Viscountess Dorothy Downe - Yorkshire County Commander

Born in 1876, Lady Downe was Lady in Waiting to Queen Mary, wife of King George V, and County Commander of North Riding Yorkshire County Command of British Fascists!

She went to a number of meetings in Yorkshire, at one of which, the Scarborough Evening News 8/12/1927 reported: 'Lady Downe, County Commander of the Women's Units of the British Fascists, presented prizes.' A true patriot, she later joined the BUF. 
The fascist goddaughter of the late king, George V, was not interned in wartime Britain, because arresting too many aristocrats might give the public the "wrong idea" of enemy importance, according to British Security Service files. Just-released MI5 documents show Dowager Viscountess Dorothy Downe, also described as "still a protegee of Queen Mary", had her mail intercepted at her Norfolk seat of Hillington, near Sandring-ham, and was noted as a "most fanatical admirer of Hitler".

But the high-profile British Union of Fascists official escaped the fate of fellow aristocrats such as Sir Oswald and Lady Diana Mosley - despite a covert attempt to get herself locked up.

A 1940 letter to the Times by lawyer, Oswald Hickson, which MI5 believed to have been sent with the approval of the Dowager Viscountess, asked why the British Union parliamentary candidate had not been interned, unlike other supporters?

The file records that Lady Downe, who apparently was at a lunch at the Criterion in London's Piccadilly attended by BU leader Mosley, was said to have "for some time almost entirely supported the National Fascists out of her own pocket". 

However, a missive to Sir Alexander Maxwell, then Permanent Under Secretary of State at the Home Office, in September 1940 states the department's reasons, despite her being "undoubtedly" a BU official.

MI5 believed she was not playing an active part in the organisation of the movement, and was not concerned in spreading pro-Nazi propaganda. She had told Norfolk police of her disgust at Germany's invasion of Norway, Holland and Belgium, and had taken down her photographs of Hitler.

The anonymous writer added it was thought she had joined the BU because of a fear of communism, and there were "indications" she was anxious to become a martyr.

However, it was "also considered that the internment of a person of Lady Downe's social standing might give the public a wrong impression of the importance of the British Union.

"This consideration would of course have carried no weight if Lady Downe had really occupied a vital position in the British Union organisation."

This opinion tallied with a minute from May 1940, which notes "if too many titled people are arrested the public might get the wrong idea as to the importance of the Fifth Column in this country".

And a November 1940 entry in the heavily-weeded MI5 file, released today at the National Archives in Kew, went rather farther in its assessment of Lady Downe: that although she would like to put herself in the position of a martyr "we regard her as a rather stupid old woman and we have been unwilling to gratify her desires in this respect".

An interview with Dersingham police's superintendent was reported in a letter to the officer's chief constable in May 1940, in which he states: "There is no doubt that Her Ladyship is an ardent and unrepentant Fascist, which she avers is quite possible without the slightest disloyalty to this country' rather did she regard Fascism as the most definite sign of Britain for the British."

She told him things were done much more "efficiently" in Germany and Italy, but it was "laughable" fascists were disloyal to the country.

However, a letter the following day to the officer seems to indicate the Lady Downe's political sentiments were changing.

She was "very sore and angry that people should think that I should ever be a traitor to my own country", and should an enemy parachutist come to see help from her, she wrote she intended to notify officers by telephone using a code relating to her.

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