Searchlight Magazine

Duncan Robertson: dedicated Searchlight intelligence officer

Imagine a trusted activist, welcome in a wide range of far-right organisations, described by the British National Party as “a keen Party member and an active supporter over the last eight years … [who] would travel across London to support meetings in any area”. A man who “would never miss an opportunity to go out leafleting, despite having to use a walking-stick to get around … devoted to the Nationalist cause … a regular supporter of the Trafalgar Club fund raising dinners … [and] attender at the Red White and Blue gatherings, where his humour and love of life made him very popular”.

That was Duncan Robertson, who died aged 48 on 19 March 2013 and whose glowing obituary, by the BNP’s Croydon and Sutton branch, appeared on the BNP website on 29 April.

2013-05-duncan robertson-01But unbeknown to them, for all this time Duncan was never a loyal “nationalist” but was serving bravely as part of the Searchlight intelligence group. He had come to us as a volunteer and despite bouts of ill health he produced a steady stream of important intelligence from inside several far-right groups, including the BNP, National Front and the emergent British Democratic Party.

He was active during the years of heavy BNP campaigning in Barking and Dagenham, Croydon, Merton, Wandsworth and Loughton. He brought us inside operational knowledge of all the groups he infiltrated and their key activists. He got to know and become trusted by some of the leading personalities on Britain’s Nazi, fascist and racist right.

In the final 18 months of his life, despite being dogged by disability, he penetrated the sinister world of the late Nazi publisher, fraudster and contact of Nazi terrorists across Europe, Anthony Hancock. After Hancock’s death in June last year, Duncan offered his services to the consortium that bought up Hancock’s large stock of Nazi books and terrorist bomb manuals from his family for a pittance: no honour among Nazis evidently.

Duncan then spent many hours sorting and cataloguing the books at the home of the notorious Jew-hater Richard Edmonds, a long-time leading British Nazi with strong international links.

The consortium included Paul Ballard, another longstanding Nazi extremist who assisted Hancock with some strange financial schemes, and Jeremy “Jez” Bedford-Turner, the ex-serviceman who had turned up on the New Right scene in 2011 after serving in a specialist unit using his skills as a Pashto speaker, the main language spoken by the Afghan Taleban.

2013-05-duncan robertson-02Bedford-Turner initially joined the exclusive New Right Group run by Troy Southgate, a man who since his teens in the NF has set up more Nazi, music and pagan groups than some extremists have had hot dinners. Bedford-Turner, who we discovered had contested a council by-election in Twickenham, southwest London, for the NF in 1992, soon broke with Southgate and formed his own rival intellectual discussion group which he called the Iona London Forum. The name Iona – Islands Of the North Atlantic – had first been used on the far right in the mid 1980s as the name of a group led by Richard Lawson, a young NF intellectual, which brought together more educated British hardliners with strong links to similar people abroad.

Duncan not only attended meetings of both groups, he ran bookstalls there on behalf of Hancock’s Historical Review Press and those who took it over after Hancock’s death. There he rubbed shoulders with leaders and activists of British far-right groups, such as the former National Front organiser Martin Webster and the barrister Adrian Davies, and a wide range of speakers from around the world including the Croatian-American academic Tomislav Sunic; the notorious German Nazi Günter Deckert; Constantin von Hoffmeister, a German resident of Russia; Norman Lowell from Malta; the German Muslim antisemitic academic Sahib Bleher; Baron Jonas de Greer, head of the Swedish section of the Catholic Society of St Pius X which rejects the reforms of the Second Vatican Council; the antisemitic Bishop Richard Williamson, who is so extreme that SSPX expelled him in 2012; the Swedish fascists Oma Filmersson, Tage Talquest and Lasse Wilhelmson; the Ukrainian “traditionalist” Andriy Voloshyn; and the Portuguese publisher Flavio Gonçalves.

As a result of Duncan’s intervention with the revitalised Historical Review Press we discovered that much of the hate material was being stored on a farm in Kent owned by Mike Easter, one of the founders of the BNP who was expelled for supporting Chris Jackson’s challenge to Nick Griffin’s leadership in 2007. More than that, we managed to divert several US army manuals on bombs and incendiaries that have for many years circulated among those on the far right with terrorist ambitions. Some of them featured on the cover of the September 2012 issue of Searchlight.

2013-05-duncan robertson-03For several years Duncan managed to secure an invitation to the then upmarket Trafalgar Club dinners that raise money for the BNP. Despite strong security he was able to tip us off with the location and on some occasions he returned home in high spirits after witnessing the terror struck into the diners by antifascist activists who turned up to spoil their meal. His involvement also gave us the names of many of their big donors.

A list of far-right meeting venues in and around London published in Searchlight last year came from Duncan. On some occasions we sent photographers to observe arrivals and departures at the meetings.

