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New translation, the Magna Carta

British establishment interference with civil liberties during the 20th century

Rule 18B and 18B(1a),
the example of Diana and Oswald Mosley

a briefing document

British establishment interference with civil liberties during the 20th century—the example of Diana and Oswald Mosley is one of a series of documents analysing dysfunctional social, or group, behaviour in modern society. See also Oswald Mosley, Britain's very own national socialist.
sIntrodution - socialism & sociology
The leader speaks. introduction
corrective in view of the usual tripe being published on the death of Diana Mosley
newspaper reporting and honesty
integrity and shallowness


I regard the pre-war appeasement policies (advocated, amongst others, by the Mosleys) as extremely wrong-headed and as a contributory cause of World War Two. However, my main purpose in publishing this document is to present an accurate record of the suspension of civil liberties in the United Kingdom at the beginning of WW2.

The government of the day took those actions in the extremely fraught conditions which had been allowed to develop. How justified they were, you must assess for yourself. You may find an apologia at this web-site with further details.

My interest stems from recent attacks on civil liberties in several advanced countries, in particular the United Kingdom. For much more detail, visit magnacartaplus.org.

The power of the Executive to cast a man into prison without formulating any charge known to the law, and particularly to deny him the judgment of his peers, is in The highest degree odious and is the foundation of all totalitarian government whether Nazi or Communist.

Winston S. Churchillclick to return to the index

site map





Mosley’s voyage to the left
1896 - 1980 Oswald Mosley
1914 -1916 Mosley serves on the Western Front, transfers to the Royal Flying Corps, invalided out in 1916 after a ’plane crash.
1918 Becomes a Tory M.P. for Harrow at the General Election.
1922 The Conservative Party is not radical enough for him, he wins Harrow as an Independent. Two years later, he joins the Labour Party.
1927 Elected to Labour Party’s National Executive Committee (N.E.C.)
1929 Labour win 1929 General Election. Mosley appointed Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. MacDonald rejects his proposals. Mosley resigns from office.
1930 Forms the ‘New Party’.
1932 Meets Mussolini. Forms the British Union of Fascists (probably funded by Mussolini).
1936 Marries Diana Freeman Mitford (divorced from Brian Guinness) in the house of Goebbels, Hitler present. [See Bibliography.]
1939 Mosley gives a two-hour speech during a Fascist meeting at Earl's Court.
1951 “Our aim is Europe a Nation, our faith is European Socialism.” Mosley[1]

Effects of the Emergency Powers Act
28 August 1939 Emergency Powers Act (1939)
22 May 1940 Habeas Corpus Act [2] effectively suspended (being ignored by the courts) with an amendment [Rule 18B [1a] (1a)] to Rule 18B of the Emergency Powers Act (1939). [3]
23 May 1940

Oswald Mosley arrested without charge and interned in Brixton Prison. (At this time, the younger child of Diana and Oswald Mosley, Max, was merely 5 weeks old, while Alexander was 2 years. Diana’s children, and Desmond, from her first marriage were of prep school age, while Mosley’s son, Jonathan, was about 17 years old.)

Lice and bugs infested the wood frames of the beds [at Brixton Prison].
[Mosley, D., p.171]

He became very thin. [Mosley, D., p.184]

29 June 1940

Diana Mosley arrested and put in Holloway prison. Max, age 11 weeks, and Alexander (2 yrs) were sent to relatives.

Diana’s first cell was in a basement, the windows sandbagged up.[Mosley, D., p.176]

“Unlike the Brixton cells, our cells were not infested with vermin, but the whole place was foul beyond words and efforts by the 18B prisoners [4] had only been partially successful. The lavatories were disgusting and there were queues for them.”.
[Mosley, D., p.177]

She would not eat most of the disgusting prison food, and survived mainly on prison bread and Stilton cheese sent by Mosley.

