The journalist Frank Browne was a pivotal character in Australia’s far-right scene after World War II. This article evaluates Browne’s part in starting Australia’s first post-war neo-Nazi group. It concludes that the initial success of his Australian Party convinced activists such as Arthur Smith that a far-right group was politically viable and this led to the formation of the first neo-Nazi group in Sydney in 1959. The article also looks at the careers of other prominent neo-Nazi activists around Australia during the early 1960s. It argues that Browne provided an organisational model rather than an ideology. In support of this contention, the article examines the development of similar groups in the United States and United Kingdom and their interactions with Australian groups.
Since the publication of David Harcourt’s 1972 book, Everyone Wants to be Fuehrer, the significance of the journalist Francis (Frank) Browne (1915–81) as an important figure in the formation of the tiny neo-Nazi groups in Australia has been widely recognised. Such groups were a feature of the far-right scene in the late 1950s and throughout the 1960s. This article evaluates the development of these groups and Browne’s role in their formation. It is also concerned with placing antipodean developments in their international context, by describing parallel developments in the United States and Britain. Despite the lessons of World War II, fascism had its supporters in Australia.
Frank Browne may confidently be described as a ‘colourful character’. A journalist by profession, he produced a sometimes notorious newsletter Things I Hear. Popularly known as ‘Things I Smear’, it remains an excellent source for political scuttlebutt. The newsletter ran intermittently between 1945 and 1975. At its height it may have earned Browne up to £25,000 a year. Arthur Smith, who worked with Browne during his Australian Party days (discussed below), noted how Browne ‘had everybody on record’ and knew all the political scandals. Browne’s security file concurred with Smith’s assessment. One officer of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) reported in 1952 that ‘[Browne is] one of the best politically informed men in Australia … [and] has consistently maintained an anti-socialistic, anti-Communistic policy’.
Browne’s involvement in right-wing politics was evident early in his career. In 1936 he travelled to the United States at the invitation of Colonel William McCormick, owner of the Chicago Tribune. During his time in the United States, Browne apparently made contact with Dr Lloyd Ring Coleman. An economist with the American advertising firm, J. Walter Thompson, Coleman came to Australia in 1941. Well-connected in right-wing circles, he would later figure in Browne’s career. Through this association with McCormick and Coleman, Browne also made contact with the anti-Semite and anticommunist, Gerald L.K. Smith, and his America First Committee.
Some aspects of Browne’s career are shrouded in doubt. Browne claimed, for instance, to have fought with the Republican forces in the Spanish Civil War in 1936. This claim seems implausible. By 1940 Browne was employed by the Industrial News Service, a subsidiary of the American advertising company, J. Walter Thompson, soon to be headed in Australia by the aforementioned Lloyd Ring Coleman. After serving in the Army, Browne returned to the Industrial News Service. By 1945 this was contracted to the Liberal Party. At this time Browne formed the Political Commonsense and Honesty Movement to oppose moves by the Chifley government to nationalise the private banks. At the behest of Coleman he inserted advertisements in newspapers opposing nationalisation of the banks, a growing cause celebre among Australian right-wing groups. Browne also entertained links with the small far-right group, the People’s Union, which primarily operated as an anti-communist propaganda group funded by industry.
During this period Browne’s political evolution is also evident in two books he authored. His 1946 biography of W.M. Hughes identifies characteristics with which Browne and later fascist and nationalist groups could identify. The former prime minister’s embrace of the White Australia Policy, his imperial patriotism and enthusiasm for the martial spirit of World War I were seen by Browne as promoting a new militaristic ethos that was lacking in the Australian makeup. Browne envisaged a muscular white nation that could exert its hegemony over the Pacific region. In 1947 he published his second book, The Public Be Damned. This anticipates later libertarian views of the 1970s Workers Party. Apart from denigrating professional politicians, Browne called for the removal of government participation from virtually every sphere of activity except for defence.
The most infamous episode in Browne’s career occurred in 1955. Along with Raymond Fitzpatrick, a Bankstown businessman, he was jailed for three months for contempt of parliament. An infamous abrogation of civil liberties, the two men were imprisoned following a series of articles written by Browne, at Fitzpatrick’s behest, in the latter’s suburban newspaper. These alleged that C.A. Morgan, Member of the House of Representatives for Reid, had been involved in an ‘immigration racket’. A parliamentary standing committee of privileges found that the articles were designed to ‘influence and intimidate’ a member of parliament. The House of Representatives sentenced both men to gaol. While a full account of this incident remains to be written, it seems likely that both Prime Minister Robert Menzies and Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Arthur Calwell, were keen to punish Browne for attacks he made on them in Things I Hear. For example, Browne had suggested Calwell, or ‘Awful Arthur’ as he dubbed him, was having an adulterous affair with a Sydney women.
In general, Browne’s career traversed many facets beyond his journalistic and political careers. Reputedly, he served a stint as a mercenary in Rhodesia. Anecdotal evidence suggests that ‘Things I Smear’ was used as a blunt instrument for the lucrative sideline of blackmail. While it is impossible to verify such allegations, one story from near the end of his life gives some feel for Browne’s eccentric character. The journalist, C.J. McKenzie recalls:
Frank proposed throwing a great big party, his last hurrah sort of thing. He was going to invite four or five hundred people, enemies, friends, Christ knows what, and it was going to be held in one of the big pubs down town [in Sydney] The Regent or something. Anyway the story was that he was going to make a speech and then he was going to shoot himself at the head of the table. That was taken so seriously by the police that they got onto the pub and stopped it.
