07 May 2008

Don't call me Reverend Tibbs (and don’t whatever you do fall out with your parishioners)

The Rectory Teigh, Rutland

In the summer of 1940, the sleepy parish of Teigh denounced their vicar as a traitor and a fascist. The Reverend Henry Stanley Tibbs, who had ministered to his 72-strong flock for 15 years, was sent to prison accused of being a foaming-at-the-mouth anti-Semite who promoted Hitler from the Harvest Festival pulpit.

According to newly declassified National Archive his parishioners accused Reverend Tibbs of being a member of the British Union of Fascists who harboured German spies, denounced Churchill and pledged allegiance to the Fuhrer.

The 63-year-old was not only accused of harbouring two Gestapo agents in the parish rectory - and genially introducing one of them to a local farmer - but of helping the spies draw sketches of a bomb silo at nearby Cottesmore Aerodrome. He was said to have described Germany as "our natural friend" and that a local clergyman caught the Reverend telling his children "that Hitler and Goering were the finest men in the world". One witness said he heard him describe Churchill as "a drug addict and a dictator of the vilest kind, in fact the worst dictator in the world and in the pay of the American Jews".

The charges were extraordinary. But were they true? Writing from his cell in Liverpool Prison, Tibbs admitted he had indeed, years before, belonged to the British Union of Fascists. They had an excellent agricultural policy, he said. He admitted that one of his sons, who had also been imprisoned, had joined the party. But he said it was the uniform, rather than the fascism, that appealed to him. He also conceded he had subscribed to the British Union newspaper, Action.

But, under cross-examination during his appeal, he strenuously denied all other accusations. Had he expressed "Nazi views" to his parishioners? He replied: "I never did. I have never talked politics to my parishioners, and I have never preached a political sermon in my life." Did he admire Hitler? "I think he is a very clever man, but I think he is a most horrible person," he said.

In their report, the appeals panel named another clergyman, from nearby Market Overton, "who had at one time been a great friend of Tibbs, but had some time ago had a quarrel with him "Enquiries have been made locally," the panel added. And Mr Tibbs's former friend "appears to be an ill-natured and vindictive type of man, quite capable of bearing tales about, or putting the worst interpretation on the words of anyone against whom he harboured a grudge". Then there was the local gossip among the farmers and down at the village post office about the German spies hiding out in the village rectory.

But in a parish of 72 souls, could he really have harboured two Gestapo agents? And if so, would he have introduced them to his neighbours? According to the farmer's wife who lived opposite him, he could not. She told the panel there had never been two young men living at the rectory. The appeals panel ordered Mr Tibbs to be released, with the proviso that he remained within his parish, and he returned home in December 1940.

"The committee feel that whilst Tibbs' detention was fully justified, a mass of rumour and some exaggerated reports have been built up," they wrote. "Tibbs has now learned his lesson" Eight months later the restrictions were revoked and a Home Office official described him as "harmless." In another letter, the Bishop of Peterborough wrote: "Mr Tibbs is, in my opinion, a foolish, slippery-tongued fellow, but a harmless one."

The current incumbent Reverend James Saunders said: "There were many people in the 1930s who admired Germany and admired Hitler and most of them were sensible enough to keep their heads down when war broke out." But he added: "There's always a possibility for vicars to fall out with members of the congregation.

Tibbs returned to the village a broken man, slipped into obscurity and died shortly afterwards. The parish was declared vacant in 1943. Whatever Tibbs’s sentiments he was no Archibald Maule Ramsay, the Scottish Tory MP, interned for much of WWII for being a rabid Hitler supporter and anti-Semite. I must do a post about Ramsay, now he was a vile piece of human detritus.


Sean Jeating said...

Once, in Aberystwyth, in a crowded pub, the duke-box playing Tom Jones, a man after having learnt I am German started to dote about Goethe, Mozart and Beethoven (he knew more than I did myself), then suddenly changed the subject, saying '1945 we should have joined the Germans and fought Stalin'.
I did not know what to say, but felt intrigued by his eloquence, and asked for his name.
Michael R.
And your profession?
Window cleaner.

