Before the War, Edward Jeffrey Hamm was a non-active member of British Union. He didn’t sell ‘Action’ on the streets, he wasn’t a speaker and he held no official position in his local Harrow branch.
He did take part in the big London anti-war marches held in the summer of 1938 but so did thousands of other Londoners. But basically he remained a very low-profile member content with pursuing his career as a schoolmaster.
In fact, among Jeffrey’s seven bulging MI5 files* open for inspection at the National Archives, there is only one sheet from before the War. This was merely a note that his name had been mentioned as a member in an intercepted letter.
Yet in the spring of 1940 the Head of MI5 himself, Sir Vernon Kell, was making enquiries as to his exact whereabouts. Jeffrey had in fact gone to work as a travelling teacher in the Falkland Isles and on the 6th June 1940 the long arm of MI5 reached out and Jeffrey was arrested and interned in the prison ship ‘Fenna’ moored near Port Stanley. It was an event that changed the course of his life for ever and during the months spent on that rat-infested hulk he must have wondered why an insignificant British Union member like himself had been chosen. It was a question he never found the answer to and he died over 50 years later still not knowing.
However, his files released a few years ago reveal all.
Fingered by an informer to save her own skin.
Whilst teaching in Harrow, Jeffrey was lodging with a couple who were active members of British Union. There was another paying guest, Joan Penn, who in the Fifth Column Panic of the Phoney War period began to fear that as a card carrying Blackshirt herself she was about to be thrown into prison.
To forestall such an event by proving her ‘loyalty’, Penn went to the police and denounced Jeffrey and the other British Union couple. But she realised that her story needed ‘sexing up’ to increase its value to the authorities. So Penn told them that the reason Jeffrey had gone abroad was ‘to further the Movement in the Falkland Isles’. We have no way of knowing whether this perfidious betrayal of a comrade to save her own skin brought her any advantage. It certainly had serious consequences for Jeffrey.
By April 1940, the accusation had reached the desk of the famous MI5 Officer ‘Dick’ White who claimed it came ‘from a reliable source’. First, he asked the Falklands Governor to keep an eye on Jeffrey, an impossible task as he was travelling from one distant outpost to another. Then it was decided to detain him.
Jeffrey was surprised when five Falkland policemen arrived at the remote farmstead where he was teaching and joined the occupants for dinner. Once the meal was over, the five men promptly drew their revolvers and arrested Jeffrey. Then they handcuffed him and placed him on a horse and began the journey back to Port Stanley but, unable to hold onto the horse, Jeffrey fell off and broke his nose. On arrival he was grilled by a committee consisting of the Colonial Secretary, the Senior Falklands Naval Officer and the Officer-in-Charge of the Falklands Defence Force who all agreed that the only place for such a desperate looking fellow was in prison.
As he languished in the good ship ‘Fenna’ Jeffrey was seething with anger. As is usual with Defence Regulations, no reason was given for his arrest. And Jeffrey knew that as it was detention without trial he would carry the stigma of being a traitor to the country he loved. But worse was to come.
In October 1940 he was transferred to South Africa and interned for seven months in a camp with two hundred Nazis from the former German colony of South-West Africa. The fact that he was categorised and confined with Britain’s enemies left him even angrier still – and Jeffrey developed a deep hatred for the British Government that could commit such injustices on one of its own citizens who had committed no offence.
MI5 realises internment in South Africa illegal.
In April 1941, Jeffrey’s captors suddenly realised that transferring him from the Falklands to South Africa was against the law and if he sued them for Habeas Corpus he would succeed. So he was promptly released and put on the first ship back to England.
On arrival in war-torn Britain in June, Jeffrey lost no time in joining the 56th Anti Tank Regiment later transferring to the12th Battalion of the Royal Tank Regiment. But MI5 wasn’t finished with him yet. His Commanding Officer was informed of Jeffrey’s political leanings and instructed to complete a Special Observation Report (SOR) on him every month.
These must have been a great disappointment to MI5 because each SOR reported only ‘good military conduct’, ‘exemplary’ behaviour, ‘he does not seek to influence fellow soldiers politically’ and the ultimate commendation ‘A good soldier, we could do with more of his kind’.
As a result, his restriction order was revoked and in January 1943 he was cleared for overseas service.
‘Services no longer required’.
Inevitably, word eventually got round his unit that Trooper Hamm had been a Mosley man and soon reached the ears of someone with an axe to grind. Before long, MI5 were informed that he had told an officer that ‘after Russia defeated Germany it would attack Great Britain’ and that he ‘admired Mosley’. Although this was not in keeping with the SOR reports on him, and it is hard to believe that Jeffrey would have voiced these opinions to an officer, MI5 had what it was looking for. For the second time Jeffrey had been fingered, this time most probably by some pro-Russian Red.
As a result, the files relate that in June 1944 the Army Council issued an order to dismiss Hamm as ‘Services No Longer Required’ and that no further explanation was to be given.
If Jeffrey had been livid with the British Government before, he was seething with rage now – he simply couldn’t understand why after such excellent army service he should suddenly be dismissed. And he knew that with his National Identity Card stamped ‘Discharged from Army – Services No Longer Required’ he would find himself virtually unemployable.
He wrote to the Secretary of State explaining that he was finding it ‘impossible to obtain employment as I am unable to give prospective employers any reason for my discharge’ and asking what the reasons were?
The reply left him hopping mad: it simply stated ‘the reasons are as given on your discharge papers: Services No Longer Required’!
However, unknown to Jeffrey some nameless official did have a conscience and arranged for the Ministry of Labour to direct him to a job in the Park Royal Coach Works. This still left Jeffrey with plenty of time on his hands, his hatred unabated for a British Government that had ruined his life for no good reason known to him.
Then one fine Sunday afternoon in the autumn of 1944 Jeffrey found himself at Speakers Corner in London’s Hyde Park and chanced upon a speaker for the fledgling British League of Ex-Servicemen whose words consisted of an unending tirade of criticism and ridicule directed solely against the British Government. Mosley’s future Political Secretary would probably have guessed that the speaker was a former Blackshirt though with British Union banned the F word was never mentioned.
Jeffrey listened spell-bound: at last he had found what he was looking for, his course in life was set. For the next 50 years Jeffrey Hamm was to mount a non-stop and remorseless attack on British Governments and he would take no prisoners.
*KV6/1 to KV6/7, The National Archives, Kew.
Note: Jeffrey Hamm’s autobiography ‘Action Replay’ is available from Black House Publishing Ltd or via Amazon for £12.00 postage free.