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Britain’s Watergate? : The “Military Coup” Plot to bring down the Government

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posted on Jun, 26 2013 @ 05:08 PM

“Mountbatten had a map on the wall of his office showing how it [a military coup] could be done. Harold [Wilson] and I used to stand in the State Room at No 10 and work out where they would put the guns. We reckoned they would site them in the Horse Guards…”
Baroness Falkender - (Sunday Times, 31 March 1981)

If you are less than half a century old and you watch some modern documentaries on Britain of the 1960s and 70s then you’d be forgiven for thinking that the United Kingdom led the world in music, style and attitude in the Swinging Sixties and this then led into a silly and fun era called the 1970s. A decade when all sense of style was lost until Margaret Thatcher came along at the very end to wake us all up and declare the party was over.

These documentaries come from children of the 1970s. Obsessed by a time of flared jeans, brown corduroys, orange tank tops , space hoppers, Raleigh chopper bicycles and Slade records. But blissfully unaware of the serious political and social problems in those days of innocence.

In March 1976 the then Prime Minister Harold Wilson ,an old bloke with a pipe, who reminded us of someone’s grandfather, announced his resignation due to exhaustion.

A long hot summer followed with his replacement James Callaghan as leader of Britain.

But recent history could well have been very, very different.

Because at any time in the eight years preceding that glorious summer of 1976 we could well have seen British troops patrolling the streets of London with Lord Louis Mountbatten sat in Downing Street as the leader of a nation under military rule.

During 1974 rumours spread amongst certain ranks of the British Army of a clandestine plan to take military action against the government. The troops would be ordered to occupy the streets of mainland Britain whilst a military “junta” restored control in a nation descending into chaos. The whispers originated from some senior officers but it appeared that the backing came from a higher authority, a much higher authority. Even the Royal Family were entwined in the plot.

The protagonists believed Britain was slowly becoming a communist nation and the inherited rights of an establishment dating back to the Magna Carta were in grave danger. Severe economic problems, ever increasing industrial disputes and trade-unions controlled by the far left were the motivating reasons in the minds of those wanting military intervention. Various hard right-wing figures including James Goldmith, Ross McWhirter, Airey Neave, Lord Lucan, SAS founder David Stirling, John Aspinall and senior MI5 figures were alleged to have been behind the scheme.

The conspiracy was focused on Harold Wilson who served as Prime Minister from 1964 to 1970 and again from 1974 to 1976, winning four general elections. But then 5 weeks after his resignation in 1976, Wilson told two BBC journalists, Roger Courtiour and Barrie Penrose, of his fears. that he had been unaware of what was going on in his intelligence services and that the pair should investigate the forces threatening democratic countries like Britain.

He warned them

Business groups and other antidemocratic agencies…. these people are putting our whole idea of democracy at risk.”

Wilson was in effect their “Deep Throat” giving them valuable leads to uncover the underlying anti-democratic agenda against his government. They failed because they were distracted by another political scandal involving Jeremy Thorpe.

So for decades after Wilson’s resignation the facts remained obscured and buried amongst half truths and rumour. An official investigation in 1987 , carried out under Margaret Thatcher, unsurprisingly concluded the allegations were false, implying that Harold Wilson was delusional or paranoid.

But was he?

How Did Moves for a Military Takeover of Britain begin?

The reasons for the upper class distrust in socialism went right back to the end of the British Empire but fears were accelerated by the events of the Cold War.

Soviet defector Anatoliy Golitsyn is thought to have labelled Harold Wilson as a KGB spy. He speculated that the previous Labour Party Leader , Hugh Gaitskell, was poisoned by the KGB so that he could be replaced by a more left wing Harold Wilson. In his book “Spycatcher”, former MI5 officer Peter Wright confirmed, Wilson was the victim of a protracted, illegal campaign of destabilisation by a rogue element in the security services and they were prompted by fears that Wilson was a Soviet agent.

MI5 repeatedly investigated Wilson over the course of several years looking for his “links to the KGB”. Wilson had made frequent visits to the Soviet Union as President of the Board of Trade in the late 1940s and early 1950s and this had more than aroused suspicion. However nothing concrete ever materialised.

