Airey Neave

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Airey Neave

Airey Neave.jpg
Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
In office
4 March 1974 30 March 1979
Leader Edward Heath
Margaret Thatcher
Preceded by Francis Pym
Succeeded by Alec Jones
Member of Parliament
for Abingdon
In office
30 June 1953 30 March 1979
Preceded by Sir Ralph Glyn
Succeeded by Thomas Benyon
Personal details
Born
Airey Middleton Sheffield Neave

(1916-01-23)23 January 1916
Knightsbridge, London, England
Died30 March 1979(1979-03-30) (aged 63)
Westminster, London, England
NationalityBritish
Political party Conservative
Spouse(s) Diana Neave
Children3
Alma mater Merton College, Oxford
Profession Soldier, barrister
Military service
AllegianceFlag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom/British Empire
Branch/serviceFlag of the British Army.svg  British Army
Years of service1935–1951
Rank Lieutenant-colonel
Unit Royal Artillery
Battles/wars World War II

Airey Middleton Sheffield Neave, DSO , OBE , MC , TD (23 January 1916 – 30 March 1979) was a British soldier, lawyer and Member of Parliament.

Distinguished Service Order UK military decoration

The Distinguished Service Order (DSO) is a military decoration of the United Kingdom, and formerly of other parts of the Commonwealth, awarded for meritorious or distinguished service by officers of the armed forces during wartime, typically in actual combat. Since 1993 all ranks have been eligible.

Military Cross third-level military decoration of the British Armed Forces, Commonwealth officers

The Military Cross (MC) is the third-level military decoration awarded to officers and other ranks of the British Armed Forces, and formerly awarded to officers of other Commonwealth countries.

Territorial Decoration military medal of the United Kingdom

The Territorial Decoration (TD) was a military medal of the United Kingdom awarded for long service in the Territorial Force and its successor, the Territorial Army. This award superseded the Volunteer Officer's Decoration when the Territorial Force was formed on 1 April 1908, following the enactment of the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act 1907, which was a large reorganisation of the old Volunteer Army and the remaining units of militia and Yeomanry. However, the Militia were transferred to the Special Reserve rather than becoming part of the Territorial Force. A recipient of this award is entitled to the letters "TD" after their name (post-nominal).

Contents

During World War II he was the first British prisoner-of-war to succeed in escaping from Oflag IV-C at Colditz Castle, and later worked for MI9. After the war he served with the International Military Tribunal at the Nuremberg Trials. He later became Tory Member of Parliament for Abingdon.

World War II 1939–1945 global war

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

Oflag IV-C German prisoner-of-war camp for officers in World War II

Oflag IV-C, often referred to as Colditz Castle because of its location, was one of the most noted German Army prisoner-of-war camps for captured enemy officers during World War II; Oflag is a shortening of Offizierslager, meaning "officers camp". It was located in Colditz Castle situated on a cliff overlooking the town of Colditz in Saxony.

Colditz Castle Castle in Germany; prisoner of war camp in World War II

Castle Colditz is a Renaissance castle in the town of Colditz near Leipzig, Dresden and Chemnitz in the state of Saxony in Germany. The castle is between the towns of Hartha and Grimma on a hill spur over the river Zwickauer Mulde, a tributary of the River Elbe. It had the first wildlife park in Germany when, during 1523, the castle park was converted into one of the largest menageries in Europe. The castle gained international fame as the site of Oflag IV-C, a prisoner-of-war camp during World War II for "incorrigible" Allied officers who had repeatedly escaped from other camps.

Neave was assassinated in 1979 in a car bomb attack at the House of Commons. The Irish National Liberation Army claimed responsibility.

Car bomb improvised explosive device

A car bomb, lorry bomb, or truck bomb, also known as a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED), is an improvised explosive device placed inside a car or other vehicle and detonated.

House of Commons of the United Kingdom lower house in the Parliament of the United Kingdom

The House of Commons is the lower house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Like the upper house, the House of Lords, it meets in the Palace of Westminster. Officially, the full name of the house is the Honourable the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled. Owing to shortage of space, its office accommodation extends into Portcullis House.

Irish National Liberation Army Irish republican socialist paramilitary group

The Irish National Liberation Army is an Irish republican socialist paramilitary group formed on 10 December 1974, during "the Troubles". It seeks to remove Northern Ireland from the United Kingdom and create a socialist republic encompassing all of Ireland. It is the paramilitary wing of the Irish Republican Socialist Party (IRSP).