Before discussing Browne’s role in the formation of the first Australian neo-Nazi groups after World War II, some local and international factors need to be clarified. Pre-war Australian groups that held Nazi sympathies appear to have had little direct influence on the neo-Nazi groups that emerged after 1945. In terms of searching for antecedents, the most promising pre-war group was the Australia First movement. This group of ‘puzzled patriots’, of course, was mostly associated with the writer and intellectual, P.R. Stephensen. Undoubtedly, however, the most significant member of Australia First, at least in terms of his influence on neo-Nazi thought, was Alexander Rud Mills. A Melbourne solicitor, Mills established the Angleycn (Mills’s spelling) Church of Odin in the 1920s. This called for the rejection of what Mills saw as a debased ‘Jesus-Christianity’ that he believed was ‘Jew-Worship’. Only Odinism could restore Australia as a nation that revered ‘British heroes, British holy places, British traditions, British ideals’. As the Commonwealth Investigation Branch noted in 1939, Mills was a ‘staunch loyalist’ but seemed ‘to have a fanatical regard for the German Nazi system and an equal hatred of the Jews’.
Mills was well connected on the international Nazi and fascist scene. He was apparently introduced personally to Hitler during an extended tour to South Africa and Europe between 1932 and 1934. In Britain he made contact with prominent fascists and corresponded with Sir Oswald Mosley, as well as fellow fascists, Arnold Leese (whom he also met) and A. K. Chesterton. By May 1940 Mills was writing for Australia First’s journal, The Publicist. In April 1942 Mills was interned, though not, as Mills seems to have believed, because of his membership of Australia First. The Director General of Security, W.B. Simpson, stated that his Australia First membership provided only ‘minor additional evidence’. Mills was interned primarily for leading the Odinist cult in Victoria, as well as for receiving ‘substantial sums from unknown sources’ and for his links with German and British Nazi groups. Despite opposition from the security services he was released in December 1942.
Little can be gleaned about Mills’s activities after the war. A single ASIO report of 1960 concluded that Mills was still involved with the far right and had been subscribing to both Sir Oswald Mosley’s Union Movement and A.K. Chesterton’s League of Empire Loyalists. Despite his promising pedigree, Mills seems to have been ignored by the Australian far right. Nonetheless, a recent study by Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke suggests that since his death in 1964 Mills exerted a posthumous influence on overseas neo-Nazi groups. Perhaps Mills’s major claim to fame is his influence on the development of ‘modern’ Odinism through the Danish neo-Nazi activists, Else and Alex Christensen. The former is said to have become enamoured of Mills and incorporated his ideas into her movement. As Jeffrey Kaplan has observed, the followers of Odinism and Mills had strong contacts with white supremacists, a ‘conspiratorial view of history’, a desire to exact retribution on society and ‘a strongly racialist strain of thought’. Since 1965 Christensen and her followers operated a rival movement to Christian Identity. Their Odinist Fellowship presents itself as the Nordic and Aryan religious defence of National Socialism.30 Mills’s writings appear to have played a significant part in the establishment of this continuing strand of neo-Nazi thought and certainly make Mills worthy of further study.
P.R. Stephensen might have been expected to exert more influence over the neo-Nazi movement to evolve after the war. The writer evidently maintained an interest in the far right and railed against the ‘Jews’ in the security service who had imprisoned him. An ASIO report of May 1960 claimed that he was in contact with the neo-Nazi Graeme Royce and had keys to the post office box for Royce’s Workers’ Nationalist Party. In 1962 another ASIO report noted that Stephensen had attended an Adelaide meeting organised by the Australian National Socialist Party. Stephensen maintained a strong interest in neo-Nazi, anti-Semitic groups, while maintaining a low public profile. Nonetheless, later generations of far-right activists, most notably James Saleam of National Action, have incorporated some of Stephensen’s ideas.
Two other individuals who were both interned during the war for their activities in Australia First also became active in neo-Nazi circles after the war. The quixotic and unusually named Queenslander, De Wykeham de Louth, followed both the Nazi and Social Credit creeds from his home in Beaudesert. For many years he disseminated right-wing literature on conspiracy, antisemitism, Hitler and Social Credit. Lists of the books he could supply suggest considerable overlap with those offered by the notorious Australian League of Rights, such as the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and Captain A.H.M. Ramsay’s The Nameless War. In his admiration for Hitler and the National Socialists, de Louth set himself apart from Eric Butler’s Melbourne-based group. Security files dismiss De Louth as a crank but concede the widespread distribution of his pamphlets and books. While de Louth’s personal impact was insignificant, he played some role as a conduit for neo-Nazi literature that may otherwise have been unavailable. As a 1962 Sunday Truth exposé suggests, his activities merited complaints to the Attorney General [Sir] Garfield Barwick from Ernest Platz of the Jewish Council to Combat Fascism and Anti-Semitism.
Another Queensland-based fellow traveller of this period was Leslie Leismann. If anything Leismann was even more marginal in his activism than de Louth. Leismann claimed to have ‘converted’ de Louth to National Socialism when both were interned as Australia First supporters in World War II. Leismann remained active in National Socialist groups through to the 1970s. In the 1972 election he ran as the National Socialist candidate for Wide Bay in Queensland. Distributing 10,000 leaflets he attracted considerable attention in the local media, polling a respectable – for a neo-Nazi candidate — one and a quarter per cent of the vote. Both de Louth and Leismann were connected with William (Bill) Stoddart, Brisbane secretary and organiser in 1968 for E.R. Cawthron’s National Socialist Party of Australia. This suggests a small success in advancing the National Socialist creed.
Parallel developments overseas in the post-war period are worth noting. They provide salient counterpoints for assessing the Australian neo-Nazi scene. Unlike Australia, pre-war Nazis and fascists in the United Kingdom became post-war leaders of the British far right. A.K. Chesterton, a cousin of the writer G.K. Chesterton, was one such political figure. He had been close to Sir Oswald Mosley in the British Union of Fascists (BUF) until the two men fell out. A complex individual, Chesterton remained devoted to his pacifist and socialist wife throughout his life. With another former colleague, Arnold Leese, the anti-Semite and camel expert, Chesterton became one of the most influential figures on the British far right. Shortly before his death in 1973 he was offered the presidency of the British National Front by John Tyndall. Chesterton was also significant in Australia through his League of Empire Loyalists and its journal Candour which was distributed through the League of Rights. Through the good offices of that organisation, Chesterton made a lecture tour of Australia and New Zealand in 1960. Chesterton’s goal was to build support for the League of Empire Loyalists in predominately white, Commonwealth nations.