America was also casting a suspicious, eagle eye across the pond. During the 1960s the CIA’s head of counter-intelligence, James Angleton (pictured), also believed Britain was reaching a point where it would become ungovernable. He saw unions and workers organisations full of Trotskyists , and believed the Labour Party had been penetrated at the highest levels by communists. Angleton let it be known that Wilson had been “got at “ by the Soviets to his counterparts in Britain. His source - Anatoliy Golitsyn.

In 1968 Daily Mirror owner Cecil King was another who believed that Britain was sliding into anarchy. On May 8th 1968 he met with Lord Mountbatten, retired Chief of Defence Staff, along with Solly Zuckerman, the government's scientific adviser. In Cecil King's memoirs, ‘Without Fear or Favour’, he says he told Mountbatten of his plans. Mountbatten is alleged to have confirmed anxiety about the government in Buckingham Palace, and that the Queen had received unprecedented numbers of letters protesting about Wilson.

King then outlined his vision of an approaching economic collapse and a Prime Minister and government no longer able to control Britain. Public order would break down leading to bloodshed in the streets. He wanted Mountbatten as the head of a new administration to restore public confidence. Zuckerman left the room refusing to have anything to do with King. He told Mountbatten that this was treachery and they should have nothing to do with any conspiracy to overthrow Wilson.

Two days later, King published a self credited article in the Daily Mirror "Enough is enough".
It read:

"Mr Wilson and his government have lost all credit and we are now threatened with the greatest financial crisis in history. It is not to be resolved by lies about our reserves but only by a fresh start under a fresh leader."

King was demanding Wilson's dismissal and his removal from Downing Street. It spectacularly backfired. Three weeks later on 30th May 1968 King was fired.

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edit on 6/26/2013 by tothetenthpower because: --Mod Edit--Proper tag placement.

posted on Jun, 26 2013 @ 05:19 PM
Calm temporarily returned for a brief moment when Conservative leader Edward Heath (right) won the general election in 1970. But the economic and social problems worsened.

By late 1973 people of the privileged classes believed that they were witnessing the end of their 'British way of life'.

In a BBC programme aired in 2006 a secret document was revealed and confirmed that the Heath government of Edward Heath had been making plans for emergency rule by requisitioning TV and radio stations, the post office (which included what is now British Telecom), calling up a volunteer labour force, commandeering public transport, preparation of food depots with supplies for four weeks and the emergency stockpiling of fuel. Heath was Prime Minister for just four years, and declared five states of emergency in Britain. A declaration only made just 7 times in the previous 50 years.

Heath’s plans to curb the unions met with fierce resistance. His government ordered industry on to 3-day weeks to conserve fuel when power workers went on strike. Unemployment hit record levels. In Northern Ireland paratroopers shot dead unarmed civilians. After chronically serious industrial problems during his tenure, culminating in a coal miners strike, Heath decided to hold an election to renew his mandate in February 1974.But he lost narrowly to Wilson.

With Labour back in power, inflation rampant and the top rate of income tax at 98%, talk of a military coup circulated once again amongst the upper echelons of society and their military contacts. As the armed forces oath of allegiance was to the Queen, not her government then it seemed plausible that the government of the day could be removed legally by Royal Prerogative and military force.

The initial plan was for the Army to seize Heathrow airport, then the BBC and protect Buckingham Palace.

The Queen would issue a statement urging public support for the armed forces as her government could no longer be entrusted to maintain order. Rather worryingly an internment camp would be set up on the Shetland Islands.

Wilson’s cabinet would be held captive on the QE2, whilst his government was replaced with one headed by Lord Louis Mountbatten (pictured) .
In 1974 the Army did indeed occupy Heathrow Airport . Officially because terrorists were planning to mount an anti-aircraft attack with hand held missiles. The range of such missiles was over 50 miles. So it seems the exercise may have had another purpose.

Wilson’s political secretary Marcia Williams (Baroness Falkender) claimed that this was actually a trial run for a military takeover of Britain.

