Britain’s tearoom fascists

In 1940, from their base in a London cafe, a pro-Nazi cell plotted to seize power. They might have caused mayhem, writes Paul Willetts, if it hadn't been for the ingenuity of an eccentric MI5 spy-hunter...

Oswald Mosley, leader of the British Union of Fascists

This article was first published in the December 2015 issue of BBC History Magazine

Early on the morning of Monday 20 May 1940 Maxwell Knight was sitting in a police car outside a central London address. With him were three Scotland Yard detectives and a senior American diplomat. Moments later, one of the detectives rang the doorbell. As soon as the maid let them in, they headed for the first-floor flat rented by an American named Tyler Kent. They ended up breaking down his door. Inside they found Kent dressed only in pyjama bottoms. What Knight and the others found elsewhere in Kent’s flat would have implications of global significance.

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