Aleister Crowley

What went on in Rottingdean, East Sussex?

What was happening in Rottingdean?

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In the small village of Rottingdean on the East Sussex coast where Lord Robert Boothby grew up (p.50) attending St Aubyns Prep school until 1913/14, aged 13, and to where he sometimes returned, the author of The Dust has Never Settled*, Robin Bryans became a regular visitor during the 1950s to visit Peter Harris, resident at St Dunstan’s, Ovingdean’s  famous residential home for blind veterans. During the war the young Peter Harris was both blinded and completely paralysed and Bryans often used to take him for walks across the downs, describing to him the scenery as they went. Slightly down the coast, Tom Driberg had attended Lancing College where he fell under the spell of Adam Fox and his pagan verses in the hymn book, who later becomes Sub-Dean of Westminster Abbey [p.124]

 *All page references/extracts from The Dust has Never Settled unless stated otherwise

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St Wulfran’s Church, Ovingdean

Aged 16, Robin Bryans first went to St Wulfran’s in 1944 with Father Charlton, prebendary of Chichester Cathedral and Tom Driberg MP, then an Independent MP for Malden, Essex (later Labour MP for Barking 1959-1974 )

“Hidden in its fold of Sussex downland, St Wulfran’s inevitably attracted black magic adherents who believed that the ancient church was built on an even more ancient site of a pagan temple. At first my visit to the church with Tom Driberg and Father Charlton in 1944, I could not possibly have foreseen the reaction of Brighton Corporation to Louis Wilkinson’s reading of the Hymn of Pan at Bear Road crematoriam over the hill or that in 1980 a High Court jury would hear me described not even by Crowley’s title of the Great Beast but as The Devil himself!” [p.119-120]

Rev Thomas Frederick Charlton was not only a prebendary of Chichester Cathedral he was also a favourite of Tom Driberg’s mother and the subject of much envy for Tom, “she liked him and so did I, rather enviously: he had two virile, blond, adolescent boys living with him.’

It was Father Charlton’s idea to engage an actress friend of Enid Bagnold’s to have sex with the paralysed and blind Peter Harris at St Wulfran’s Ovingdean that Bryans helped with. As the Rector at Dallington during this time he came near to St Dunstan’s to attend the ‘Temples of Pan’ which is what Charlton referred to as  a series of smuggling caves used by gay men down at Telscombe Cliff’s nudist beach.



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Harris lived at St Dunstan’s [See Blind Veterans UK on map above] and together he and Bryans would meander down the lane to take shelter in St Wulfran’s porch, doing a crossword together, while ignoring Crowley’s devotees coming into the churchyard to light candles and leave relics.

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Bryans became friends with George Balcombe the organist there [p.141]

The Anglican Archdeacon to the Aegean and Canon to St Paul’s Cathedral in Malta, titled ‘Venerable’ H. John Sharp had ‘taken up’ a young Jack Macnamara when he was a boy. Aged 30, Jack had become a Captain and was killed in 1944 during WWII while still  Conservative MP for Chelmsford Essex since 1935.

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Captain Jack held extreme Right-wing views like Lord Evan Tredegar and Sir Francis Rose, the former lover of Ernst Rohm.

“In 1935 Captain Jack appointed Guy Burgess as his secretary whose main task seems to have been the procurement of young blond boys for the sexual gratification of both Archdeacon Sharp and Captain Macnamara. They took a large party of English schoolboys to the Nuremburg Rally, and others to the Olympic Games in Berlin. The fact-finding missions of the Anglo-German Fellowship were duly related to Geronwy Rees as wild homosexual orgies, and this he later told the spy-book authors.”

Two other people in Bryans’ circle who spent time in Rottingdean were Mary Oliver (who claimed to be the svengali Gurdjieff’s daughter) and Princess ‘Dil’ Dilkusha de Rohan (nee Wrench). Dil, as the daughter of Standard Oil’s owner, had been briefly married to Prince Carlos de Rohan in 1922, a marriage barely consummated due to her new husband’s homosexuality Screen Shot 2015-03-31 at 14.17.08before Carlos had joined Hitler’s ranks early on. Dil had met the ballet dancer Catherine Devilliers (known as Katusha) in Berlin’s Wiemar republic and fallen in love.

Katusha and Dil had been able to live openly together in Berlin during the 1920s where “they knew the sexual preferences of those who ran the German armed forces, and later Dil fed those ‘scabrous details’ to Ellic Howe who organised BBC broadcasts to Hitler’s fighting forces”. [p.310, also Daily Telegraph Obituary  23 October 1999]

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Dil & Katusha at their Sussex home in 1941 – The Tate

Dil de Rohan had attended nearby Rodean as a girl during WWI where her aunt Dolly had a house nearby which she later inherited and so knew the area well and was pleased to be able to return

[See below re use of Rodean during WWII – Evan Tredegar and Robin Bryans leading sailors to get drunk (and drugged) into black masses including Jack Wells who later becomes Reverend at Emmanual Church, West Hampstead where Doggett sets up his first choir]

Ellic Howe knew David Bowes-Lyon, the Queen Mother’s brother, as a colleague at the Political Warfare Executive

See blog post further on the work and location of the Political Warfare Executive and the European Section of the BBC:

Following Captain Jack’s death during the war Archdeacon Sharp

“turned more and more to the black masses, practised in the same way as before, by Jack’s friend Evan Tredegar. In spite of being a Catholic convert for many years as well as a Papal Chamberlain, Evan liked performing his rites in ancient country churches such as St Wulfran’s at Ovingdean. This patron saint had been an early father of the church and because of its foundation in Saxon times the Church had a venerable smell of country churchyard and ancient stone and was dim with fickle light through stained glass.”

