Arnold Spencer Leese
Leese at an unspecified date
Arnold Spencer Leese
Lytham St Annes, Lancashire, England
|Died||18 January 1956 (aged 77)|
|Alma mater||Giggleswick School|
|Known for||Anti-Semitic writer and activist|
|A Treatise on the One-Humped Camel in Health and in Disease (1927), My Irrelevant Defence (1938), Out of Step: Events in the Two Lives of an Anti-Jewish Camel Doctor (1951)|
|Political party||British Fascists|
Imperial Fascist League
Arnold Spencer Leese (1878 – 18 January 1956) was a British fascist politician. Leese was initially prominent as a veterinary expert on camels. A virulent anti-Semite, Leese led his own fascist movement and he was a prolific author and publisher of polemics both before and after the Second World War.
Leese was born in Lytham St Annes, Lancashire, England, and educated at Giggleswick School. An only child, his childhood was characterised by loneliness. Leese was a nephew of Sir Joseph Francis Leese, 1st Baronet.
After qualifying as a veterinary surgeon in 1903, he first worked in London then accepted a post in 1907 in India, where he became an expert on the camel. He worked in India for six years before becoming Camel Specialist for the British East Africa Protectorate, present day Kenya. He published articles on the camel and its maladies, the first appearing in The Journal of Tropical Veterinary Science in 1909. He was recognised as a leading authority on the camel. A camel parasite, Thelazia leesei was named after him by Louis-Joseph Alcide Railliet.
He was commissioned in the Royal Army Veterinary Corps in 1914, and served on the Western Front as well as the Middle East. Captain Leese returned to England where he continued his practice, publishing A Treatise on the One-Humped Camel in Health and in Disease (1927), which would remain a standard work in India for fifty years. He settled in Stamford, Lincolnshire, practising as a vet until retirement in 1927.
In around 1924, after writing a pamphlet entitled Fascism for Old England, he joined the British Fascists, about the same time Leese also became interested in Italian fascism. In Stamford, Leese became close to one of his neighbours, the economist Arthur Kitson, who was a member of The Britons. Kitson persuaded Leese that control of money was the key to power and that money was controlled by the Jews. Kitson supplied Leese with a copy of the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion. An animal lover, Leese claimed that the style of slaughter practised in Judaism influenced his anti-semitism. He also joined the Centre International d'Études sur la Fascisme (CINEF), an international 'think tank' based in Switzerland whose aim was the promotion of fascism, and served as its British correspondent.
In 1924, Leese was elected as a councillor to Stamford Town Council, along with fellow fascist Harry Simpson. In his autobiography, Leese wrote "we were the first constitutionally elected Fascists in England". The British Fascists had generally chosen not to intervene in "the despised democratic system". He did not stand again in 1927 but Simpson was re-elected.
Leese was generally unsatisfied with the policies of the British Fascists, dismissing them as "conservatism with knobs on". He left the group in 1928 and, having retired to Guildford, he established his own Imperial Fascist League (IFL) the following year. The movement was initially modelled more along the lines of Italian fascism but, under the influence of Henry Hamilton Beamish, it began to focus on anti-semitism. The IFL and its extensive publishing interests were funded out of Leese's own pocket. In 1932, Oswald Mosley approached Leese with the aim of absorbing the IFL into his own British Union of Fascists and, while relations between the two men were initially cordial (Leese addressed a meeting on 27 April 1932 on the theme of "The Blindness of British Politics under the Jew-Money Power" that was chaired by Mosley), Leese soon attacked Mosley for his failure to deal with the "Jewish question", and he eventually labelled Mosley's group "kosher fascists".
Leese's anti-semitism had become his defining political characteristic by that point and it came to take on an increasingly conspiratorial and hysterical tone. This increased after Leese visited Germany and met Julius Streicher, and he subsequently remodelled the IFL newspaper The Fascist along the lines of Der Stürmer. His anti-semitism took on the theme of the Aryan race as the creator of civilisation and culture and he claimed that the Aryan was in a permanent struggle with the Jew, the outcome of which would determine the future completely. His views, which extended to proposing as early as 1935 the mass murder of Jews by the use of gas chambers, earned him a prison sentence in 1936 when he was indicted along with fellow IFL member, printer Walter Whitehead, on six counts related to two articles published in the July issue of The Fascist entitled "Jewish Ritual Murder", which later appeared as a pamphlet. He was convicted and jailed for six months in lieu of a fine for causing a public mischief. On his release, he edited another pamphlet entitled My Irrelevant Defence, a lengthy diatribe in defence of his earlier claim that Jewish Passover celebrations included the sacrifice of Christian children. He also used materials distributed by the Welt-Dienst news service headed by Ulrich Fleischhauer and wrote for it.
He was one of the last leaders of the fascist movement to be interned in the United Kingdom at the beginning of the Second World War under the Defence Regulation 18B. Leese, who claimed that his primary loyalty was to Britain, had been somewhat critical of Adolf Hitler since the start of the war and he reacted with bitter anger when an internment order was issued for him in June 1940. Having set up a series of hideouts from which he published several pamphlets that were critical of the war, he evaded capture until 9 November 1940. Still enraged by what he saw as a slur on his patriotism, Leese violently resisted arrest and smashed up his holding cell. Leese saw the war as a "Jew's War" but he strongly repudiated the Hitler-Stalin Pact and castigated the Nazis for their invasion of Norway. (Leese labelled his political creed "Racial Fascism" because he disliked the term "National Socialism" which was used by the Nazis, although he and other members of the IFL supported Nazi anti-semitism). He was released from detention in 1944 on health grounds following a major operation.
At the close of the War he offered to testify at William Joyce's trial. Along with Beamish he was prepared to give evidence on the "Jewish issue" at Nuremberg in defence of the Nazis. Leese described the Nuremberg Trials as a "Jewish and Masonic affair, like the procedure in this country under '18.B'; it is an act of Revenge".
Soon after the end of the Second World War, Leese set up his own "Jewish Information Bureau" and began publishing his own journal, Gothic Ripples, which was largely concerned with attacking the Jews. He believed that there were 2.5m Jews in Britain at the time, seven times the actual number. The magazine also contained a strongly anti-black racist bent, with a regular column entitled "Nigger Notes" appearing. Gothic Ripples was an early proponent of what would come to be known as Holocaust denial, noting in 1953 that "The fable of the slaughter of six million Jews by Hitler has never been tackled by Gothic Ripples because we take the view that we would have liked Hitler even better if the figure had been larger; we are so 'obsessed with anti-semitism' that we believe that as long as the destruction was done in a humane manner, it was to the advantage of everyone ... if it had been true. However, it wasn't".
Leese returned to prison in 1947 when, along with seven other former members of the IFL, he was given a one-year sentence for helping escaped German prisoners of war who had been members of the Waffen SS. In 1948, Leese formed the National Workers Movement in London. In December 1950 he stood trial for criminal libel on Harold Scott, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, but was acquitted. In 1951, he published his autobiography Out of Step: Events in the Two Lives of an Anti-Jewish Camel Doctor.
Leese acted as mentor to Colin Jordan and John Tyndall, the "most significant figures on the extreme right since the 1960s". After his death, his widow, May Winifred Leese (died 1974), helped fund far-right groups. His London house, 74 Princedale Road, Holland Park, was left to Jordan, and became known as 'Arnold Leese House'. The property became Jordan's base of operations and housed the White Defence League, the National Socialist Movement and other far-right operations.