Arnold Spencer Leese (1878–1956) was a British fascist politician and veterinarian. Leese was initially prominent for his veterinary work and was noted for his study of camels. Known for his virulent anti-Semitism, Leese led his own fascist movement and was a prolific author and publisher of polemic both before and after the Second World War.
After qualifying as a veterinary surgeon, he accepted a post in India, where he became an expert on the camel. He had previously worked in the East End of London. He worked in India for six years before becoming Camel Specialist for the East Africa Protectorate of the British Empire. He published articles on the camel and its maladies, the first appearing in The Journal of Tropical Veterinary Science in 1909. He was recognised as a leading authority on the camel. A camel parasite, Thelazia leesei was named after him.
He was commissioned in the Royal Army Veterinary Corps in 1914, serving on the Western Front and in the Middle East. Captain Leese returned to England where he continued his practice, publishing A Treatise on the One-Humped Camel in Health and in Disease (1927), which would remain a standard work in India for fifty years. He settled in Stamford, Lincolnshire, practising as a vet until retirement in 1927.
Move to fascism
In Stamford Leese became close to one of his neighbours, the economist Arthur Kitson, who was also a member of The Britons. Kitson persuaded Leese that control of money was the key to power and further convinced him that money was controlled by the Jews, with Kitson also supplying Leese with a copy of the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion. As an animal lover Leese also claimed that the Jewish practice of kashrut slaughter influenced his anti-Semitism. Around the same time Leese also became interested in Italian fascism and, after writing a pamphlet entitled Fascism for Old England, he joined the British Fascists in 1924. He also joined the Centre International d’Études sur la Fascisme, an Italian-led group aimed at the promotion of fascism internationally, and served as its British Correspondent. He was elected a councillor in Stamford that year, along with fellow fascist Henry Simpson. In his autobiography, Leese wrote "we were the first constitutionally elected Fascists in England". He was generally unsatisfied with the policies of the group however, dismissing them as "conservatism with knobs on".
Imperial Fascist League
Leese left the British Fascists in 1928 and, having retired to Guildford, established his own Imperial Fascist League (IFL) the following year. The movement was initially more along the lines of Italian fascism but under the influence of Henry Hamilton Beamish it soon came to focus on anti-Semitism. The IFL and its extensive publishing interests were funded out of Leese's own pocket. In 1932 Oswald Mosley approached Leese with the aim of absorbing the IFL into his own British Union of Fascists and, whilst relations between the two men were initially cordial, Leese quickly attacked Mosley for his failure to deal with the "Jewish question", eventually labelling Mosley's group as "kosher fascists".
Leese's anti-Semitism had by that point become his defining political characteristic and came to take on an increasingly conspiratorial and hysterical tone, something that particularly developed after Leese visited Germany and met Julius Streicher, subsequently remodelling his journal The Fascist along the lines of Der Stürmer. His anti-Semitism became firmly racialist in outlook as he came to speak and write of the Aryan race as the creator of civilisation and culture and claimed that the Aryan was in a permanent struggle with the Jew, the outcome of which would determine the future completely. His views, which extended to proposing as early as 1935 the mass murder of Jews by use of gas chambers, earned him a prison sentence in 1936 when he was indicted along with fellow IFL member Walter Whitehead on six counts relating to two articles published in the July issue of The Fascist (the IFL newspaper) entitled "Jewish Ritual Murder," which later appeared as a pamphlet. He was convicted and was jailed for six months in lieu of a fine for causing a public mischief. On his release he edited another pamphlet entitled "My Irrelevant Defence", a lengthy diatribe in defence of Leese's earlier claim, for which he had faced charges, that Jewish Passover celebrations included the sacrifice of Christian children. He also utilised materials distributed by the Welt-Dienst news service headed by Ulrich Fleischhauer and wrote for it.
