Oswald Mosley

Oswald Mosley

Oswald Mosley, the eldest of the three sons of Sir Oswald Mosley (1874–1928), who succeeded to the baronetcy in 1915, and his wife, Maud Mosley (1874–1950), was born on 16th November 1896. According to his biographer, Robert Skidelsky: "When Mosley was five Maud Mosley obtained a judicial separation from her husband on account of the latter's infidelities and possibly also to protect Tom, as she called her eldest son, from his father's bullying. Thereafter his childhood was divided between his mother's modest house near her family home in Shropshire and the massive neo-Gothic pile of Rolleston Hall... Mosley adored his mother and his paternal grandfather, who in turn worshipped him. To his mother, a pious, fiercely loyal woman, he was a substitute for an absent husband."

At the age of nine he was sent away to West Down, a small preparatory school. Four years later he entered Winchester College. An excellent sportsman he was trained to box and fence by two ex-army NCOs. At fifteen he won the public schools' fencing championship in both foil and sabre. He was less successful with his academic work but one of his teachers recalled that he had a "wonderful imagination and could write a first-class essay".

Oswald Mosley and the First World War

In January 1914 Oswald Mosley became an officer cadet at Sandhurst, which he entered as an officer cadet. He was a high-spirited student and one night after getting drunk he fought a fellow cadet that resulted in him breaking his right ankle. On the outbreak of the First World War he was commissioned in the 16th Lancers, a cavalry regiment. However, later that year he volunteered for the Royal Flying Corps, and by Christmas 1914 was flying as an observer over enemy lines.

Oswald Mosley gained his pilot's certificate, but showing off before his mother at Shoreham Airport in May 1915 he crashed his plane and broke his right ankle for a second time. He now returned to the Western Front as a soldier. The waterlogged trenches caused problems for his injured ankle and he was sent home for an operation, which saved his leg but left him with a permanent limp. In October 1916, it was decided that he was not fit enough for front-line duty and for the rest of the war did desk work.

Oswald Mosley in the House of Commons

Mosley became the youngest MP in the House of Commons after winning Harrow for the Conservative Party in the 1918 General Election. According to Jim Wilson: "Mosley had emerged from the war a dashing figure, much in demand by political hostesses, with a barely disguised contempt for what he regarded as middle-class morality; blandly describing his well-known pursuit of married women as flushing the covers." Stanley Baldwin, a fellow Tory MP, commented: "He's a cad and a wrong'un and they will find out."

In 1920 he married Cynthia Curzon, the daughter of Lord Curzon of Kedleston, the daughter of the former Viceroy of India. Mosley had numerous affairs, including relationships with his wife's younger sister Alexandra Metcalfe (1904-1995), and with their stepmother, Grace Curzon (1879-1958). Robert Skidelsky has pointed out: "Their wedding at the Chapel Royal, St James's Street, was attended by George V and Queen Mary. Their life together started on a high note of mutual passion which was not, however, sustained. Cimmie, as she was always known, was an idealistic, emotional, not very clever woman, who idolized her husband, and wanted to be adored and cherished in return. Mosley's love for her was genuine, and fervently expressed in letters full of baby talk, written in an illegible hand. But he was incapable of fidelity, resented her minding about his love affairs, and he abused her in public for what he saw as her simplicities."

Oswald Mosley joins the Labour Party

Oswald Mosley held Harrow as an independent in the general elections of 1922 and 1923, though with declining majorities. The second of the elections led to the formation of the first Labour government under Ramsay MacDonald. On 27th March 1924 Mosley applied to join the Labour Party. He fought Ladywood, in the general election of October 1924, being narrowly defeated by the incumbent, Neville Chamberlain. He was returned to parliament as MP for Smethwick, in a by-election in December 1926.

Oswald Mosley
Oswald Mosley

In October 1927 Mosley was elected to the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party. He was now one of the leading figures in the party. David Low remarked that "Mosley was young, energetic, capable and an excellent speaker." Aneurin Bevan thought he was a potential leader of the party. Jennie Lee agreed that Mosley had ability but believed he was a deeply flawed individual: "Another bright light in this 1929 Parliament was Sir Oswald Mosley. He had a fatal flaw in his character, on overwhelming arrogance and an unshakable conviction that he was born to rule."

