John Amery

John Amery

John Amery, the son of Leo Amery, was born on 14th March, 1912. He was educated at Harrow. A report pointed out: "At Harrow he resented discipline and scoffed at the current conventions. He stole from shops and from other boys, absconded at nights to visit a night club and to tout for night club clients." The headmaster at the school, Cyril Norwood, argued: "Of all the boys whom I have known. John Amery was the most abnormal. Just because John Amery was morally imbecile it was not possible to make anything of him at Harrow".

After finishing his education he went into business but was declared bankrupt in 1936. By this time he had acquired seventy-four convictions for motoring offences. In October 1936 Amery moved to Spain where he worked as a gun-runner for General Francisco Franco during the Spanish Civil War. He also served as an intelligence officer with Italian volunteer forces. Amery also met Jacques Doriot the French fascist leader.

After the war Amery and Doriot travelled together to Austria, Czechoslovakia, Italy and Germany before going to live in France. In 1941 Amery was recruited by the Nazis and began making pro Adolf Hitler broadcasts in Berlin. On 19th November, 1942, he stated: "Listeners will wonder what an Englishman is doing on the German radio tonight. You can imagine that before taking this step I hoped that someone better qualified than me would come forward. I dared to believe that some ray of common sense, some appreciation of our priceless civilization would guide the counsels of Mr Churchill's Government. Unfortunately this has not been the case! For two years living in a neutral country I have been able to see through the haze of propaganda to reach something which my conscience tells me is the truth. That is why I come forward tonight without any political label, without any bias, but just simply as an Englishman to say to you: a crime is being committed against civilization. Not only the priceless heritage of our fathers, of our seamen, of our Empire builders is being thrown away in a war that serves no British interests - but our alliance leader Stalin dreams of nothing but the destruction of that heritage of our fathers? Morally this is a stain on our honour, practically it can only lead sooner or later to disaster and Communism in Great Britain, to a disintegration of all the values we cherish most."

In April 1943 Amery established the Legion of St. George and attempted to persuade British prisoners to fight for Germany against the Soviet Union on the Eastern Front. This was embarrassing for Leo Amery who served as secretary of state for India and Burma during the Second World War.

Legion of St. George
Legion of St. George

In the final months of the war Amery moved to Italy where he made propaganda speeches on behalf of Benito Mussolini. He also made broadcasts on Italian radio. Amery was captured by Italian partisans in Milan in April 1945, and soon afterwards was handed over to the British authorities.

His father, Leo Amery, a member of the British government, commissioned Dr. Edward Glover to write a psychiatric report on John Amery. He reported that: "John Amery has exhibited throughout his life all the symptoms of psychopathy of a type which borders on the schizoid (psychotic) character and which under ordinary circumstances ends in compulsive delinquent and anti-social conduct... The whole picture is completely characteristic of severe psychiapathy negativism, unteachability, fear of attack of a paranoid type, antisocial behaviour, delinquency, lack of moral feeling and conscience, sexual abnormality. And so on. No element is missing."

After being interviewed by MI5 Amery was tried for high treason. On 28th November, 1945, Amery pleaded guilty to eight counts of treason. The Times reported: "Amery, who is 33, was described as a politician. He took the sentence with complete composure. He bowed to Mr. Justice Humphreys when he was brought into Court, and also after sentence had been passed. While the proceedings lasted he appeared most of the time to have half a smile on his face. After sentence had been passed he walked away with bowed head to the cells below the dock. The sudden end of the case was dramatic." It was later claimed that Amery admitted his guilt in order to save his family the pain of a long trial.

John Amery was hanged on 19th December, 1945.

© , September 1997 - April 2014

Primary Sources

(1) Leo Amery commission Dr. Edward Glover to write a psychiatric report on John Amery that could be used at his trial in November 1945.

