Robert Gordon-Canning

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Robert Cecil Gordon-Canning (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 born film star Mary Maguire.

Upbringing and early politics[edit]

Gordon-Canning was born in Hartpury, Gloucestershire, England in 1888. He counted the poet Lord Byron among his ancestors. Educated at Eton, he went on to serve in the 10th Royal Hussars in the First World War, attaining the rank of Captain and being awarded the Military Cross. 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.[5][6] He wrote several books of poetry at this time, including "Flashlights from Afar" (1920), “A Pagan Shrine”(1922) and “The Death of Akbar” (1923).[7] 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."[8]

In 1929 Gordon-Canning visited Palestine and met with leaders of the Palestinian National Movement. He was a critic of British policy in Palestine.[9]

The BUF[edit]

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,[10] 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 in addition to 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[edit]

Gordon-Canning met Australian born Hollywood actress Mary Maguire in June 1939. 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.[11] In July 1940, Gordon-Canning was interned under Defence Regulation 18B[12] and was not released until 1943. In 1945, newspapers reported the marriage as over and announced Maguire had remarried, moving back to the US in an effort to restart her career.[13] A child, Michael Gordon-Canning, was born of the union in February 1941, but died in infancy.[14]

Post war[edit]

At a sale of former German embassy property in 1945, Gordon-Canning attracted significant publicity when he purchased a large marble bust of Hitler from a sale of former German embassy property. 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.[15][16][17] Journalist John Roy Carlson claims Gordon-Canning told him he purchased the bust "to challenge the Jews. To prevent purchase by them..."[18] Carlson also exposed Gordon-Canning’s ongoing anti-semitism in his 1951 book on subversive politics, Cairo to Damascus. Living after the war between London and Sandwich Bay, 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.[18]

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


  1. ^ a b
  2. ^ a b Brian Simpson(1992), In The Highest Degree Odious; Detention without trial in Wartime Britain. P.141-145. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0 19 825949 2.
  3. ^ Macklin, Graham (2011) "A Fascist 'Jihad': Captain Robert Gordon-Canning, British fascist anti-Semitism and Islam." in: Daniel Tilles, Salvatore Garau (eds)Fascism and the Jews: Italy and Britain. Vallentine-Mitchell Publishers. ISBN 9780853038641
  4. ^ Clare Ungerson.The Kitchener Camp; The Sandwich response. Association of Jewish Refugees, Feb 2010 [1] Retrieved 6 April 2013
  5. ^ David S. Woolman (1968) Rebels in the Rif:Abd El Krim and the Rif Rebellion. p.126. Stanhope University Press. [2]
  6. ^
  7. ^ War Poetry Website
  8. ^ R.G.Casey, January 1926, Confidential Report for the Australian Government
  9. ^ Manuel Hassassian (1990) Palestine: Factionalism in the National Movement (1919 – 1939
  10. ^ Charlotte Mosley (Ed)(2007) The Mitfords; Letters between six sisters. p.77n. Harper Collins, New York. ISBN 978-0-06-137364-0. Intimate friends like Diana Mitford called Gordon-Canning "Bobbie."
  11. ^ Thomas Linehan, Brunel University, "A Dangerous Piece of Celluloid? British Fascists and the Hollywood Movie
  12. ^ The Argus, Melbourne, Friday 12 July, 1940
  13. ^ Sydney Morning Herald, Tuesday 12 May 1946
  14. ^ Mercury, Hobart, 24 January, 1942
  15. ^ 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, Qld. : 1933 - 1954) (National Library of Australia). 29 November 1945. p. 1. Retrieved 6 April 2013. 
  16. ^ "HITLER LOVERS FORM LEAGUE". The Daily News(Perth, WA : 1882 - 1950) (National Library of Australia). 28 November 1945. p. 1. Retrieved 6 April 2013. 
  17. ^ Graham Macklin (2007)Very deeply Dyed in Black: Sir Oswald Mosley and the Resurrection of British Fascism P 34-35. I.B. Taurus, London. ISBN 978-1-84511-284-4
  18. ^ a b John Roy Carlson (Avedis Boghos Derounian)(1951) Cairo to Damascus. p.27-31. Alfred Knopf, New York.