1929 General Election

When Ramsay MacDonald formed his Labour Government after the 1929 General Election, he appointed Mosley as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. In January 1930 Mosley proposed a programme that he believed would help deal with growing unemployment in Britain. Based on the ideas of John Maynard Keynes he suggested stimulating foreign trade, directing industrial policy, and using public funds to promote industrial expansion.

According to David Marquand: "It made three main assertions - that the machinery of government should be drastically overhauled, that unemployment could be radically reduced by a public-works programme on the lines advocated by Keynes and the Liberal Party, and that long-term economic reconstruction required a mobilisation of national resources on a larger scale than has yet been contemplated. The existing administrative structure, Mosley argued, was hopelessly inadequate. What was needed was a new department, under the direct control of the prime minister, consisting of an executive committee of ministers and a secretariat of civil servants, assisted by a permanent staff of economists and an advisory council of outside experts."

Ramsay MacDonald passed the Mosley Memorandum to a committee consisting of Philip Snowden, Tom Shaw, Arthur Greenwood and Margaret Bondfield. The committee reported back on 1st May. Mosley's administrative proposals, the committee claimed "cut at the root of the individual responsibilities of Ministers, the special responsibility of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the sphere of finance, and the collective responsibility of the Cabinet to Parliament". The Snowden Report went onto argue that state action to reduce unemployment was highly dangerous. To go further than current government policy "would be to plunge the country into ruin".

MacDonald recorded in his diary what happened when Oswald Mosley heard the news about his proposals on 19th May: "Mosley came to see me... had to see me urgently: informed me he was to resign. I reasoned with him and got him to hold his decision over till we had further conversations. Went down to Cabinet Room late for meeting. Soon in difficulties. Mosley would get away from practical work into speculative experiments. Very bad impression. Thomas light, inconsistent but pushful and resourceful; others overwhelmed and Mosley on the verge of being offensively vain in himself."

Economic Crisis

At a meeting of Labour MPs took place on 21st May where Oswald Mosley outlined his proposals. This included the provision of old-age pensions at sixty, the raising of the school-leaving age and an expansion in the road programme. Arthur Henderson appealed to Mosley to withdraw his motion so that his proposals could be discussed in detail at later meetings. Mosley insisted on putting his motion to the vote and was beaten by 210 to 29.

In a debate in the House of Commons on 28th May 1930, MacDonald argued that the rise in unemployment was caused by factors outside the government's control. The public disagreed and the Labour Party suffered several by-election defeats. MacDonald wrote in his diary that the "party is showing signs of panic". He added that "Mosley is hard at work capturing the party".

Oswald Mosley
David Low commented on Mosley resigning in May, 1930

Jennie Lee pointed out: "He (Mosley) had a fatal flaw in his character, on overwhelming arrogance and an unshakable conviction that he was born to rule, drove him on to the criminal folly of donning a black shirt and surrounding himself with a band of bullyboys, and so becoming a pathetic imitation Hitler, doomed to political impotence for the rest of his life."

Oswald Mosley and the British Union of Fascists

In 1931 Mosley founded the New Party. Supporters included John Strachey, Cyril Joad, William Joyce, Mary Richardson, John Becket and Harold Nicholson, but in the 1931 General Election none of the New Party's candidates were elected. In January 1932 Mosley met Benito Mussolini in Italy. Mosley was impressed by Mussolini's achievements and when he returned to England he disbanded the New Party and replaced it with the British Union of Fascists.

Oswald Mosley
Oswald Mosley in 1932

The British Union of Fascists was strongly anti-communist and argued for a programme of economic revival based on government spending and protectionism. Mary Richardson later commented: "I was first attracted to the Blackshirts because I saw in them the courage, the action, the loyalty, the gift of service, and the ability to serve which I had known in the suffrage movement".

