Wednesday, September 20, 2006

British Friends of Franco

FRANCO; "The Leader of our cause today", Captain Victor Cazalet, MP, March 23, 1938.

This year has been the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, and seen a fair bit of attention given the many brave left-wing volunteers who went to Spain to fight fascism. Whatever our views on the policies which led to their defeat, we recognise in their courage and motivation, under whichever banners they fought, a spirit we could well do with.
By way of a change from our usual arguments within the Left, I thought it might be interesting in this blog to look at some people who have not had so much attention in this anniversary year. Maybe their political successors should be doing the honours, but in case they are shy, I thought we'd look at the Brits who supported Franco.

ONE Summer morning in 1936 a plane took off from Croydon airport, piloted by Captain Cecil Bebb, with a friend, Major Hugh Pollard as navigator. The flight log showed it was bound for the Canary Islands. Two young platinum blondes were on board to make it look like a pleasure trip.

Special Branch at Croydon monitored all international flights. They may have known that this was no joy ride. Major Pollard was an experienced MI6 officer, Spanish-speaking and with firearms expertise. He had worked under journalistic cover in Ireland, Mexico and Morocco. His superiors in the intelligence services probably had a fair idea of his object in flying to the Canary Islands. The commander of the Spanish garrison there was one General Francisco Franco, whom the Spanish Republic had sent there some months before to keep him out of the way. Franco already had a reputation for his part in suppressing the Asturian miners, and his hostility to the Republic. Had a Spanish plane landed in the Canaries the authorities might have been alerted, but the British flight didn't arouse suspicion.

The plane flew Franco and right-wing conspirator Emilio Mola to Tetuan in Spanish Morocco. On July 18, 1936, some Spanish generals announced a coup against the elected Socialist government. Franco arrived in Morocco the following day to raise support from Spain's African army. The generals had thought their coup would give them power within a couple of days, but the Spanish people resisted, and so the Civil War had began.

Franco's flight had been planned over lunch at Simpsons in the Strand where Douglas Jerrold, editor of the right-wing Catholic English Review met Luis Boli­n, London correspondent of the ABC newspaper and later Franco's propaganda and censorship chief. They decided to charter a De Havilland Dragon Rapide aircraft and a pilot, Captain Cecil Bebb, from Olley Air Services at Croydon.

Jerrold brought Major Pollard, into the plot and arranged for him to travel on the plane as navigator, along with Pollard's daughter, Diana, and another young woman, Dorothy Watson, as 'cover'. (BBC History Magazine, April 2002; article by Michael Alpert, Emeritus Professor of Spanish history).

Jerrold's work was only beginning. As the civil war raged in Spain, Franco's forces were backed by Nazi Germany and Italy with arms, men and planes, while the Soviet Union and left-wing volunteers went to the aid of the Republic. The British and French government's official policy was "non-intervention", in effect denying help or supplies to the Spanish republic.

In London, Jerrold was already a member of the pro-Nazi Anglo-German Fellowship, which counted Tory peers and MPs, banks and big companies (ICI, Unilever, Dunlop, Tate and Lyle to name a few) among its supporters. To this he added the Friends of National Spain, which made a particular play for Catholic support against "the Godless Reds" as well as counting on the usual right-wing Tories.

"I recognise General Franco to be a gallant Christian gentleman, and I believe his word", declared Sir Henry Page Croft, MP for Bournemouth, at a Friends of National Spain meeting. Lord Redesdale, father-in-law of Sir Oswald Mosley, and a member of both Friends of National Spain and the Anglo-German Fellowship, said Franco was leading a crusade for all that they held dear. The Earl of Glasgow said in the House of Lords that he could not see "Why this country should insist on the withdrawal of Italian troops from Spain before they had finished the work they were sent for". He also objected to a request to Franco to abstain from acts of vengeance on his entry into Barcelona.

Captain Archibald Maule Ramsay, MP for Peebles, chaired another pro-Franco organisation, the United Christian Front, and bitterly denounced the Bishop of Chelmsford for supporting the Spanish government. "The United Christian Front has fought to prove the real fact, that General Franco was fighting the cause of Christianity against anti-Christ", Ramsay wrote in a letter to the press. Among the United Christian Front's aristocratic supporters was the Earl of Home, whose son Lord Dunglass MP was acting parliamentary private secretary to Neville Chamberlain at the time of Munich.

In 1940, with Franco in power, which he would hold till 1975, Major Hugh Pollard became MI6 station chief in Madrid. Sir Archibald Maule Ramsay, who had become convinced that communism was a Jewish plot, and formed the pro-Nazi Right Club, was detained under Defence Regulation 18b on May 23 1940, following the arrest of his associate Tyler Kent for espionage.