The most prominent members of the British neo-Nazi fringe in recent decades, Colin Jordan, John Tyndall and Martin Webster, all cut their political teeth in Chesterton’s League of Empire Loyalists. When they eventually left, disgruntled with Chesterton, his methods and old-fashioned regard for the British Empire, Jordan, Tyndall and Webster then followed Arnold Leese, described by historian Richard Thurlow as ‘the main spur from the fascist political tradition’. The actions of these three men were broadly analogous with the political organisation of Australian neo-Nazis. All three formed their own organisations, the White Defence League, the National Labour Party and the British National Party (an amalgam of the previous two). However, the historical lack of interest in fascism in Britain, increasing left-wing opposition and the activities of the state hampered the spread of these groups. The most prominent British fascist thinker from before the war, who might have been expected to take a leadership role, was Sir Oswald Mosley. Despite his standing he was effectively marginalised and ignored. As Thurlow notes, Mosley developed ideas with some intellectual interest, but he ‘became the hero in the empty room; the grand theorist to whom nobody of importance listened’.
The situation in the United States has more parallels with the development of post-war neo-Nazi groups in Australia. Like Australia, the United States lacked any serious Nazi movement before World War II. Numbering only about 15,000 members at its height in 1934, William Dudley Pelley and his Silver Shirt Legion could hardly lay claim to a mass following. In 1942, Pelley was sentenced to prison for subversion. Released in 1950 he declined into obscurity, dying in 1965. As Philip Rees notes, Pelley’s ideology was ‘more apocalyptic and millenarian’ than Nazi. This was hardly surprising. Pelley claimed to have ‘discovered’ Hitler and Nazism in a mystical experience and combined his idolisation of Hitler with his own Christian ideals. As with groups like the League of Rights in Australia, Pelley also toyed with various economic ideas such as Social Credit. On the whole, Pelley’s movement was more typically nativist American, than fascist or Nazi in its ideology.
An American neo-Nazi movement emerged earlier in the United States than in Australia, though in terms of membership and instability the two country’s respective neo-Nazi groups have a good deal in common. In the United States, the first group to form after the war, in January 1949, was the National Renaissance Party. The amalgam of two earlier groups, it came to be synonymous with James Madole. He and his group have been described as ‘Nutzis’. Madole’s group was minuscule. The party survived until Madole’s death in 1978, but never exceeded a membership of 75. More commonly it consisted of a dozen or so members. Its importance lay as a focus for some individuals on the far right who would later be involved in other groups. More recently, Madole has come to be regarded as an important figure in ‘occult-fascism’.
The most significant post-war neo-Nazi group to emerge was the American Nazi Party, formed by George Lincoln Rockwell in 1959. Despite his fanaticism, Rockwell could be a charismatic, even engaging individual. His strident message and ability to attract publicity caught the eye of the American media and projected him and his organisation into the public gaze. Like Madole’s group, the American Nazi Party was only small, perhaps peaking at 300 members. Nevertheless, Rockwell attracted the funding of one wealthy benefactor. This gave him access to printing equipment the size of his group would otherwise have precluded. Rockwell actively sought international links with other prominent neo-Nazis such as Colin Jordan in the United Kingdom, as well as with the Nation of Islam, long a hot bed for antisemitism. In the so-called ‘Cotswold Agreement’, Jordan and Rockwell formed the World Union of National Socialists with Jordan as World Führer and Rockwell as his successor. Australian neo-Nazis sought contacts with both men. Rockwell’s career ended when a former member shot and killed him at a laundrette in August 1967. Like the leaders of the Australian neo-Nazi groups, neither Madole or Rockwell is known to have been active in pre-war far-right groups.
For his part, Frank Browne had been publicly considering the formation of a new political party since at least 1950. While the direct catalyst for the party’s formation seems to have been his imprisonment in 1955, several of the Australian Party’s founding members were part of the Cold War’s general assault on communism. Apart from Browne, founding members included Quentin Spedding, an employee of Ezra Norton’s Daily Mirror, for whom Browne also worked, John Hawkins, a Sydney solicitor, and Ken Gates, a waterside worker. All these men had been involved in the Battle Veterans’ Association that waged a campaign within the Returned Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen Imperial League of Australia (RSL) to ban communists. The origins of this association lay in 1946 when Browne was involved in a stunt throwing a red flag at the then president of the RSL. Later Hawkins, in particular, became prominent in the Australian Party.
Upon his release from Goulburn Gaol in September 1955, Browne contributed a series of articles about his experiences as an inmate to the Daily Mirror. These were Browne at his best, justifiably railing against his incarceration and damning his enemies, in particular Prime Minister Menzies and the Leader of the Opposition, Dr Evatt. On 30 September 1955 the Sydney press announced the formation of Browne’s new party.
Though he could have used his newsletter to publicise the new venture, from its birth in September 1955 until its disbandment in 1957, Browne wrote only five times of his party in Things I Hear. Whether this was a commercial decision is unclear. Browne certainly canvassed right-wing views, such as the inferiority of non-whites, regularly in the newsletter. In his first article on the party in September 1955, he outlined the party’s policies covering defence, finance, personal liberty, foreign policy, business and corruption. Summing up the problems of starting a new political party, Browne finished this article,
By next election the Australian Party will be in business for itself. We’ll give them all the fight they want. We’ll blow through this corrupt political setup like a whirlwind. The things are there to be exposed, and we’ll expose them. It must be done in the interests of this country, and it will be done, ruthlessly, savagely, and without fear of reprisal … For the first time in fifty years a Party with a national outlook, a Party that can’t be bought, can’t be reasoned with, can’t be frightened, is on the march.
