Arnold Leese

Arnold Spencer Leese (16 November 1878 – 18 January 1956) was a British fascist politician. Leese was initially prominent as a veterinary expert on camels. A virulent anti-Semite, he led his own fascist movement, the Imperial Fascist League, and was a prolific author and publisher of polemics both before and after the Second World War.

Arnold Spencer Leese
Arnold Leese.jpg
Leese at an unspecified date
Arnold Spencer Leese

16 November 1878
Lytham St Annes, Lancashire, England
Died18 January 1956 (aged 77)
London, England
Alma materGiggleswick School
Known forAnti-Semitic writer and activist
Notable workA Treatise on the One-Humped Camel in Health and in Disease (1927), My Irrelevant Defence (1938), Out of Step: Events in the Two Lives of an Anti-Jewish Camel Doctor (1951)
Political partyBritish Fascists
Imperial Fascist League

Early life and educationEdit

Leese was born on 16 November 1878 in Lytham St Annes, Lancashire, England, the son of Spencer Leese, a manufacturer and artist.[1] He was a nephew of Sir Joseph Francis Leese, 1st Baronet (1845–1914),[2] and a second cousin of Sir Oliver Leese, 3rd Baronet (1894–1978).[1]

Leese was educated at Giggleswick School.[3][4] An only child, his childhood was characterised by loneliness.[5] The death of his father in 1894 left the family in financial difficulties, forcing Leese to leave boarding school. He nonetheless attended the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons thanks to the financial help of his grandfather.[1]

Veterinary careerEdit

After graduating in 1903, Leese first worked as an equine clinician in London, then accepted a post at the Civil Veterinary Department in India in 1907, where he became an expert on the camel.[6][1] He worked in India for six years, largely along the North-West Frontier, then was transferred to Italian Somaliland to work for the East Africa Government's veterinary department,[1][7] where he was posted at the outbreak of the First World War in 1914.[1]

Leese was recognised as a leading authority on the camel and published several articles on this animal and its maladies, the first appearing in The Journal of Tropical Veterinary Science in 1909.[5][7] A camel parasite, Thelazia leesei was named after him by Louis-Joseph Alcide Railliet in 1910.[8] In 1927, he published A Treatise on the One-Humped Camel in Health and in Disease, which would remain a standard work in India for fifty years.[7]

During the First World War, Leese was commissioned in the Royal Army Veterinary Corps,[9] then served as a Camel Purchase Officer to the Somaliland Remount Commission with the Camel Corps, and in France on the Western Front as a Veterinary Officer for the Advanced Horse Transport Depot. During the war, he married May Winifred King, the daughter of his former landlord. Leese returned to England and settled in Stamford, Lincolnshire, practising as a vet until retirement in June 1928.[1]

Fascist activistEdit

In the early 1920s, Leese became interested in Italian Fascism and developed a fascination for the Italian Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. In April 1923 he wrote a short pamphlet, Fascism for Old England, praising the Duce and highlighting the "significance of fascism for Britain". He joined the British Fascists (BF) soon after its creation in May 1923, establishing his own branch in Stamford in March 1924, which soon gained 80 members. Leese despised however the BF policy of allowing former socialists and Jews in the party, contending that it was "honeycombed" with communist infiltrators. He further wrote that the BF "did not understand Fascism at all", the true nature of which was to Leese a "revolt against democracy and a return to statesmanship".[1] An animal lover, he also claimed that the style of slaughter practised in Judaism influenced his anti-semitism.[10]

Leese joined the Centre International d'Études sur le Fascisme (CINEF), an international 'think tank' based in Switzerland whose aim was the promotion of fascism, and served as its British correspondent.[11] He also became close to one of his neighbours, the economist Arthur Kitson, a member of The Britons. Their friendship lasted until Kitson's death in 1937. The latter persuaded Leese that control of money was the key to power and that money was ultimately controlled by the Jews. Kitson supplied him with a copy of the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, on which Leese wrote, "Everything in this little book rang true, I simply could not put it down until I had finished it." Leese also revered The Britons' founder Henry Hamilton Beamish as an anti-Jewish "pioneer".[1] In 1924, he was elected a councillor to Stamford Town Council along with fellow fascist Harry Simpson, becoming the first elected fascist councillors in Britain.[11][1] The British Fascists had generally chosen not to intervene in "the despised democratic system",[12] and Leese's own contempt for democracy seems to have been paradoxically reinforced by the election. He wrote, "Many people I knew voted for me because I had cured their pigs or pets and without the slightest idea what I stood for".[1]

