The Right Club

In May 1939 Archibald Ramsay, the Tory MP for Peebles and Southern Midlothian, 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."

Members of the Right Club included William Joyce, Anna Wolkoff, Norah Dacre Fox, Joan Miller, A. K. Chesterton, Francis Yeats-Brown, E. H. Cole, Lord Redesdale, 5th Duke of Wellington, Duke of Westminster, Aubrey Lees, John Stourton, Thomas Hunter, Samuel Chapman, Ernest Bennett, Charles Kerr, John MacKie, James Edmondson, Mavis Tate, Marquess of Graham, Margaret Bothamley, Lord Sempill, Earl of Galloway, H. T. Mills, Richard Findlay and Serrocold 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?"

On 20th March, 1940, Archibald 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 Anna Wolkoff, 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 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 views on Jews. 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.

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.

Archibald 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."

Archibald 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.

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.

Ramsay died in 1955 and it was not until 1989 that the Red Book was found in the safe of Ramsay's former solicitors. The book included the names of 235 people. Unfortunately a lot of the names were in code. However, it did contain the names of several senior Tories including a large number of MPs and peers of the realm.

Primary Sources

(1) 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.

(2) 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.

(3) 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.

(4) Rolf Gardiner, a member of the Right Club, letter to Arthur Bryant (8th October, 1939)

Is the attempt to destroy the Nazi regime, upon which our bellicose idealists are so furiously bent, worth the destruction of Christendom and the setting of an impossible burden upon the shoulders of the blameless youth of the future in its attempt to reconstruct an orderly Europe? It is a grave responsibility, of which even Herr Hitler seems aware. For there can be no hope of fruitful victory in a continued war.

There is a good deal in Hitler's speech which contains a core of real sense. We are as a nation profoundly ignorant of the Slavic mentality and the Slav incapacity for decentralised civilisation. We always fall into the danger of idealising the Easterly nations. The Germans, however brutal and casuistic their methods, have long experience of these people and it is for them to learn how to achieve a modus vivendi with them not for us to teach them. The return of the Russians to the Baltic States is far more ominous than any German expansion.

(5) Arthur Bryant, letter to Rab Butler (18th October, 1939)

There is now little or no possibility of an industrialised nation like Germany meeting a second defeat without going Bolshevist. We shall thus have a solid Bolshevist bloc from the Pacific to the Rhine. Nor, if it is a long war, is the tide of anarchy likely to stop there. What people want is a lead for the future. They want to believe in short that we are ready to relinquish the false conception of Versailles, provided that Germany will abandon 'Hitlerism', by which we mean not its form of internal government but the system of brutal foreign aggression that Hitler has sponsored in answer to Versailles.

(6) Aubrey Leese, a member of the Right Club, letter to H. H. Beamish (November, 1939)

This pact of Hitler's with Russia is an ideological blow of the worst description, and no amount of explaining away that he was driven to it is much comfort to me. Hitler has done a marvel, but he is no longer one.

(7) A MI5 agent reported on the activities of the Right Club in October 1939.

From two independent sources we learn that the activity of the Right Club is centred principally upon the contacting of sympathisers, especially among officers in the armed services, and the spreading by personal talks of the Club's ideals. There is talk of a military coup d'etat, but there seems to be lack of agreement among members on the question of leadership. Sir Oswald Mosley they regard with suspicion.

(8) Joan Miller, One Girl's War (1970)

The Right Club, which bore certain similarities to Admiral Sir Barry Domvile's organization, the Link had been founded in 1938 by Captain Archibald Maule Ramsay, Unionist member for Peebles since 1931 Its members - about three hundred altogether, peers and MPs included-professed a belief in the ideal of an Anglo-German fellowship, as well as nurturing vigorous anti-Semitic feelings. Captain Ramsay was a friend of Sir Oswald Mosley. The Ramsays had a house in Onslow Square, but the club usually held its meetings in a flat above a little restaurant in South Kensington. This restaurant was the Russian Tea Rooms.

Early in 1940 M (Maxwell Knight) decided I was ready to go ahead with the task he had set me. I had already met FRS Aims (Marjorie Hackie) one of the other agents involved in the business (a Casey middle-aged lady who will always remind me of Miss Maple), and it was arranged that she should take me along to the tea-shop one evening, presenting me as a friend other son who was serving with the RJR. The restaurant was on the corner of Herringbone Gardens, directly opposite South Kensington tube station. It was owned and run by an émigré White Russian admiral and his wife and daughter. These people, whose name was Wolkoff, had been dispossessed as a consequence of the Bolshevik revolution - Admiral Wolkoff had been the Tsar's naval attaché in London at the time - and understandably took a fervent anti-Communist line Anna, the daughter, in particular, had come to revere the policies of Nazi Germany. From its inception, she had been among the leading activists of the Right Club.