She pointed to a number of other troop mobilisations during 1974 at a time of high political tension. It is still not known who authorised them. Harold Wilson knew nothing about them in advance. Nobody had warned him troop manoeuvres were about to take place.

Someone with great influence over the military was leaving the Prime Minister completely out of the loop.

This was the moment Williams and Wilson speculated that this might be the beginning of a coup and that….

“….the guns would be trained on us from Horse Guards Parade.”

Clockwork Orange

Wilson’s final term in office saw a smear campaign launched against his government linked directly back to MI5.

Marcia Williams was accused of having an affair with Harold Wilson and labelled as a dedicated communist. Harold Wilson was accused of being an IRA sympathiser and a communist too.

Private armies began to spring up in the United Kingdom. One was ‘GB75’ set up by David Sterling ,for “apprehensive patriots “ , as he called them . Although it seemed their major purpose was to take armed action during a tense political situation if the need arose. Whatever that meant.

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edit on 26/6/13 by mirageman because: tidy up

posted on Jun, 26 2013 @ 05:22 PM

Originally posted by mirageman
These documentaries come from children of the 1970s. Obsessed by a time of flared jeans, brown corduroys, orange tank tops , space hoppers, Raleigh chopper bicycles and Slade records. But blissfully unaware of the serious political and social problems in those days of innocence.

While those who were older were very conscious of the politcal problems.
Industrial strife was endemic.
Ted Heath had been brought down by a coal strike.
There was discussion in the newspapers about whether Britain was becoming ungovernable.
A bit of a nightmare decade, if you were grown-up.
And who wakened us from that nightmare? (Better not start that one again).

I remember a mysterious article by Auberon Waugh in the Spectator announcing baldly that these were the orders, that you are to march down Whitehall and take over. Nothing happened, of course.
(The opening words were something like "Right, this is what you do"- but there was no context for it, so it was unfathomable)

I think the Mountbatten-King-Zuckermann meeting was reported in Private Eye, not too many years after the event.

edit on 26-6-2013 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)

posted on Jun, 26 2013 @ 05:23 PM
reply to post by mirageman

This can sadly will happen again due to the perceived threat of the Islamist taking over.

posted on Jun, 26 2013 @ 05:23 PM
Major Alexander Greenwood explained to the BBC in 2006 how things prevailed in the mindset of the British elite at the time.

“I came back from a cruise down the Rhine to discover to my horror that interest rates were 15 percent for one month certain, I discovered that the unions were striking again, the IRA were dropping bombs around. It was no longer a green and pleasant land, England. I thought the BBC would break down for one thing. I thought the trains would fail to run. London airport would not function anymore. The ports would be stagnant. There would be complete chaos in the land. You know the people who work in the City of London were not liking it and people who work as stockbrokers usually come from the best schools and a lot of them have titles and they weren’t liking it at all.
I know the Queen—she wasn’t very happy with Mr. Harold Wilson—but there wasn’t much she could do about it at that time. And Lord Mountbatten rang up Sir Walter Walker one evening and said, ‘If you want any help from me will you let me know.’ Sir Walter Walker had prepared a sort of speech, which the Queen might read out on the BBC that asked the people to stand behind the armed forces as there was a breakdown of law and order and the government could not keep the unions in control.”

In October of 1974 Wilson went to the polls and secured another majority in spite of MI5 constantly feeding the media with stories that he was a Soviet spy.

A vital part of the disinformation campaign against Wilson was “Clockwork Orange,” an operation run by the Information Policy Unit (IPU) working from the Army Press Office in Northern Ireland and ran in conjunction with MI5.
Colin Wallace was the MoD press officer involved in “Clockwork Orange.” He was later framed and imprisoned for manslaughter after trying to expose this operation. Wallace confirmed that the IPU briefed the press with false information linking Wilson and other Labour MPs to Soviet intelligence and the IRA.

“They believed they were the guardians of the United Kingdom. They felt that the political machinery was incapable of giving them support or introducing the policies that would enable them to deal with that threat.”
“The information that I received was related to political unreliability. It was quite clear that this information was designed not just to discredit him (Wilson) in a general sense, but bearing in mind that we were in a period running up to a general election, that that information would, most likely, have had a fairly major impact on how the public viewed him.”