Spring 1941 Husbands and wives imprisoned under Rule 18B allowed to see each other for 30 minutes per fortnight.
  Max (aged about 1 yr) brought for a one hour visit.
November 1941

Oswald Mosley transferred from Brixton Prison to Holloway Prison. The Mosleys were placed with other internees in a ‘house’ that, according to the Mosleys’ eldest son, was more like a deserted cotton mill. [Lovell, p.364]

During his time in prison, Mosley became so ill that a Home Office doctor who examined him said that “if M. got a chill, or influenza, in his present condition he [the doctor] would not answer for the consequences”.[Mosley, D., p.197]

1943 Alexander (4 yrs) and Max (3 yrs) were allowed to stay with their parents in prison for two nights. But the visit was too upsetting to the children so there were no more visits after the second visit.
1943 Diana and Oswald Mosley released from Holloway Prison, to live outside London under house arrest, with no traveling further than seven miles allowed. Travel and association restrictions continued for many more years.click to return to the index

corrective in view of the usual left-wing tripe published on the death of Diana Mosley

“A month after Mosley's detention, she [Diana Mosley, née Mitford] was told to pack a few clothes, hand Max - whom she was breastfeeding - and his brother over to relatives. She entered the filthy dark of Holloway Prison's F-wing, its plumbing fractured by bombing, its food contaminated. Churchill, as prime minister, directed that Diana could bathe daily [...] ”
[Obituary in the Guardian by Veronica Horwell]

  • “I decided, much as I longed to take him, that I must leave him [Max, then 11-weeks old] with Nanny, who would take both babies to Rigwell where they would be as safe as it was possible to be.” [Mosley, D., p.174]
  • The prison plumbing was not damaged until after Diana was a prisoner at Holloway.
    [Mosley, D., p.187]
  • “[...] I knew that it was not possible. There were two degraded bathrooms in the wing, and enough water for four baths; we took it in turns and got a bath roughly once a week.” [Mosley, D., p.188]

These three examples in one small paragraph from an obituary in the Guardian show clearly the typical errors and distortions of truth of left-wing media and apologists. These particular examples are minor in comparison to the libellous fictions published both at the time of the internments of the Mosleys, and today. The obituary continues:

“Churchill granted her request that the Mosleys be imprisoned together in a small house inside Holloway walls. The couple had quiet, clean sex offenders as domestics; [...]” [op. cit.Obituary]

“We were lodged in a house in the prison grounds called the Preventative Detention Block. It was hard by the mighty prison wall and set in what had once been a lawn; this had been dug for victory and contained a few mouldering cabbages. Three other married couples were put there as our stable companions, but two of them were quickly released, and we settled down with Major and Mrs de Laessoe.” November 1941, after 18 months imprisonment. [Mosley, D. p.192]

“Each couple had three cells and the use of a kitchen and bathroom. The men stoked the boiler and grew vegetables in a ‘kitchen garden’.” [Lovell, p. 364]

“We were given our rations raw so that one could make quite eatable food.” [Mosley, D., p.192]

“A favourite newspaper word is ‘suite’; it conveys a vision of glamour and comfort, Noël Coward-like dressing-gowns , lace-encrusted négligés. Therefore our cells were described as a suite.”
[Mosley, D., p.193]

Prison conditions included, and include, privileges such as being allowed out of cells to do ‘jobs’. Thus, other prisoners being “recruited to wash down the stairway and passages” [Lovell, p.364] is not some shocking event. “A wardress and two convicts came to clean the block. [...] You don’t want pilfering so I’m sending sex offenders; they are always clean and honest. One of them [...] told me that she was a bigamist. It had happened by mistake she said and she had been sentenced to nine months.” [Mosley, D., p.195]

Diana Mosley had a sometimes precarious state of health, being very ill on occasional, as was Mosley. Note the way the Guardian obituary characterises the trustees as ‘domestics’ working for the Mosleys, and the holding cells become ‘a small house’.

By this time, most of the other political internees had been released. The prison conditions were originally disgusting (as they were for other prisoners in the enlightened isle but, over time, the disgusting conditions were slowly mitigated).

Diana Mosley’s autobiography may be self-serving, but there is no impression it was deliberately dishonest. Her reports are straight-forward, with very little in the way of self-pity, although there is some resentment at the behaviour of ‘authority’.

“[Diana was] infuriating by her lack of repentance. "But I didn't love Hitler any more than I did Winston. I can't regret it, it was so interesting," she said whenever possible” [op. cit. Obituary]

“Years later, Diana told her stepson Nicholas Mosley that her relationship with Hitler had ruined her life. ‘And’, she added, ‘I think it ruined your father’s’. ” [Lovell, p.322; citing Dalley, p.267]click to return to the index

newspaper reporting and honesty

The Guardian practises selective and inaccurate reporting, I do not regard it as an honest or reliable source. The left-wing continually develops dishonest myths, which they repeat at every opportunity in order to denigrate their bogeys and opponents. The story that the Mosleys had servants (or their own servants) while interned is an example of such a myth.