The new party generated minimal interest in the mainstream press. The Daily Telegraph reported that Browne had a meeting with Clive Evatt, a New South Wales State politician, and the former premier, Jack Lang, at Lang’s Century newspaper offices, shortly after the party’s formation. Browne and Lang had met through the businessman, Raymond Fitzpatrick. In February 1956, the Daily Mirror reported fighting at a meeting at the Australian Hall. During a rally at Sydney’s Domain there was a confrontation with a hostile crowd. Another rowdy meeting took place at Hurstville on 5 December 1955. As unprepossessing as these events were, they nonetheless constituted high points for the fledgling party.
Browne’s party inspired some significant activists on the Australian far right. Arthur Smith, who later became one of Sydney’s most prominent neo-Nazis, was the party’s secretary. Smith has recalled the size of some of the party’s meetings and their success in raising funds.
Frank had come up with this idea, which I suppose was pretty smart, that instead of having young blokes going through the crowd with a bowl collecting money, he sent these young girls around. You would be surprised at how well it worked. We did it later at our meetings in Bridge Street with fantastic success. Silly old men, he had this girl, I don’t know where he found her, she looked like she might have been Samoan, very attractive girl like something out of Mutiny on the Bounty, and he had her dressed with not very much clothing on and she went around with a big bowl and she would lean over all these old men and out would come a £1 note, out would come a £5 note. It was amazing. I tell you what, for all of his faults, Frank was pretty smart. We signed up over four hundred people that day, actually signed up. The total membership was nearly 7000 on the cards.
Smith’s recollections of membership numbers suggest a potentially successful political organisation, but are open to question. For Smith, looking back at his days in the Australian Party, the most notable memories were of the public meetings at which he and another Domain orator, John Webster, were key speakers. Smith had started public speaking at the Domain when he was 16 years of age. He obviously relished it. Even though he did not consider Browne held National Socialist views, Smith claimed that Browne kept a copy of Mein Kampf displayed on his desk, perhaps primarily for its shock value. However, an article by Smith’s associate and later neo-Nazi collaborator, Brian Raven, paints a different picture of the Australian Party. Writing in Sydney University’s student newspaper, Raven (member no. 722) argued that,
Our organisation is based simply on faith in the Leader and complete obedience to him for 10 years. At the end of that period if we have not come to power Browne will submit himself to the party for punishment as the party deems fit.
Raven’s observations suggest that Browne’s party certainly had fascist and authoritarian overtones. In Browne, Raven at least had found his Führer. While, to use F.L. Carsten’s phrase, the myth of the ‘Leader’ can be overstated, there is no doubt that far-right groups are often characterised by their allegiance to an individual, obviously none more so than in the case of Hitler. In the post-war neo-Nazi groups this is especially evident with leaders such as Rockwell, whose murder precipitated the rapid disintegration of his American Nazi Party. As Roger Griffin notes, while the, ‘leader cult is not a definitional component of fascism, it is a pragmatic necessity’. Here lay a paradox. While leadership was important to such groups, the leaders of the Australian extreme right were fundamentally flawed and unable to inspire unquestioned allegiance. This was so of Browne, as it was of Eric Campbell of the New Guard in the 1930s.
According to Smith’s recollections, the peak of the party’s success was in 1957. It had an active membership that may have exceeded a few hundred, as well as a larger number of sympathisers. Frank Browne responded to this success quixotically. He closed the party down and denied activists like Smith access to any of the party’s assets and the names and addresses the party had collected. Smith was bitter. He claimed that Browne had been offered a contract with Sydney radio station 2UE which precluded him from operating a political party, hence the closure. According to James Saleam, Browne claimed to have been too tired to continue on with the party.
Browne drifted out of direct involvement with a political party and concentrated on his journalism. It was a sign, nonetheless, of the continuing respect that Browne enjoyed in neo-Nazi and fascist circles that, as recently as 1980, the Australian National Alliance persuaded him to edit its new magazine Eureka. At the time, David Greason, then one of the group’s leaders, saw Browne’s recruitment as a ‘great catch’, believing that the journalist’s ‘idiosyncratic style of Australian nationalism’ could attract new members’. Browne’s involvement, however, proved short-lived. According to Saleam,
The involvement of National Alliance with Browne is overstated. [Graeme] Royce lied to Browne and told him that Frank Salter would pay him for the editing of a journal. One copy of it was produced, but Frank Salter could not pay Browne. That was half of it and the other half of it is that, for want of a phrase, Frank Browne was a drunk. A terrible drunk. I went to his place once at Barnescluth Square in Kings Cross. It reeked of whisky and a pile of bottles. An amazing character he may well have been but a has been he was. We never really thought there was any connection between our politics and Browne’s Australian Party.
At his peak Browne might well have achieved a more significant career in politics. He possessed the necessary verve and skills to successfully promote himself. As a United Australia Party/Liberal Democrats candidate Browne performed creditably against H.V. Evatt in the contest for the federal seat of Barton in the 1943 Commonwealth elections. If, as Smith claims, Browne attracted 7000 people to his new party as paid up members, it was a considerable feat for a new entity. Activists like Arthur Smith were understandably impressed by the apparent potential of a new political movement of the far right. Yet Frank Browne lacked the drive or interest to turn his Australian Party into a significant political force. Although its leader was articulate and well known, the movement failed, it would seem, primarily from inertia. In the end Browne was reduced to the status of an ageing alcoholic living alone in the Sydney suburb of Potts Point, widowed, lonely and unstable.
