Robert Gordon-Canning

Robert Cecil Gordon-Canning MC (24 June 1888 – 4 January 1967)[1] was a notable British fascist, anti-Semite[2][3][4] and supporter of Arab nationalist causes. He was briefly married to Australian actress Mary Maguire.

Robert Cecil Gordon-Canning
Born24 June 1888
Died4 January 1967 (aged 78)
EducationEton College
OccupationSoldier, journalist, farmer
Political partyBritish Union of Fascists
Mary Maguire
(m. 1939; div. 1944)
Military career
AllegianceUnited Kingdom
Service/branchBritish Army
Years of service1906–1925
UnitRoyal Gloucestershire Hussars
10th (Prince of Wales's Own Royal) Hussars
Battles/warsWorld War I
AwardsMilitary Cross

Background and military career

Gordon-Canning was born in Hartpury, Gloucestershire, the only son of William James Gordon-Canning, and his wife Clara, a daughter of Crawshay Bailey.[5] His father was the fourth son of Captain Patrick Robert Gordon, of the 78th Highlanders, the son of William Gordon of Milrig. In 1848 Captain Gordon married Maria Canning of Hartpury, and added her surname to his own.[6] Gordon-Canning claimed, and it is sometimes stated as fact, that the poet George Gordon Byron, Lord Byron, was his great-grandfather.[7]

He was educated at Eton, was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Royal Gloucestershire Hussars on 15 November 1906,[8] and was promoted to lieutenant in the 10th (Prince of Wales's Own Royal) Hussars on 14 March 1912.[9] He was appointed a temporary captain on 18 November 1914,[10] soon after the start of World War I, and this was confirmed on 15 May 1915.[11] In June 1917, Gordon-Canning was awarded the Military Cross, "for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty."[12] He was transferred to the General Reserve of Officers on 29 March 1919,[13] and eventually resigned his commission on 19 August 1925.[14]

Early political activities

After the war, Gordon-Canning became a supporter of Arab nationalist causes. He was involved in advocating for Moroccan independence during the Rif War and visited Morocco at least twice in the mid 1920s, the first time for the Red Cross and later to present independence views to the French government.[15][16] He wrote several books of poetry at this time, including "Flashlights from Afar" (1920), "A Pagan Shrine" (1922) and "The Death of Akbar" (1923).[17] Australian diplomat R. G. Casey reported meeting Gordon-Canning in January 1926. He described him as "having come into the limelight lately owing to his having been the vehicle and mouthpiece for Abd el-Krim's 'peace' terms to the French. He has a shifty eye and is, I think, not altogether a disinterested peacemaker." Casey went on to describe "a very heated exchange of words about Morocco between [Gordon-]Canning and Sir Malcolm Robertson." Casey felt Gordon-Canning's approach combined "journalism with gentlemanly adventure."[18]

In 1929 Gordon-Canning visited Palestine and met with leaders of the Palestinian National Movement. He was a critic of British policy in Palestine.[19]


In 1934 Gordon-Canning joined the British Union of Fascists. In October 1936 he was best man at the wedding of Oswald Mosley and Diana Mitford in Germany,[20] becoming the movement's expert on foreign affairs and "Director of Overseas Policy." He wrote regularly for fascist publications and developed the BUF slogan "Mind Britain's Business", which was also the title of one of his pamphlets. After a personal disagreement with Mosley, he left from the BUF in 1939, joining other fascist groups, including the British People's Party, The Link, and Archibald Ramsay's anti-Semitic group, the Right Club. Historian Brian Simpson notes Gordon-Canning prominent amongst those trying to fuse Britain's far–right groups at the outbreak of war. He hosted the first of a series of meetings of like minded personalities at his London flat on 19 September 1939.[2]