What I tried to explain with this anecdote (one of many, and some made me feel slightly embarrassed): This world is wondrous. And it's not easy to understand why and how each individuum is getting to his/her opinion / conviction.

My attack of logorrhea will give evidence that this was another though provoking post, Jams.

The peace of the night. :)

Raven said...

This was interesting. Human nature is so complex and puzzling to me sometimes. How quickly people can turn on others - particularly in anxious times and how willing we are to believe even the most unlikely lies. The photo of the rectory is beautiful. Life is strange.

Kathy said...

Sad story. Isn't it amazing how a few rotten apples can ruin the bunch! We should alway try our best not to smear another person.

The church is beautiful.

jmb said...

It doesn't take much to make an accusation but sometimes it is so difficult defend and it's never forgotten, no matter if innocent.
What a really sad story.

James Higham said...

So, in fact he was pro-Hitler after all? Well, it was a bit silly to say so during the war.

jams o donnell said...

Thanks everyone I thought it was a fascinatig story. He was an idiot and a BUF supporter but most BUF supporters did the right thing in WWII. He must have put some of his parishoners backs up pretty badly

jams o donnell said...

While I thinkk of it Sean, I probably would be fed up with people mentioning the war just because of being german. I still find WWII fascinating, not least because my dad fought despite being a neutral and over 2 years underage when he joined up!

Sean Jeating said...

Jams, I do read all your posts about his time with interest. As for your Dad - kind regards, btw. -, serving in the British army did he also have to live for a while with some Irish people addressing him as a traitor?

jams o donnell said...

I don;t think anyone did. His dad was in the army in WWI, a lot of people he knew joined up in WWII. After the war he lived in England most everyone, including a lot of irishmen, had ben in the services.

Interestingly some years ago he met a German who had served in the Luftwaffe as a bomber navigator, as dad had been in the RAF. They had a great afternon talking about their experiences.

Sean Jeating said...

Ah, living in England might have made the difference.
I read/heard about quite a few Irish leaving Ireland to join 'the enemy's army' on their return to Ireland would not have been welcomed with open arms by all their countrymen.
As for your Dad meeting a former enemy and they both having a 'great afternoon': Wish I had been a mouse sitting in a corner listening to them.
The peace of the night, Jams.

jams o donnell said...

Having said that there were around 70,000 men and women from Eire in the British services - somewhat more than joined up from Northern Ireland. Upp to 200,000 more worked in war occupations, including an uncle who wanted to join the Navy but was in a reserved occupation.

On the whole rather more Irish people felt that their interests were best served by the allies than the axis. On the other hand the troubles were fresh in many minds and teh IRA did take a pro Nazi stance.

THe German veteran and dad had a few beers, talked about what they did in teh war. Both were doing an unpleasant job guiding bombers to drop bombs on England and Germany but there was empathy. They were in the same line of business. THe German was shot down and spent much of teh ware as a POW on a farm in Yorkshire. Dad's father was a POW in WWI (captured in August 1914) and spent much of the war as a POW working on a farm in Germany!

Sean Jeating said...

Jams, thanks for your patience.
Not to bore your community, I shall continue asking holes into your belly (German idiom) via email. :)

jams o donnell said...

I'll be happy to answer Sean

SnoopyTheGoon said...

Amazing story. Reads like an episode of one of the Evelyn Waugh books on war absurdities.

jams o donnell said...

It is an odd little tale eh Snoopy?

Anonymous said...

No Rev HS Tibbs wasnt a Hitler lover or a Nazi at all.
Mr Tibbs,a Irish born family man of considerable intellect and served his community greatly, if you care to read the files in the national archives you will realise his detainment was nothing but chinese whispers and malicious gossip.
I note the national press failed to mention that he was only a member of the BUF between 1935-1937,thats 3 years before his internment! also the BUF was very much into distancing itself from Nazism.
At the end of the day a man who had his family split apart,his name tarred and thrown into a concentration camp without trial or representation with little evidence but a few neer do well`s testimonies.
Is there any Justice?