Early life

Neave was the son of Sheffield Airey Neave CMG, OBE (1879–1961), [1] an entomologist, who lived at Ingatestone, Essex, and his wife Dorothy (d. 1943), the daughter of Arthur Thomson Middleton. His father was the grandson of Sheffield Neave, the third son of Sir Thomas Neave, 2nd Baronet (see Neave Baronets).

Sheffield Airey Neave CMG OBE was a British naturalist and entomologist. Neave was the grandson of Sheffield Neave, a governor of the Bank of England and he was the father of Airey Neave.

Entomology scientific study of insects

Entomology is the scientific study of insects, a branch of zoology. In the past the term "insect" was more vague, and historically the definition of entomology included the study of terrestrial animals in other arthropod groups or other phyla, such as arachnids, myriapods, earthworms, land snails, and slugs. This wider meaning may still be encountered in informal use.

Ingatestone town in Essex, England

Ingatestone is a village in Essex, England, with a population of about 5,000. To the immediate north lies the village of Fryerning, and together the two form the civil parish of Ingatestone and Fryerning. Ingatestone lies within Metropolitan Green Belt land 20 miles (32 km) north-east of London. The built-up area is largely situated between the A12 trunk road and the Great Eastern Main Railway Line. Today it is an affluent commuter village. Due to its well-serviced rural setting, the demographic is a mixture of young and old, skilled and unskilled, providing employment for commercial and agricultural workers.

The family came to prominence as merchants in the West Indies during the 18th century and were raised to the baronetage during the life of Richard Neave, Governor of the Bank of England. Neave spent his early years in Knightsbridge in London, before he moved to Beaconsfield. Neave was sent to St. Ronan's School, Worthing, and from there, in 1929, he went to Eton College. He went on to study jurisprudence at Merton College, Oxford. [2]

Sir Richard Neave, 1st Baronet British merchant and banker

Sir Richard Neave, 1st Baronet was a British merchant and a Governor of the Bank of England.

Governor of the Bank of England senior position in the Bank of England

The Governor of the Bank of England is the most senior position in the Bank of England. It is nominally a civil service post, but the appointment tends to be from within the bank, with the incumbent grooming his or her successor. The Governor of the Bank of England is also Chairman of the Monetary Policy Committee, with a major role in guiding national economic and monetary policy, and is therefore one of the most important public officials in the United Kingdom.

Knightsbridge road and district in London

Knightsbridge is a residential and retail district in West London, south of Hyde Park. It is identified in the London Plan as one of two international retail centres in London, alongside the West End.

While at Eton, Neave composed a prize-winning essay in 1933 that examined the likely consequences of Adolf Hitler's rise to supreme power in Germany, and Neave predicted then that another widespread war would break out in Europe in the near future. Neave had earlier been on a visit to Germany, and he witnessed the Nazi German methods of grasping political and military power in their hands. At Eton, Neave served in the school cadet corps as a cadet lance corporal, and received a territorial commission as a second lieutenant in the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry on 11 December 1935. [3]

Adolf Hitler Leader of Germany from 1934 to 1945

Adolf Hitler was a German politician and leader of the Nazi Party. He rose to power as Chancellor of Germany in 1933 and later Führer in 1934. During his dictatorship from 1933 to 1945, he initiated World War II in Europe by invading Poland in September 1939. He was closely involved in military operations throughout the war and was central to the perpetration of the Holocaust.

Germany Federal parliamentary republic in central-western Europe

Germany, officially the Federal Republic of Germany, is a country in Central and Western Europe, lying between the Baltic and North Seas to the north, and the Alps to the south. It borders Denmark to the north, Poland and the Czech Republic to the east, Austria and Switzerland to the south, France to the southwest, and Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands to the west.

Nazi Germany The German state from 1933 to 1945, under the dictatorship of Adolf Hitler

Nazi Germany is the common English name for Germany between 1933 and 1945, when Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party (NSDAP) controlled the country through a dictatorship. Under Hitler's rule, Germany was transformed into a totalitarian state that controlled nearly all aspects of life via the Gleichschaltung legal process. The official name of the state was Deutsches Reich until 1943 and Großdeutsches Reich from 1943 to 1945. Nazi Germany is also known as the Third Reich, meaning "Third Realm" or "Third Empire", the first two being the Holy Roman Empire (800–1806) and the German Empire (1871–1918). The Nazi regime ended after the Allies defeated Germany in May 1945, ending World War II in Europe.

When Neave went to Oxford University, he purchased and read the entire written works of the writer Carl von Clausewitz. When Neave was asked why, he answered: "since war [is] coming, it [is] only sensible to learn as much as possible about the art of waging it". [4] During 1938, Neave completed his third-class degree in the study of jurisprudence. By his own admission, while at Oxford University, Neave did only the minimal amount of academic work that was required of him by his tutors.