Success in Worthing

Charles Bentinck Budd was elected to the Worthing Town Council as a member of the BUF in October 1933. The national press reported that Worthing was the first town in the country to elect a Fascist councillor. Worthing was now described as the "Munich of the South". Oswald Mosley announced that Budd was the BUF Administration Officer for Sussex . On Friday 1st December 1933, the BUF held its first public meeting in Worthing in the Old Town Hall. According to the author of Storm Tide: Worthing 1933-1939 (2008): "It was crowded to capacity, with the several rows of seats normally reserved for municipal dignitaries and magistrates now occupied by forbidding, youthful men arrived in black Fascist uniforms, in company with several equally young women dressed in black blouses and grey skirts."

On 4th January, 1934, Budd reported that over 150 people in Worthing had joined the British Union of Fascists. He claimed that the greatest intake had come from increasingly disaffected Conservatives. The Weekly Fascist News described the growth in membership as "phenomenal". Budd also announced that local communists had broken into his offices at 27 Marine Parade and stolen 96 BUF badges, together with cigarettes and £2.2s.8d in cash. However, soon afterwards the police arrested Cyril Mitchell of 16 Leigh Road, Broadwater. Mitchell, who admitted the offence, was in fact a young Blackshirt, who had broken into the offices after a night out in the pub. He told the police, "something came over me… I had too much beer".

The mayor of Worthing, Harry Duffield, the leader of the Conservative Party in the town, was most favourably impressed with the Blackshirts and congratulated them on the disciplined way they had marched through the streets of Worthing. He reported that employers in the town had written to him giving their support for the British Union of Fascists. They had "no objection to their employees wearing the black shirt even at work; and such public spirited action on their part was much appreciated."

Oswald Mosley
Oswald Mosley and the Blackshirts.

On 26th January, 1934, William Joyce, the deputy leader of the BUF, addressed a public meeting at the Pier Pavilion. Over 900 people turned up to hear Joyce speak. In his speech he pledged to free British industry from foreigners, "be they Hebrew or any other form of alien." Joyce ended his two-hour speech with: "Reclaim what is your own in the fullness of Fascist victory!"

It was announced that Charles Bentinck Budd had arranged for Oswald Mosley and William Joyce to address a meeting at the Pavilion on 9th October, 1934. The venue was packed with fascist supporters. The meeting was disrupted when a few hecklers were ejected by hefty East End bouncers. Mosley, however, continued his speech undaunted, telling his audience that Britain's enemies would have to be deported: "We were assaulted by the vilest mob you ever saw in the streets of London - little East End Jews, straight from Poland. Are you really going to blame us for throwing them out?"

At the close of the proceedings the main body of uniformed Fascists, led by Joyce, emerged from the Pavilion on to the Esplanade. It was estimated that there were 2,000 people waiting outside. The crowd surged forward and several fights began. A ninety-six-year-old woman, Doreen Hodgkins, was struck on the head by a Blackshirt before being escorted away. When the Blackshirts retreated inside, the crowd began to chant: "Poor old Mosley's got the wind up!"

The author of Storm Tide: Worthing 1933-1939 (2008) has pointed out: "By this time all nineteen available members of the Borough's police force had been called out, and through their combined efforts a lane through the crowd was forced open from the Pavilion steps across the Esplanade to Marine Parade. But as Joyce and his re-formed black-shirted cohort passed along it they were constantly barracked and jostled; while the sudden appearance of Sir Oswald himself, together with the bodyguards of his Defence Force, led to a further outbreak of scuffles on the Esplanade as large numbers of spectators eagerly closed in upon him. One Blackshirt was knocked to the ground and there were shouts for Sir Oswald to be thrown into the sea... Despite such imprecations, however, the mood of the majority remained largely good-natured: most people, prompted by curiosity and awe, simply wanting to get a closer, more proper, look at such a famous yet notorious figure. But Sir Oswald, clearly out of countenance and feeling menaced, at once ordered his tough, battle-hardened bodyguards - all of imposing physique and, like their leader, towering over the policemen on duty - to close ranks and adopt their fighting stance which, unsurprisingly, as all were trained boxers, had been modelled on, and closely resembled, that of a prize fighter."