Marriage and internment

Gordon-Canning met Australian-born Hollywood actress Mary Maguire in June 1939.[21] Despite the 30-year age difference, they married in August 1939. Ironically, Gordon-Canning had previously written disparagingly of the influence and tone of Hollywood films.[22] In July 1940, Gordon-Canning was interned under Defence Regulation 18B[23] and was not released until 1943.[24] A child, Michael Gordon-Canning, was born of the union in February 1941, but died in infancy.[25] Gordon-Canning and Maguire were divorced in November 1944,[26] and Maguire remarried, moving back to the US in an effort to restart her acting career.[27]

Post war

At a sale of former German embassy property in 1945, Gordon-Canning attracted significant publicity when he purchased a large marble bust of Hitler for £500 (equivalent to £21,000 today).[28] Apparently by way of justification, he told reporters "Jesus, 2000 years ago was mocked, scorned and crucified. Today, He is a living force in the hearts and minds of millions of people." These comments, associating Hitler with Jesus, suggest he was associated with a small group called the League of Christian Reformers, who deified Hitler.[29][30][31] Journalist John Roy Carlson—a pseudonym of Avedis "Arthur" Boghos Derounian—claims Gordon-Canning told him he purchased the bust "to challenge the Jews. To prevent purchase by them..."[32]

Carlson also exposed Gordon-Canning's ongoing anti-Semitism in his 1951 book on subversive politics, Cairo to Damascus. Living after the war between his apartment in London and his farm in Sandwich, Kent, the book indicates Gordon-Canning was still in touch with other former internees and fascist sympathisers. Posing as an anti-Semite himself, Carlson records Gordon-Canning as saying, "I used to see Hitler in Munich and Berlin, and once had supper with Goebbels. Hitler was a fine man, a charming man. If three Hitlers had been allowed to rule the world – in Germany, Italy and England – we wouldn't be in the fix we are now." Carlson also writes of dining twice at Gordon-Canning's apartment in Cadogan Square in London with Barry Domvile and Archibald Ramsay. He states Gordon-Canning allowed his apartment to be used as a meeting place for Arab nationalists and claimed to be a close friend of Abdul Rahman Hassan Azzam. "I am one of the few Englishmen the Arabs trust completely", he is alleged to have said.[32]

Gordon-Canning remarried in 1952. He died on 4 January 1967.[1]

In November 2002 the Security Service (MI5) files on Gordon-Canning (KV 2/877-878) were released into the public domain.[7]