The British occupation of Northern Ireland became a focus for the most reactionary forces in UK society and measures developed there came to be employed in Britain itself. The security measures designed to combat the IRA was also directed against British workers.

Wilson already knew about Wallace’s activities in 1976. He told the journalists, Penrose and Courtiour ,to speak to him, but they failed to follow up the lead as they were getting deeper into the murder accusations surrounding Jeremy Thorpe. Had they done so, Wilson’s suspicion that the security services were attempting to smear him would have been confirmed.
During the 1970s MI5 was spending more time watching British trade unionists, peace campaigners and political activists than the Soviets themselves.
By the end of the 1970s, they had files on more than 2 million UK citizens. According to Peter Wright over 30 intelligence officers had authorised leaks about Harold Wilson and other senior Labour MPs conspiring in a plot to get rid of the Prime Minister.

Despite all of this intrigue, officially, Harold Wilson resigned due to ill health in 1976. The first signs of what we now know as Alzheimer’s disease were setting in. It could be that he had become somewhat paranoid. However the British Establishment were well aware of plots against his government. The real driving force was coming from an even more paranoid and rather odd collection of people employed within the intelligence agencies who thought communism had infected Downing Street itself.

Despite the vocal protestations of the loud, but small minority within trade unions and workers groups, the British Communist Party enjoyed little support from the great majority of the public. The term ‘British Intelligence’ had seemingly become an oxymoron in 1970s.

The threat of a right-wing military coup with the support of the British military seems laughable now but was it back in the middle of the 1970s?

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edit on 26/6/13 by mirageman because: tidy up

posted on Jun, 26 2013 @ 05:27 PM
In the Radio Times of 2006 regarding the BBC docu-drama “The Plot Against Harold Wilson”
Penrose concluded:

"You may ask, how much of it can be believed. My view now, as it was then, is that Wilson was right in his fears.... in answer to the question 'how close did we come to a military government' I can only say - closer than we'd ever be content to think."

BBC Journalists Roger Courtiour and Barrie Penrose 2006

The irony is of course that by 1979, the democratic process delivered the most right wing government in living memory. The Thatcher years crushed the Trade Unions and splintered the left for years. Labour did not regain power again until 1997. That’s a whole new chapter……..


The full docu-drama can be seen here:

This was the main source for this post however others used were:

edit on 26/6/13 by mirageman because: (no reason given)

edit on Wed Jun 26 2013 by DontTreadOnMe because: EX tags

posted on Jun, 26 2013 @ 05:32 PM
From the first couple of paragraphs, very nice find.

Gonna read later at home when I'm not at work

posted on Jun, 26 2013 @ 06:00 PM

Still if he had been a KGB spy or the Goverment had gone full on red then its MI5 job and the military's job to remove the govement and replace them at least temporaly until a new election is held as it comes under protecting from domestic threats.

posted on Jun, 26 2013 @ 06:37 PM
reply to post by crazyewok

Still if he had been a KGB spy or the Goverment had gone full on red then its MI5 job and the military's job to remove the govement and replace them at least temporaly until a new election is held as it comes under protecting from domestic threats.

No it is neither MI5 or the military's 'job' to remove the government in either scenario you hypothesize.

It is MI5's job to reveal the presence of a KGB spy and then for due legal procedure to take it's course - that most definately does not entail a military led coup d'etat of a government elected in accordance with UK electoral procedure.

The military has no legal or moral right to interfere in domestic politics.

If a government had gone 'full on red' as a result of the electorate's wishes then no-one should have the right to replace that governement other than the electorate themselve's.

posted on Jun, 26 2013 @ 06:43 PM
reply to post by mirageman

Great thread.

I was aware of the bare bones of this story but not the full extent.

Well constructed and presented and wrote in a clear and concise way that makes it very readable.

posted on Jun, 26 2013 @ 06:47 PM
s & f well put together most people in the uk forget the strikes and lights going out early one thing you forgot to link to them was jimmy saville or jiml fistit to the ickeites

posted on Jun, 26 2013 @ 06:53 PM

Originally posted by Freeborn

If a government had gone 'full on red' as a result of the electorate's wishes then no-one should have the right to replace that governement other than the electorate themselve's.