Chris Hare, the author of Historic Worthing (2008) has argued: "Mosley, accompanied by William Joyce, left the Pavilion and, protected by a large body of blackshirts, crossed over the road to Barnes's cafe in the Arcade. Stones and rotten vegetables were soon crashing through the windows of the cafe. Boys were observed firing peashooters at the beleaguered Fascists, while some youths were taking aim with air rifles. Meanwhile a group of young men climbed onto the roof of the Arcade and dislodged a large piece of masonry, which plummeted to earth through the arcade, landing only feet away from the Fascist leader. Things were getting too hot for the Fascists, who made a run for it, up the Arcade into Montague Street, then into South Street. Their intention was presumably to reach either their headquarters in Ann Street, or The Fountain in South Street, known as a 'Fascist pub', but they were ambushed on the corner of Warwick Street by local youths. Hearing the row, more Fascists hurried down from the Fountain to go to Mosley's aid. Fights broke out, bodies were slung against shop windows, and startled residents threw open their windows to see a seething mass of entangled bodies desperately struggling for control of the junction between South Street and Warwick Street."

Superintendent Bristow later claimed that a crowd of about 400 people attempted to stop the Blackshirts from getting to their headquarters. A series of fights took place and several people were injured. Francis Skilton, a solicitor's clerk who had left his home at 30 Normandy Road to post a letter at the Central Post Office in Chapel Road, and got caught up in the fighting. A witness, John Birts, later told the police that Skilton had been "savagely attacked by at least three Blackshirts." It was not until 11.00 p.m. that the police managed to clear the area.

Anti-Semitism

By 1934 Mosley was expressing strong anti-Semitic views and provocative marches through Jewish districts in London led to riots. The passing of the 1936 Public Order Act that made the wearing of political uniforms and private armies illegal, using threatening and abusive words a criminal offence, and gave the Home Secretary the powers to ban marches, completely undermined the activities of the BUF.

Mosley attracted members from other right-wing groups such as the British Fascisti, National Fascists and the Imperial Fascist League. By 1934 the BUF was able to establish its own drinking clubs and football teams. The BUF also gained the support of Lord Rothermere and the Daily Mail. Rothermere wrote an article, Hurrah for the Blackshirts, on 22nd January, 1934, in which he praised Mosley for his "sound, commonsense, Conservative doctrine". Rothermere added: "Timid alarmists all this week have been whimpering that the rapid growth in numbers of the British Blackshirts is preparing the way for a system of rulership by means of steel whips and concentration camps. Very few of these panic-mongers have any personal knowledge of the countries that are already under Blackshirt government. The notion that a permanent reign of terror exists there has been evolved entirely from their own morbid imaginations, fed by sensational propaganda from opponents of the party now in power. As a purely British organization, the Blackshirts will respect those principles of tolerance which are traditional in British politics. They have no prejudice either of class or race. Their recruits are drawn from all social grades and every political party. Young men may join the British Union of Fascists by writing to the Headquarters, King's Road, Chelsea, London, S.W."

According to a MI5 report in 1934 the BUF had between 35,000 and 40,000 active members. It also said that senior service officers and prominent businessmen had joined the party. The Conservative Party became concerned about losing members to the BUF. One of their MPs, Colonel Thomas Moore, wrote in the Daily Mail on 25th April 1934: "Surely there cannot be any fundamental difference of outlook between the Blackshirts and their parents, the Conservatives?"

Lord Rothermere and Oswald Mosley

The London Evening News, another newspaper owned by Lord Rothermere, found a more popular and subtle way of supporting the Blackshirts. It obtained 500 seats for a BUF rally at the Royal Albert Hall and offered them as prizes to readers who sent in the most convincing reasons why they liked the Blackshirts. Another title owned by Rothermere, The Sunday Dispatch, even sponsored a Blackshirt beauty competition to find the most attractive BUF supporter. Not enough attractive women entered and the contest was declared void.