  1. ^ a b Prowse, Carl (2012). "Robert Cecil Gordon-Canning". RootsWeb's WorldConnect Project. Retrieved 2 February 2015.
  2. ^ a b Simpson, Brian (1992). In The Highest Degree Odious; Detention without trial in Wartime Britain. Oxford University Press. pp. 141–145. ISBN 0-19-825949-2.
  3. ^ Macklin, Graham (2011). "A Fascist 'Jihad': Captain Robert Gordon-Canning, British Fascist Anti-Semitism and Islam". In Tilles, Daniel; Garau, Salvatore (eds.). Fascism and the Jews: Italy and Britain. London: Vallentine Mitchell. ISBN 9780853038641.
  4. ^ Ungerson, Clare (February 2010). "The Kitchener Camp: The Sandwich response". AJR Journal. Association of Jewish Refugees. Retrieved 2 February 2015.
  5. ^ Fox-Davies, Arthur Charles (1929). Armorial families : a directory of gentlemen of coat-armour (7th ed.). London: Hurst & Blackett. p. 782. Retrieved 2 February 2015.
  6. ^ Bulloch, John Malcolm (1906). The Name of Gordon : Patronymics which it has replaced or reinforced. Huntly: Joseph Dunbar. p. 22. Retrieved 2 February 2015.
  7. ^ a b "Security Service Records Release 25-26 November 2002" (PDF). The National Archives. 2002. Retrieved 2 February 2015.
  8. ^ "No. 27973". The London Gazette. 4 December 1906. p. 8540.
  9. ^ "No. 28604". The London Gazette. 3 May 1912. p. 3178.
  10. ^ "No. 29152". The London Gazette. 4 May 1915. p. 4267.
  11. ^ "No. 29185". The London Gazette (Supplement). 4 June 1915. p. 5497.
  12. ^ "No. 30135". The London Gazette (Supplement). 15 June 1917. p. 5990.
  13. ^ "No. 31256". The London Gazette (Supplement). 28 March 1919. p. 4107.
  14. ^ "No. 33076". The London Gazette. 18 August 1925. p. 5497.
  15. ^ Woolman, David S. (1968). Rebels in the Rif: Abd El Krim and the Rif Rebellion. Stanford University Press. p. 126. ISBN 978-0-8047-0664-3.
  16. ^ Symes, Peter (2002). "The Notes of the Rif Revolt". International Bank Note Society Journal. 41 (3). Retrieved 2 February 2015.
  17. ^ "Gordon-Canning, Robert Cecil". Echenberg War Poetry Collection. 2014. Retrieved 2 February 2015.
  18. ^ Casey, R. G. (7 January 1926). "Confidential Memorandum to the Prime Minister". Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Retrieved 2 February 2015.
  19. ^ Hassassian, Manuel (April 1990). "The Mu'arada And The Majlesiyoun In The Internal Political Struggle (1929-32)". Palestine-Factionalism In The National Movement (1919-1939) (PDF). Jerusalem: Passia (Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs). pp. 87–88. Retrieved 2 February 2015.
  20. ^ Mosley, Charlotte, ed. (2007). The Mitfords; Letters between six sisters. New York: Harper Collins. p. 77n. ISBN 978-0-06-137364-0. Intimate friends like Diana Mitford called Gordon-Canning "Bobbie."
  21. ^ "Mary Maguire to marry English Fascist captain". The Australian Women's Weekly. Sydney: National Library of Australia. 29 July 1939. p. 28. Retrieved 2 February 2015.
  22. ^ Linehan, Thomas (26 August 2011). ""A Dangerous Piece of Celluloid"? British Fascists and the Hollywood Movie" (PDF). Brunel University London. Retrieved 2 February 2015.
  23. ^ "Star's Husband Watched". The Argus. Melbourne: National Library of Australia. 12 July 1940. p. 3. Retrieved 2 February 2015.
  24. ^ "Internee Wrote Book in Prison". The Examiner. Launceston, Tasmania: National Library of Australia. 9 August 1943. p. 1. Retrieved 2 February 2015.
  25. ^ "Death of Mary Maguire's Baby Son". The Mercury. Hobart, Tasmania: National Library of Australia. 24 January 1942. p. 5. Retrieved 2 February 2015.
  26. ^ "Divorced". The Newcastle Sun. Newcastle, New South Wales: National Library of Australia. 22 November 1944. p. 3. Retrieved 2 February 2015.
  27. ^ Jones, Lon (12 March 1946). "More Trouble for "Amber" : Mary Maguire Back". The Sydney Morning Herald. Sydney: National Library of Australia. p. 11. Retrieved 2 February 2015.
  28. ^ "Hitler Head for £500". The Courier-Mail. Brisbane: National Library of Australia. 7 December 1945. p. 1. Retrieved 2 February 2015.
  29. ^ A thorough account appears in "Hitler Legion Formed In English Mansion". The Daily Express. 28 November 1945. p. 1.. See also "Hitler Is 'Divine' To Ex-Internees". The Courier-Mail. Brisbane: National Library of Australia. 29 November 1945. p. 1. Retrieved 6 April 2013.
  30. ^ "Hitler Lovers Form League". The Daily News. Perth: National Library of Australia. 28 November 1945. p. 1. Retrieved 6 April 2013.
  31. ^ Macklin, Graham (2007). Very Deeply Dyed in Black: Sir Oswald Mosley and the Resurrection of British Fascism. London: I.B. Tauris. pp. 34–35. ISBN 978-1-84511-284-4.
  32. ^ a b Carlson, John Roy (1951). Cairo to Damascus (PDF). New York: Alfred Knopf. pp. 27–31.
Adam Marshall Diston

Adam Marshall Diston (1893–1956; born in Scotland) was a journalist for the Sunday Dispatch and ghostwriter for Winston Churchill. He had 'close affinities' to Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists. He had a military background, serving in a Scottish regiment from 1914-1918.

