Wednesday, December 20, 2017

The British Free Corps

Landing Craft, Omaha Beach, Normandy  I  love watching the reruns of Foyle's War, a wonderful series from the BBC that lasted something like 8 or 9 seasons.  In one of the later seasons, there was an episode involving a young man accused of being a member of the British Free Corps. 

Due to this reference, I investigated the group and learned something about World War II, I'd never known before.

The British Free Corps, originally known as the British Legion of St. George, was the brain child of John Amery, the son of the Minister to India. 

This young man wandered around Europe.  John felt the world faced  Jewish/Russian plot to overthrow western civilization and made his views known.  The Nazis heard about it and invited him to Berlin to become part of the propaganda machine because they felt it would look good to have the son of a British Minister supporting the Nazi cause.

John arrived in 1942 and promptly began broadcasting on the New British Broadcasting Station providing support for the Nazis.  Shortly there after, he was sent to Paris to recruit pro-Nazi Frenchmen to fight in the Foreign Legion to fight with the SS but only a few people joined.  So he proposed starting the British Legion of St. George to be filled with British citizens recruited from the prisoners of war.

He offered them immediate release if they joined but he had little success this time.  Only one person took him up on his offer, so the Nazis recalled him to Berlin. The Nazis became more involved in recruiting and by mid 1943, the Legion had recruited 12 men.

 In late 1943, they renamed it the British Free Corps and provided a gray uniform similar to the one worn by the Waffen - SS but with the Union Jack on one sleeve, a collar patch of three lions or three leopards and a cuff with ‘Britische Freikorps’ on it.  To make it more attractive, they created two "Holiday" camps with English speaking guards who helped gather information from these men. 

Many of those who joined, did so because they sympathized with the Nazi cause, or they were fascists,  or because they'd been promised food, clothing, and women. Although 59 men served at various times, there were never more than 27 in the unit at any one time.  By 1944, when the British began invading, members of the British Free Corps refused to fight their own, because when they joined they believed they would be fighting the Russians to prevent the spread of communism and not fighting the British. The Nazis sent them to the Russian Front but they never actually saw much action.

At the end of the war, men who fought in the British Free Corps were arrested.  Some were released while others received a prison sentence.   However, John Amery was arrested, tried, and hung because it was felt he made a conscientious decision to aid the Nazis and was guilty of treason. 

I hope you enjoyed reading a taste of history on this unit.  I had fun writing it. 

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