During the long battle to drive the BNP into the ground in Barking and Dagenham and parts of east London and Essex, Duncan played a vital role in fuelling BNP activists’ distrust of some of those who had been elected as councillors, enabling us to undermine them from within as well as publicly campaign against them.

When a thug from the BNP’s Croydon branch attacked women trade unionists who were leafleting outside Croydon Station we knew his identity within hours, information that led to his arrest and conviction.

Duncan was responsible for the exposure of one of the candidates for president of the Royal Institute of British Architects as a BNP activist of five years’ standing. Peter Phillips, a property owner in Redhill, Surrey, had managed to obtain the 60 nominating signatures from fellow chartered architects needed to stand in the election in 2006. Although he was known for his strong views on race and on women in positions of authority, he had not revealed his support for the BNP in the election leaflet sent to RIBA members with the ballot paper.

2013-05-duncan robertson-04After Searchlight broke the news, RIBA distanced itself from Phillips saying: “The RIBA values the contribution to architecture and society by people of diverse origins and backgrounds, and is firmly committed to equality of opportunity.”

In the ten years of his involvement Duncan only came under suspicion once. He was spending an increasing amount of time in northeast London where he was helping Tony Lecomber, the notorious Nazi bomber and violent thug, to stuff envelopes and such-like unglamorous tasks. Attending a meeting of a local BNP branch he was confronted by some visitors from another branch who, worse for drink, accused him for no apparent reason of being a “wrong-un”. Physical violence was in prospect until other Nazis intervened on his behalf because he was such a good comrade.

Duncan was known for his sarcastic sense of humour. On one occasion, when the late “cultural guru” of Britain’s far right Jonathan Bowden described himself as a “culturist”, Duncan muttered in a stage whisper: “would that be an agriculturist or a horticulturist”, resulting in great amusement among the Nazi audience.

From the BNP’s Red White and Blue “family festival”, held every summer for several years, to the annual memorial meetings for the BNP’s Nazi founder John Tyndall, attended by a spectrum of extremists, and the NF-sponsored Remembrance Sunday march to the Cenotaph, Duncan was always there and reporting back.

We would while away the hours together after any major event so that he could look at photographs and identify those present. Through his good efforts we worked out that Sam Swerling, a law lecturer, one-time Conservative councillor and former leading light in the Monday Club, was addressing private meetings using the alias Peter Strudwick. After we exposed him he reverted to using his real name and rose through the ranks of the Traditional Britain Club, where he remains despite being one of the founders and steering committee members of Andrew Brons’s British Democratic Party. Duncan himself attended some of the regional meetings held in the 16 months leading up to the announcement of the new party’s formation.

Something Duncan had to keep secret from the far right was his long-time membership of the Australian Labor Party in Britain where he was well respected and often met party activists and even government ministers visiting from Australia.

One point on which Duncan and I always agreed was that we did not disclose details of anyone’s private or family life unless they were involved in terrorism. If they had an interest in hard-core porn or carried on extra-marital affairs, sharing hotel rooms with girlfriends while away on party business, we were not interested. Searchlight does not want to fight on that type of battlefield and neither did Duncan.

We are now revisiting ten years of Duncan’s reports to Searchlight to identify previously undisclosed material that can now be made public.

When Duncan dropped out of sight late last November as his health was failing rapidly, he asked me to act as the Executor of his will, as in his and our eyes, he was part of our family.

He was laid to rest in a green funeral conducted by a celebrant from the British Humanist Association last month in the presence of three core members of Searchlight and two close friends from the Australian Labor Party. Two wreaths were from the Australian Labor Party and Searchlight and his casket was covered in a Scottish flag at Duncan’s request.

Attempts by Edmonds to locate the funeral failed as we had given instructions that he and other Nazis should not be told. Duncan had chosen the music: The Proclaimers’ recording of Sunshine on Leith, The Internationale, and Flower of Scotland by the Red Hot Chilli Pipers. His ashes and the flag will be returned to his place of birth in Scotland.

His Australian comrade and I were both honoured to speak about Duncan the man and a soldier in the secret war against the enemies of democracy.

But by far the best tribute to ten years of brave and thoughtful intelligence work was in the words of our enemies who even in death he had fooled. In the words of the BNP’s obituary, Duncan “liked to work hard and after a hard day’s work, he would often enjoy a drink with his Nationalist friends”.

Donna Treanor, the BNP’s London regional secretary, said: “Duncan was the life and soul of many Party events, he will be sorely missed”. And according to another Croydon member: “Duncan was a much valued activist. It was a pleasure to work with him. He will be sadly missed by all Nationalists.”

John Clarke, the Croydon branch organiser added: “All activists will miss his sarcastic sense of humour and steady determination. Nationalism has lost a real friend with the passing of Duncan. Rest in peace, mate.”

He will; they most certainly won’t after reading these pages.

See also:

Little did they know
Remembering Duncan

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© 2015 Searchlight Magazine Ltd, PO Box 1576, Ilford IG5 0NG

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