World War II

Neave transferred his territorial commission to the Royal Engineers on 2 May 1938 [5] and following the outbreak of war he was mobilised. Sent to France in February 1940 with 1st Searchlight Regiment, Royal Artillery, he was wounded and captured by the Germans at Calais on 23 May 1940. He was imprisoned at Oflag IX-A/H near Spangenberg and in February 1941 moved to Stalag XX-A near Thorn in German-occupied western Poland. Meanwhile, Neave's commission was transferred to the Royal Artillery on 1 August 1940. [6]

In April 1941 he escaped from Thorn with Norman Forbes. They were captured near Ilow while trying to enter Soviet-controlled Poland and were briefly in the hands of the Gestapo. [7] In May, they were both sent to Oflag IV-C (often referred to as Colditz Castle because of its location). [8]

Neave made his first attempt to escape from Colditz on 28 August 1941 disguised as a German NCO. He did not get out of the castle as his hastily contrived German uniform (made from a Polish army tunic and cap painted with scenery paint) was rendered bright green under the prison searchlights. [9] Together with Dutch officer Anthony Luteyn he made a second attempt on 5 January 1942, again in disguise.

Better uniforms and escape route (they made a quick exit from a theatrical production using the trap door beneath the stage) got them out of the prison and by train and on foot they travelled to Leipzig and Ulm and finally reached the border to Switzerland near Singen. Via France, Spain and Gibraltar, Neave returned to England in April 1942. Neave was the first British officer to escape from Colditz Castle. [7] On 12 May 1942, shortly after his return to England, he was decorated with the Military Cross. [10] He was subsequently promoted to war substantive captain and to the permanent rank of captain on 11 April 1945. [11] A temporary major at the war's end, he was appointed an MBE (Military Division) on 30 August 1945, [12] and awarded the DSO on 18 October. [13] As a result, the earlier award of the MBE was cancelled on 25 October. [14]

He was later recruited as an intelligence agent for MI9. While at MI9, he was the immediate superior of Michael Bentine. He also served with the International Military Tribunal at the Nuremberg Trials, investigating Krupp. As a well-known war hero – as well as a qualified lawyer who spoke fluent German – he was honoured with the role of reading the indictments to the Nazi leaders on trial. He wrote several books about his war experiences including an account of the Trials. [15]

A temporary lieutenant-colonel by 1947, he was appointed an OBE (Military Division) in that year's Birthday Honours. [16] He was awarded the Bronze Star by the US government on 23 July 1948, [17] and was promoted to lieutenant-colonel on 1 April 1950, [18] At the same time, his promotion to acting major was gazetted, with retroactive effect from 16 April 1948. [19] He entered the reserves on 21 September 1951. [20]

Political career

Neave stood for the Conservative Party at the 1950 election in Thurrock and at Ealing North in 1951. He was elected for Abingdon in a by-election in June 1953, but his career was held back by a heart attack he suffered in 1959.

He was a Governor of Imperial College between 1963 and 1971 and was a member of the House of Commons select committee on Science and Technology between 1965 and 1970. He was on the governing body of Abingdon School from 1953-1979. [21]

Edward Heath, when Chief Whip, was alleged to have told Neave that after he suffered his heart attack his career was finished[ citation needed ] but in his 1998 autobiography, Heath strongly denied ever making such a remark. He admitted that in December 1974 Neave had told him to stand down for the good of the party. During the final two months of 1974, Neave had asked Keith Joseph, William Whitelaw and Edward du Cann to stand against Heath, and said that in the case of any of them challenging for the party leadership, he would be their campaign manager. When all three refused to stand, Neave agreed to be the campaign manager for Margaret Thatcher's attempt to become leader of the Conservative Party, that was eventually successful.

When Thatcher was elected leader in February 1975, Neave was rewarded by becoming head of her private office. He was then appointed Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and, at the time of his death, was poised to attain the equivalent Cabinet position in the event of the Conservatives winning the general election of 1979. In opposition, Neave was a strong supporter of Roy Mason, who had extended the policy of Ulsterisation.

Neave was author of the new and radical Conservative policy of abandoning devolution in Northern Ireland if there was no early progress in that regard, and concentrating on local government reform instead. This integrationist policy was hastily abandoned by Humphrey Atkins, who became Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the role Neave had shadowed.

Politician Tony Benn records in his diary (17 February 1981) that a journalist from the New Statesman , Duncan Campbell, told him that he had received information two years previously, from an intelligence agent, that Neave had planned to have Benn assassinated if, following the election of Labour government, Labour leader James Callaghan resigned and there was a possibility that Benn might be elected in his place.