Followers like Arthur Smith carried forward Browne’s political mantra and established a neo-Nazi culture in Australia that lasted for well over a decade. The first neo-Nazi group to form in Australia, the National Australian Workers Party, was established in early 1959 in Sydney by four former members of Frank Browne’s Australian Party. These were Arthur Smith, Jack Courtenay, Brian Raven and Graeme Royce. Their experience in Browne’s Australian Party was the direct impetus for the formation of these neo-Nazi groups.
Arthur Smith was indubitably the most talented and dedicated of this group of activists. Born in the Sydney suburb of Meadowbank on 4 August 1935, Smith remembered his childhood as stable and untroubled. His family moved to Tasmania at this time, where his father was employed in the timber industry. Because of his diminutive stature, Smith could not work with his father in that physically demanding industry. After some parental altercations, he left for Sydney at around 15 or 16 years of age.
Smith worked in a number of menial jobs until he was able to complete a textile technology course for dry cleaning that provided him with an occupation. Shortly after arriving in Sydney, penniless and lacking friends, he was befriended by the then Commonwealth Minister for the Navy [Sir] William McMahon, who introduced himself at Rushcutters Bay Park. Smith’s political views owed more to his association with McMahon than Browne. The Liberal Party politician, in Smith’s view, was a crypto-Nazi. Smith has recalled, ‘In retrospect I am now certain that McMahon’s opinions began to influence my views and ultimately may have been responsible for the political course I eventually set upon’. Even if he did not bequeath a coherent political ideology, for Arthur Smith, Frank Browne nonetheless provided a template which could be forged into a political movement.
Jack Courtney disappeared from the Australian far-right scene shortly after the founding of the group. The other two members, Brian Raven and Graeme Royce, like Smith, gained some notoriety. Neither, however, were political operatives capable of forming a viable new party. The former (also known as Brian Craven and Francis Harry Watson) was most notable for his criminal convictions that date back to 1946. In 1958 Raven served 18 months in gaol for ‘occasioning actual bodily harm’. In 1961 he was gaoled for 12 months for burglary while in 1963, he served six months imprisonment for ‘exhibiting indecent pictures’. James Saleam describes Raven as simply ‘a street brawler and pornographer’. Raven seems to have dropped off the right-wing scene after a conviction for manslaughter in 1969. Before this, he gained some notoriety for a brief association with the Sydney libertarian group, The Push, whose members were evidently quite happy for Raven to associate with them in full Nazi uniform. As Smith recalled,
Poor old Brian Henry (Raven) was a slum kid from Balmain and he was a hard boy. But, personally I always found him to be a very loyal person, but, he did object once when I referred to his being arrested, when he was eleven, by the police, for stealing newspapers, but, I apologised to him. But, he was hard. Probably if you said to Brian Henry here is a thousand dollars I want a fellow’s legs broken, he would go and do it.
Smith’s recollections of Raven accord with other accounts. Clearly Smith enjoyed being surrounded by his uniformed ‘bodyguard’. Raven also enjoyed wearing and being photographed in uniform by the press. He even went so far as to compare his role with that of Ernst Roehm, an unhappy parallel given Roehm’s fate.
Graeme Theo Royce (alias Kramer von Ribbentrop, Graeme Wilkinson, John Xavier, and Denver Cardiff, among others) was born in Ashfield in 1938. Suffering from a glandular disorder, Royce was large and ‘puffy’ in appearance. According to his ASIO file, Royce was also ‘mentally unstable’. He holds a special place in neo-Nazi history as one of the most controversial, disruptive and dishonest members in the movement – a significant achievement considering the rest of the neo-Nazi fraternity. In short, Royce was a confidence man. In 1964, he was gaoled on 16 charges of false pretences over fraud involving young home seekers. Sentencing Royce, Judge Stephens concluded that he was a ‘cunning, systematic rogue who was qualified to get into the Australian eleven of confidence men’.
This ability to deceive did Royce no harm in contacting far right political groups overseas. Showing tenacity, if not also some talent, Royce contacted the Ku Klux Klan, George Lincoln Rockwell’s American Nazi Party and John Tyndall’s National Labour Party. Royce, no doubt, relished this international liaison with widely known figures of the international far right. He was careful not to mention the miniature size of his and Smith’s antipodean organisation. In 1960 the National Australian Workers Party may have boasted around six members. That same year the group created a minor furore when it was revealed that Royce had invited Rockwell to visit Australia. When this became publicly known, both the prime minister and minister for immigration directed that any visa applications by these men should be scrutinised. The lack of any funds to pay for Rockwell’s airfares ended any chance of a visit. Australia, nonetheless, apparently intrigued Rockwell. As Smith remembers the incident,
That is the time we pulled off that coup with the media, Rockwell was coming to Australia to meet our 4,000 members and they sucked it all in. I learnt a lot about the media since that time. Menzies standing up in parliament saying that he [Rockwell] would not be let into Australia. We could not even have fed him. We would not even have had enough money to get him on a bus between Arlington and Washington DC.
It seems doubtful that Royce ever told his overseas colleagues the truth about the Australian neo-Nazi scene. His misinformation, however, seems to have worked. In early 1960 Combat, the magazine of Tyndall’s National Labour Party, reported on the surprisingly healthy revolutionary movement in Australia. As Combat’s ‘Australian liaison officer’, Royce claimed that branches of the Workers Nationalist Party existed in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. Its Australian publication, Homeland, Royce asserted, had a circulation of 20,000. Royce also claimed to be coordinating support for the White Australia Movement. If nothing else Graeme Royce knew how to exaggerate.
As noted above, in 1964 Royce was sentenced to prison. After his release in 1966, he disassociated himself from Smith’s group. Royce remained involved in far-right groups until the end of his life, though people on the Right remained cautious of him. In the late 1970s, he was partly responsible for the demise of the Australian National Alliance. Posing as a businessman Royce involved the group in several business schemes which resulted in bankruptcy. By 1990 he had returned to Sydney and established the National Socialist Defending Aryan People Party. His main focus, however, seems to have been with extreme Christian groups such as the Christian Identity Movement.