The Mosleys brought a libel case whilst interned. The libel related mostly to Oswald Mosley. From Daily Mirror [Lovell, p.362] and from The Sunday Pictorial [4 August 1940; J. & C. Guinness, pp.500 – 1] :

“Every morning his paid batman delivers three newspapers to the door of his master's cell. breakfast, dinner and tea arrive by car. Mosley fortifies himself with alternative bottles of red and white wine daily. he calls occasionally for a bottle of champagne. He selects a different smartly cut lounge suit every week. His shirts and silk underwear are laundered in Mayfair.”

The reality according to J. & C. Guinness [p.501]:

“ Bearded and undernourished in his oldest corduroys, locked in his bug-infested cell for 21 hours out of every 24.”

And from Diana:

Mosley had grown a beard “because the shaving arrangements at Brixton were so revolting”.

“I was allowed to visit M. once a week. He always had a list of things he wanted: [...] his oldest and most degraded country clothes.” [Mosley, D., p.171]

“In M.’s next letter after these newspaper stories he said he had had no wine or beer at Brixton and that we should bring a joint action for libel.” [Mosley, D., p.184]

The courts found againstThe Sunday Pictorial and several other ‘news’papers. Whilst at Holloway, Diana Mosley slept under a “shaggy fur coat” that she asked her mother to buy with her share of the damages. [The Mosleys’ bank accounts had been frozen.]

Now, of course, the Guardian and other detractors will no longer be sued for publishing falsehoods because both the Mosleys are ded.

Incidentally, the Mosleys were probably eventually released because of fears Mosley might die in prison and become a martyr.

On the release of the Mosleys, G. B. Shaw commented:

“I think this Mosley panic shameful.... Even if Mosley were in rude health, it was high time to release him with apologies for letting him frighten us into scrapping the Habeas Corpus Act. Mr. Morrison has not justified the outrageous conditions - the gag in Mosley’s mouth and the seven-mile leg-iron. we are still afraid to let Mosley defend himself and having produced the ridiculous situation in which we may buy Hitler’s Mein Kampf in any bookshop in Britain, but may not buy ten lines written by Mosley.”
[Mosley, D., p.198]

Mosley, just before the invasion of the Low Countries and France, issued a statement:

“According to the press, stories concerning the invasion of Britain are being circulated.... In such an event every member of the British Union would be at the disposal of the nation. Every one of us would resist the foreign invader with all that is in us. However rotten the existing government, and however much we detested its policies, we would throw ourselves into the effort of a united nation until the foreigner was driven from our soil. in such a situation no doubt exists concerning the attitude of the British Union.”
[printed on 9 May,1940. Mosley, D., p.168]

By 1943 Mosley’s eldest son Nicholas had joined the Rifle Brigade. [Mosley, D., p.195] Oswald Mosley had also, previously, tried to join his regiment. It is claimed that over 1,000 of Mosley’s Black Shirts were killed in action during World War Two.click to return to the index

integrity and shallowness

Diana refused to lie about her feelings or her impressions at the time. This makes her a more useful source than revisionist historians and those with different axes to grind. It is this quality that makes her a useful source where other merely promote spin.

"This is typical of many people who reject truth in even the most trivial matters if it conflicts with a prejudice. it applies not only to enthusiasts but to some who should know better, including university dons who write 'history'. They are so carried away by their likes and dislikes that they leave the path of truth. It is all of a piece.

“With literary critics who cannot bring themselves to praise a book, even a novel, written by a political opponent. this intellectual dishonesty makes the critics themselves look foolish.” [Mosley, D., p.271]

Of course, Diana was very shallow, but she did have her own standards, traits that pervaded the family including Jessica.[5] Only Nancy [another Mitford sister] had serious depth. As Nancy said after her experiences at Perpignan, helping attending to the needs of the half million or so refugees from the conflict between would-be revolutionaries and dictators in Spain:

“There isn’t a pin to put between the Nazis and Bolshies [...] If one is a Jew one prefers one, and if an aristocrat the other, that’s all as far as I can see. Fiends! [Mitford’s emphasis]
[from a letter in Love from Nancy by Charlotte Mosley (née Marten), p.120. But then Nancy had more intelligence than the rest of the sorry crew.]