Campbell claimed that the agent was ready to give his name and the New Statesman was going to print the story. Benn, however, discounted the validity of the story, writing in his diary: "No one will believe for a moment that Airey Neave would have done such a thing." [22] The magazine printed the story on 20 February 1981, naming the agent as Lee Tracey. Tracey claimed to have met Neave, who asked him to join a team of intelligence and security specialists which would "make sure Benn was stopped". A planned second meeting never took place because Neave was killed. [23]

Death

Memorial plaque to Airey Neave at his alma mater, Merton College, Oxford Airey Neave memorial plaque.jpg
Memorial plaque to Airey Neave at his alma mater, Merton College, Oxford
Memorial stained glass window to Airey Neave in Fryerning parish church, Essex Airey Neave Memorial Window at Fryerning Church, Fryerning, Essex.JPG
Memorial stained glass window to Airey Neave in Fryerning parish church, Essex

Airey Neave was critically wounded on 30 March 1979 when a magnetic car bomb fitted with a ball bearing tilt-switch exploded under his Vauxhall Cavalier [24] at 14:58 as he drove out of the Palace of Westminster car park. [25] He lost both his legs in the explosion, and died of his wounds at Westminster Hospital an hour after being rescued from the wrecked car, without having regained consciousness. He was aged 63.

The Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) afterwards claimed responsibility for the assassination. Neave had been pressing within Conservative Party circles and in Parliament throughout the 1970's for the British Government to abandon its preferred strategy of containment of Irish terrorist paramilitarism in Ulster, and switch to one of pursuing its military defeat, and it is believed that this is what led to him being targeted on the eve of the 1979 General Election, which saw the Conservative Party led by Margaret Thatcher enter power. [26]

After his death, Conservative leader Margaret Thatcher said of Neave:

He was one of freedom's warriors. No one knew of the great man he was, except those nearest to him. He was staunch, brave, true, strong; but he was very gentle and kind and loyal. It's a rare combination of qualities. There's no one else who can quite fill them. I, and so many other people, owe so much to him and now we must carry on for the things he fought for and not let the people who got him triumph. [27] [28]

Labour Prime Minister James Callaghan said: "No effort will be spared to bring the murderers to justice and to rid the United Kingdom of the scourge of terrorism." [25]

The INLA issued a statement regarding the murder in the August 1979 edition of The Starry Plough : [29]

In March, retired terrorist and supporter of capital punishment, Airey Neave, got a taste of his own medicine when an INLA unit pulled off the operation of the decade and blew him to bits inside the 'impregnable' Palace of Westminster. The nauseous Margaret Thatcher snivelled on television that he was an 'incalculable loss'—and so he was—to the British ruling class.

Neave's death came just two days after the vote of no confidence which brought down Callaghan's government and a few weeks before the 1979 general election, which brought about a Conservative victory and saw Thatcher come to power as Prime Minister. Neave's wife Diana, whom he married on 29 December 1942, was subsequently elevated to the House of Lords as Baroness Airey of Abingdon.

Neave's biographer Paul Routledge met a member of the Irish Republican Socialist Party (the political wing of INLA) who was involved in the killing of Neave and who told Routledge that Neave "would have been very successful at that job [Northern Ireland Secretary]. He would have brought the armed struggle to its knees". [30]

As a result of Neave's assassination the INLA was declared illegal across the whole of the United Kingdom on 2 July 1979. [31]

Neave's body was buried in the graveyard of St. Margaret's Church at Hinton Waldrist, in Oxfordshire. [32]

Conspiracy theories

Whilst working in the House of Commons as Paddy Ashdown's research assistant, Kevin Cahill claims to have had around six conversations with the security staff there. The most frequent remark was that "everyone knew" the story behind Neave's death but no one could talk about it in detail, because it would have been too dangerous. Cahill claims they did not believe INLA killed Neave. Instead, it was an "inside job". Cahill concluded that Neave was killed by MI6 agents working with the CIA because Neave sought to prosecute senior figures in the intelligence establishment for corruption. [33]

Another person who did not accept the generally accepted version of events was Enoch Powell, the Ulster Unionist MP. Powell claimed in an interview with The Guardian on 9 January 1984 the Americans had killed Neave, along with Lord Mountbatten and Robert Bradford MP. He claimed the evidence came from a member of the Royal Ulster Constabulary with whom he had a conversation. [34]

On 18 October 1986, Powell returned to the subject of Neave's death in a speech to conservative students in Birmingham. He told them the INLA had not killed Neave, but rather, he had been assassinated by "MI6 and their friends". Powell said Neave's Northern Ireland policy had been one of integration with the rest of the UK and that the Americans feared that this process, if implemented by Neave, would have been irreversible. His killing, alleged Powell, was intended to make the British government adopt a policy more acceptable to America in her aim of a united Ireland within NATO. [35]

