Formby boy who fought for Hitler; He was a coward mocked by his fellows, but the hate-filled pharmacist finally achieved his dream of joining Hitler's dreaded Waffen-SS. For the first time, the story of Merseyside's forgotten traitor is told. David Charters reports.
HE WAS a misfit even among the men he admired - a white crow, whose sloping shoulders and mean, waxy face had no place in a crack fighting unit, the very name of which had spread terror across Europe. Those who knew this brooding, embittered figure dismissed him as a moral and physical coward and they nicknamed him ``Teeny-Weeny'' for reasons not fully explained, though he was never one for the ladies.
Despite it all, the wretched, unloved Francis George MacLardy, the pharmacist from Formby, did finally make it into the Waffen-SS, so playing a part in one of the most shameful episodes in British history - a black farce enacted by a few lunatics, fanatics, dreamers and opportunists.
In order to become the hero of his fantasies, the virulent Jew-hater became traitor, a member of the British Free Corps, comprising British PoWs, who switched sides during World War II.
Some, like MacLardy, had been active members of Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists in the 1930s, spewing their hate against the obvious targets - the Jews, the communists, homosexuals, in fact all those who didn't fit into their crazed notion of a pure Aryan society.
MacLardy, who fancied himself as a thinker like Joseph Goebbels, was drawn to the movement's philosophy. He was not a street-fighting man.
Those were good days for insignificant little men with big ideas to make their way in the world. Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler had shown what could be done if only you had the will.
Now the world of pale Teeny-Weeny and his deluded, but often vicious associates, is to be featured in a TV documentary. It follows this week's publication of The Traitor, a fictionalised account of their role in the war.
Central to the real story was Thomas Cooper, a disillusioned West Londoner, whose mother was German. Because of that his application to join the British forces was rejected and he drifted to Germany shortly before the outbreak of war. He was accepted into the German army, a fact noted by a senior officer with the Schut-zstaffen (SS). This resulted in him being invited to join the elite group of thugs and demagogues, which had been formed in 1928 as Hitler's personal bodyguard, but was expanded by Heinrich Himmler to control the police, the Gestapo, German security and the concentration camps.
Their black uniforms, lightning insignia and death's head were feared wherever the stamp of Nazi jackboots was heard.
Cooper was a man of rare evil and a braggadocio, like all his kind. So he spoke freely of having shot 200 Poles and 80 Jews in one day. Men, hardened by years of blood and death, winced as he told of flinging women from the tops of buildings and butchering Jewish babies.
Like MacLardy, he had been an enthusiastic member of Mosely's Blackshirts. To the German propagandists such men were promising dupes.
Their hope was to form them into a single unit, attached to the SS. Hitler, too, saw the merit in such a proposal and gave permission for recruiting to begin in 1943, when the war was edging in favour of the Allies. This led to the formation of the BFC, whose men wore SS uniforms with the Union Flag and Royal Standard sewn to their left arms. But Hitler insisted that it would see no active service unless it reached platoon strength of at least 30 men.
The Germans thought that the prison camps would be fertile ground for recruitment, originally intended to bolster the Eastern Front, where they were suffering appalling losses as the resurgent Soviet forces took terrible revenge for earlier humiliations.
Enter MacLardy, the boy born in 1915 in the middleclass suburb of Waterloo, north of Liverpool. His meticulous attention to detail, perhaps modelled on the bespectacled Himmler, made him the ideal man for such a task Guy Walters, a 31-year-old former writer and commissioning editor on The Times, has just published his first novel, The Traitor, an account of the Britons who served Hitler. Although it is a work of fiction, Walters has woven the lives of members of the BFC into the narrative.
And during his research, he came across MacLardy, who appears in the book as Maclaren.
After leaving school at 18, MacLardy, was articled to a Formby chemist, where he was to qualify in pharmacy at night school. In 1934 he joined the Liverpool branch of the BUF, which he served until 1938. After the declaration of war, he was called up for military service in the Royal Army Medical Corps, where his professional qualification led to him being made a sergeant.
On May 9, 1941, MacLardy was sent to France. Two weeks later he was captured in Wormhoudt, Belgium, scene of the murder of 80 of PoWs by the SS, as the British Expeditionary Force was driven back to the coast.
He was sent to Stalag 20 A in Torun, Poland, where he complained to his guards about the inclement weather, when not attempting to ingratiate himself with talk of his fascist sympathies and hatred of the Jews.
From there, MacLardy was sent to Stalag 21 D, Schildberg, where he was camp pharmacist. In the summer of 1943, he suffered a series of illnesses and became convinced that he would not survive another winter in Poland.
