The Right Coast

April 27, 2004
Amery: A Tragic Footnote
By Maimon Schwarzschild

"Speak for England, Arthur!" -- Leo Amery's intimate call to Arthur Greenwood which somehow marked England's coming together against Hitler -- made a touching story in 1939, and is still touching today.

Amery went on to become one of Churchill's senior cabinet ministers throughout the Second World War.

There is a sad footnote to the story.

Amery had two sons. One, Julian, served in the war and later was a cabinet minister himself in the Macmillan and Heath governments. The other, John, was a prodigal: a rebel as a child, bankrupt in his twenties: trouble. When the war began, John Amery made his way to Germany and made defeatist broadcasts on the Nazi radio, in tandem with the infamous "Lord Haw-Haw". (Amery also tried to recruit British prisoners of war to fight for the Nazis.)

After the war, John Amery was captured by allied forces. He was returned to England, where he was prosecuted for treason. He pleaded guilty, was sentenced to death, and was hanged. ("Lord Haw-Haw" -- William Joyce -- was the only other Briton hanged for treason in the war.) Amery's father could do nothing for him.

A final desolate note: John Amery's body was apparently buried in the prison yard after he was hanged: in any event, sometime later, his mother petitioned for permission to visit the grave and to bring flowers. The prison authorities referred the question up to the government, and the post-war Labour government refused permission.