Fictional portrayal of murder

In 2014, 35 years after Neave's death, it was reported that a fictionalised account of Neave's murder was to be used in a Channel 4 drama. The drama, Utopia , portrays Neave as a drinker who colluded with spies and portrays his assassination as perpetrated by MI5. This led to condemnation of the broadcaster, with Norman Tebbit (a friend and political colleague of Neave) saying "To attack a man like that who is dead and cannot defend himself is despicable". [36]

Neave's family, who had not been consulted about the programme, announced their intention to take action to prevent the programme from being broadcast, claiming it had "fictionalised the atrocity ‘in the name of entertainment’ as well as falsely depicting him as a debauched and conniving figure". [37]

Media depictions

Neave was portrayed by Geoffrey Pounsett in Nuremberg (2000), Dermot Crowley in Margaret (2009), Nicholas Farrell in The Iron Lady (2011) and Tim McInnerny in Utopia (2014).

Works

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References

  1. "The London Gazette, 23 February 1962".
  2. Levens, R.G.C., ed. (1964). Merton College Register 1900–1964. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. pp. 257–258.
  3. "The London Gazette, 10 December 1935".
  4. Paul Routledge (2002). Public Servant, Secret Agent: The elusive life and violent death of Airey Neave. Fourth Estate. p. 35. ISBN   9781841152448.
  5. "The London Gazette, 24 May 1938".
  6. "The London Gazette, 1 April 1941".
  7. 1 2 Richards, Lee. "IS9 Historical Report – Airey Neave Escape Report – Arcre". Archived from the original on 7 February 2015.
  8. "Home – Yesterday Channel".
  9. Airey Neave, They Have Their Exits (Beagle Books, Inc., 1971) p.69-76.
  10. "The London Gazette, 8 May 1942".
  11. "London Gazette, 6 November 1945".
  12. "Page 4371 – Supplement 37244, 28 August 1945 – London Gazette – The Gazette".
  13. "The London Gazette, 18 October 1945".
  14. "The London Gazette, 25 October 1945".
  15. Neave, Airey (1 October 1982). "Nuremberg". Hodder & Stoughton Ltd via Amazon.
  16. "The London Gazette, 12 June 1947".
  17. "London Gazette, 23 July 1948".
  18. "The London Gazette, 4 July 1950".
  19. "The London Gazette, 4 July 1950".
  20. "The London Gazette, 20 November 1951".
  21. "Mrs Thatcher's visit to Abingdon School" (PDF). The Abingdonian.
  22. Tony Benn, The Benn Diaries (Arrow, 1996), pp. 506–507.
  23. Routledge, pp. 299–300.
  24. Pallister, David; Hoggart, Simon (31 March 2009). "From the archive: Airey Neave assassinated". The Guardian. London.
  25. 1 2 "BBC ON THIS DAY – 30 – 1979: Car bomb kills Airey Neave".
  26. Interview with Norman Tebbit, 'The Victoria Derbyshire Programme', British Broadcasting Corporation, 21 March 2017.
  27. Wharton, Ken (19 August 2014). Wasted Years, Wasted Lives Volume 2: The British Army in Northern Ireland 1978–79. Helion and Company. p. 164. ISBN   1909982172.
  28. "Margaret Thatcher speaking to the press immediately after the assassination of Airey Neave". YouTube. Retrieved 4 February 2016.
  29. Holland, Jack; McDonald, Henry (1996). INLA Deadly Divisions. Poolbeg. p. 221. ISBN   1-85371-263-9.
  30. Routledge, p. 360.
  31. Wharton, Ken (2014). Wasted Years Wasted Lives: British Army in Northern Ireland 1978–79 v. 2. Helion & Company. p. 214. ISBN   978-1909982178.
  32. Entry for Neave's grave in the Findagrave website. http://www.findagrave.com/memorial/108412973/airey-neave
  33. Routledge, pp. 335–336.
  34. Simon Heffer, Like the Roman: The Life of Enoch Powell (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1999), p. 881.
  35. Heffer, p. 906.
  36. "Utopia: Channel 4 'will not change' drama depicting MP's death". BBC News. 13 July 2014. Retrieved 4 February 2016.
  37. "Fury over Channel 4 insult to MP killed by the IRA". Daily Mail. London. 13 July 2014.

Further reading

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Sir Ralph Glyn
Member of Parliament for Abingdon
19531979
Succeeded by
Thomas Benyon