Captain Victor Cazalet, MP for Chippenham, and committee member of the Friends of National Spain, differed from the others in supporting Churchill against Appeasement, and sympathising with Jewish refugees from Nazism. During the war he became liaison officer with General Sikorski, and was killed with the Polish leader in July 1943 when their plane came down into the sea off Gibraltar. (The circumstances remain subject to controversy).

Mid-Bedfordshire MP Alan Lennox-Boyd, a member of the Friends of National Spain before taking government office, went on to be Colonial Secretary in the Tory government in the 1950s, presiding over repression in Malawi and Kenya, including the notorious Hola concentration camp. In 1955 he defended the use of whipping against schoolboys in Cyprus. Such methods were more usually associated with Hitler and Franco, Mr. Fenner Brockway (Lab.) said. We don't know whether that bothered Lennox-Boyd.

Lord Dunglass became better known as Sir Alec Douglas Home, briefly Tory prime minister from 1963-4, when Labour got in led by Harold Wilson.

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At 3:56 PM, Anonymous Jeff S. said...

George Ogilvie-Forbes, UK charge d'affaires in Spain, prominent Catholic, former Ambassador to Holy See. Question: Was he pro-Franco?

At 1:41 PM, Blogger Tom said...

Author Nevil Shute said in his autobiog 'Slide Rule' that he was on the flight that carried Franco from exile.
According to a BBC prog, the Earl of Sutherland helped send aid to Franco's side. Any connections to Pollard? Any info? Tom

At 4:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...,-nine-to-major-h.b.c.pollard,-int-1-c-upo45f07hv

Pollard's medals are up for sale, I think.They should be put in a museum of shame so we can see our hidden history.

At 10:14 AM, Blogger Old git Tom said...

Right, Anon, re Pollard, & thanks Robbins for sound stuff: but there are more reptiles hidden under those old rocks.
My thesis; central to the events of the Spanciwar, WWII & after was the fanatical desire of the global oil corps. to maintain Gibraltar in 'friendly' hands.
Gib controls the choke point of oil shipments from the Med to the Atlantic. That is why Gib is still a 'colony' of the UK.
Details in my blog -
Any discussion/info welcomed. Old Git Tom

At 9:48 PM, Blogger Old git Tom said...

Jeff S: I can find no evidence that George Ogilvie-Forbes was a pro-Fascist, just a trad Tory.

There is/was a recent Radio 4 prog on MI5 spook, broadcaster & naturalist, Charles Maxwell Knight. He famously arrested the US embassy spy, Tyler Kent, in 1940 (WWII). CMK was one of the first members of the first British fascist organizations. He set up a ‘private’ intelligence operation, spying on the political left. He was smoothly incorporated into the state’s wartime spook machine (a ‘sound chap’). The British ‘intelligence community’ functions today, as ever, as an anti-left & anti-democratic exercise in mass mindbending. Covertly, it polices & steers public opinion via the BBC, press, & other mass media outlets. At the last resort, it can resort to a wide variety of ‘dirty tricks’ – as was the case when this cabal of perfumed Nazis subverted the government of Harold Wilson, & even initiated a military coup attempt in 1974. OGT

At 3:27 PM, Blogger Old git Tom said...

1936 Franco Flight

Dragon Rapide aeroplane - sort of twin-engined Tiger Moth. It had only one pilot, & could carry 8 passengers for about 500 miles.

Cpt. Cecil Bebb – pilot, Olley Air Services, Croydon airport
Walter Petrie – flight engineer, Olley
? - radio operator (left at Casablanca)
Maj. Hugh Pollard – MI6, navigator
Diana Pollard - passenger (daugher of Pollard)
Dorothy Watson - passenger
Nevil Shute - passenger, but only evidence, Shute’s autobiog, ‘Slide Rule’

Gen. Franco - passenger, Canaries to Morocco,
Gen. Mola - ditto

Allegedly, the ‘radio operator’ went AWOL, drunk, in Casablanca. But if Nevil Shute was also on this plane, it would have been overweight & overcrowded. Radio gear was heavy & bulky in those days. Would a small plane like this carry a radio, plus operator?

The more important question: was this flight sponsored by the Baldwin government, or was it a private venture? I don’t think the question really means much. Pollard was MI6, so almost certainly the flight had spook blessing. Otherwise, crew would have been questioned by Special Branch at Croydon departure. Almost certainly, the right-wing government of Stanley Baldwin covertly blessed the plot, but could publicly disown it if the grit hit the fan. Spook organizations exist to do the dirty work that pols want, but do not want to be caught doing.

British spookdom is right-wing in politics & always has been, despite its claims to political neutrality, & it takes great care to preserve that front. To be continued.

At 3:29 PM, Blogger Old git Tom said...

Following the Franco flight mystery, consider the following.

PROFUMO AFFAIR. Secret police everywhere use part-time helpers & unpaid, enthusiastic amateurs for low-skill tasks. Amateurs love playing spies. These sometimes include criminals, very useful for dirty work. If not 100% loyal, they are cheap, easily blackmailed, deniable & expendable.