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As the first CoE Archdeacon of the Aegean, the Venerable H. John Sharp was also Canon of St Paul’s Cathedral in Valletta, Malta

Guy Burgess had been recommended to Captain Jack Macnamara by Major Ball, the Director of the Conservative Party’s Research.

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Anthony Blunt: His Lives by Miranda Carter









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“Others, however who knew how Father Charlton enjoyed making love to blond adolescents in country churches, did not take this view, especially after Peter paid a visit too many and coincided with the arrival of a coven of Aleister Crowley’s devotees. Was it part of Satanic worship? That question would not be asked in the High Court until Peter was dead.”

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“Driberg knew what Aleister Crowley did in Ovingdean church but Driberg’s friend, Peter Anson had much earlier in 1964 published in Bishops At Large, descriptions of the homosexual clergy in those High Churches so closely associated with the Duke of Newcastle’s family”

[It was around an ancestor of the Newcastles – William of Beckford – that Antony Blunt had spun a cult of gothically-obsessed boy-loving aesthetes that asserted homosexuality was a superior state of being, ever since his first article published in Cambridge’s Venture – see further for Lord Margadale’s family, Sir Peter Morrison’s forebears and their purchase of the estate]

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During 1976 over games of chess down at the local pub [Queen Victoria, Rottingdean] the police asked if Bryans had seen much of Crowley’s black mass people around Ovingdean because “more than usual black chicken feathers and blood had been seen, and the unsolved murder of Keith’s young schoolfriend was still on police record.”

When Rev Michael Butler came to visit Bryans about the police, Bryans “gave him my views about the fact that they had to cope with Father Colin Gill and with George Kinnaird’s sado-masochistic scene.”

A very high Anglo-Catholic devoted to the peculiarly Anglican Our Lady of Walsingham veneration, Father Colin Gill had been the vicar at St Martin’s in Brighton before moving to St Magnus the Martyr at London Bridge in 1960 not far from Father Huddleston’s Royal St Katherine’s at Tower Hill who arrived there in 1968 as Bishop of Stepney.

Father Michael Butler of Ovingdean

Albany Trustee and special Counselling Trustee who moved back to Brighton in 1971/72 during the fuss over the psycho-sexual counselling case files of various important people. See further blog posts:



Robin Bryans also wrote to Rev Michael Butler at Ovingdean about Father Colin Gill’s role in the sado/masochistic scenes “which previously featured in the courts and press”. There was no reply, although the police did visit Ovingdean Church to ask their own questions. Instead Rev Butler’s Bishop – the Bishop of Chichester – Eric Kemp advised Canon Ivor Walters of St Mary’s Parish Church to sue (Ivor’s daughter’s godmother was Princess Elizabeth, QEII because Ivor’s wife had worked with the Princess in the ATS during WWII)  and Bryans received a High Court writ to stop him from sending copies of the letter he sent to Rev Michael Butler to anyone else. By Easter 1977 Bryans had been poisoned and was in a coma; whatever Bryans had written in the letter to Albany Trust’s Rev Michael Butler (Deputy Director of the Samaritans) Labour’s Attorney General Sam Silkin was so keen to suppress a High Court Order was placed on Bryan’s unconscious body, sending him to prison for contempt of court.

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“On 7 April 1941, the Admiralty took over the School from the War Office and Roedean became HMS Vernon, the training school for Torpedoes and Mines and for the electrical branches of the Royal Navy, and home to over 30,000 sailors.

As a result of this time, Roedean is perhaps the only girls’ school in the country to have an Old Boys’ Association.” [Rodean Old Boys’ Association ]

During the war Rodean School had been transformed into the torpedo base HMS Vernon and Lord Evan Tredagar and a 16 year old Robin Bryans had led a dozen young sailors down the hill and through the woods to Ovingdean Church. Lord Tredegar would lace the black mass communion wine with drugs. One of the young sailors was Admiralty ‘boffin’ Jack Wellman who later became the priest at Emmanual Parish Church, West Hampstead, and who wrote books on “his priestly vocation concern occultism while his 33 years as Hampstead vicar might also be described by [Bryans’] my 1944 poem to Evan, ‘in the world yet not of the world.’