Outside of Sydney the neo-Nazi scene was just as small and pathetic. In December 1962, John Crouch, a 23-year-old Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) pilot, declared that he hoped to start a National Socialist party in Darwin based on the British National Socialist Movement. Neither Darwin nor the air force warmed to Crouch. Before sliding into obscurity, he was dismissed from the RAAF. However, Crouch’s idea for a national party attracted the attention of another significant figure on the Australian neo-Nazi scene, E.R. Cawthron. He contacted Crouch. At that time Cawthron was a physics student at the University of Adelaide. Crouch appears to have returned to the United Kingdom but passed Cawthron’s letter to a Sydney Nazi, Don Lindsay. David Harcourt claims that Lindsay and Cawthron started the Australian National Socialist Party, with a membership of two.
Between 1959 and 1963 a small, informal network of neo-Nazi followers and sympathisers was established across Australia. It is debatable whether this network would have started without the influence of Frank Browne. The formation in the United States and Britain of neo-Nazi groups, as well as the international publicity these groups earned, made their transplanting to Australia likely. Browne and the Australian Party, however, acted as a catalyst that accelerated the development in Australia of these groups. In 1963, Smith returned to Sydney after a period in Tasmania, where he met and persuaded Don Lindsay to start a new party with him. Negotiations began with the Melbourne based neo-Nazi, Robert Pope, who formed the Australian National Renaissance Party, its title possibly a reference to Madole’s American group. Smith’s National Socialist Party of Australia also began talks with a loose fraternity of Brisbane-based Nazis. The core members of this national coalition consisted of Smith (as leader), Raven, Pope, Cawthron, Eric Wenburg and Ross (‘The Skull’) May. Despite this tentative attempt at a national organisation, David Harcourt accurately portrayed Smith’s National Socialist Party of Australia as a juvenile parade of misfits in uniform, playing soldiers.
Part of Frank Browne’s political legacy lies with the formation of the first of the tiny neo-Nazi groups in Australia. There is no evidence, however, that Browne had any contact with the neo-Nazi movement from the end of the Australian Party until he was used as an editor for Australian National Alliance in 1980, which, while arguably fascist, eschewed any overt neo-Nazi links. In the final resort the Australian Party merely accelerated the formation of post-war neo-Nazi groups in Australia. In common with their overseas counterparts, these remained, with one or two exceptions, the province of hucksters, political misfits and the mentally unstable.
* My thanks to Associate Professor Andrew Moore for his assistance in preparing this article. The article has been peer reviewed by two anonymous referees for Labour History.
1. D. Harcourt, Everyone Wants to be Fuehrer: National Socialism in Australia and New Zealand, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1972, pp. 4–7. See also J. Saleam, The Other Radicalism. An Inquiry into Contemporary Australian Extreme Right Ideology, Politics and Organization 1975–1995, PhD thesis, University of Sydney, 1999, p. 84 and A. Moore, The Right Road? A History of Right-wing Politics in Australia, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1995, p. 56.
2. See for example A. Reid, The Gorton Experiment, Shakespeare Head Press, Sydney, 1971, pp. 219222.
3. C.J. McKenzie interview, Sydney, 16 June 1999. McKenzie was a Sydney journalist who knew and worked with Browne.
4. Arthur Charles Smith interview, Lithgow, 5 November 2000.
5. National Archives of Australia, Australian Capital Territory, (hereafter NAA), Series A6119/1 Item 83, F.C. Browne.
6. NAA, Series A6126/25 Item 256, Lloyd Ring Coleman.
7. No evidence for Browne’s claims exists, though he may have studied the war.
8. NAA, Series A6126/25 Item 256, Lloyd Ring Coleman.
9. NAA, Series A6119/1 Item 83, F.C. Browne. See also Things I Hear, 23 June 1947.
10. F.C. Browne, They Called Him Billy: A Biography of the Rt. Hon. W.M. Hughes, P.C. M.P., Peter Hudson, Sydney, 1946, pp. 96, 107 & 110.
11. F.C. Browne, The Public Be Damned!, Courtenay Publishing Company, Sydney, 1947, passim.
12. F.C. Green, Servant of the House, Heinemann, Melbourne, 1969, p. 155.
13. In ‘Arthur Goes Visiting’, Things I Hear, 2 March 1948, Browne wrote, ‘Arthur Calwell is a stern man, who spends most of his time wondering how he can become the next Prime Minister, but he has his lighter moments. He visits a house in Davidson’s Avenue, Concord, whenever he is in Sydney. They say those who only know Awful Arthur of Canberra, would be amazed if they met Arthur as he is at Davidson’s Avenue. Incidentally, they say Arthur always reads the Shipping information before he goes. I wonder why?’.
14. McKenzie interview.
15. B. Muirden, The Puzzled Patriots: The Story of the Australia First Movement, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 1968, pp. 59–72. See also V. Coleman, Adela Pankhurst: The Wayward Suffragette 1885–1961, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 1996, pp. 156–164.
16. A.R. Mills, The Odinist Religion: Overcoming Jewish Christianity, A.R. Mills, Melbourne, n.d., circa 1939, p. 7.
17. NAA, Series M81 Item D1901, Alexander Rud Mills.
18. According to Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, during this period Mills set up short lived polygamist communities in South Africa, Britain and Australia. See Black Sun Aryan Cults: Esoteric Nazism and the Politics of Identity, New York University Press, New York, 2002, p. 259. Mills’ writings do not offer any clues on this topic. In his main work, The Odinist Religion, Mills wrote that, ‘Christianity regards sex-emotion as evil’ and this resulted in sexual diseases. While sex was to be regarded as fulfilling it should not be ‘unspiritually indulge[d] in’ outside of procreation. Marriage was to be regarded as sacred. See pp. 42–44. If Mills did establish such groups his security files make no reference to them.