Most of the culture of that time was shallow. Nothing much changes, although the generalised political naivety of those times is nowadays much less marked, very few supposedly intelligent people still claim to be Socialists. So I suppose humans do learn, even if at a glacial rate.click to return to the index



Related further reading
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Diana Mosley by Jan Dalley

Jan Dalley
Diana Mosley

2000, Faber and Faber Ltd, 0571203515, pbk,
£7.99 [amazon.co.uk] {advert}

The House of Mitford by J&C Guinness Guinness, J & C
The House of Mitford

1985, Viking Penguin, 0670482153, hbk, $22.95
1987, Penguin USA, 0140101322, pbk, $10.95
[amazon.com] {advert}

The Sisters by Mary S Lovell Lovell, Mary S.
The Sisters

originally published 2001, WW Norton & Co, NY

2003, pbk, 0393324141
$13.27 [amazon.com] {advert} / £10.68 [amazon.co.uk] {advert}

2002, hbk, 0393010430
$20.97 [amazon.com] {advert} / £16.88 [amazon.co.uk] {advert}

all currently available editions published by
W.W. Norton & Company

A Life of Contrasts by Diana Moselry

Mosley, Diana
A Life of Contrasts

1977, Hamish Hamilton, SBN 241 89629 0
out of print

2002, Gibson Square Books Ltd, 1903933080, pbk, £9.50 [amazon.co.uk] {advert}

Love from Nancey: Nancy Mitford's letter Mosley, Charlotte (ed.)
Love from Nancy:
the letters of Nancy Mitford

1993, 0340537841, hbk, £25.00
1994, 0340599219, pbk, £7.19
[amazon.co.uk] {advert}

Both editions published by Hodder & Stoughton

In the highest degree odious by AW Brian Simpson A.W. Brian Simpson
In the highest degree odious

1992, Clarendon Press/O.U.P., pbk
ISBN-10: 0198259492
ISBN-13: 978-0198259497

$75.00 [amazon.com] {advert} / £34.95 [amazon.co.uk] {advert}

This book delineates, in excruciating detail, the government and legal development of Rule 18B. It is a reference book for the severely dedicated, not a casual read.

    click to return to the index

end notes

  1. Even after the war, Mosley’s superficial theories and vaunting ambitions remain. Like Napoleon and Hitler, he dreamed of European empire and subservient markets and resource supplies.

    “Ourselves Alone” [Sinn Fein!]
    “With or without American assistance, we Europeans can do it: if necessary with the motto "ourselves alone." Bring two hundred and seventy million people, whose fathers have produced every great invention of the world, into direct contact with the most extensive natural resources of the world which are to be found in Africa. Can anyone deny that the result will be the highest civilisation the world has yet seen; once Europeans have won the will to unite and to act? Yes, it is true that Britain has lost financial resources, man power and all the old means to save herself. But Britain in Europe and with Europe can provide and share with all Europeans more skilled man power and more resources and strength than any of us ever dreamt of having before. United we stand, divided we fall. Workers of Europe unite, you have nothing to lose but - the racket.”
    [From Europe a Nation, Mosley, 1951]

    Along with the usual contradictory and romantic notions of ‘economics’, so beloved within socialism, you may read a sample here if you can stand the turgid shallows. Here is a tedious sample to whet your appetite:

    “4. The method of industrial organisation will be a dynamic pragmatism. We shall experiment, find out what works, change a method quickly if it does not work, and follow success with every energy. We will be bound by no preconceptions or economic shibboleths of the old world. Science has made them all obsolete. We believe the development of new enterprise is best done by an unfettered private enterprise which should not only be free but by every means encouraged. When private enterprise is exhausted and the concern becomes too big for any individual management, we prefer workers' ownership to state ownership or nationalisation. What is begun by a creative individual should finally be continued by a collective individualism of workers who own the enterprise to which they have given their lives, and not by a state bureaucracy without interest or contact with workers or industry.” [Printed in Nation Europa, 1956]

    And here for your amusement are some quotes from other intellectuals of the Socialist Internationale:
    “Socialists should be delighted to find at last a Socialist [Mussolini] who speaks and thinks as responsible rulers do.” [George Bernard Shaw, 1927, cited in Richard Griffiths, Fellow Travellers of the Right: British Enthusiasts for Nazi Germany, 1933-39 (London: Trinity Press, 1980), p. 259]. Allegedly, Shaw helped form the British Union of Fascists [BUF]. The BUF’s manifesto The Corporate State [by Alexander Raven Thomson, the BUF’s chief ‘intellectual’/ideologue], was based “on the Italian Model”, according to the organization’s founder, Sir Oswald Mosley.

