Donald Grant (8 October 1907–mid 1980s) ran the German propaganda radio station Radio Caledonia between 1940 and 1942. Often using the aliases 'Derrick Grant' or 'Donald Palmer', he was born a British subject and remained so as he had not taken out any German nationalisation papers. After the war he was sentenced to six months imprisonment for aiding the enemy.
Donald Alexander Fraser Grant was born 8 October 1907 at Alness in the Black Isle, the only son of John and Christine Grant, who ran a grocery business in the village at Pretoria House. He was educated at Alness Public School and Dingwall Academy until the age of about 17.
On leaving school he assisted his parents in their grocery business, but when he was 18 he went to Bradford to live with his uncle, also Donald Grant, and secured work as a clerk in the office of a woollen mill run by the Greengates Worsted Company. After two years there he went back to Alness to help his parents in their business.
A man who briefly knew Grant in Alness recalled him as "a loner, who became fascinated with dangerous ideas". These ideas led to his father banning him from the family home.
Four years later he secured work as a salesman in Newcastle with the Gestetner Duplicating Company. After a few months he went to London and was given the job of salesman with the Minimax Fire Extinguisher Company and was given the area of County Tipperary, Ireland. As his earnings were low, he once again returned to Alness to help with the family business for about another four years. Following that, he went back to Bradford for a short holiday.
In about 1934 Grant proceeded to London and worked for the radio multiple firm of Lloyd Radio, then the Hoover Cleaning Company from 1937 until his departure for Germany in July 1939.
Grant's uncle described him as being "a disgruntled person" who was anti-British and 100 per cent Fascist, keen on Sir Oswald Mosley and extremely bitter towards the Jews. Grant was a self-confessed fascist and told his British interrogators, when they interviewed him after the Second World War, that he had first become interested in fascism while in England in 1934:
I had taken the average interest in politics and was particularly interested in social welfare. I had the desire to see England a still better place for her people to live in and, being not entirely satisfied with the achievements of the political parties at that time, I became attracted to the Fascist movement. About July 1938, I became an ordinary subscribing member of the South Kensington branch of the Mosley Party. I undertook no activities in that Party apart from taking an interest in and giving some assistance to the Film Unit. I was interested in film technique and had studied this subject to some extent. I was thoroughly disappointed with the general conditions prevailing in that party and also with the majority of the type of people who were in it. Certain leaflets on agricultural and financial matters issued by the Imperial Fascist League attracted my attention and led me to become a member of this organisation about the month of September 1938. I undertook the work of trying to form a small group in the Earls Court district where I lived at 96 Philbeach Gardens. We did not have more than about six members. As, in the interests of World peace, I was in favour of promoting an Anglo-German understanding, I joined "The Link", probably in the Spring of 1939.
During 1938 and 1939 he was in correspondence with the Nazi propaganda leader, Rolf Hoffmann, sending him lists of persons in Britain to whom propaganda should be sent, and describing himself "a British Fascist". In this correspondence he used the name 'Derrick F. Grant'. He began to receive regular issues of News from Germany and, in March 1939, received pamphlets including Who wants war? by Dr Goebbels (which blamed the Allied push for war on Jewish cliques close to the governments of Britain, France and the US); Adolf Hitler offers France 25 years of peace; and Jewry and Penal Punishment.
After mentioning that he intended to visit Germany, Hoffmann told him to let them know if he was coming to Munich (Hoffmann was based at the Reich's foreign press office at Karlstrasse 18, Munich) and, even if not, "we will be able to make connections for you in other places, and give you addresses of worthwhile places and people".
Move to Germany
Grant claimed that at a London meeting of the 'Weltklub Union' in early 1938, he met the daughter of a German family and agreed a holiday exchange in which she would visit London for four weeks, and in return he would stay for four weeks with her and her family in Magdeburg. He secured a British passport and left for Germany on 7 July 1939. Given world events, it was a strange time for a British person to holiday in the Third Reich and MI5 were naturally sceptical about his motives. Grant later claimed that, despite the threats of war at the time, the actual declaration of war had come as a surprise to him. Grant decided to wait, but five days after the outbreak of war it was announced that no foreigner was to leave the town where he lived.