19. NAA, Series A6119 Item 1285, Alexander Rud Mills.
20. NAA, Series M81 Item D1901, Alexander Rud Mills.
21. Muirden, The Puzzled Patriots, p. 50.
22. NAA, Series A6119 Item 1285 Alexander Rud Mills, underlining in original.
26. Goodrick-Clarke, Black Sun, p. 259.
28. J. Kaplan, Radical Religion in America: Millenarian Movements from the Far Right to the Children of Noah, Syracuse University Press, Syracuse, 1997, p. 16.
29. Both Odinists and followers of Christian Identity have common beliefs on issues like white supremacy. The main difference is that followers of Christian Identity accept the existence of a Christian God while Odinists reject his existence.
30. Goodrick-Clarke, Black Sun, pp. 259–261. Goodrick-Clarke cites an unpublished work by Mattias Gardell, Gods of the Blood: Ethnicity and the Pagan Revival, to be published by Duke University Press. Gardell dates the emergence of the modern Odinist movement to 1969. The Christensens operated the Odinist World Movement Secretariat as early as 1965. Their material was circulated by an Australian neo-Nazi, Donald Alexander Lindsay, who resigned from the National Socialist Party of Australia in 1964 and started the Odinist Faith and Cultural Mission in Australia. See NAA, Series A6119/89 Item 2308, Donald Alexander Lindsay.
31. Mills and his activities fall outside the scope of this article though further investigation of this strange individual seems merited.
32. NAA, Series A6119/89 Item 2306, Graeme Royce.
33. NAA, Series A6122/45 Item 1630, American Nazi Party.
34. ‘A new perspective on Australia’, Right Now!, January/March 2001, pp. 14–15. The article was not attributed but was evidently written by James Saleam.
35. D.W. de Louth’s Catalogue of Books and Pamphlets appears in NAA, Series A6126/26 Item 1060, D.W. de Louth.
36. ‘Elderly Nazi in 1-Man Crusade. Pamphlet blast from a country “cottage”‘, Sunday Truth, 1 July 1962. As might be expected, the Truth article is sensationalised.
37. NAA, Series A6126/26 Item 1060, D.W. de Louth. The security service’s response seems to have been qualified by their suspicions about the left-wing nature of Platz’s organisation.
38. NAA, Series A6119/89 Item 2305, Leslie Leisemann.
39. D. Harcourt, ‘An assault on the jew-democratic nut-mad house’, in H. Mayer (ed.), Labor to Power: Australia’s 1972 Election, Angus and Robertson, Sydney, 1973, pp. 111–112.
40. Harcourt, Everyone Wants to be Fuehrer, p. 28.
41. The best study of Chesterton to date is D. Baker, Ideology of Obsession. A.K. Chesterton and British Fascism, I.B. Tauris, London, 1996.
42. For a succinct account of the development of post war fascism in Britain see R. Thurlow, Fascism in Britain: From Oswald Mosley’s Blackshirts to the National Front, I.B. Tauris, London, 1998, pp. 203–229.
43. See, for example, A.K. Chesterton, Stand By The Empire: A Warning To The British Nations, Candour Publishing Company, Croydon, Surrey, 1954 and Tomorrow: A Plan for the British Future, Candour Publishing Company, Croydon, Surrey, 1961.
44. Ibid., p. 233. There is a parallel with some later figures on the Australian far right. Many used the Australian League of Rights as a conduit to other people and ideas but left dismayed by the apparent conservatism of the League, support for the monarchy and lack of direct action.
45. Ibid., p. 231.
46. See D. Renton, Fascism: Theory and Practice, Pluto Press, London, 1999, pp. 6–17.
47. Thurlow, Fascism in Britain, p. 227. See also R. Thurlow, ‘The Guardian of the “Sacred Flame”: the failed political resurrection of Sir Oswald Mosely after 1945’, Journal of Contemporary History, vol. 33, no. 2, April 1998, pp. 241–245
48. P. Rees, Biographical Dictionary of the Extreme Right Since 1890, Simon & Schuster, New York, 1990, p. 293.
49. J. Ridgeway, Blood in the Face: The Ku Klux Klan, Aryan Nations, Nazi Skinheads, and the Rise of a New White Culture, Thunder’s Mouth Press, New York, 1995, pp. 62–64.
50. K. Coogan, Dreamer of the Day: Francis Parker Yockey and the Postwar Fascist International, Autonomedia, New York, 1999, p. 255.
51. One National Renaissance Party member, Mana Truhill, apparently kept an apartment in New York where reputedly there lived ‘Communists, uniformed Nazis, motorcycle gang hoodlums, some ballet dancers Truhill had acquired in Greenwich Village, and a Jamaican medical student from Columbia University who kept parts of cadavers in the icebox. K. Coogan calls Madole and his group ‘New York Nutzis’ (William Goring, The National Renaissance Party: History and Analysis of an American Neo-Nazi Political Party, cited in Coogan, Dreamer of the Day, pp. 418, 424.)
52. Goodrick-Clarke, Black Sun, p. 73.
53. Thurlow, Fascism in Britain, p. 237. Rockwell succeeded Jordan when Jordan was imprisoned.
54. Rees, Biographical Dictionary of the Extreme Right, p. 326.
55. ‘The Things Browne Hears’, People, 26 April 1950.
56. Smith interview. Ezra Norton’s politics are unclear though he was a friend of Arthur Calwell and the Labor Party firebrand Eddie Ward. See A.A. Calwell, Be Just and Fear Not, Lloyd O’Neil, Hawthorne, 1972, p. 92.
57. ‘Press Involved in RSL Flag Stunt’, Tribune, 27 August 1946; L.J. Louis, ‘The RSL and the Cold War 1946–50, Labour History, no. 74 May 1998, pp. 88–103. The reference to Browne is at p.86.
