Sunday, August 28, 2016

Revd Henry Stanley Tibbs, the rector of Teigh imprisoned for his Nazi sympathies

This is the Old Rectory at Teigh in Rutland, now a bed-and-breakfast establishment that wins outstanding reviews.

If it looks familiar it may be because it served as Mr Collins' rectory in the 1995 BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice - you know, the one with Colin Firth and the lake.

In 1940 it was home to the Revd Henry Stanley Tibbs, when he was denounced as a Nazi sympathiser by some of his parishioners and imprisoned.

Most sources say he was sent to Walton prison in Liverpool, though the National Archives page on Tibbs suggests it was the internment camp on Ascot racecourse.

The catalogue of charges against him, according to a BBC News page on the affair, was long:
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".
It all sounds unlikely, but Tibbs did make some admissions:
Writing from his cell in Liverpool Prison, Mr 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.
This basis of fact was inflated by local gossip. The Guardian thinks it know who was behind it:
Those who informed on Tibbs to MI5 included churchwarden Joseph Morley and his brother Fred, and the Rev Douglas Bartlett, of neighbouring Market Overton. 
According to the Rutland chief constable, Tibbs had expressed admiration for Hitler and, like the Mosleyites, said he wanted a negotiated peace.
The Guardian goes on to say that the appeal committee recommended Tibbs' release, but restricted him to his parish. Later all restrictions on him were lifted.

In 2008 the BBC interviewed the then vicar of Teigh (and many other parishes) James Saunders:
So what happened in the end to the hapless Mr Tibbs? 
According to Mr Saunders, he returned to the village a broken man, slipped into obscurity and died shortly afterwards. The parish was declared vacant in 1943. 
"For understandable reasons, he kind of dropped from the village's memory."
Let us leave the last word to the Revd Tibbs' earthly boss. The Bishop of Peterborough wrote in support of his defence against detention:
"Mr Tibbs is, in my opinion, a foolish, slippery-tongued fellow, but a harmless one." 

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