A secret police expendable was a Dr. Stephen Ward. In 1960s London he had a practice with many ‘hi-so’ patients. He also part-timed for MI5. Possibly combining business with pleasure, he ran a stable of attractive & sexually liberated young women. So, Ward’s party girls were used ‘honey trap’ fashion on communist diplomats & spies.

Sadly, the grit hit the fan when it became known that the Conservative government minister, a certain Mr. Profumo, was involved with one of the girls, a Christine Keeler. Worse, she was also servicing a Russian spy & diplomat. The unfortunate Profumo made a crucial error by denying all before Parliament. He had to resign, his life & career in ruins. It seems a harsh fate for a minor fling. He was a man of many qualities. More, soon the government itself was replaced. Were they victims of British hypocrisy & Cold War hysteria?

The media front-paged the scandal for days. Ward was charged with pimping. Abandoned by the secret police, he committed suicide, allegedly commenting that he had been chosen as the ‘sacrificial goat’. Keeler had some subsequent run-ins with the authorities, before wisely seeking the quiet life.

Another interpretation of the Profumo matter is possible. Normally in those times, the British establishment & newspaper editors could very efficiently smother the sex scandals of VIPs. Why was Profumo destroyed? He merely had an affair with a woman who 'might' have relayed information to a Russian spy. So what? How many VIPs in nightclubs have their girls 'security vetted'? Curious, until we consider that spook Peter ‘Spycatcher’ Wright was doing bedroom keyhole work at this time.

Did the Tory right-wing 'old guard' nurse a grudge? As a new MP in WWII, Profumo supported Churchill in Parliament against the rump of his Tory Party's pro-Chamberlain-cum-pro-nazi colleagues. He had helped topple Chamberlain & advance Churchill. Was the old guard of right-wingers settling old scores with Profumo?

Profumo went, taking PM MacMillan with him, another old Churchill ally. The next Tory leader was Lord Alec Douglas Home. Home had been pro-nazi Halifax's secretary in WWII. Somewhat puzzling, this; Home was an obscure aristo, chosen above far more accomplished Tories. He had the personality & complexion of a talking tapeworm. But he was ‘old guard’.

The exposer of Profumo in Parliament was Labour opposition MP, George Wigg. He had 'connections' with spookdom. Did Wright's spook friends prime & use Wigg against Profumo? Curious! Wigg himself was afterwards brought down, in uncannily similar circumstances.

Wigg rose to be spook-dog protector of Labour PM Harold Wilson. He fell in a 1976 scandal, accused of a late night prostitute trawl. Again, it seems odd that the police would take formal proceedings against a government VIP for such a piffling matter. Having used him, did right-wing spookdom feel the need to discredit Wigg? We cannot know for sure, so we are wise to assume the worst.

Britain’s very wonderful secret police were very active in 1974, plotting a military coup to bring down the Wilson’s Labour government. Allegedly, deceased David Stirling of the SAS was active. Sadly, full details were known only to Peter Wright, who died.

At 3:29 PM, Blogger Old git Tom said...

SPOOKS & MEDIA. Britain has the best secret policemen in the world, or so they tell us. What they don’t tell us is that the major job of spooks is not catching foreign terrorists & spies, it is steering public opinion & politics by secret manipulations behind the scenes. Hence the ‘Zinoviev’ letter forgery by MI6 that swung the 1924 election against the Labour Party.

All different today? Doubtful; spooks following their own right-wing agenda cannot resist abusing their state-supplied dog licence & dog biscuits. In the long, bitter, 1985 miner’s strike, Margaret Thatcher’s official & unofficial spooks did their worst to destroy leader Arthur Scargill & his union. One of the ‘unofficial’ organizers of strikebreakers was a certain David Hart. Over the years, he ‘advised’ Tory ministers & sponsored assorted right-wing-to-fascistic causes.

Allegedly, one of Hart’s co-activists was Paul Staines (Guardian interview Who’s Paul Staines? You may know him as the blogger of Westminster gossip & scandal, ‘Guido Fawkes’. The Fawkes blogsite has brought down several Westminster bananas with revelations of a sexual or financial nature.

But Staines (if that is his real name) is coy about how he gets his insider info. Could he be in the old pro-am MI5/6 network? Nothing surer, & nothing surer than that it will be instantly denied! OGT

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At 6:30 PM, Anonymous tim sherwood said...

there are inaccuracies. Bebb and Pollard were not previously acquainted; Shute did not go on the flight; Pollard did not speak Spanish fluently and was not in MI6.
He was not a navigator.
Mola was in Burgos and did not accompany Franco. Only Diana Pollard was fair-haired; Dorothy Watson was dark. Bolin went with them as far as Casablanca.

At 11:02 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

To Mr Sherwood; you claim 'inaccuracies', but you don't say in which/whose story. Nor do you state the source of your 'accurate' one. Please elaborate.


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