British Empire Union

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British Empire Union poster from the immediate post-war period, titled "Once a German—always a German!"

The British Empire Union (BEU) was created in the United Kingdom during World War I, in 1916, after changing its name from the Anti-German Union, which had been founded in 1915. Sir George Makgill was the BEU's Honorary Secretary and Lord Edward Illiffe was its treasurer.

The BEU was anti-socialist and thought that the Labour Party would "Bolshevise Britain" and argued for a paramilitary force to combat it. It was also associated with the antisemitism of Leopold Maxse.

It held anti-German demonstrations in Hyde Park and elsewhere and is thought to have had around 10,000 members across fifty branches by the end of 1918. The BEU advocated 'wholesale internment' and received over 1,250,000 signatures on petition for this cause, which it presented to the Prime Minister. It also disrupted meetings of pacifist and civil liberties groups and produced anti-German posters.

The BEU also protested to the BBC about Patrick Hamilton's play Rope.

On 28 July 1916 the Vice-Presidents of the BEU, Lord and Lady Bathurst, subscribed to a full-page advertisement in The Morning Post stating their objectives:

1. To consolidate the British Empire and to develop Trade and Commerce within the Empire and with our Allies.
2. To alter our existing naturalisation laws to render it impossible for aliens seeking naturalisation to become British citizens so long as they remain subjects of other countries. This is to apply to existing cases.
3. To pursue an Educational propaganda throughout the country in furtherance of the policies that have been expounded by Mr. W. M. Hughes [Prime Minister of Australia]; to establish branches in every constituency and county, and to support candidates pledged to these policies in both the country and in the House of Commons; to urge the importance of the measures proposed to assist the more vigorous prosecution of the war, and to bring about its speedy and satisfactory termination, and to controvert the false economic doctrine so aptly described as 'Laissez-faire'.[1]

It continued post-war far-right activities for a time, in cooperation with the Economic League.


  1. ^ Keith Wilson (ed.), The Rasp of War. The Letters of H. A. Gwynne to The Countess Bathurst. 1914–1918 (London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1988), p. 5.

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