British Executions

John Amery

Age: 33

Sex: male

Crime: treason

Date Of Execution: 30 Nov -0001

Crime Location:

Execution Place: Wandsworth

Method: hanging

Executioner: Albert Pierrepoint


The following information has been extracted from the various PRO files concerning the trial and execution of John Amery for High Treason. John Amery pleaded guilty at his trial, which meant his court appearance lasted for just eight minutes.

HO 45/25773

This piece contains numerous press cutting’s, mainly complaining about the delay in bringing John Amery to trial for High Treason. The Daily Worker (the British Communist Party newspaper), in its 21 June 1945 edition, mentioned that Leo Amery was standing for the Conservatives in Birmingham Sparkbrook, and Captain Julian Amery was standing in Preston. According to the article, Conservative Central Office refused to confirm if they would proceed with John Amery’s trial, at the Central Criminal Court, if they won the forthcoming General Election. In the Daily Worker of 29 June 1945, an article asks if the delay is due to the impending General Election, or a lack of evidence. They reprinted a propaganda leaflet featuring John Amery appealing for British POWs to join the Legion of St. George.

John Amery was captured by Italian Partisans at the end of April 1945. He had been held in British Military Custody since May 1945. He arrived back in this country on 7 July 1945. He was committed at Bow Street Magistrates Court on 9 July 1945 charged with eight counts of High Treason. He was remanded to Brixton Prison to await his trial at the Old Bailey. When Amery's trial opened on 28 November 1945, before Mr. Justice Humphreys, Amery pleaded guilty to eight counts of high treason. Once the judge had satisfied himself that Amery knew the consequences of his actions, he sentenced Amery to death by hanging.

Click here to read "The Times" report of John Amery's brief trial.

John Amery was born on 14 March 1912, the son of Rt. Hon. Leo Amery, MP and Florence Amery. His younger brother was Julian Amery.

This Home Office piece also contains the M.I.5 report on John Amery’s wartime career, and the sworn statements of potential witnesses at his forthcoming trial.

HO 144/22823

This piece contains numerous reports concerning John Amery’s mental condition.

The main medical report, asked for by Amery's Father, is reproduced here.

According to the report, it appears that John Amery was pathologically insane. He was rebellious at Harrow, and a bankrupt by the age of 25. According to his Father Leo Amery, he pleaded guilty at his trial to spare his family any more anguish.

There was also a petition signed by 27 people in Birmingham requested that John Amery be reprieved. The Home Office file also contains various letters from Florence, sent during 1948, requesting permission to visit John Amery’s grave and lay some flowers. She also requested to speak to the Prison Chaplain, who attending to John Amery while he was awaiting execution in Wandsworth Prison.

Various people have also stated in various reports, John Amery’s disregard for any authority. John Amery under went a Electro-Encephalogram at The National Hospital, Queen Square, on 14 December 1945. It found no abnormalities.

The Sunday Dispatch of 2 December 1945, reported that John Amery was already dying with Tuberculosis. However, no sign of lung disease was found at the Post Mortem conducted after his execution.

This P.R.O piece continues on from HO 144/22822, which is contained on microfilm.

Before Amery's execution Field Marshal Smuts sent the following letter to Prime Minister Clement Attlee:

PRIME MINISTER 14 December 1945.

Mr. Heaton Nicholls telephoned to say that he had received the following cable from Field Marshal Smuts.

"Please convey to Mr Attlee a private and personal message from me as soon as possible in connection with the possible execution of Amery’s son. We have had similar cases in South Africa, in none of which execution has been inflicted, as the acts were more of an ideological than of a criminal character. I am deeply moved by consideration for Amery and his wife, both of whom have deserved well of their country."

Mr. Heaton Nicholls said that, as he understood the Home Secretary was making a decision in this case this evening, he had telephoned this message through already to the Home Secretary for his information.

I have checked with the Home Office that no final decision has yet been reached by the Home Secretary.

The Prime Minister, Clement Attlee, replied on 15 December 1945, that he had no locus standi. The decision was a matter solely for the Home Secretary, Chuter Ede. The Prime Minister said that he appreciated Smuts’ feeling in the matter, and conveyed his message to the Home Secretary.

PCOM 9/1117

John Amery requested that four photographs in his possession should be passed to his brother, Captain Julian Amery, after his execution. The prison hospital report on John Amery stated that he was a heavy smoker, usually smoking his daily allowance of 15 small cigarettes.

At his execution, which occurred at 9 am. on 19 December 1945 at Wandsworth Prison, Amery was given a drop of 7 feet 8 inches. His height and weight were recorded as 5 feet 7 inches and 140 lbs. John Amery was described as 33 years old, a spare but a man of muscular build.

The Post Mortem was carried out by Dr. Keith Simpson later that day. John Amery had a fracture dislocation between the 2ND and 3RD cervical vertebrae. There was a 2-inch gap, with complete separation of the spinal cord at that level. He also had multiple fractures of the Hyoid and Thyoid cartilage. John Amery was buried in the prison graveyard later the same day.

The Executioner was Albert Pierrepoint, and his assistant was Mr. H.E. Critchell. In his autobiography, Pierrepoint described Amery as the bravest man that he had to execute.

On 22 April 1948, J.M. Wilmot Brooke wrote a letter requesting permission for Mrs. F. Amery to visit the grave of her son. The Home Office refused permission for the visit.