World War 2 is the most studied event in history. From Hitler’s rise to power, to the allied invasion of Northern France, to Churchill’s pipe and slippers, there are so many avenues of investigation to a historian surrounding such fascinating topics. Unfortunately, these grand events such as the D-day landings or the crimes of the Einsatzgruppen on the eastern front often overshadow some more minor, but equally interesting details.
One such detail is that of the British Free Corps (German: Britisches Freikorps), a group of soldiers from Britain and her dominions who actually fought on the side of the Germans in the second world war.
The idea for the British Free Corps was initially conceived by a Briton called John Amery, who travelled to Berlin in October 1942 to propose it. The proposal was to form a British volunteer division to fight against the Bolsheviks. This point is crucial, as the unit was not formed with the intention of fighting against British troops, but instead against the Communists in the east who many considered to be the real enemy. Besides, opinion in Britain was not particularly against Hitler until the Luftwaffe started bombing our cities.
“In 1938, only 33% of Britons believed their country should do anything about Hitler’s policy of pan-Germanism” – Opinion Polls – the British public were fed a steady stream of propaganda between January 1938 and September 1939, promoting conflict with Germany. The allies needed war with Germany, so they made the public change its opinion through dishonest means.
The British Free Corps was a division of the Waffen SS, which was the military wing of the Schutzstaffel (Protection Squadron). The initial recruitment grounds were the POW camps that housed British and other commonwealth soldiers captured by the Wehrmacht, but there was also a drive set up to recruit directly from the British Isles. John Amery put out a series of propaganda posters and radio adverts aimed at recruiting Britons to the unit.
Little information is available to tell us how many people were recruited directly from the British Isles as historians like to make out that everybody remained loyal to the allied cause. The truth, however, is that it was quite possible that more soldiers of the British Free Corps were recruited from Britain than there were from the POW camps, even though enlisting gave prisoners of war the freedom to travel around Germany unsupervised and enjoy superior conditions to prisoners.
The division was not ready for action until late 1944 or even early 1945. The end of 1943 and most of 1944 was taken up with recruitment and training. Training began in Hannover, until the recruits moved to the Waffen-SS Pioneer School in Dresden for elite forces training. After Dresden, the British Free Corps moved on to Berlin and then Neimeck, north-west of the capital.
There are few documented occasions where the BFC actually saw action, but one such occasion was on the Island of Usedom off the north west coast of Poland, where they joined up with the 11th SS Volunteer Panzergrenadier Division Nordland, a unit of Scandinavian volunteer soldiers who also fought on the Axis side during WWII. The story goes that the volunteers would initially overrun by the Soviets, but mounted a swift counterattack and drove the enemy out.
This is the last known combat position of the British Free Corps, but they almost certainly fought in the defence of Berlin against the Red Army, as they are noted to have returned to the German capital at some point after their mission on Usedom along with the Nordland division.
The Waffen-SS British Free Corps division was made up of mostly British men, but also commonwealth soldiers from New Zealand and Canada that are documented, as well as the high likelihood of soldiers from Australia and potentially Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) too. Some of these volunteers were court marshalled after the war, with John Amery being hanged in 1945 after being convicted of high treason.
SS insignia for the British Free Corps.
The debate here of course is over the morality of the men who fought with the British Free Corps. Many would argue that the state of war between Britain and Germany meant that these men were acting in a treasonous manner by default and by legal definitions, they would be correct in this analysis.
However, the British Free Corps were not really fighting for Germany against the allies. Rather, they were fighting on an ideological basis: for national socialism against communism.
The unit was set up solely for the purpose of fighting the Bolsheviks on the eastern front, something which the allies really should have been doing anyway. Communism posed – and still poses – the biggest ideological threat to the west that there has ever been, therefore the British Free Corps were doing perhaps the right thing ideologically, but the wrong thing legally.
Unfortunately, the allies did not hear the warning regarding the threat of communism and failed to deal with the problem when they had the chance. As General George Patton said in 1945, the allies should have turned their attention to the Soviet Union and destroyed this Marxist menace when they had the chance.
Marxist ideas have now spread throughout the western world, propagated by those in the media and Hollywood, financed by those who make money from our misery. The Marxist ideas that the British Free Corps helped fight against in 1944/45 are the exact same ideas that many in western society now embrace, but this could have been avoided had the allies taken the fight east to Moscow, instead of striking dodgy deals and carving up what was left of Europe with Stalin.
Perhaps these men were traitors, but at least they fought for what they believed in, which is more than can be said for most.