David Low heard Mosley speak at a meeting in London: "Mosley spoke effectively at great length. Delivery excellent, matter reckless. Interruptions began, but no dissenting voice got beyond half a dozen sentences before three or four bullies almost literally jumped on him, bashed him and lugged him out. Two such incidents happened near me. An honest looking blue-eyed student type rose and shouted indignantly Hitler means war! whereupon he was given the complete treatment."

Mosley appointed William Joyce as the party full-time Propaganda Director. Joyce, along with Mosley and Mick Clarke, were the organisations three main public speakers. On 7th June, 1934, the British Union of Fascists held a large rally at Olympia. About 500 anti-fascists including Vera Brittain, Richard Sheppard and Aldous Huxley, managed to get inside the hall. When they began heckling Oswald Mosley they were attacked by 1,000 black-shirted stewards. Several of the protesters were badly beaten by the fascists.

Margaret Storm Jameson pointed out in The Daily Telegraph: "A young woman carried past me by five Blackshirts, her clothes half torn off and her mouth and nose closed by the large hand of one; her head was forced back by the pressure and she must have been in considerable pain. I mention her especially since I have seen a reference to the delicacy with which women interrupters were left to women Blackshirts. This is merely untrue... Why train decent young men to indulge in such peculiarly nasty brutality?"

The Daily Mail continued to give its support to the fascists. George Ward Price wrote about anti-fascist demonstrators at a meeting of the National Union of Fascists on 8th June, 1934: "If the Blackshirts movement had any need of justification, the Red Hooligans who savagely and systematically tried to wreck Sir Oswald Mosley's huge and magnificently successful meeting at Olympia last night would have supplied it. They got what they deserved. Olympia has been the scene of many assemblies and many great fights, but never had it offered the spectacle of so many fights mixed up with a meeting."

Collin Brooks, was a journalist who worked for Lord Rothermere at the The Sunday Dispatch. He also attended the the rally at Olympia. Brooks wrote in his diary: "He mounted to the high platform and gave the salute - a figure so high and so remote in that huge place that he looked like a doll from Marks and Spencer's penny bazaar. He then began - and alas the speakers hadn't properly tuned in and every word was mangled. Not that it mattered - for then began the Roman circus. The first interrupter raised his voice to shout some interjection.The mob of storm troopers hurled itself at him. He was battered and biffed and hashed and dragged out - while the tentative sympathisers all about him, many of whom were rolled down and trodden on, grew sick and began to think of escape. From that moment it was a shambles. Free fights all over the show. The Fascist technique is really the most brutal thing I have ever seen, which is saving something. There is no pause to hear what the interrupter is saying: there is no tap on the shoulder and a request to leave quietly: there is only the mass assault. Once a man's arms are pinioned his face is common property to all adjacent punchers." Brooks also commented that one of his "party had gone there very sympathetic to the fascists and very anti-Red". As they left the meeting he said "My God, if ifs to be a choice between the Reds and these toughs, I'm all for the Reds".

MI5 also reported to the Home Office that the rally would have a negative impact on the future of the National Union of Fascists: "It is becoming increasingly clear that at Olympia Mosley suffered a check which is likely to prove decisive. He suffered it, not at the hands of the Communists who staged the provocations and now claim the victory; but at the hands of Conservative MPs, the Conservative press and all those organs of public opinion which made him abandon the policy of using his Defence Force to overwhelm interrupters."

In July, 1934 Lord Rothermere suddenly withdrew his support for Oswald Mosley. The historian, James Pool, the author of Who Financed Hitler: The Secret Funding of Hitler's Rise to Power (1979), argues: "The rumor on Fleet Street was that the Daily Mail's Jewish advertisers had threatened to place their adds in a different paper if Rothermere continued the profascist campaign." Pool points out that sometime after this, Rothermere met with Hitler at the Berghof and told how the "Jews cut off his complete revenue from advertising" and compelled him to "toe the line." Hitler later recalled Rothermere telling him that it was "quite impossible at short notice to take any effective countermeasures."