He was one of the last leaders of the fascist movement to be interned in the United Kingdom at the beginning of World War II under the Defence Regulation 18B. Leese, who claimed that his primary loyalty was to Britain, had been somewhat critical of Adolf Hitler since the start of the war and reacted with bitter anger when an internment order was released for him in June 1940. Having set up a series of hideouts from which he published several pamphlets critical of the war, he evaded capture until 9 November 1940. Still enraged by what he saw as a slur on his patriotism, Leese violently resisted arrest and smashed up his holding cell. Leese saw the war as a "Jew's War" but strongly repudiated the Hitler-Stalin Pact and also castigated the Nazis for their invasion of Norway.He was released from detention in 1944 on health grounds following a major operation.
Soon after the Second World War Leese set up his own "Jewish Information Bureau" and began to publish his own journal, Gothic Ripples, which was largely concerned with attacking the Jews. The magazine also contained a strongly anti-black racist bent, with a regular column entitled "Nigger Notes" appearing. Leese again returned to prison in 1947 when, along with seven other former members of the IFL, he was given a one year sentence for helping escaped German prisoners of war who had been members of the Waffen SS. In 1951, he published his autobiography Out of Step: Events in the Two Lives of an Anti-Jewish Camel Doctor.
A mentor of the young Colin Jordan, Leese left Jordan his Holland Park house (74 Princedale Road, London W11) upon his death (although his widow retained the use of it as a sanctuary), which, known for a short spell as Arnold Leese House, would become Jordan's base of operations.
- Leese, Arnold Spencer (1938). Igirisu seikai ni okaru Yudayajin no seiryoku. Yudaya mondai shiryō ; dai 13-< >-shū. Dairen: Mantetsu Chōsabu, Shōwa 13. LCCN 72168.
- Leese, Arnold Spencer (1938). My irrelevant defence: being meditations inside gaol and out on Jewish ritual murder. London: The I. F. L. Printing and Publishing Co. LCCN 46653.
- Leese, Arnold Spencer (1951). Out of step: events in two lives of an anti-Jewish camel-doctor. Guildford, UK. LCCN 53974.
- Leese, Arnold Spencer (1964) [My irrelevant defence originally published 1938]. Judaism in Action (New and enlarged ed.). LCCN 2001913.
- Richard Thurlow, Fascism in Britain A History, 1918-1985, Basil Blackwell, 1987, p. 71
- Richard Griffiths, Fellow Travellers on the Right, Oxford University Press, 1983, p. 96
- Martin Pugh, Hurrah For The Blackshirts! Fascists and Fascism in Britain Between the Wars, Pimlico, 2006, p. 69
- London Gazette Issue 29408 published on the 17 December 1915, page 5
- Griffiths, Fellow Travellers on the Right, p. 97
- Thurlow, Fascism in Britain, p. 84
- Griffiths, Fellow Travellers on the Right, p. 86
- Griffiths, Fellow Travellers on the Right, p. 98
- Griffiths, Fellow Travellers on the Right, p. 99
- Rbert Benewick, Political Violence & Public Order, Allen Lane, 1968, pp. 45-46
- Thurlow, Fascism in Britain, pp. 89-90
- Peter Barberis, John McHugh, Mike Tyldesley, Encyclopedia of British and Irish Political Organizations: Parties, Groups and Movements of the 20th Century, Continuum, 2000, p. 183
- Griffiths, Fellow Travellers on the Right, p. 100
- Thurlow, Fascism in Britain, p. 76
- Thurlow, Fascism in Britain, p. 169
- Griffiths, Fellow Travellers on the Right, p. 370
- Thurlow, Fascism in Britain, p. 170
- Benewick, Political Violence, p. 47
- Thurlow, Fascism in Britain, p. 256
- Martin Walker, The National Front, Fontana, 1977, p. 27
- Walker, The National Front, p. 28
- Out of Step: Events in the Two Lives of an Anti-Jewish Camel Doctor On-line extracts from Leese's autobiography regarding his political awakening
- My Irrelevant Defence: Meditations Inside Gaol and Out on Jewish Ritual Murder An antisemitic booklet by Leese on the blood libel, first published in 1938.
- Chinese Communism? Article by Leese reprinted from Gothic Ripples, No.49, dated 28 February 1949.