Toby Low, 1st Baron Aldington

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Lord Aldington

Member of Parliament
for Blackpool North
In office
5 July 1945 – 29 January 1962
Preceded byNew constituency
Succeeded byNorman Miscampbell
Personal details
Born(1914-05-25)25 May 1914
Died7 December 2000(2000-12-07) (aged 86)
Political partyConservative
RelationsJames Atkin, Baron Atkin (grandfather)
ChildrenCharles Low, 2nd Baron Aldington
Alma materNew College, Oxford
OccupationBusinessman, politician, and Army officer
Civilian awardsKnight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George
Military service
AllegianceUnited Kingdom
Service/branchBritish Army
Battles/warsSecond World War
Military awardsCommander of the Order of the British Empire
Distinguished Service Order
Territorial Decoration

Brigadier Toby Austin Richard William Low, 1st Baron Aldington, KCMG, CBE, DSO, TD, PC, DL (25 May 1914 – 7 December 2000), known as Austin Richard William Low until he added 'Toby' as a forename by deed poll on 10 July 1957,[1] was a British Conservative Party politician and businessman.

He was however best known for his alleged role in Operation Keelhaul, the forced repatriation of Russian, Ukrainian and other prisoners of war to the Soviet Union where many were executed. After he was accused of war crimes, he successfully sued his accusers for libel.[2]


He was the son of Colonel Stuart Low, who died in action in 1942, and Lucy Atkin, daughter of the Lord Atkin. He was educated at Winchester College[2] (where he later became Warden, i.e. chairman of the governing body), and at New College, Oxford where he studied law. He qualified as a barrister in 1939.[2]

He had joined the Rangers (King's Royal Rifle Corps), a famous London Territorial Infantry Regiment, in 1934 and served in World War II in Greece, Crete, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Italy and Austria, becoming the youngest Brigadier in the British Army in 1944. He was appointed to the Distinguished Service Order in 1941, made a Commander of the Legion of Merit (US) and awarded the Croix de Guerre.[2]

Low stood for Parliament as a Conservative in the 1945 general election, and won the seat of Blackpool North.[2] He served as Parliamentary Secretary at the Ministry of Supply 1951–54 and Minister of State at the Board of Trade from 1954, becoming a Privy Counsellor.[2]

In 1957, he was knighted and became chair of the Select Committee on nationalised industry. In 1959, he became deputy Conservative Party chairman. In 1962 he was created Baron Aldington, of Bispham in the County Borough of Blackpool, and increased his business interests, serving as the chairman of several companies. He had been a director of the Grindlay family banking company, Grindlays Bank, in 1946, following his father and grandfather.

In 1964, Lord Aldington became Chairman of the bank as well as of GEC.[2] In 1971, he joined the BBC general advisory council, and became chairman of Sun-Alliance and the Port of London Authority.[2] In 1972, he became co-chairman, with Jack Jones, of the joint special committee on the ports industry. He became chairman of Westland in 1977.

Lord Aldington was considered a One Nation Conservative and supported British involvement in the European Union. He continued political activities in the House of Lords, including as chairman of the Lords' select committee on overseas trade. He was also a Deputy Lieutenant of Kent.

In 1999, when hereditary peers were excluded from the House of Lords by the House of Lords Act 1999, as a hereditary peer of first creation he was granted a life peerage as Baron Low, of Bispham in the County of Lancashire, so that he could remain.[3]


Aldington married (Felicité Ann) Araminta MacMichael (d.2012) (a daughter of Sir Harold MacMichael) on 10 April 1947. They had two daughters, Priscilla Jane Stephanie, Lady Roberts, Lucy Ann Anthea, and a son, Charles Low, 2nd Baron Aldington.[2]

Lady Aldington was Patron of the Jacob Sheep Society.[4]

Libel case[edit]

In 1989 Lord Aldington initiated and won a record £1.5 million (plus £500,000 costs) in a libel case against Nikolai Tolstoy and Nigel Watts, who had accused him of war crimes in Austria during his involvement in the Betrayal of the Cossacks at Lienz, part of Operation Keelhaul at the end of the Second World War.[2] Tolstoy had written several books (Victims of Yalta in 1977, Stalin's Secret War in 1981, The Minister and the Massacres in 1986) about the alleged complicity of British politicians and officers with Stalin's forces in the murder of White Russian exiles from Soviet Rule, Cossacks, Croatian paramilitaries and collaborationist fugitives from Tito, as well as 11,000 Slovenian anticommunist fighters.[5]

Nigel Watts, who was in a business dispute with one of Lord Aldington's former companies, used this information to further his own cause, printing 10,000 leaflets about Aldington's role in the matter and circulating them to politicians and other figures.[6] Tolstoy avoided paying the damages by declaring himself bankrupt,[6] although after Aldington's death he paid £57,000 in costs to Aldington's estate.[7]

The damages awarded were criticised by the European Court of Human Rights in July 1995 as excessive and "not necessary in a democratic society", although this did not overturn the ruling itself or affect the amount to be paid out.[8]

Subsequently, allegations were made that Aldington had been materially assisted by friends at the Ministry of Defence, who had suppressed crucial documentation, but Tolstoy and Watts were not granted leave to appeal on the basis of those findings.[9] Nigel Watts was jailed for 18 months in April 1995, after repeating the libel that Aldington was a war criminal in a pamphlet.[6]

In 1996 the Court of Appeal upheld an order Aldington had obtained that made lawyers acting for Tolstoy pro bono parties to the case, and thereby jointly liable with Tolstoy for any costs or damages awarded to Aldington. This order was combined with a requirement that Tolstoy underwrite the cost of Aldington's defence to obtain leave to appeal.[10]


  1. ^ "No. 41128". The London Gazette. 16 July 1957. p. 4265.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Lord Aldington (obituary)". The Telegraph. 8 December 2000. Retrieved 16 January 2015.
  3. ^ "No. 55672". The London Gazette. 19 November 1999. p. 12349.
  4. ^ "Lady Aldington". Jacob Sheep Society.
  5. ^ "The Story of forced repatriation of Slovenes After World War II" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2 April 2012.
  6. ^ a b c "Lord Aldington". The Guardian. London. 9 December 2000. Retrieved 25 May 2010.
  7. ^ Alleyne, Richard (9 December 2000). "Tolstoy pays £57,000 to Aldington's estate". The Telegraph.
  8. ^ "Modern Tort Law 6/e".
  9. ^ Guttenplan, David (2002). The Holocaust on Trial: History, Justice and the David Irving Libel Case. London: Granta. pp. 269–71. ISBN 1-86207-486-0.
  10. ^ "Floods of Queensferry Ltd v Shand Construction Ltd (YAWS version 34.1)". 21 February 2004. Archived from the original on 28 January 2002. Retrieved 25 April 2018.

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
New constituency Member of Parliament for Blackpool North
Succeeded by
Norman Miscampbell
Peerage of the United Kingdom
New title Baron Aldington
Succeeded by
Charles Low