In 1964, Doggett set up a choir at Emmanuel Parish Church, West Hampstead; his address at the time was given as SW1 2580 (see advert in The Musical Times, Vol. 105, No. 1451 (Jan 1964), p. 64). The vicar at the church during this period was The Reverend Jack Dover Wellman (The Rev Dr Peter Galloway, ‘A short history and guide to Emmanuel Church West Hampstead’) , who appears to have been an eccentric figure who wrote two books entitled A Priest’s Psychic Diary, with introduction by Richard Baker (London: SPCK, 1977) and A Priest and the Paranormal (Worthing: Churchman, 1988). Wellman also appeared on an edition of the late night Channel 4 programme After Dark, on April 30th, 1988, to discuss the subject ‘Bewitched, Bothered, or Bewildered?’, chaired by Anthony Wilson (see‘After Dark 2′). [see Ian Pace’s blog on Ian Doggett further: ]

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Which actress friend of Enid Bagnold’s? p…

For further information [blog post to come] on Lord Evan Tredegar, royal art adviser to Queen Mary of Teck as Anthony Blunt would advise her granddaughter, please see BBC: Evan Morgan of Tredegar House. Evan was also known as the ‘Black monk’ for his keen interest in Occultism and Crowley (not to mention right-wing politics & the Ernest Rohm, Rudolph Hess, Sir Francis Rose set in Germany in the early 1930s)

In July 1968 a Hampstead Heath park keeper had chanced across a strange scene. A man was being crucified on a cross by another man while a third took photographs. Joseph de Havilland was adamant to the press that he had contacted the Archbishop of Canterbury (Michael Ramsey – for whom the blackmailing Michael De Lay Noy was working as personal press officer between 1967-1970) to announce his intentions.

The Guardian 1 October 1968

The Guardian 1 October 1968

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The Times 15 January 1969

Spokane Daily Chronicle - Nov 18, 1968

Spokane Daily Chronicle – Nov 18, 1968

In autumn 1968  at the same time as Joseph de Havilland was giving evidence against his crucifixion accomplices from Hampstead Heath, Lord Evan Tredegar’s former Roedean participant in the Black Mass down at St Wilfran’s Ovingdean 25 years previously, now the paranormal psychic writing Rev Jack Dover Wellman, vicar of Emmanuel Church in Hampstead was suffering from unwanted intruders. [see Spokane Daily Chronicle above]

Doreen Cordell (Albany Trust’s former counsellor) writing to Peter Righton (Parliament’s best connected paedophile) and Dr Charlotte Wolff (Albany Trustee) on 5th July 1971 had revealed that she had been working with various churches on a growing issue of concern over the course of 9 months: sexuality expressed through religious ceremonies.

During the subsequent court case, Robin Bryans revealed one of the reasons for going through the motions of a Black Mass was because it provided an easy way to drug children to abuse all at once via the Holy Communion cup. Father Colin Gill of St Martin’s, Brighton and St Magnus the Martyr, London Bridge had been the subject of burglaries and attacks of abused boys returning to desecrate the altar according to Bryans.

“Many people besides me have pointed out that gay clergy preach that boys’ bodies are temple of the Holy Ghost, but on consecrated ground they bugger those temples, sometimes drugging the boys before the sex as part of the black mass. Could the boys then be blamed for returning to the scene of their abuse in vicarages and churches in order to steal works of art to pay for their drugs? Clergy such as Father Gill offended many with his disdain for ‘jam rags’ but could hardly complain to the police if his jettisoned boyfriends afterwards put used sanitary towels on Gill’s altar.”

Before the court was the name of a senior Lambeth Palace official who told the press that he wanted the age of sexual intercourse with children to be reduced to 7 years. I was prepared to be termed the Devil if Bishop Kemp and his clergy found it worse for a woman to have sex voluntarily and lovingly with the crippled Peter Harris in Ovingdean Church than for a religious leader such as William McGrath forcibly to bugger boys in care at Belfast’s Kincora Boys’ Home. My quarrel with Attorney General Silkin largely derived from years before when he failed to act on my advice to end the Kincora abuse” [p.482]

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The involvement of Anglican priests and notable laity in the black mass proved useful to my case in the High Court. I could, for example, quote the supposedly-great churchman, Tom Driberg, enthusing over Aleister Crowley’s funeral, ‘He was given a proper occultist’s send-off at the municipal crematorium in Brighton; the service included the recital of his Hymn to Pan; the town council passed a resolution deploring the whole thing and saying it must never happen again.”

“High Churches associated with Adeline de la Feld’s family often became the setting for black masses and it was at Holy Trinity, Sloane Street, that her mother collapsed after unwittingly intruding on gay rites taking place there. But both those High Church founders, Alexander Beresford-Hope and his brother-in-law, Lord Sailsbury, knew perfectly well about the homosexual scandals within the Hope family.”

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Peter Churchill (Viscount of Wychwood)

Also often staying at Rottingdean was Bryans’ friend the former Chief Page to King Edward VII and founder of the Political Research Bureau for the Labour party [p.578]. His father Victor Churchill had been Page of Honour to Queen Victoria  Aged 19, he and his sisters and mother had felt to Morocco from where his mother pressured him into marrying her lover Kathleen Beavan to avoid a scandal. Queen Mary of Teck’s (George V’s wife – current Queen’s grandmother) interest in spiritualist ‘entertainments’ steeply declined when Peter Churchill’s mother (Lady Verena Churchill)’s lover Kathleen Beavan started sending packets of ‘sign-writing’ to Buckingham Palace.

King Edward VIII had been temporal head of the Church of England but not of those bishops at large of the Old English Catholic Church. Although interestingly when he abdicated and married Mrs Simpson it was the Old English Catholic Church that gave the wedding ceremony in June 1937 in Touraine.