At Harrow he resented discipline and scoffed at the current conventions. He stole from shops and from other boys, absconded at nights to visit a night club and to tout for night club clients. "Of all the boys whom I have known", says Sir Cyril Norwood, his then headmaster "John Amery was the most abnormal". He continues: "Just because John Amery was morally imbecile it was not possible to make anything of him at Harrow". He was impervious to appeals, felt no shame and would not try to learn. Sir Cyril Norwood observes later that he had "A proneness to fear which dominated his mind so entirely that he could neither control nor cut it out". Later he attempted to run away to France to become a garage hand and was subsequently kept for some terms from school and put under a private tutor. Mr. Lander Jameson also observed his "moral imbecility". He was moody, introspective, friendliness, dirty, slovenly and unresponsive. "His lack of physical courage" says Mr. Jameson "was abnormal". He went into rages on being disciplined and once attacked Mr. Jameson with a long knife; on another occasion after being prevented from smoking he went to a policeman to charge Mr. Jameson with indecent assault. He was violently abusive if obstructed, used foul language, on occasions would get tipsy in a public house. He stole from a hotel when in Norway but had no sense of guilt treating the incident as a joke. He had no sense of the consequences of his actions. About this time or a little earlier, he was taken to a psychiatrist, Dr Maurice Wright, who found that he had no moral sense of right or wrong and regarded his condition as incurable. He had no sense of remorse or shame. Returning to Harrow he again ran away on being faced with a beating for slackness. His Housemaster at that time Mr. W.H. Barrett reports that he was "an extremely unusual type with obvious psychological difficulties and lack of mental balance", up against authority and that he "didn't appear to be able to help this even when he tried". If reproved he would "fly up in the air" and get into states of excitement. "In all my experience" says Mr. Barrett "I never had to deal with anyone just like him." After running away from Harrow he was put with a second tutor and subsequently sent to a Swiss School from which he was shortly afterwards expelled as a bad influence. He was then put to a third tutor, Mr. Nock, who also was struck by his entire lack of any moral feeling. "He had", says Mr. Nock, "no sense of obligation to anyone or anything" and "not even a gangster code". He was accustomed to do queer things such as insisting on climbing the Jungfrau in his bedroom slippers. He used to complain that his Father was a fool not to be dishonest and make money out of his position. "His character" Mr. Nock continues "was one complete flaw. He had a superficial charm but no affection.

John Amery has exhibited throughout his life all the symptoms of psychopathy of a type which borders on the schizoid (psychotic) character and which under ordinary circumstances ends in compulsive delinquent and anti-social conduct. But for the fact that his family stood in time and again to cover his defalcations and but for the fact that he was drawn into the vortex of political events bigger than himself he would have become a juvenile and adolescent delinquent and have been dealt with at a magistrates court early in his life. Indeed if he had been brought to a London Magistrate's Court within the last 15 years he would have been sent to a Delinquency Clinic for psychological examination and treatment. Not having seen him I can't say whether he is now sane or insane in the sense of forensic psychiatry but he is, according to his history, sufficiently pre-psychotic (ie. insane borderline) to make it probable that if left untreated he would have a psychotic breakdown about the age of 40. The whole picture is completely characteristic of severe psychiapathy negativism, unteachability, fear of attack of a paranoid type, antisocial behaviour, delinquency, lack of moral feeling and conscience, sexual abnormality. And so on. No element is missing. On the matter of his present demeanour: I don't know whether he behaves apparently normally or not, but it is notorious that types of this kind will keep up a facade of normal behaviour in keeping with some diseased or apparently romantic conception of themselves. Simulation is a well known schizoid characteristic. No formal psychiatric examination could conclusively eliminate this element of simulation unless it were supported by a period of three months continuous observation in a psychiatric ward. And if he had been an ordinary delinquent this observation would have been carried out.

(2) John Amery, interviewed by MI5 in May 1945.

It came as a great shock to me when I heard that England and Soviet Russia had become allies. So much so that I thought that the people responsible in London were acting in a manner that no longer coincided with British imperial interests.

(3) John Amery, Nazi radio broadcast on 19th November, 1942.

Listeners will wonder what an Englishman is doing on the German radio tonight. You can imagine that before taking this step I hoped that someone better qualified than me would come forward. I dared to believe that some ray of common sense, some appreciation of our priceless civilization would guide the counsels of Mr Churchill's Government. Unfortunately this has not been the case! For two years living in a neutral country I have been able to see through the haze of propaganda to reach something which my conscience tells me is the truth. That is why I come forward tonight without any political label, without any bias, but just simply as an Englishman to say to you: a crime is being committed against civilization. Not only the priceless heritage of our fathers, of our seamen, of our Empire builders is being thrown away in a war that serves no British interests - but our alliance leader Stalin dreams of nothing but the destruction of that heritage of our fathers? Morally this is a stain on our honour, practically it can only lead sooner or later to disaster and Communism in Great Britain, to a disintegration of all the values we cherish most.