Diana Mitford

Diana, the Hon. Lady Mosley (17 June 1910 – 11 August 2003), born Diana Freeman-Mitford and usually known as Diana Mitford, was one of the Mitford sisters. She was first married to Bryan Walter Guinness, heir to the barony of Moyne, and upon her divorce from him married Sir Oswald Mosley, 6th Baronet of Ancoats, leader of the British Union of Fascists. This her second marriage took place at the home of Joseph Goebbels in 1936, with Adolf Hitler as guest of honour. Subsequently, her involvement with Fascist political causes resulted in three years' internment during the Second World War. She later moved to Paris and enjoyed some success as a writer. In the 1950s she contributed diaries to Tatler and edited the magazine The European. In 1977, she published her autobiography, A Life of Contrasts, and two more biographies in the 1980s. She was also a regular book reviewer for Books & Bookmen and later at The Evening Standard in the 1990s. A family friend, James Lees-Milne, wrote of her beauty, "She was the nearest thing to Botticelli's Venus that I have ever seen".

English Defence League

The English Defence League (EDL) is a far-right, Islamophobic organisation in the United Kingdom. A social movement and pressure group that employs street demonstrations as its main tactic, the EDL presents itself as a single-issue movement opposed to Islamism and Islamic extremism, although its rhetoric and actions target Islam and Muslims more widely. Founded in 2009, its heyday lasted until 2011, after which it entered a decline. It is presently chaired by Tim Ablitt.

Established in London, the EDL coalesced around several football hooligan firms protesting the public presence of the small Salafi Islamist group Ahlus Sunnah wal Jamaah in Luton, Bedfordshire. Tommy Robinson, a former member of the British National Party (BNP), soon became its de facto leader. The organisation grew swiftly, holding demonstrations across England and often clashing with anti-fascist protesters from Unite Against Fascism and other groups, who deemed it a racist organisation victimising British Muslims. The EDL also established a strong social media presence on Facebook and YouTube. Moving towards electoral politics, it established formal links with the far-right British Freedom Party, a breakaway from the BNP. The EDL's reputation was damaged in 2011 after supporters were convicted of plotting to bomb mosques and links were revealed with Norwegian far-right terrorist Anders Breivik. In 2013 Robinson—supported by the Quilliam think tank—left the group; he claimed it had become too extreme, and established the rival Pegida UK. The group's membership declined significantly following Robinson's departure and various branches declared independence.

Ideologically on the extreme-right or far-right of British politics, the EDL is part of the international counter-jihad movement. Officially, it presents itself as being opposed to Islamism, Islamic extremism, and jihadism, although its rhetoric repeatedly conflates these with Islam and Muslims more broadly. Rejecting the idea that Muslims can truly be English, the EDL presents Islam as an intolerant, primitive threat seeking to take over Europe. Political scientists and other commentators have characterised this Islamophobic stance as culturally racist. Both online and at its events, EDL members have incited violence against Muslims, with supporters carrying out violent acts both at demonstrations and independently. The EDL's broader ideology features nationalism and populism, blaming a perceived decline in English culture on high immigration rates and an uncaring political elite. It distinguished itself from Britain's traditional far-right by rejecting biological racism, anti-Semitism, and homophobia. Although several of its leaders were previously involved in fascist organisations and some neo-Nazis and other fascists attended EDL events, commentators differ on whether the EDL itself is ideologically fascist or not.

Headed by a small leadership team, the EDL sub-divided into over 90 local and thematic divisions, each with considerable autonomy. Its support base consisted primarily of young, working-class white British men, some from established far-right and football hooligan subcultures. Polls indicated that most UK citizens opposed the EDL, and the group was repeatedly challenged by anti-fascist groups. Many local councils and police forces discouraged EDL marches, citing the high financial cost of policing them, the disruptive influence on community harmony, and the damage caused to counter-terrorism operations.