[see also cf. Roger Gleaves / Old English Catholic Church and other manifestations]

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Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 16.19.06Lady Frieda Harris (1877 – 1962)

The Chief Liberal Whip’s wife who designed Crowley’s Thoth Tarot cards – Jesus Chutney (aka Lady Frieda Harris 1877 – 1962- wife of the Right Hon. Sir Percy Alfred Harris)

Introduced to Crowley when he is looking for a designer for his Tarot Cards and she throws herself in styling all sorts to come up with a Thelemic / Cards of Thoth pack for him  – great friends from 1937 – 1947 when Crowley dies and she becomes one of his executors of his estate, attending Crowley’s funeral in Brighton which Bryans mentions above.

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A long-term and highly influential Rottingdean resident was Enid Bagnold, a playwright and author of National Velvet and friends with Cecil Beaton letting him lodge rent-free in one of her conjoined houses near St Margaret’s Church, Rottingdean. Robin Bryans’ friend Adeline de la Feld didn’t like the Cecil Beaton circle of friends not on account of their homosexuality (she was related to William Beckford Newcastle around whom Antony Blunt had built up a cult for ‘boy-lovers’ during his time at Trinity while writing on the gothic architecture of Fonthill although Adeline resented claims to superiority of intellect and ability but not to being gay per se) – but due to their right-wing views and anti-Semitism.

Enid Bagnold was married to Sir Roderick Jones b. 1877, d. 1962

In 1920, she married Sir Roderick Jones, Chairman of Reuters, but continued to use her maiden name for her writing. They lived at North End House, Rottingdean, near Brighton (previously the home of Sir Edward Burne-Jones), the garden of which inspired her play, The Chalk Garden.

The couple had four children. Their great-granddaughter is Samantha Cameron, wife of the United Kingdom’s current Prime Minister and Conservative Party leader David Cameron.[4] [Wikipedia Profile]

Sir Roderick was 43 and Enid was 31 when they tied the knot. From 1923 they lived at North End House where they brought up their children.

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Theirs was very much an open marriage with Sir Roderick writing to his wife about his affairs with much younger women, especially those also into the theosophical wanderings of Annie Besant who having once been a reforming force to be reckoned with politically before she’d become engrossed with the occult. Enid was also a fan.

Mary Lutyens (b.1908 – 1999) was 19 years old in 1927. Seven years after Enid and Roderick were married, and while Enid was producing four children, Roderick was having a fling with Mary Lutyens.



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In 1940 Sir Roderick writes Enid his wife a note on their 20th wedding anniversary – he has ‘a new little friend’, not Mary or Lois.

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Enid Bagnold By Anne Sebba

Interestingly during WWII Sir Roderick was forced to resign as Chairman of Reuters over doing a financial deal with the Foreign Office enabling their approval before the appointment of any managers. Sir Roderick’s behaviour over selling out press integrity was the reason behind the establishment of Reuters (now Thomson Reuters) Trust Principles in 1941.

Enid Bagnold - Anna Sebba

Enid Bagnold – Anna Sebba

One such ‘damn grandchild’ of Enid and Sir Roderick’s was Samantha Cameron’s mother!,_Viscountess_Astor (b. 1948)



By 1972 when Enid started fighting with the vicar of St Margaret’s Church she was aged 82 and a registered drug addict, injecting herself with morphia and regretting her enthusiasm for Hitler.

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In 1975, Mary Lutyens now in her late sixties wrote a biography of the man Annie Besant’s Theosophical Society had hailed as their discovered new World Teacher in India in 1909: Krishnamurti, the motherless 13 year old son of the Theosophical Society’s Brahmin clerk who had been an official with the British colonial administration.  Lutyens biography of Krishamurti revealed that three years before Charles Webster Leadbeater and Annie Besant ‘adopted’ him, Leadbeater had already been the subject of two separate allegations of abuse of teenaged boys which had necessitated him leaving the Theosophical Society, only for Besant to accept him back into the fold approximately 6 months before he ‘discovered’ Krishnamurti. By 1915, once Krishnamurti was 20 or so, Leadbeater moved to Australia where he became ordained a Bishop of the Liberal Catholic Church and was initiated into Co-Masonry by James Ingall Wedgwood, Grand Secretary of the Order of Universal CoMasonry and founder of the Liberal Catholic Church.

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6 months after Bryans’ poisoning and recovery from his coma the High Court case continued

5 October 1977: Brighton’s Evening Argus ‘A bitter row that has broken the peace and quiet of Rottingdean came up in the High Court in London yesterday – for the sixth time.” By 1981 there’d been many further hearing – and the many press cuttings lay before the judge and jury.

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“Fortunately for my argument in the High Court I had a tape of Churchwarden Thomas’s allegation about what Prime Minister Harold Wilson was doing in Rottingdean and another tape made by one of Wilson’s Cabinet Ministers on Thomas’s allegations.”











So when the Church of England recently revealed they’d given Enoch Powell’s name to the police, you’ll forgive me for wondering just how detailed an investigation Dame Butler-Sloss managed into the 2011 review of the Diocese of Chichester following her earlier mostly teflon-coated review of the Cleveland Abuse scandal…

and ask whether ‘Satanism’ isn’t sometimes convenient ‘hysteria-fuelling’ short-hand to avoid calling it what Doreen Cordell, counsellor of the Albany Trust knew it to be – non-consensual BDSM abuse of children by people who like a bit of incense with their ceremony and fetishise religious (and maybe sacrilegious) rituals? Imagine the blackmail potential if Michael De La Noy had got wind of her plans for an ecumenical conference….