The solution was for him to join the Waffen-SS and he was sent to a new camp in Genshagen, Germany, on October 1, to recruit for the BFC.
There, he wrote traitorous propaganda leaflets. One said: ``The BFC is a thoroughly British volunteer unit, conceived and created by British subjects from all parts of the Empire, who have taken up arms and pledged their lives in the common European struggle against Soviet Russia. ``The BFC condemns the war with Germany and the sacrifice of British blood in the interests of Jewry and international finance and regards this conflict as a fundamental betrayal of the British people.
``The BFC desires the establishment of peace in Europe, the development of close friendly relations between England and Germany, the encouragement of mutual understanding and collaboration between the two great Germanic peoples.''
Many of the PoWs accepted the leaflets, fanning false hopes in MacLardy's heart. It turned out, however, that lavatory paper was in short supply.
``He was a particularly cowardly, vile human-being,'' says Walters. ``He even looks a nasty piece of work, pasty and pale.'' A document, written by another member of the BFC and filed in the Public Record Office, describes MacLardy as ``a rabid fascist, but a moral and physical coward''. From the first Hitler insisted that the BFC would not see active service unless it could find 30 men. Although it was to attract 57 people, it never had more than 29 at one time. Of those some were genuine Nazis, others thought it would be a route to an easier life, a few were spies.
Thus, the BFC was denied the opportunity of glorious sacrifice, bleeding in the snows of Russia, along with the rest of the Fuhrer's retreating army.
``The men who joined were mostly from middle-class and lower middle-class backgrounds,'' says Walters. ``They hated the Jews for one reason or another, or they were committed fascists, or they couldn't find work. Some of them had an implacable hatred of communists.
``MacLardy was actually disliked by men in his own unit, who called him Teeny-Weeny. One would beat him up in the showers.'' On September 30, Channel 5 screens The Brits Who Fought For Hitler. Adrian Weale, a writer who has researched the subject, is the documentary's associate producer. ``MacLardy was a very committed fascist,'' he says. ``From my knowledge of the BFC, He was the most ideologically committed of them all.
``He volunteered to serve in the SS before the BFC had started. He is unique in that respect. In Torun, he came across some Dutch members of the SS and approached the German authorities. He didn't like being in prison camp because it was so cold. ``MacLardy joined the BFC in 1943,'' Weale said. ``He stayed with them acting as their chief clerk and medical orderly until the following September, 1944.
``He was extremely unpopular within the Free Corps because of his very strong views. Most of them didn't see themselves as fascists. They didn't even see themselves as pro-German. They just kidded themselves they had been forced to join the Free Corps.
``As he found himself in an uncongenial environment, MacLardy transferred into the Waffen-SS medical corps proper, becoming a pharmacist at a medical stores' depot in Stettin, Poland.'' Even at the Gotterdammerung, there was to be no glory for Teeny-Weeny. Seeing that all was lost, he found a civilian suit and gave himself up to the British near Hamburg. He was still in possession of his SS paybook and they used him as an interpreter while his background was examined by MI5.
However, there is no evidence that MacLardy was personally involved in any atrocities.
Even so, he was sentenced to life for treason. That was commuted to 15 years, served in Parkhurst and then open prisons. Soon after release, the lonely bachelor left the UK for Germany, where he died in the late 1970s, unmourned and forgotten. Cooper was sentenced to death, reduced to life imprisonment. But it seems that the British establishment was anxious to play down the sorry story.
Cooper was released in 1953. He lived in Japan for some years, before returning to England, where he died in the 1980s. Although MacLardy achieved his perverted dream of wearing an SS uniform, he was not involved in active service. By the time he was accepted, the once-elite force had 800,000 men, 500,000 of whom were not German.
In the end, MacLardy was just a photograph on a pay-book. L The Traitor, by Guy Walters, is published by Headline at pounds 6.99.
`TEENY-WEENY': Francis George MacLardy, from Formby, switched sides to support the German cause; COLLEAGUES: Members of the British Free Corps which MacLardy helped to set up; PROPAGANDA: MacLardy was involved in producing literature with similar persuasive powers to German recruitment posters. MacLardy's work promoted the Free Corps as a British volunteer unit who received the enthusiastic approval of Adolf Hitler
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|Publication:||Daily Post (Liverpool, England)|
|Date:||Sep 9, 2002|
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|Men of steel; I SS Panzer Corps; the Ardennes and Eastern Front, 1944-45.|