but I can give an assurance that appropriate steps are taken to watch any individual against whom there are grounds of suspicion.

Tom Driberg: Is the right honorable Gentleman aware that this club existed for the specific purpose of spreading anti-Semitism; and, in view of the fact that anti-Semitism is one of the classic weapons of Nazism and Fascism, is it not time to let the light of day in on the proceedings and personnel of this very shady secret society?

Herbert Morrison: I still think that it would be unfair to publish the list. It is a list which has been compiled by a private individual. It may be correct, or it may not. There may be people who went on that list, with or without the opinions to which the honorable Member referred, and to publish lists of this character would, I think, be an improper use of the information which comes to the Home Office in all sorts of ways, and from all sorts of directions.

Emanuel Shinwell: If there should be any truth - I am not suggesting that there is - in the allegation that some honorable Members of the House, past and present, were members of this club and were supporters of its subversive activities, is it not desirable in the public interest and in the interest of members as a whole, that the list should be published?

D. N. Pritt: He (Archibald Ramsay) has now disclosed that one of the reasons why he was interned was his connection with the Right Club, and has described it as having close connection with the Conservative Party and having Conservative members.. Is it not fair to the Conservative Party to publish, not an inaccurate, but an accurate list of those persons known to the Home Secretary to be members of the Right Club.

Herbert Morrison: What the honorable and gallant Gentleman says is one thing, but I cannot agree that that should bind me. One of these days I might be asked in this House if I will publish a list, for example, of secret members of the Communist Party. I am not sure that my honorable and learned Friend would say that it was right for me to publish it.