17 July 2014 12:20

A former sacristan for the Knights of Malta has pleaded guilty to nine sex offences including those against boys as young as 11 he had met in the 1960s and 70s.

Vernon Quaintance, a companion of the Order of Malta, served at the Knights’ regular Mass at the chapel in St John and St Elizabeth Hospital in North London.

On Wednesday this week a court heard that Quaintance, 71, was a paedophile who also ran a pro-circumcision group. Southwark Crown Court heard he accumulated images as recently as 2011.

He was also a leader of the Gilgal Society, a group claiming to promote male circumcision and “its benefits in terms of health, sexual satisfaction and self-image.”

In 2012, he was found guilty of possessing nine hours of child pornography on video tapes. This week he pleaded guilty to five counts of indecency with a child between 1966 and 1976 and four counts of possession of indecent images. An additional count of sexual assault alleged to have taken place in 2011 on a child was left to lie on file.

Judge Anthony Leonard QC adjourned sentencing until September. He said there was a “very real likelihood” of a significant custodial sentence. Quaintance was released on conditional bail, with the requirement to have no unsupervised contact with anyone under 18.

Concerns about Quaintance’s behaviour had come to the attention of members of the Grand Priory, a senior body of knights, who were later found not to have reported the concerns to the relevant authorities. Quaintance had been banned from serving and attending the social club at St Bede’s, Clapham Park, South London.

An inquiry into the matter by Baroness (Julia) Cumberlege found that three of the knights made a catalogue of serious errors in dealing with the concerns. The three later apologised.

Upper Norwood circumcision fetishist jailed  [Croydon Advertiser, July 2014]

The Book the British tried to Ban (One Girl’s War, Joan Miller, 1986)

      One Girl’s War: Joan Miller (Brandon: Co. Kerry) 1986

photo 1 (18) photo 2 (18)

About the Author

The final page of the book states:

Final Page, One Girl's War

Final Page, One Girl’s War

“Shortly after completing this book Joan Miller died at her home in Malta in June 1984”

Joan Miller, author of One Girl’s War, dies aged 68 in June 1984 in Malta having just finished her memoir. But before her daughter can publish through Brandon based in Co. Kerry, Ireland, Brandon will have to fight Sir Michael Havers, as Attorney-General in the High Court in Dublin before being finally allowed to publish in 1986.

Mella Carroll’s legacy as a judge is remarkable for its depth, scope and diversity, Dr Hugh Brady, president of University College, Dublin, cited some of her cases, when she was granted an honorary doctorate in law by her alma mater last year. “In the field of constitutional law she is remembered for her decision in the Attorney General of England and Wales v Brandon Books [1986] IR 597, in which she refused an application by the British government to restrain the publication in Ireland of the memoirs of a former member of the British intelligence service (One Girl’s War by Joan Miller). In reaching this decision the public interest of another state was not allowed to curtail freedom of expression within this jurisdiction.” [ Obituary for Ms Justice Mella Carroll ]

As the back cover states:

“A fascinating memoir from the heart of the world of intelligence operations in war-time Britain, when Joan Miller was personal assistant to Maxwell Knight, Chief of MI5’s B5 (b) Section.

This is the book the British Attorney General tried to stop in the High Court in Dublin, saying that its publication would do irreparable damage to the British Security Service, MI5.”

During 1940, Joan Miller had ended up as Knight’s assistant within B5(b) and when Knight takes a house in Camberley Surrey for de-briefings and his menagerie of animals, Miller is expected to accompany him down there on the weekends. While she is aware as a 21 year old that M is estranged from his wife Lois and that it would be adultery, she is captivated by M’s charisma. However, sex is not really on the cards and as she becomes increasingly mystified as to why, an answer presents itself one Sunday afternoon when M has a visitor.

HC Deb 21 November 1986 vol 105 cc354-5W, Hansard

HC Deb 21 November 1986 vol 105 cc354-5W, Hansard

About the publishers

In not so much a twist of irony, as one of necessity in the search for freedom of speech, Joan Miller’s daughter ended up publishing her mother’s memoir through Brandon Books based in Dingle, County Kerry.

Started in 1981, Brandon Books had already published Gerry Adams memories of growing up in West Belfast Falls Memoirs in 1982, see further for their beginnings and founders in The Oxford History of the Irish Book

 About the ‘irreparable damage to the British Security Service, MI5’

Dark secret life of the original ‘M’: Spymaster who inspired 007’s boss was a closet gay that married three women he never slept with – before reinventing himself as a children’s presenter called Uncle Max (Daily Mail, 13 March 2014)

Miller’s revelations that M was gay and sought out ‘rough trade’ by advertising for motorbike mechanics in Camberley Surrey during 1942 and her suspicion that he may have been being blackmailed before his death in 1968 was to become open knowledge in 1986 if published. Sir Michael Havers, Attorney-General since 1977, overseeing the terms of the Kincora Inquiry, stifling the press from reporting on Elm Guest House had one more year of his tenure to go – a tenure dominated by the Paedophile Information Exchange’s activism, the trial of Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe, the trials of the Birmingham Six and the Guildford Four, all of which he would later attract criticism for. Sadly M would have lived barely a year past the 1967 Sexual Offences Act partially decriminalising homosexuality. Despite attempting to warn various people, Sir Desmond Morton a close friend of his, of Russian agents within MI5 (later in 1963 revealed to be Sir Anthony Blunt and his Apostle chums Burgess, Maclean and Philby),  Maxwell Knight was discredited as paranoid and eventually left MI5 in 1956 to pursue a career as a naturalist radio broadcaster full time.