Leese was generally unsatisfied with the policies of the British Fascists, dismissing them as "conservatism with knobs on".[13] In 1925, he and Simpson joined a splinter group of the BF, the National Fascisti (NF), renamed in July 1926 the British National Fascists (BNF). Leese took the Stamford BF branch over to the BNF and, following the collapse of the BNF in May 1927, founded the 'Fascist League' from the remnants of the Stamford BNF. In October 1927, he stepped down as a councillor after having served a single term, and retired in June 1928, at 50, before moving to Guildford, Surrey.[1]

Imperial Fascist LeagueEdit

Emblem of the Imperial Fascist League, founded and headed by Leese from 1929 to 1939

In 1929, Leese established his own organization, the Imperial Fascist League (IFL).[14] The movement was initially modelled more along the lines of Italian fascism but, under the influence of Henry Hamilton Beamish, it began to focus on anti-semitism.[14] The IFL and its extensive publishing interests were funded out of Leese's own pocket.[5] In 1932, Oswald Mosley approached Leese with the aim of absorbing the IFL into his own British Union of Fascists. Although relations between the two men were initially cordial (Leese had addressed a New Party meeting on 27 April 1932 on the theme of "The Blindness of British Politics under the Jew Money-Power" that was chaired by Mosley),[15] Leese soon attacked Mosley for his failure to deal with the "Jewish question", and he eventually labelled Mosley's group "kosher fascists".[16]

Leese's anti-semitism had become his defining political characteristic by that point and it came to take on an increasingly conspiratorial and hysterical tone. This increased after Leese visited Germany and met Julius Streicher, and he subsequently remodelled the IFL newspaper The Fascist along the lines of Der Stürmer.[17] His anti-semitism took on the theme of the Aryan race as the creator of civilisation and culture and he claimed that the Aryan was in a permanent struggle with the Jew, the outcome of which would determine the future completely.[18] His views, which extended to proposing as early as 1935 the mass murder of Jews by the use of gas chambers,[19] earned him a prison sentence in 1936 when he was charged along with fellow IFL member, printer Walter Whitehead, on six counts related to two articles published in the July issue of The Fascist entitled "Jewish Ritual Murder", which later appeared as a pamphlet. He was convicted and jailed for six months in lieu of a fine for causing a public mischief.[20] On his release, he edited another pamphlet entitled My Irrelevant Defence, a lengthy work in defence of his earlier claim that Jewish Passover celebrations included the sacrifice of Christian children.[21] He also used materials distributed by the Welt-Dienst news service headed by Ulrich Fleischhauer and wrote for it.[citation needed]

Second World WarEdit

He was one of the last leaders of the fascist movement to be interned in the United Kingdom at the beginning of the Second World War 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 he reacted with bitter anger when an internment order was issued for him in June 1940.[22] Having set up a series of hideouts from which he published several pamphlets that were critical of the war, he evaded capture until 9 November 1940.[23] Still enraged by what he saw as a slur on his patriotism, Leese violently resisted arrest and smashed up his holding cell.[22] Leese saw the war as a "Jew's War" but he strongly repudiated the Hitler-Stalin Pact and castigated the Nazis for their invasion of Norway.[24] (Leese labelled his political creed "Racial Fascism" because he disliked the term "National Socialism" which was used by the Nazis, although he and other members of the IFL supported Nazi anti-semitism). He was released from detention in 1944 on health grounds following a major operation.[25]

At the close of the War, he offered to testify at William Joyce's trial. Along with Beamish he was prepared to give evidence on the "Jewish issue" at Nuremberg in defence of the Nazis.[26] Leese described the Nuremberg Trials as a "Jewish and Masonic affair, like the procedure in this country under '18.B'; it is an act of Revenge".[27]