    “No rising star in the political firmament ever shone more brightly than Sir Oswald Mosley. Since by general assent he could have become the leader of either the Labour or the Conservative Party. What Mosley so valiantly stood for could have saved this country from the Hungry Thirties and the Second World War.” [Michael Foot, Labour MP ]

  2. Habeas corpus: a writ requiring a person to be brought before a judge or into court, especially to investigate the lawfulness of his or her detention. This right to protection under the law was first brought into English law with the Magna Carta in 1215, article 39. (Etymology, Latin = you must have the body.)

  3. In about May 1940, “Churchill’s new [coalition] National Government decided to arrest and detain enemy aliens, Fascists and Communists, on the grounds that they were a potential security risk, and also for their own safety. During the First World War German nationals had been badly treated by angry British citizens. Accordingly Rule 18B was amended, and under Rule 18B(1a) the government was now empowered to imprison indefinitely, without trial, any member of an organization which, in the Home Secretary’s view, was subject to foreign control, or whose leaders were known to have had association with leaders of enemy governments, or who sympathized with the system of government of enemy powers.”
    [Lovell, pp.323 – 324]

    Defence Regulation 18b providing for administrative arrest had been in force since just before the outbreak of war [in September 1939], but it was not phrased in such a way as to include members of the British Union of Fascists [Oswald Mosley’s political organisation] as such. The government hurriedly widened its scope, and arrested Mosley and a number of others on 23 May 1940.”
    [J. & C. Guinness, p.491]

    The essential text of 18b:
    If the Secretary of State has reasonable cause to believe any person to be of hostile origin or associations or to have been recently concerned in acts prejudicial to the public safety or the defence of the realm or in the preparation or instigation of such acts and that by reason thereof it is necessary to exercise control over him, he may make an order against that person directing that he be detained.

  4. Prisoners held under Regulation Section 18B had the status of prisoners on remand.

    They might wear their own clothes and have parcels and food sent to the prison. Parcels were searched and delayed by “a good dose of spite” [Mosley, D., p.179]. At first, they were allowed to send and to receive two letters a week. This was later increased.

    Prisoners on remand were allowed a bottle of beer or half a bottle of wine a day, if they care to pay for them. Spirits were forbidden. Diana Mosley “ordered some half bottles of port, which were doled out one by one and helped her through many a sad evening [...] ” [Mosley, D., p.184]

    There were no trials for 18B prisoners, since they had committed no offence and could be charged with no crime. However, there was an Advisory Committee which heard each prisoner and advised the Home Secretary as to whether he or she should be released.”[Mosley, D., p.181] Although many other 18B prisoners obtained early releases, this did not happen for either of the Mosleys.

    Because there was no trial, Section 18B prisoners were not sentenced and, therefore, knew no release date.

    Unlike murderers and/or burglars, Section 18B prisoners were not allowed to see their lawyers alone.

  5. The Mitford siblings were
    Nancy 1904 – 1973
    Pamela 1907 – 1994
    Thomas (Tom) 1909 – 1945
    Diana 1910 – 2003
    Unity 1914 – 1948
    Jessica (Decca) 1910 – 1996
    Deborah (Debo) 1920 –

    The Mitfords were allegedly related to Winston Churchill by marriage, through Lady Redesdale and Churchill’s wife, Clementine. There are strong rumours that Clemmie Churchill was born the ‘wrong side of the blanket’. But whatever the truth, and more to the point, the two families tended to treat each other as relations. So Churchill was both sympathetic to Diana (despite her being a major embarrassment) and also a very strong advocate of the rule of law. As a result, he was extremely uncomfortable with Rule 18B and the flouting of habeas corpus. However, Churchill was at the head of a coalition government with the Labour Party. The Labour Party rivalry with the Mosleyites, led by Herbert Morrison’s hatred of Mosley (seasoned by class warfare and political rebel rousing), made releasing Mosley and his top sidekicks politically difficult.click to return to the index

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