(9) The Right Club published some subtle anti-war leaflets in 1940. This is an extract from one entitled Your New Year's Resolution.

We appeal to the working men and women of Great Britain to purchase the new Defence Bonds and Savings Certificates thus keeping the War going as long as possible. Your willing self-sacrifice and support will enable the war profiteers to make bigger and better profits and at the same time save their wealth from being conscripted. Lend to defend the rights of British manhood to die in a foreign quarrel every 25 years. Don't be selfish. Save for shells and slaughter. Forget about the slums, the unemployed, the old age pensioners and other social reforms your money could be invested in. Just remember that your savings are much more wisely spent in the noble cause of death and destruction. Be patriotic. Come on, the first million pounds.

(10) Joan Miller, One Girl's War (1970)

How did these people (members of the Right Club) set about obstructing the war effort? They used to sneak about late at night in the blackout, groping for smooth surfaces on which to paste the pro-German, anti-Semitic notices they carried. There were certain precautions one could take to lessen the likelihood of being arrested. Anna instructed her helpers to keep to the dark side of the road, paying particular attention to shadowy doorways where an alert policeman or air-raid warden might lurk, and to carry out the sticking while continuing to walk. These guidelines were issued to each member in the form of a printed sheet. Passersby who observed the Right Club's papers adhering to lamp posts, telephone kiosks, belisha beacons, church boards and so on, were informed that the war was a Jews' war. This was the Right Club's famous 'sticky-back' campaign. They also used greasepaint to deface ARP and casualty station posters. Jeering at Winston Churchill when he appeared on cinema newsreels was another of their practices. None of this could be said to constitute a serious threat to Londoners' morale; but there were, as it turned out, more sinister aspects to the organization.

(11) Anti-Semitic poem distributed by the Right Club in 1939.

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.

(12) A. P. Laurie, a member of the Right Club, Open Letter to the Young men of Britain (2nd September, 1939)

Germany has committed the unforgiveable sin of refusing to borrow money from the international financiers and they must be punished. Fools, why do you submit, why do you allow the fat bellied millionaires to send you out to kill and be killed by your brothers, the Germans, who are good fellows.

(13) 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.

(14) 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.

(15) 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.

(16) 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.

(17) 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.

(18) 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.

(19) 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.

(20) Julie V. Gottlieb, Femine Fascism: Women in Britain's Fascist Movement (2003)

From 1940 through to 1945, a grand total of 1,826 persons were interned under Defence Regulation 18B. Of a total of 747 BU members detained under Defence Regulation 18B 1(A), upwards of 96 were women... There was a massive influx from 131 18B prisoners on 31 May 1940, to 1,428 by 31 August 1940, of whom some 600 were members of the BU or like organizations such as the Right Club, the Imperial Fascist League, The Link and the Nordic League. Olive Hawkes, Norah Elam, Muriel Whinfield and Diana deLaessoe had already been detained when 37 more women were scheduled on the order of 30 may 1940, and by October 17 1940 another 30 women were added to the 18B prison population.

(21) Paul Lashmar, The Independent on Sunday (9th January 2000)

The Red Book is the membership list of the Right Club, a secret organisation founded in May 1939 by Captain Archibald Ramsay MP. Unlike the populist British Union of Fascists lead by the charismatic Sir Oswald Mosley, the Right Club was exclusive.

Its members were aristocrats and Members of Parliament, academics, civil servants, clerics and rich dilettantes. Some of the men had distinguished themselves in the 1914-18 war and saw themselves as patriots. But they were also virulent racists who supported Hitler's treatment of Germany's Jewish population. Many were Nazi sympathisers. From King Edward VIII downwards, there was a widespread view that only a powerful Germany could hold back the threat of Bolshevism, and that Britain should be supporting Hitler, notpreparing to attack him.

The existence of the Red Book first emerged in 1943 during a heated debate in Parliament. By then, it had already been seized by MI5. For 40 years, the ledger was believed to have been lost and its whereabouts was much speculated upon. Some believed it was held by a secret clique of the extreme right awaiting a fascist revival. And the racist right did treat it with a respect akin to ancestor worship.

Running my finger down the list, written with a fountain pen in Ramsay's hand, the names still resonate: Arthur Wellesley the 5th Duke of Wellington, the Second Baron Redesdale, The Earl of Galloway, Lord Ronald Graham, Princess Blucher, Sir Ernest Bennett, Prince Turka Galitzine and Britain's most notorious Second World War traitor, William Joyce, later known as Lord Haw-Haw as he broadcast propaganda from Germany. The book also lists donations. Sir Alexander Walker, then the head of the Johnnie Walker whisky dynasty, is shown to have donated the princely sum of £100.