MAXWELL KNIGHT: Eccentric who was the inspiration for Fleming’s ‘M’

Surely the most eccentric unsung spy was Maxwell Knight, known to his friends as Max or M. Although he did later become well known, it was not as a spymaster. To children growing up in the late Fifties and early Sixties he was Uncle Max, the BBC radio naturalist.

He had always had a passion for fauna; indeed, when he was head of B5(b), an autonomous department within MI5 in the Thirties and Forties, those who worked with him also had to work with his menagerie of animals. He could recite trivia about them endlessly, from the correct method of mounting a llama to the breeding cycle of the laughing hyena. His daily help, Mrs Leather, would complain of the way grass snakes used to flop down the stairs of his flat in Chelsea. He kept them in the bath. He also kept a blue-fronted Amazonian parrot in the kitchen and a Himalayan monkey in the garden. And he was known to have raised a nest of adder eggs in his pyjama pocket. Ian Fleming, who worked in the Department of Naval Intelligence, was fascinated by Knight’s mysterious persona and used him as the model for “M”, James Bond’s boss.

But for all his eccentricity he was an effective spymaster. As early as 1927, the bisexual Knight had been put in charge of infiltrating the Communist Party of Great Britain. To this end he recruited Tom Driberg, the (homosexual) writer and future MP, and ordered him to join the Communist Party while at Oxford. He also infiltrated the British Union of Fascists and developed a rather sinister fascination with the occult which he shared with his friends Dennis Wheatley and Aleister Crowley.

When war broke out he recruited an astrologer as an MI5 agent and sent him to Germany to infiltrate the occult court of Rudolf Hess. The agent is said to have briefed Hess that the Duke of Hamilton was prepared to meet him to act as a peace negotiator between the German government and the British. Hess’s fateful flight to Scotland followed in 1941.

With the war against the Nazis over, Knight became increasingly obsessed with the Soviet Union, specifically with the idea that a communist spy ring had infiltrated MI5. But his colleagues no longer took him seriously – indeed, they ignored the numerous reports he wrote on the subject. Knight was by then regarded as paranoid and unstable and, even though his theory was proved right in 1951 when Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean fled to the Soviet Union, his reputation within the service never recovered. He left MI5 a few years later and embarked upon a successful second career as a naturalist on radio and television. He soon became a household name and was awarded an OBE. In 1967 he published How to Keep an Elephant, a guide to keeping off-beat pets. The following year he wrote a sequel: How to Keep a Gorilla. [Double-O Who? Meet history’s unsung spies, Daily Telegraph,       ]

From Wikipedia:

After World War II, in 1946, Knight, who had since childhood been an ardent naturalist, began what was to become a successful broadcasting career on BBC radio, appearing in and hosting such programmes as Naturalist, Country Questions and Nature Parliament. He appeared occasionally on television in Peter Scott‘s Look and Animal, Vegetable or Mineral and published 34 books and wrote magazine articles.

His broadcast career progressed alongside his MI5 work until 1956, when he retired early, from MI5, on the grounds of ill health, suffering from angina. He died in Midgham,Berkshire from heart failure in 1968. After his death, the Maxwell Knight Memorial Fund was set up and, from the proceeds funded, the Maxwell Knight Young Naturalists’ Library in the education centre of the Natural History Museum.

The Oxford History of the Irish Book p313

The Oxford History of the Irish Book, Volume V: The Irish Book in English …
edited by Clare Hutton, Patrick Walsh, p.313

About the Book

For a much better round-up of the facts of the books see

When WWII is declared 21 year old Joan Miller leaves the cosmetic counters of Elizabeth Arden behind to end up on a bus to Wormwood Scrubs, the temporary home of MI5.  With references from two officers of high standing (one family, one a friend) and the Dame of Sark where she and her family appear to have holidayed frequently Joan gets to work for MI5. At first Joan works for Lord Cottenham of Brooklands racing and the History of Roadcraft fame (Mark Pepys) but she is quickly spotted by M, Maxwell Knight, Chief of B5 (b)

Dolphin Square: A History of a Unique Building, Terry Gourvish, 2013

Dolphin Square: A History of a Unique Building, Terry Gourvish, 2013

At Wormwood Scrubs she also meets…” the excellent Bill Younger, of the brewing family. Bill, slightly deformed from a childhood attack of Polio, was a step-son of Dennis Wheatley and himself the author of some quite incredible poetry.