Post-war activityEdit

Soon after the end of the Second World War, Leese set up his own "Jewish Information Bureau" and began publishing his own journal, Gothic Ripples, which was largely concerned with attacking the Jews.[25] He believed that there were 2.5m Jews in Britain at the time, seven times the actual number.[27] The magazine also contained a strongly anti-black racist bent, with a regular column entitled "Nigger Notes" appearing.[28] Gothic Ripples was an early proponent of what would come to be known as Holocaust denial, noting in 1953 that "The fable of the slaughter of six million Jews by Hitler has never been tackled by Gothic Ripples because we take the view that we would have liked Hitler even better if the figure had been larger; we are so 'obsessed with anti-semitism' that we believe that as long as the destruction was done in a humane manner, it was to the advantage of everyone ... if it had been true. However, it wasn't".[29]

Leese 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,[25] who had been members of the Waffen SS.[30] In 1948, Leese formed the National Workers Movement in London.[31] In December 1950 he stood trial for criminal libel on Harold Scott, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, but was acquitted. In 1951, he published his autobiography Out of Step: Events in the Two Lives of an Anti-Jewish Camel Doctor.

Leese acted as mentor to Colin Jordan and John Tyndall, the "most significant figures on the extreme right since the 1960s".[29] After his death, his widow, May Winifred Leese (died 1974), helped fund far-right groups. His London house, 74 Princedale Road, Holland Park, was left to Jordan, and became known as 'Arnold Leese House'. The property became Jordan's base of operations,[32] housing the White Defence League, the National Socialist Movement and other far-right operations.[citation needed]

Leese died 18 January 1956, aged 77.[33]


  • Our Jewish Aristocracy. London: Imperial Fascist League, 1936. OCLC 3595498. 18 pages.
  • The Mass Madness of Sept. 1938 and its Jewish Cause. London: Imperial Fascist League, 1938. OCLC 40911990. 15 pages.
  • The Edict of Expulsion of 1290: A catalogue of recorded history surrounding Jewry under Angevin Kings of England, leading up to the Edict of Expulsion by King Edward I (Co-authored with Geoffrey H. Smith). Undated.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Macklin 2020.
  2. ^ Thomas Linehan, British Fascism, 1918-39: Parties, Ideology and Culture, Manchester University Press, 2000, ISBN 0719050243, p. 71
  3. ^ Toczek 2015.
  4. ^ 1891 Census for Giggleswick Grammar School RG12/3493
  5. ^ a b c Thurlow 1987, p. 71.
  6. ^ Griffiths 1983, p. 96.
  7. ^ a b c Pugh 2006, p. 69.
  8. ^ The Journal of Tropical Veterinary Science, January 1910 issue, Volume V, No. 1, page 92
  9. ^ London Gazette Issue 29408 published on the 17 December 1915, page 5
  10. ^ Thurlow 1987, p. 84.
  11. ^ a b Griffiths 1983, p. 97.
  12. ^ Smith, Martin (1998). Stamford Myths and Legends. Paul Watkins Publishing. p. 100. ISBN 1900289148.
  13. ^ Griffiths 1983, p. 86.
  14. ^ a b Griffiths 1983, p. 98.
  15. ^ Robert Skidelsky, Oswald Mosley, Macmillan 1975, p. 291
  16. ^ Griffiths 1983, p. 99.
  17. ^ Benewick 1969, pp. 45–46.
  18. ^ Thurlow 1987, pp. 89–90.
  19. ^ 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
  20. ^ Griffiths 1983, p. 100.
  21. ^ Thurlow 1987, p. 76.
  22. ^ a b Thurlow 1987, p. 169.
  23. ^ Griffiths 1983, p. 370.
  24. ^ Thurlow 1987, p. 170.
  25. ^ a b c Benewick 1969, p. 47.
  26. ^ Leese, Arnold Out of Step; Events in the Two Lives of an Anti-Jewish Camel Doctor p70
  27. ^ a b Hillman 2001, p. 15.
  28. ^ Thurlow 1987, p. 256.
  29. ^ a b Hillman 2001, p. 16.
  30. ^ Walker 1977, p. 27.
  31. ^ "Arnold Leese, Notorious Anti-semite, Organizes New National Workers Party in Britain", Jewish Telegraphic Agency 11/2/1948
  32. ^ Walker 1977, p. 28.
  33. ^ "No. 40706". The London Gazette. 10 February 1956. p. 880.