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ARCHIVED Lord Sempill and Japan: Traitor or Spy-Myth?

Monday 15 August 2022 / 6:45pm
Lord Sempill and Japan: Traitor or Spy-Myth?

Monday 15 August 2022

The Swedenborg Society

20-21 Bloomsbury Way (Hall entrance on Barter St)
London WC1A 2TH

Booking Details
Free- Booking essential

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The activities of the Japan Society are made possible thanks to the support of its members. This event is free of charge and open to all. We realise that this is a difficult time for many people. However, if you are planning to attend and do not have a membership subscription as an individual or through your employer, please consider making a donation. You can find details of membership and how to join the Japan Society community here.

The 19th Lord Sempill (1893-1965) was a distinguished aviator and a lifelong friend of Japan.  He led an unofficial British air mission to the Imperial Japanese Navy in the early 1920s, and subsequently fell under suspicion of disclosing classified information over the years 1923-1926 and 1939-1941. MI5’s extended investigations were inconclusive. But with the release of agency materials from the late 1990s onwards, Sempill attracted interest from historians and media alike. In 2012 he was labelled “the traitor of Pearl Harbor.”

In this lecture, Alex Hardie will argue that the archival evidence, together with fresh assessment of Sempill’s actions in their professional and political contexts, does not support the prevailing view of Sempill as a spy who betrayed British and American interests. The Japan Society, of which Sempill was an active member, features in both phases of the story, in his 1925 lecture on the air mission, and in the climacteric Council meeting of 10 December 1941.

Dr Alex Hardie is an Honorary Fellow in the School of History, Classics and Archaeology in the University of Edinburgh.  For 35 years (1973-2001; 2005-2012) he was a member of the British Foreign Service, with extensive responsibilities in the field of national security.

If you have any questions, please call the Japan Society office on 020 3075 1996 or email

* Image: Captain Sempill showing a Gloster Sparrowhawk to Admiral Tōgō Heihachiro (1921), via WikiCommons.

Booking Info

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