Greenwich’s Very Own Nazi

A local nazi for local people, probably the best you could say of Sir Barry Domvile is that he was a bit of a character. We’ve met him before, if you recall, in the week of June 1933, during The One Am-Dram To Rule Them All, the Greenwich Night Pageant, the perky romp through Greenwich history that was pretty much his baby.

Once you know what happened in the years following his presidency of the Royal Naval College, some of the visions we saw during that heady week, which seemed so cute at the time, start to look – well – a bit dodgy, actually.

He started out conventionally enough. The son of an admiral, it was hardly unusual for Domvile to seek a career in the navy himself. He worked his way up the ranks, and distinguished himself during the first World War, becoming commander of a battleship.

By 1927, he was director of British Naval Intelligence, before becoming president of the Royal Naval College in Greenwich in 1932.

Before we go on to find out what happened next, let’s just take another peek at that pageant. Alongside all those jolly pics we saw of grannies stitching costumes for tinies to wear in crowd scenes, and the lady Mayoress as Nelson’s chief mourner, photos like the one below start to take on – well, perhaps a slightly different hue…

Domvile visited Germany in 1935 and, on being repeatedly turned down for promotion, finally retired from the British navy in 1936 to begin an altogether different career, starting with an invitation to attend the Nuremberg Rally of 1936 as the special guest of the German Ambassador. I understand he hooked up with Himmler and, while he was there, was treated to a tour of Dachau concentration camp.

On his return, he co-founded the fascist organisation The Link, and became more and more deeply embroiled in anti Semitic /pro-nazi propaganda, writing the journal The Anglo German Review. As he became more and more extreme, he presented the world with a truly crackpot conspiracy theory ‘Judmas’ – a dastardly plot he’d dreamed up between Jews and Freemasons.

But MI5 was on to him. His last trip was to Salzburg in 1939, and on his return, he was jailed under wartime defence regulations. He spent the WWII in gaol, where his views became ever more bonkers. He wrote his memoir From Admiral to Cabin Boy (the ‘cabin’ being his Brixton cell) whilst incarcerated, though, for perhaps obvious reasons, it wasn’t published until later. I understand the volume now changes hands for shovelfuls of cash on the internet.

Domvile died in 1971 – but what happened to him between the end of the war and then is a bit of a mystery to me. No one seems to mention him after that at all – let alone Greenwich Hospital’s own book A Royal Foundation 1692 – 1983, which, unless I’ve missed that bit, discreetly draws a veil over the whole affair, though apparently Domvile’s prolific journals are held by the National Maritime Museum.

Of course there’s always someone on the internet to whom one can refer for a nice nutty viewpoint on practically any subject, so in the interests of freedom of speech, I refer you to this page, from Spearhead, which describes Domvile as a “neglected prophet.”

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