Walter Fletcher (politician)

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Walter Fletcher

Member of the United Kingdom Parliament
for Bury
In office
6 July 1945 23 February 1950
Member of the United Kingdom Parliament
for Bury and Radcliffe
In office
24 February 1950 26 May 1955
Personal details
Walter Fleischl von Marxow

(1892-04-08)8 April 1892
Shagbrooke, Reigate, Surrey, England
Died6 April 1956(1956-04-06) (aged 63)
London, England
Resting place Sacombe, near Ware, Hertfordshire
Nationality British
Political party Conservative
Spouse(s)Esme Boyd (married 1928)
MotherCecile Fleischl von Marxow (née Levis)
FatherPaul Fleischl von Marxow
Relatives Ernst von Fleischl-Marxow (uncle)
Alma mater
Military service
Nickname(s)Dr Dynamo [1]
AllegianceFlag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom, allied forces
Branch/serviceFlag of the British Army.svg  British Army,
Special Operations Executive
Years of service1914-1918; 1940-1945
Rank Major
Battles/warsWorld War I

World War II

Awards Commander of the Order of the British Empire

Sir Walter Fletcher CBE MP (8 April 1892 – 6 April 1956) was a British businessman, World War I veteran, Special Operations Executive's secret agent and smuggler, fine art artist and Conservative Party politician. [2] [3]


Life and military career

Early life

Born Walter Fleischl von Marxow, he was the second son of Paul Fleischl von Marxow and his wife Cecile (née Levis) [4] of Shagbrooke, Reigate, Surrey. [3] [5] His father was an Austrian-born woolbroker, brother of Ernst von Fleischl-Marxow, who became a naturalised British citizen in 1887. [6]

Following education at Charterhouse School and the University of Lausanne, he began training as a manager in the rubber industry. [3]

World War I

With the outbreak of World War I in 1914 he entered the British Army, obtaining a commission in the Army Ordnance Department. He served in East Africa, and by the end of the war in 1918 had reached the rank of major. [3]


In September 1919 he changed his name by deed poll to Walter Fletcher. [7] He returned to Africa where he managed a large number of rubber plantations. He returned to England where he subsequently became chairman and managing director of Hecht, Levis and Kahn, a major rubber and commodities company. He held the position for thirty years. [3] In 1928 he married Esme Boyd. [3]

World War II

In late 1940, Fletcher approached the Special Operations Executive and offers them his speciality, he eventually assigned to the Force 136 and running an operation called Operation Remorse. [1] Originally it was hoped Fletcher could use his contacts to smuggle rubber out of Japanese-occupied Malaya and Indo-China through the Chinese black market. The operation was diversified to include the smuggling of foreign currency, diamonds and machinery to fund the SOE's activities. [8] [9]

Colin Mackenzie, the head of Force 136 (SOE in the Far East), said of Fletcher, “He did it very well… even in the early days I had £20,000 of diamonds across my desk in one go. One estimate is that the net profit was worth £77 million.” [10] Mackenzie also commented:

Walter was gloriously fat. It was rumoured that he won the hundred yards at Charterhouse when he was nineteen stone. I didn’t believe it, but when I saw him running for a bus when he was still nineteen stone I began to believe it might be true.

In 1947 Fletcher was made Commander of the Order of the British Empire for his war service. [3]

Political career

Politically, Fletcher was a Conservative, and he was selected as the party's prospective parliamentary candidate for the Birkenhead East seat in 1930. However, with the formation of a National Government prior to the 1931 general election he stood aside to allow Henry Graham White, a Liberal member of the government to hold the seat. [3]

He was elected at the 1945 general election as Member of Parliament (MP) for Bury in Lancashire. [3] [11] When that constituency was abolished for the 1950 election, he was returned for the new Bury and Radcliffe constituency, [2] and held the seat until he retired from the House of Commons at the 1955 general election. [3] In 1953 he was knighted. [3]

Other works

In addition to his business and political interests, Fletcher had extensive farms in Hertfordshire. [3] He was also an accomplished painter, exhibiting at the Royal Academy and in Bond Street galleries. [3]


Fletcher died at his London home in April 1956 aged 63. [3] He was buried in Sacombe, near Ware, Hertfordshire. [12]


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  1. 1 2 3 4 Jonathan Cole (29 May 2014). "Tales from the Special Operations Executive: Operation Remorse". The National Archives . Retrieved 20 May 2020.
  2. 1 2 Leigh Rayment's Historical List of MPs – Constituencies beginning with "B" (part 6)
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 "Obituary: Sir Walter Fletcher Former M.P. For Bury". The Times . 7 April 1956. p. 11.
  4. "Death Notice: Ernst Fleischl-Marxow, 1891". Neue Freie Presse. Retrieved 18 November 2014.
  5. Charterhouse Register, 1872-1910. 2. Charterhouse School. 1911. p. 771.
  6. "No. 25669". The London Gazette . 1 February 1887. p. 535.
  7. "No. 31593". The London Gazette . 10 October 1919. p. 12603.
  8. Aldrich, Richard James (2000). Intelligence and the war against Japan: Britain, America and the politics of secret service . Cambridge University Press. p.  287. ISBN   978-0-521-64186-9. walter fletcher soe.
  9. Wylie, Neville (2007). The politics and strategy of clandestine war: Special Operation Executive, 1940-1946. Taylor & Francis. p. 193. ISBN   978-0-415-39110-8.
  10. Roderick Bailey, Forgotten Voices of the Secret War (Ebury Press, 2008), at page 278
  11. Craig, F. W. S. (1983) [1969]. British parliamentary election results 1918–1949 (3rd ed.). Chichester: Parliamentary Research Services. p. 112. ISBN   0-900178-06-X.
  12. "Funeral: Sir Walter Fletcher". The Times . 11 April 1956. p. 12.
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Alan Chorlton
Member of Parliament for Bury
Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament for Bury and Radcliffe
Succeeded by
John Bidgood