On 11 September 1939, he was arrested by the German police and put in Hanover Prison. He was released four days later and shortly thereafter was sent to work in a number of menial jobs.
A number of people who knew Grant when he was in Germany have testified to the fact that he was very "anti-Jewish" and had argued that the Jews were running Britain.
Radio Caledonia career
British intelligence believed that when Grant found his employment as a crossing sweeper and in the paper factory intolerable, Fraulein Jirka got him a job for the Rundfunk radio service in Berlin through her Party connections.
In mid-June 1940, Grant received a letter from Rundfunk, inviting him to an interview with Dr Erich Hetzler, head of the English section. Grant later recalled:
It was explained to me in Berlin by Dr Erich Metzler that the work concerned the effort to secure a mutual peace between Britain and Germany and the promotion of an understanding between the two countries. I declared frankly that I was always prepared to help in the work of stopping any war and promoting understanding between my own country and any other and particularly Germany because I believed that understanding between that country and my own was absolutely essential to World peace.
From 19 June 1940, Grant began work at the Bureau Concordia, a special broadcasting department in the German ministry of propaganda. Dr Metzler suggested it would be better if Grant took up a Fremden Pass under another name. Grant officially become known as 'Donald Palmer', although he was known by some colleagues as 'Jock' Palmer.
[Hetzler] suggested that we should start a small short wave radio transmitter to be addressed to Scotland with the aim of advocating a peace and development of understanding between the two people. I agreed for the following reasons: 1) I sincerely wanted to see the Scottish people at peace and devoting their energy to their future welfare. 2) Taking a purely objective view as a Scot, I could not see that the war really concerned Scotland. Firstly, no threat was involved to Scottish interests and secondly, because of the cause of the declaration of war, namely Danzig and the Polish Corridor. I was further influenced by the fact that France was heavily defeated and I feared for the fate of my country. I declare frankly that I went into the business with open eyes but without the idea of working for the interests of Germany or securing any personal gain. My actions were the results of my personal convictions and beliefs at that time. They may or may not have been based on false foundations but at any rate I was perfectly sincere in my purpose, namely that of bringing about peace and understanding between my own country and Germany or any other country.
Towards the end of June 1940, Radio Caledonia went on the air. Grant added: "My own idea of the line this station should adopt will be clear from my previous statements."
Life after Radio Caledonia
Grant ceased working for Radio Caledonia when it ceased transmissions in August 1942. Thereafter, he remained with Büro Concordia, devoting himself mainly to archive work. As he later explained:
This consisted of reading the British papers when received and filing any articles contained in them of interest for the other two stations, the New British Broadcasting Station and Workers Challenge. I was occasionally asked to write news items for the NBBS and Workers Challenge. Not being in agreement with the line adopted by these stations I did this work most unwillingly and frequently managed to avoid on the excuse that I had too many English newspapers to read.
He remained working for the service until the beginning of April 1945, when, as he put it, "I made good my escape".
Grant surrendered to the British authorities in Baden-Baden in October 1946. He made a deposition on oath before Major T.P.A. Davies, Grenadier Guards, War Crimes Liaison Officer, French Zone, at Baden Baden on 31 October 1946.
He was removed to detention at Paderborn on 15 November 1946.
Grant was very fortunate when taken to court, receiving a light sentence of six months' imprisonment. Mr Justice Atkinson told him that
if you had really broadcast something offensive and really harmful I would have taken a different view, but I am given to assume you were activated by no feeling of hostility to this country and had no desire to help Germany, but that you genuinely believed it was your duty to help peace.
Grant emigrated to apartheid South Africa, then returned to London, where he is believed to have died in the mid-1980s.
- Gavin Bowd, Fascist Scotland, (Edinburgh: Birlinn, 2013), 339.
- National Archives KV2/424.