It is not the Government, the members of Parliament to whom the ultimate decision belongs, it is up to you to go forward sure of your sacred right of free opinion, sure of your patriotism. It is up to you to decide that this has lasted long enough, that our boys are dying to serve no British interest but for the interests of a small clique of utterly unscrupulous men. There is more than enough room in the world for Germany and Britain. Your leaders say Germany seeks world domination. Did it ever enter your mind that this is but another trick of that long-planned strategy of Jewish propaganda, expected to thwart Germany's commanding position on the continent, to which she is, after all, entitled? However fantastic it may sound, the German Army is at this moment the only thing that stands between Communism and you, the only protection that exists for private property. If that rampart collapsed your liberties would be a vague souvenir of a happy past.

(4) John Amery, Proclamation To All British Subjects Interned, leaflet distributed in British prison camps on 20th April, 1943.

150,000 of our fellow countrymen are in prison in the home country, because they have declared themselves against this fratricidal war. In violation of the Habeas Corpus Act and the fundamental laws of our constitution these men have never been brought to trail or even allowed to see a lawyer.

American troops have not only occupied Ulster but are arriving in increasing numbers in England.

Naval bases and Colonies have been handed over to Mr. Roosevelt's administration.

Europe and out country, your wives and children at home are menaced by the invasion of the hordes of Bolshevik barbarity. For this reason I have approached the German Government with the proposal to form a British Legion Against Bolshevism, to be known as the Legion of St. George.

I appeal to all Britishers to answer this call to arms for the defence of all the principles that we Englishmen have been the first to proclaim in the world. The St. George Legion will fight only against the Communists and on no other front!

All men will commence in their present rank and promotion will be open to all men alike, without any distinctions or qualifications, political or otherwise.

Within the limits of the military possibilities the Legion of St. George will fight at the junction of the German-Finish front, beside the troops of the undaunted liberty loving Finish people.

Hundreds of soldiers have volunteered to join this Legion. Men who have escaped to England have come to join us. Three Royal Air Force aeroplanes have come over to us so far with their arms and equipment. It is up to you civilians to give a hand to show that we intend to take our responsibilities to maintain the integrity of our Empire, by giving the world proof that we have not all sold out to the Jew or Plutocrat.

(5) The Times (29th November, 1945)

John Amery, who pleaded "Guilty" at the Central criminal Court yesterday to indictments alleging high treason and treachery, was sentenced to death within eight minutes of entering the dock.

Amery, who is 33, was described as a politician. He took the sentence with complete composure. He bowed to Mr. Justice Humphreys when he was brought into Court, and also after sentence had been passed.

While the proceedings lasted he appeared most of the time to have half a smile on his face. After sentence had been passed he walked away with bowed head to the cells below the dock. The sudden end of the case was dramatic.

The hearing began nearly an hour late. At one minute to 11 o’clock the counsel and solicitor for the defence, led by Mr. G. O. Slade, KC., went down the clock steps in procession to confer with the accused. While they were out of Court Sir Hartley Shaweross, KC., the Attorney-General, who led for the prosecution, also went out. It was apparent to all present in the crowded Court that something unexpected was happening.

When defending counsel returned to Court shortly before 11.30, Mr. Slade first spoke to the Attorney-General and then to the Clerk of the Court, who immediately sent an usher to the Judge. Mr. Justice Humphreys took his seat, and Amery was brought in. His long black hair, curling up at the back, was carefully brushed. He wore a brown overcoat and a black and yellow scarf, which was knotted at his neck.

The clerk read the long indictment, which contained eight counts charging him with broadcasting, inducing British subjects in captivity (who were named) to light for Germany against Britain and Russia, and with making public speeches on behalf of the enemy in Antwerp, Lyons, and Paris while France and Belgium were under enemy occupation.

Amery stood in the front of the dock and leaned forward, listening intently. His brow puckered, the nervous smile left his face, and he stroked his chin with his forefinger.

(6) Justice Humphreys, sentencing John Amery (28th November, 1945)

John Amery, I have read the depositions and the exhibits in this case, and I am satisfied that you knew what you did and that you did it intentionally and deliberately after you had received warning from more than one of your fellow countrymen that the course you were pursuing amounted to high treason. They called you a traitor and you heard them; but in spite of that you continued in that course. You now stand a self-confessed traitor to your King and country, and you have forfeited your right to live.

(7) Jan Smuts, message to Clement Attlee (14th December, 1945)

Please convey to Mr. Attlee a private and personal message from me as soon as possible in connection with the possible execution of Amery’s son. We have had similar cases in South Africa, in none of which execution has been inflicted, as the acts were more of an ideological than of a criminal character. I am deeply moved by consideration for Amery and his wife, both of whom have deserved well of their country.