Lord Redesdale

Lord Redesdale

David Bertram Ogilvy Freeman-Mitford was the son of the 1st Baron Redesdale. As a young man he fought in the Boer War and the First World War. After leaving the British Army he moved to Canada where he purchased the Swastika Gold Mine.

On his return, the 2nd Baron Redesdale purchased the Swinbrook estate in Northumberland and married Muv Bowles. The couple had six daughters: Diana Mitford, Jessica Mitford, Nancy Mitford, Unity Mitford, Pamela Mitford and Deborah Mitford.

Redesdale wealth was seriously depleted in the late 1920s by a series of poor investments. During this period he developed extreme right-wing opinions and became a member of several anti-Semitic organizations including the Anglo-German Fellowship and The Link. His daughter, Diana Mitford, married Oswald Mosley, leader of the British Union of Fascists, in 1936. Another daughter, Unity Mitford, went to Nazi Germany and met Adolf Hitler, Heinrich Himmler, Herman Goering, Joseph Goebbels and other leaders of the Nazi Party. Hitler told newspapers in Germany that Unity was "a perfect specimen of Aryan womanhood".

Archibald Ramsay founded a secret society called the Right Club in May 1939. 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 Redesdale, A. K. Chesterton, William Joyce, Anna Wolkoff, Joan Miller, 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, Earl of Galloway, H. T. Mills, Richard Findlay and Serrocold Skeels.

Unity went to Nazi Germany and met Adolf Hitler, Heinrich Himmler, Herman Goering, Joseph Goebbels and other leaders of the Nazi Party. Hitler told newspapers in Germany that Unity was "a perfect specimen of Aryan womanhood".

On the outbreak of the Second World War, Redesdale's daughter, Unity Mitford tried to commit suicide and she returned to England suffering from gunshot wounds.

Primary Sources

(1) Jessica Mitford wrote about her parents' political activities in her autobiography, Hons and Rebels (1960)

Participation in public life at Swinbrook revolved around the the church, the Conservative Party and the House of Lords. My parents took a benevolent if erratic interest in all three, and they tried from time to time to involve us children in such civic responsibilities as might be suitable to our age.

My mother was a staunch supporter of Conservative Party activities. At election time, sporting blue rosettes, symbol of the Party, we often accompanied Muv to do canvassing. Our car was decorated with Tory blue ribbons, and if we should pass a car flaunting the red badge of Socialism, we were allowed to lean out of the window and shout at the occupants: "Down with the horrible Counter-Honnish Labour Party!"

The canvassing consisted of visiting the villagers in Swinbrook and neighbouring communities, and, after exacting a promise from each one to vote Conservative, arranging to have them driven to the polls by our chauffeur. Labour Party supporters were virtually unknown in Swinbrook. Only once was a red rosette seen in the village. It was worn by our gamekeeper's son - to the bitter shame and humiliation of his family, who banished him from their house for this act of disloyalty. It was rumoured that he went to work in a factory in Glasgow, and there became mixed up with the trade unions.

(2) Jessica Mitford wrote about her sister Unity Mitford in her autobiography, Hons and Rebels (1960)

It was the year of Hitler's accession to power. Unity announced her intention was to go to Germany, learn German, and meet the Führer. My parents put up much less opposition than might have been expected. Perhaps the thought of another London season of sham tiaras and tame rats let loose in ballrooms was a bit more than my mother could contemplate with any pleasure. Unity was allowed to go.

Within six months, she came home for a brief visit, having accomplished both her objectives. She already spoke fairly fluent German, and had met not only Hitler, but Himmler, Goering, Goebbels, and others of the Nazi leaders. "How on earth did you actually manage to get to know them?" we asked in some amazement. Unity explained that it had been fairly simple; she had reserved a nightly table in the Osteria Bavaria restaurant, where they often went. Evening after evening she sat and stared at them, until finally a flunkey was sent over to find out who she was. On learning that she was an admirer of the Nazis, and a member of the British Union of Fascists Hitler invited her to join them at their table. Thereafter she became one of their circle, saw them constantly in Munich, accompanied them to meetings, rallies, the Olympic Games.

She was completely and utterly sold on them. The Nazi salute - "Heil Hitler!" with hand upraised - became her standard greeting to everyone, family, friends, the astonished postmistress in Swinbrook village. Her collection of Nazi trophies and paraphernalia now overflowed our little sitting-room - bundles of Stretcher's anti-Semitic paper, Der Stürmer; an autographed copy of Mein Kampf; the works of Houston Stuart Chamberlain, a nineteenth-century forerunner of Fascist ideologists; albums of photographs of Nazi leaders.

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