Torquay: Charles Rosdew Burn – Tory MP and Fascist (1910-1923)

British Fascisti – Charles Rosdew Burn (far right)

Torquay’s Past MPs: Charles Rosdew Burn- Conservative and Fascist

An individual does not have to be a formal member of a far-right political group to sympathise or hold that group’s ideals and aspirations. Many conservatives, for instance, quite naturally hold racist and anti-working class opinions as a matter of upbringing and education. Many of the key ideological elements of British Conservatism can be found within British fascist and neo-Nazi movements. With the rise to political power of fascism in Italy in 1922, and Hitler’s Nazism in 1933, many in the British Establishment looked with favour upon these regimes, as a single leader (despite abolishing the procedures relating to liberal democracy), was able to successfully control and subjugate what was widely considered to be the unruly working class, and prevent any genuine Socialist Revolutions. Although Mussolini is generally accredited with the invention of fascism, Adolf Hitler certainly contributed to this anti-Socialist and anti-working class ideology of enforced control and hateful rhetoric. The Italian word ‘fascisti’, by way of example, refers to a single great man holding up a ‘flaming torch’, the light from which is seen by all, and used to illuminate the correct path humanity is to follow. The problem is that ALL notions of democracy and equality must be abandoned, as only the ‘great leader’ (which is always a ‘man’) truly understands the direction that is to be taken. Any disagreement or diversion from this divine path (fascism in its Italian form closely associated itself with Roman Catholicism and the enactment of god’s will on earth), is declared illegal and an act of treason worthy of the death sentence. Hitler extended these notions to include non-Christian spirituality, and the need to eradicate any and all inferior races, creeds and political opinions (with Marxism and Bolshevism being defined as public enemies number one). Although it is true that Mussolini’s fascist troops did carry out murders, rapes and other battlefield atrocities, Hitler’s regime distinguished itself with the Holocaust (11 million civilians killed), and the barbaric invasion of the Soviet Union (with 27-40 million combined military and civilian deaths).


Winston Churchill was a well-known admirer certainly of Adolf Hitler during the mid to late 1930’s, as were many members of the British royal family (there is a photograph of Princess Elizabeth (and others) performing the Hitlerite straight armed salute as a seven-year-old in 1933, as there is of King Edward VIII reviewing Hitler’s SS Troops in 1937). Such mainstream newspapers as the Guardian choose to ignore the social and political implications of these anti-working class sentiments, and align their reporting with the buffoonery of the middle and upper classes in the UK, by laughingly stating that the British royals (and other prominent figures) only supported fascism (and Nazism) because they ‘cared’ deeply about the plight of the unemployed! Yes, it certainly can be argued that the fascist regimes solved unemployment, but how was this achieved? By mass conscription into armed forces used to invade and devastate other countries (in the case of Italy), and the mass deportation of the unemployed to ‘Concentration camps’ (in the case of Nazi Germany) where they were forced into slave-labour before being conscripted into the German armed forces (Hitler also had 800,000 ethnic Germans executed for resisting his regime). The fascist and Nazi answer to unemployment was not to grant the workers more rights, better pay and improved working conditions (the tenants of basic Socialism), but rather ethnic cleansing, forced labour and genocide!


Charles Rosdew Burn (1859-1930) was known from 1923 as Colonel Sir Charles Rosdew Forbes-Leith, 1st Baronet. As something of a bounder, he had married a woman with a title in her family and changed his name upon the inheritance of that title (due to there being no further male heirs). Charles Rosdew Burn was one of the first members of the movement known in the UK as the ‘British Fascisti’, which was founded in 1923, and is considered the first British fascist movement (premised upon Mussolini’s fascism in Italy). Its British fascist ideology was defined as ultra-royalism, social conservatism and anti-socialism. The British Fascisti movement received its financial backing from Nesta Helen Webster (anti-Communist conspiracy theorist and author), Patrick James Boyle – 8th Earl of Glasgow, George William James Chandos Brudenell-Bruce – 6th Marquess of Ailesbury, Lord Ernest Hamilton (Conservative MP – 1885-1892),  Lieutenant Colonel Edward Southwell Russell, 26th Baron de Clifford, OBE (Sat in the House of Lords) and Sir Arthur Henry Hardinge (senior British diplomat).