Bill had been an MI5 agent since his Oxford days, when M had recruited him to check up on some undergraduates propagating a rather noisy brand of pacifism in the wake of the celebrated motion passed as an Oxford Union Debate ‘ this House will in no circumstances fight for King and its Country’. M had become friendly with Dennis Wheatley, whom he met at one of Charles Birkin’s parties in 1937; at this time, in the early part of the war, Wheatley’s wife Joan, stepson and stepdaughter were also employed at Wormwood Scrubs’. [p.18]

















The Wheatley Family: Joan, Dennis & Bill





By 1940 when Joan Miller first makes Dennis Wheatley’s acquaintance, he is 43. The son of a wine merchant, a family business which he had disposed of in the early 30s having turned to writing. He was a curious mix of loyalty to the empire, anti-Nazism and anti-socialism. Married to Joan, who worked in the MI5 Transport section taking over from Miller, his step-son Bill Younger is described my Miller as M’s right-hand man.

“Joan Wheatley like myself, had belonged to MI5 since the outbreak of the war. (She was the mother of my great friend and M’s right hand man, Bill Younger.) Her job which she’d taken over from me was to estimate the amount of petrol necessary for each official journey and to dole it out accordingly.” p.78

“Come along. Dennis, we’ll be late for the Duchess.’ This striking utterance prompted a dry aside from Charles Birkin, another of our guests that weekend: “What Duchess?”

Early in the war Wheatley had applied for a post in the Ministry of Information but receives no reply and M, his friend, doesn’t find him a niche post so he ends up doing a few odd jobs for M until towards the end of 1941 he was made a member of the Joint Planning Staff under the Minister of Defence, an appointment carrying a great deal of prestige.

Wheatley never really likes Joan Miller and makes it apparent.

Miller speaks of M’s interest in the occult and this is indicated by those how he surrounds himself with such as ,Sir Charles Lloyd Birkin, 5th Baronet (24 September 1907 – 1985) the Creeps Library Anthologies editor and horror short story writer who introduced M to Dennis Wheatley in 1937.




A Saturday afternoon in 1942 – Miller discovers M’s secret

“At the beginning of May, when the Wolkoff case was at its height, M sent me off one day to Camberley, in Surrey, to look for a house to rent. The one I eventually took was called ‘Llanfoist’; set well back from the main London road, about a mile and a half outside Camberley, in grounds complete with stables and garages and screened by a row of pine trees, it was ideal for our purposes. M needed the place as a retreat from the stresses of London, as a ‘safe house’ for agents, and as a spot where fellow MI5 officers, joursnalists and so forth could be

Down at the country house in Camberley, Surrey, Joan accompanies M where he places an advert in the local paper asking for assistance from a motorbike mechanic, 3 of which he kept in a garage. A young man turns up one Saturday afternoon and he and M spend several hours in the garage, for M to leave briefly to fetch something from the house, unaware Joan was sitting on a windowseat reading and observes him walk back to the garage it dawns on her she was always only ever destined to be M’s cover, not lover:

“In the middle of yawning and stretching I happened to glance out of the window, in time to see M come up to the house to fetch something. A few minutes later he went out again, and I watched him make his way back towads the barn where the bus driver was standing in the open doorway. M had no idea he was being observed. For the first time he was off guard, and so fell into a posture he must have found pretty natural. I recognised it for what it was, for he had pointed it out to me himself, when we passed a couple of male prostitutes in the street.

As I sat there watching this avowed opponent of homosexuality mince across the lawn, a number of things became clear to me. The first of those was that I had acquired a piece of very dangerous knowledge which I had better keep to myself. M’s disability with regard to performing the sexual act in the ordinary way was now explained. So was the vehemence of his prejudice against homosexuals: it was obviously to safeguard his reputation in the office that he took this stand. Not, I knew, that this need have made his attitude any less genuine, in a sense: it is perfectly possible to disapprove of something and still remain addicted to it.”….

“His tastes obviously inclined him in the direction of what, in a phrase not then current, is known as ‘rough trade’. [p.112]

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Joan, remembering rumours about the demise of M’s first wife is scared to discover she holds a secret about M that would make him very vulnerable to blackmail and she didn’t underestimate his reaction to her having this knowledge:

“I couldn’t help dwelling on the things I knew about M that underlined the ruthless side of his character. I thought of his first wife’s death, an obscure and sinister event as far as my knowledge of it went, ited up with M’s disquieting interest in the occult. There was an unedifying Canadian, I remember, an ex-drug addict and jailbird known to me as Frank, who’d performed some unofficial jobs for M such as getting rid of an unreliable double agent in the middle of the North Sea. It didn’t cheer me to envisage this sort of end for myself. The threat of blackmail must be a constant worry for someone in M’s position; once he realised he’d given himself away, he would have to take steps to destroy in advance the value of any information I might lay against him.” [p.113]

“M after leaving MI5 went on to become a well-known radio naturalist, with a regular slot on the Home Service. Among his later proteges, appropriately enough, was John Le Carre, who under his proper name of David Cornwell, illustrated one or two of M’s works on natural history.”


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 “There is some evidence, which suggests to my mind, that M was being subject to blackmail in the later part of his life. Why else should he have been impoverished to the extent of having to move in with ex-B(5) b colleague Guy Poston and his family? He was never rich, it’s true, but he always had enough to enjoy a way of life that suited him. And why did he opt for the comparative anonymity of radio work, when he’d have made such a splendid television performer? There may be some perfectly innocuous explanation, of course, but I can’t help feeling that one of the risks that he’d taken in his private life might have caught up with him.” [p.154]

M died in 1968 of heart failure in Midgham, Berkshire.

