Arthur Kenneth Chesterton, M.C. was born at the turn of the century on the Luipaards Vlei gold mine at Krugersdorp on the Witwatersrand, South Africa, where his father was mine secretary. He went to King Edwards's School, Johannesburg, and was later sent to England to Berkhamsted. In 1915, unhappy there and interested only in the war, he persuaded his parents to let him return to South Africa and, immediately upon arrival, he slipped away without their knowledge to enlist in the 5th South African Infantry, exaggerating his age by four years to gain acceptance. Before his 17th birthday he had been in the thick of three battles in German East Africa. Later in the war he was able to transfer to the 7th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers where he served for the rest of the war as a commissioned officer on the Western Front.
In 1918, for conspicuous gallantry while leading a series of attacks against enemy machine-gun posts, he was awarded the Military Cross.
For a spell after the war he prospected for diamonds and then joined the Johannesburg Star - his first excursion into journalism. In 1922 he was reporting on the Rand rebellion and was very briefly back in uniform, leading a daring and successful attack on the headquarters of the rebels. This marked the end of the insurrection.
In 1924, A.K. came back to England to work on the Stratford-on-Avon Herald, and then as editor of the Shakespeare Review. When, in the early 1930's, the new Shakespeare Memorial Theatre was opened by the Prince of Wales, his speech was written by A.K.
He edited the Torquay Times and other newspapers of the Torquay Times Group, founded the Paignton News and wrote several plays, one of which Leopard Valley, was produced in Southport.
In 1933, A.K. married Doris Terry. By then the economic chaos into which Britain was sliding prompted him and many others to join Sir Oswald Mosley in the British Union of Fascists. He became prominent in the movement and edited publications for the Action Press, but quarrelled with Mosley's policies and left the movement in 1937.
When the Second World War started he rejoined the army, volunteered for tropical service and went through all the hardships of the great push up from Kenya across the wilds of Jubaland through the desert of Ogaden and into the remotest parts of Somalia. He was afterwards sent down to the coast to join the Somaliland Camel Corps and intervene in the inter-tribal warfare among the Somalis. It was his experiences with these tribesmen that led to the writing of A.K.'s only humorous book Juma the Great. In 1943 his health broke down and he was invalided out of the army with malaria and colitis, returning to journalism.
In 1944 he became deputy editor and chief leader writer of Truth, under the fine editorship of Collin Brooks. In April 1953, he became literary adviser and personal journalist to Lord Beaverbrook, and special writer on the Daily Express Group, contributing articles to the Daily Express, Sunday Times, and Evening Standard. The relationship with 'The Beaver' was not a smooth one! At the start A.K. had insisted on honourably working out his notice with Truth, and this displeased Beaverbrook. Then Truth was bought out and debased by Mr. Ronald Staples and A.K., determined that its tradition of fearless comment should not be lost, established Candour and his life, for so long dedicated to personal sacrifice for his country, entered its finest and most effective period. Because the money first subscribed was sufficient only to cover only printing and basic costs - and that only for a short period - A.K. took no salary, but continued his highly-paid work with Beaverbrook until that, too, he sacrificed.
In the August/September issue of Candour was reproduced Sound the Alarm! the first leading article in Candour, which shows how accurately the pattern of attack on the British world had been discerned, and how uncompromising and brilliant was to be the counter-attack. The early months of the paper brought fresh financial support, particularly from R.K. Jeffrey, and the small original band of active supporters was reinforced as the little paper grew in circulation and impact.
For fifty seven embattled years Candour, as A.K. Chesterton's platform, has been the foremost weapon in the armoury of not only Britain's defense, but that of civilised rule the world over.
Arthur Kenneth Chesterton M.C. died on Thursday, August 16th 1973, a month after he was found to be suffering from cancer of the pancreas.
After his death, Candour continued to be published under the editorship of Miss Rosine de Bounevialle and when she died in 1999, the torch was passed on to Colin Todd.
The above article is based upon "Farewell to A.K." by Aidan MacKey and published in the A.K Chesterton Memorial booklet. This is available from the A.K. Chesterton Trust - please see the bookshop page of this website for ordering details.
by Aiden Mackey