Emblem of British Fascisti

What is often played-down in its history is that the ‘British Fascisti’ was itself a breakaway movement from the Conservative Party, and represents the natural racism and totalitarian instincts of those who considered themselves ‘Tory’. In this regard, many other prominent British figures passed through its ranks such as William Joyce (aka ‘Lord Haw-Haw), Neil Francis Hawkins (later a prominent member of the British Union of Fascists and still active in rightwing politics after WWII), Maxwell Knight (aka ‘Charles Henry Maxwell Knight OBE’, the role model for the character known as ‘M’ in the James Bond novels), and Arnold Leese (expert veterinary surgeon and anti-Semite), etc. The British Fascisti were active in UK politics until being dissolved in 1934 (being absorbed into the British Union of Fascists thereafter), and was very much viewed as the cutting-edge of Tory racist and anti-working class ideology. However, the founding of the ‘British Union of Fascism’ (BUF) in 1932 (allied directly to Hitler’s Nazi Party) proved more attractive to the British Establishment and those ignorant workers who lacked any genuine class consciousness. The British working class, however, as a whole supported Marxist or ‘Marxist-Leninist’) movements presented as ‘Socialist’ or ‘Labour’ inspired initiatives (generally linked to the trade unions). This culminated in around 10,000 members of the BUF attempting to march (with police protection) through the East End of London (apparently in an attempt to claim the area ‘for Hitler’), clashing with – and being defeated by – 200,000 British workers carrying Red Flags in what has become known as the ‘Battle of Cable Street’ (in 1936).


Within Matthew Collins’ 2011 book entitled ‘Hate’, Torquay is described as a bedrock of fascistic and neo-Nazi sympathy – a place where far-right British activists are sent for their holidays and guaranteed a warm welcome. It is ironic that Torquay should be so riddled with far-right sentiment as in the 1920’s the area was associated with spirituality, progressive thinking and art. Charles Rosdew Burn represented Torquay as Tory MP from 1910-1923 – before being unseated by the Liberal Party. He joined the British Fascisti on its formation in 1923 and sat on its 9 man Grand Council. He was also a member of the National Citizens Union, a rightwing pressure group. As the 1923 General Election was held on the 6th of December, it is logical to assume that Charles Rosdew Burn was simultaneously a serving Tory MP for Torquay as well as a declared fascist. This is not surprising as records suggest that the Conservative Party often invited uniformed fascists to act as guards of honour at various important social and political engagements. Indeed, the association between extreme and far-right politics and the Conservative Party is confirmed. Although only a speculation, it could be claimed that as the political views of Charles Rosdew Burn lurched ever further to the right, he was ultimately ‘rejected’ at the ballot box by the voting people of Torquay.

Rotha Lintorn-Orman (1895-1935)

The British Fascisti movement was the culmination of the tireless efforts of Rotha Beryl Lintorn Lintorn-Orman (1895-1935), who after triggering the founding of the Girl Guides in 1909, after demanding to join (the then all-male Scouts), and serving in the Woman’s Volunteer Reserves (with distinction) during WWI, was alarmed at the rise of the Labour Party in the early 1920’s. After also serving as the head of the British Red Cross she decided to form an anti-working class organisation in the UK united around the core principle of anti-(Marxist-Leninist) Communism. This is why (in 1923) she founded the British Fascisti movement. She would die one year after its absorption into the British Union of Fascists in 1934. She died in disgrace (in 1935) after stories of her drug and alcohol fuelled sex-orgies became common-knowledge.  Rotha Beryl Lintorn Lintorn-Orman represents a long history in fascist politics of female participation (including Margaret Thatcher), which sees women not being freed from patriarchy but rather conforming to its strictures to an extreme degree. For a woman to get anywhere within the fascist movement, she must look, dress and act like a man and support all patriarchy and other conservative anti-Socialist ideals.



One comment

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s