58. Smith interview.
59. These articles were in five parts written while still in Goulburn Gaol. The first appeared on 11 September 1955 in the Daily Mirror’s Sunday stablemate, Truth, the rest on the following four days.
60. ‘Browne forms political party’, Daily Telegraph, 30 September 1955.
61. Things I Hear, 29 September 1955.
63. ‘Lang, Evatt, Browne talk’, Daily Telegraph, 5 October 1955.
64. ‘Fracas at Meeting of New Party’, Daily Mirror, 14 February 1956.
65. Smith interview. An account of the rally also appears in Harcourt, Everyone Wants to be Fuehrer, pp. 4–7.
66. Ibid., p. 2 and Smith interview.
67. ‘Australian Party Wants Power’, Honi Soit, in NAA, Series A6122/45 Item 1629, Australian National Socialist Party.
68. F.L. Carsten, The Rise of Fascism, Methuen, London, 1970, p. 231.
69. R. Griffin, The Nature of Fascism, Routledge, London, 1993, p. 42. The centrality of committed activists in leadership roles of far-right groups is still evident. See for example C. M. Swain and R. Nieli (eds.), Contemporary Voices of White Nationalism in America, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2003 and Joseph H. Berke, ‘When little men become big: (how destructive leaders become powerful through group dynamics)’ History Today, April 1995, vol. 45, no. 4, pp. 4–8.
70. A.Moore, The Secret Army and the Premier, NSW University Press, Sydney, 1989, pp. 140, 142, 148
71. Smith interview.
72. Saleam, ‘The Other Radicalism’, p. 84.
73. D. Greason, I was a Teenage Fascist, McPhee Gribble, Ringwood, 1994, pp. 215–216.
74. J. Saleam interview, Sydney, 20 July 2000.
75. C.A. Hughes and B.D. Graham, Voting for the Australian House of Representatives 1901–1964, ANU Press, Canberra, 174, p. 223
76. Saleam interview; Smith believed that Browne had squandered an opportunity to establish a viable political movement and saw himself and some of his followers as continuing to advance some of Browne’s ideas.
77. Other names and variations of the party included the Australian Nationalist Workers Party, the Workers Nationalist Party, the Australian National Unity Movement and the National Socialist Movement. This situation continued until 1963 when the National Socialist Party of Australia was formed. See NAA, Series 432/15 Item 63/2409 Part II, Australian National Socialist Party.
78. Courtenay is not named in any security files. Smith claims he had been in the RAAF and later moved to Europe. (Smith interview.)
79. Most sources say that Royce had been a member of the Australian Party and Royce seems to have made the claim himself. His ASIO file states that in 1956 he had moved to Melbourne. (NAA, Series A6119/89 Item 2306, Graeme Royce.) Smith denies Royce was a member, stating that Royce ‘was around’. (Smith interview.)
80. The following biographical information comes from the interview with Smith, Harcourt, Everyone Wants to be Fuehrer, p. 2 and Smith’s ASIO file, Series, NAA 6119/89 Item 2244, Arthur Charles Smith.
81. Smith interview.
82. ‘Exposed’, Sunday Mirror, 14 June 1964.
83. Saleam, ‘The Other Radicalism’, p. 84. See also NAA, CRS A6119/89 Item 2245, Brian Raven.
84. Harcourt, Everyone Wants to be Fuehrer, p. 12. A. Coombs, Sex and Anarchy: The Life and Death of the Sydney Push, Penguin, Melbourne, 1996, pp. 166–167. Coombs notes that Raven was often accompanied by one Phil Royce who may have been Graeme Royce.
85. Smith interview.
86. ‘Exposed’, Sunday Mirror, 14 June 1964.
87. Harcourt, Everyone Wants to be Fuehrer, p. 12.
88. NAA, Series A6119/89 Item 2306, Graeme Royce.
89. ‘Home Seekers Defrauded: Man Gaoled’, Sydney Morning Herald (SMH), 25 February 1964. ‘He’d win a Place in the Rogues’ XI’, The Sun, 25 February 1964.
90. W.H. Schmaltz, Hate: George Lincoln Rockwell and the American Nazi Party, Brassey’s, Washington, 1999, p. 106 and F.J . Simonelli, American Fuehrer: George Lincoln Rockwell and the American Nazi Party, University of Illinois Press, Urbana, 1999, p. 90.
91. Smith interview. See also Ralph Broom, ‘The Not-So-Rich Reich’, The Sun, 6 February 1961, ‘Nazis Have No Funds’, Daily Telegraph, 6 February 1961, ‘Australian Nazi body sends hate circulars’, Daily Mirror, 6 November 1960.
92. ‘Australian News’, Combat, no. 5, January–March 1960. Cited in NAA, Series A6119/89 Item 2306, Graeme Royce.
93. Saleam, ‘The Other Radicalism’, p. 148.
94. Christian Identity Ministries Newsletter, no. 133, January 1997. ‘We were saddened to hear of the passing of our brother and friend Graeme Royce. He will be sadly missed by those who knew him. May God strengthen him and bless his next of kin’.
95. ‘Darwin “Nazi” Shelters In Guard House’, SMH, 4 December 1962, ‘Discharge For “Nazi” Airman’, SMH, 6 December 1962, ‘Branch in Australia Nazis Aim’, Daily Mirror, 8 December 1962.
96. Harcourt, Everyone Wants to be Fuehrer, p. 14. Cawthron later completed a doctorate with Sir Marcus Oliphant.
97. Ibid., p. 9.
99. Ibid. Saleam, ‘The Other Radicalism’, p. 86.
100. NAA, Series A6119/89 Item 2244, Arthur Charles Smith.
101. Harcourt, Everyone Wants to be Fuehrer, passim.
By Peter Henderson