Actually if a Government acts in a Treasonous way it can be removed. Same with the Monarch.

Now what constitutes treason is up for debate.

But handing the country over to the USSR would in my opinion be treasonous.

Does not matter what the public wants in that regard as it would have been harmful in the long term.

Normaly no the military, police and secrurity service should not interfere and let the public make it own mistakes.

But when those mistake involve extremes like full on Communism, Fascism,
Religious extemism or deep rooted corruption then yes I think the goverment should be forceible remove and new election with freesh canidates be done.

some times the public can be stupid and reasonble limits should be placed or you could end up with a another NAZI Germany or Stalinist Russia on your hands.

posted on Jun, 26 2013 @ 06:56 PM
Ruddy good show OP, great read.
It would make a thrilling film wouldn't it?

posted on Jun, 26 2013 @ 07:03 PM
Great thread.

Of course, like today, the evil eye from across the seas had much to do with this. For was it not the CIA who were stirring the pot to undermine Harold Wilson too ? That they & the US political elite hated Wilson because he had refused to allow the British Armed Forces to participate in the Vietnam War ?

But the US also deeply distrusted MI5 & MI6 too, believing the British security services themselves to have been deeply penetrated by the KGB, not just the Labour Party & it's leadership. In fact, some CIA people even thought the Soviets had killed Wilson's predecessor, Hugh Gaitskell, in order to get the "commie" Harold Wilson into position as Leader of the Opposition and potential Prime Minister ?

Smoke & Mirrors !

posted on Jun, 26 2013 @ 08:26 PM
in the words of the sex pistols god save the queen in a fascist regime ??

posted on Jun, 26 2013 @ 08:49 PM
reply to post by mirageman

Wow. learned a hell of a lot in you're post

The layout too was first class

posted on Jun, 26 2013 @ 10:45 PM
During this time the CIA was very active in the UK.

But so was the KGB.

The CIA was directly briefing the Queen through the American embassy almost daily because they were running out of trusted people in the UK government.

Military Coup NO in that Philip Mountbatten the Husband of the queen was a very respected navy officer.

The queen taking control of the military from the prime Minister, Taking control of the military is a valid action that the people of the UK would have backed.

The British Army. Royal Marines and the British Air Force take a oath to the Queen not the government.

I... swear by Almighty God that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will, as in duty bound, honestly and faithfully defend Her Majesty, Her Heirs and Successors, in Person, Crown and Dignity against all enemies, and will observe and obey all orders of Her Majesty, Her Heirs and Successors, and of the generals and officers set over me. So help me God.

edit on 26-6-2013 by ANNED because: (no reason given)

posted on Jun, 26 2013 @ 11:10 PM
reply to post by mirageman

Very cool post, I never post but felt like I should let you know.

I would "rep" you if I knew how, lol

posted on Jun, 27 2013 @ 12:04 AM
reply to post by mirageman

Well researched, well written and presented, well deserving of star and flag.

It's all a fabrication, of course. Here's the truth, in your own words:

In his book “Spycatcher”, former MI5 officer Peter Wright confirmed, Wilson was the victim of a protracted, illegal campaign of destabilisation by a rogue element in the security services and they were prompted by fears that Wilson was a Soviet agent.

That's really all there was to it. That and a vicious, senile old Royal who dreamed dreams of a return to the days before Cromwell, but with whom no-one would cooperate.

Of all countries in the world, Britain is by far the least likely ever to succumb to tyranny and totalitarianism.

edit on 27/6/13 by Astyanax because: of wellness.

posted on Jun, 27 2013 @ 12:08 AM
reply to post by Freeborn

If a government had gone 'full on red' as a result of the electorate's wishes then no-one should have the right to replace that governement other than the electorate themselves.

Absolutely. And at the time of the non-events of which the OP speaks, that appeared to be a strong possibility.

The along came the Handbag, who proved conclusively that it was not.

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