Maxwell Knight

A review of his book Cuckoo by Helen MacDonald for Aeon online provides some glimpses into ‘Uncle Max’ the naturalist on BBC Radio Children’s Hour featuring in the regular “Nature Parliament” series broadcast during the 1950s.


M’s interest in Crowley’s Magick

See further for mention of the Isle of Man hypnotist and Sean Stowell’s book The King’s Psychiatrist which details Dr Alexander Cannon’s treatment of Crowley’s first wife.

“Another unsung hero of World War II is Aleister Crowley provided we accept his claim that MI5 invited him to organise some woodland magic of his own, code-named Operation Mistletoe, in Ashdown Forest. Also rumoured to have been involved are Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond books, and Dennis Wheatley whose novels about magic and witchcraft were immensely popular in the nineteen-fifties and sixties. While undeniable that both men worked for the security services during the war there is no evidence that they participated in such an exercise, reportedly the brain child of Maxwell Knight, Head of Section B5(b). (The selfsame Maxwell Knight was an occasional visitor to the vicarage in Limehouse though his MI5 colleague, the predatory Tom Driberg MP, was less welcome and came only once, a former chum of Crowley’s, he was famously described by Winston Churchill as “the sort of man who gives sodomy a bad name.”)” [Magic without Mirrors, David Conway, p.220-221]

Magic without Mirrors: The Making of a Magician, David Conway

Magic without Mirrors: The Making of a Magician, David Conway

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“There are others which are more telling, though still obscure. His first wife Gladys, I learnt, died in the Overseas Club after some sort of occult misadventure in which the notorious Aleister Crowley was involved – certainly I’d have been unwilling to enquire too deeply into that particular incident. Black magic was not a subject that held any attraction for me. I accepted M’s interest in it, hoping it was purely academic, but for myself, I preferred to leave it well and truly alone: M understood this. When I tore up a photograph of Aleister Crowley which he had kept, as I believed it to be unlucky, he only laughed.” [p.45]



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“M was enigmatic and debonair, qualities I found irresistible, as well as being deeply knowledgeable on a wide variety of subjects. This made him a fascinating companion.  The range of his accomplishments was extraordinary. He’d played the drums in a jazz band at the Hammersmith Palais; and, more impressively, he was equally proficient on the clarinet. He might have made a living as a schoolmaster if he hadn’t found that profession unendurably tame. For a short period he ran a small hotel on Exmoor with his first wife Gladys, at the same time working as a riding instructor. (It was during this time – according to a rumour – that M was suspected of being  a werewolf!) He published a couple of thrillers before the war, Crime Cargo (1934) and Gunmen’s Holiday (1935) both of which I read with some enjoyment though he himself had a low opinion of them. He was a Fellow of the Royal Zoological Society and a keen naturalist. He knew more about the occult than anyone I’ve ever met, including Dennis Wheatley. (Like Wheatley, though a few years later, he’d spent some time as a naval cadet on the training ship Worcester.) He was a crack shot, and also a collector of antique guns. Botany, ornithology and literature were among his enthusiasms. I didn’t acquire all of this information of course – M was never very forthcoming about his own affairs. I think it pleased him to display an air of secrecy; certainly he discouraged questions about the past. The ‘Captain King’ role, dangerous and mysterious, suited him down to the ground. He wore his affectations lightly, though; among his assets was a sense of humour, without which he’d hardly have made such a success of running B5(b).” [pp 44 – 45]



M on Anthony Blunt

M, undaunted, got the paper off to Desmond Morton, Churchill’s private secretary, who was also a personal friend of his, with the plea that it shold be passed on to the Prime Minister.”p. 64

“When the Driberg incident alerted him to the fact that a Soviet agent must be at work inside the Security Service. Driberg’s code name was M8 and one of his reports for M, which contained a reference to a book he had written, was read by an unauthorised person who recognised the allusion and immediately identifed M8 as Driberg – it emerged in 1963 that this person was Anthony Blunt, ex personal assistant to Guy Liddell and still a prominent member of ‘B’ Division at this time. I am sure M never suspected Blunt, which is rather odd really, as he had had several proteges at Cambridge before the war, and certainly knew all  about the Apostles.* Of course, under Sir Vernon Kell, we were all encouraged to think of the office as a kind of extended family.

*No one, indeed, had come up with a satisfactory explanation of how Blunt came to be recruited into MI5, after being dismissed from the Manley staff course for budding intelligence officers because he had been so far to the Left at Cambridge.” [p.65]





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p 67



A particular piece of information that struck me (mentally conjuring up a scene for me owing much to comedian Victoria Wood) was the fact that Lady Kell, Sir Vernon Kell’s wife, Head of MI5 was the canteen manager at Wormwood Scrubs – which becomes apparent in the context of Winston Churchill sacking Kell and his wife’s outrage “He’s sacked the General”. Would one decorate one’s tabard as Commander of the Dinner-Ladies? Any amusement aside, her role would have been extremely useful no doubt in keeping an eye on staff and general gossip.