Football Lads Alliance

The Football Lads Alliance (FLA) is a movement in the United Kingdom founded by John Meighan in 2017. According to The Times, "the movement was set up as a self-proclaimed 'anti-extremist' movement" but has increasingly become associated with far-right politics and far-right activists.The Premier League has warned clubs that "the group is using fans and stadiums to push an anti-Muslim agenda". Concern has also been expressed that the Alliance is "giving cover to the far right" and "uses a secret Facebook page full of violent, racist and misogynistic posts".

Graham Seton Hutchison

Lieutenant-Colonel Graham Seton Hutchison (1890–1946) was a Scottish First World War army officer, military theorist, author of both adventure novels and non-fiction works and fascist activist. Seton Hutchison became a celebrated figure in military circles for his tactical innovations during the First World War but would later become associated with a series of fringe fascist movements which failed to capture much support even by the standards of the far right in Britain in the interbellum period. He made a contribution to First World War fiction with his espionage novel, The W Plan.

Hastings Russell, 12th Duke of Bedford

Hastings William Sackville Russell, 12th Duke of Bedford (21 December 1888 – 9 October 1953) was a British peer. He was born at Cairnsmore House, Minnigaff, Kirkcudbrightshire the son of Herbrand Russell, 11th Duke of Bedford and his wife Mary Du Caurroy Tribe, DBE, RRC, FLS, the aviator and ornithologist. He was noted for both his career as a naturalist and for his involvement in far-right politics.

Josef Leopold

Josef Leopold (18 February 1889 – 24 June 1941) was a leading member of the Nazi Party in Austria. He was the Landesleiter of the party from 1935 to 1938 and the head of the Sturmabteilung in Austria. He belonged to the pro-independence tendency within Austrian Nazism and insisted that Adolf Hitler was only a spiritual leader rather than a future Austrian leader.

Mary Maguire

Mary Maguire (22 February 1919 – 18 May 1974) was an Australian-born actress who briefly became a Hollywood and British film star in the late 1930s.

Nordic League

The Nordic League was a far right organisation in the United Kingdom from 1935 to 1939 that sought to serve as a co-ordinating body for the various extremist movements whilst also seeking to promote Nazism. The League was a private organisation that did not organise any public events.

Sharon Ebanks

Sharon Elizabeth Ebanks (born 1967 or 1968) is a former member of the British National Party and one of the founder members of the New Nationalist Party. In 2006, she was wrongly declared elected to Birmingham City Council.

The Link (UK organization)

The Link was established in July 1937 as an 'independent non-party organisation to promote Anglo-German friendship'. It generally operated as a cultural organisation, although its journal, the Anglo-German Review, reflected the pro-Nazi views of Barry Domvile, and particularly in London it attracted a number of anti-semites and pro-Nazis. At its height the membership numbered around 4,300.

The Link was opposed to war between Britain and Germany, and because of this attracted the support of some British pacifists. When The Link and the Anglo-German Review were included among a number of peace organisations across the political spectrum in the Peace Service Handbook (a publication put out by the Peace Pledge Union), the Daily Telegraph and The News Chronicle published articles accusing the PPU of supporting Nazism. In response, PPU member Stuart Morris wrote to the papers stating there was no connection between the PPU and The Link, and that the former organisation did not support the German demand for colonies or peace at the expense of smaller nations. The PPU also sent a letter to its group leaders dissociating The Link from the PPU, and ceased publishing the Peace Service Handbook.The organisation was investigated by Maxwell Knight, head of counter-subversion in MI5 and future role model for James Bond's boss M. The organisation closed shortly after the start of World War II in 1939.

Barry Domvile was interned in 1940 as someone who might "endanger the safety of the realm".According to Anthony Masters, the Link was allegedly resurrected in 1940 by Ian Fleming, then working in the Department of Naval Intelligence, in order to successfully lure Rudolf Hess (deputy party leader and third in leadership of Germany, after Adolf Hitler and Hermann Göring) to Britain in May 1941.

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