Oswald Mosley with members of the British Union of Fascists
Oswald Mosley with members of the British Union of Fascists

Oswald Mosley began an affair with Diana Mitford, the daughter of the 2nd Baron Redesdale, one of Mosley's wealthy supporters. Diana left her husband but Mosley refused to desert his wife. It was not until Cynthia Curzon died of peritonitis, that Mosley agreed to marry Diana. In October 1936, Diana and Mosley were secretly married in the house of Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels. Adolf Hitler was one of only six guests at the ceremony. While in Nazi Germany Diana talked to Hitler about the possibility of establishing a pro-Nazi radio station in Britain.

Second World War

The outbreak of the Second World War further reduced support for the British Union of Fascists. On 18th December 1939, the police raided the flat of Norah Elam where they found documents suggesting that she had been taking part in secret meetings of right-wing groups. A letter from Oswald Mosley stated that "Mrs Elam had his full confidence, and was entitled to do what she thought fit in the interests of the movement on her own responsibility." On 23rd January 1940, Norah was arrested and interrogated him in order to establish whether her handling of BUF funds had been illegal or improper.

A MI5 report suggested that it was suspicious that Norah Elam had been placed in charge of BUF funds. Mosley told Special Branch detectives: "As regards the money paid to Mrs Elam we have nothing to be ashamed of and nothing to conceal. When war became imminent we had to be prepared for any eventually. There might have been an air raid, our headquarters might have been smashed by a mob, I myself was expecting to be assassinated. I may tell you quite frankly that I took certain precautions. It was necessary then for us to disperse the funds in case anything should happen to headquarters or the leaders. Mrs. Elam therefore took charge of part of our funds for a short period before and after the declaration of war. There was nothing illegal or improper about this."

Oswald Mosley Imprisoned

On 22nd May 1940 the British government announced the imposition of Defence Regulation 18B. This legislation gave the Home Secretary the right to imprison without trial anybody he believed likely to "endanger the safety of the realm". The following day, Mosley was arrested. Over the next few days other prominent figures in the BUF were imprisoned. On the 30th May the BUF was dissolved and its publications were banned.

Mosley and his wife received privileged treatment while in prison. Winston Churchill granted permission for the couple to live in a small house inside Holloway Prison. They were given a small garden where they could sunbathe and grow their own vegetables. They were even allowed to employ fellow prisoners as servants.

In November 1943, Herbert Morrison controversially decided to order the Mosleys to be released from prison. There were large-scale protests and even Diana's sister, Jessica Mitford, described the decision as "a slap in the face of anti-fascists in every country and a direct betrayal of those who have died for the cause of anti-fascism."

Post-War Oswald Mosley

After the war Mosley and Diana Mosley established Euphorion Books in an attempt to publish the work of right-wing authors. In 1947 Mosley formed the Union Movement which advocated British integration in Europe and an end to commonwealth immigration. The couple left England in 1949 and after a period in Ireland settled in France where they lived close to their friends, the Duke of Windsor and Wallis Simpson.

Mosley was unsuccessful in his two attempts to enter the House of Commons for Kensington North (1959) and Shoreditch & Finsbury (1966). As Robert Skidelsky has pointed out: "After the war Mosley started a Union Movement dedicated to creating a united Europe. But the idea had little resonance, coming from that tainted source. In the 1950s he attacked coloured immigration into Britain. He stood as Union Movement candidate for North Kensington in the general election of 1959, losing his deposit; a second intervention at Shoreditch and Finsbury in 1966 fared even worse... In his last years he suffered from Parkinson's disease."

Oswald Mosley died on 3rd December 1980.

Primary Sources

(1) In her book My Life With Nye (1980), Jennie Lee explained her views on Oswald Mosley.

Another bright light in this 1929 Parliament was Sir Oswald Mosley. He had a fatal flaw in his character, on overwhelming arrogance and an unshakable conviction that he was born to rule, drove him on to the criminal folly of donning a black shirt and surrounding himself with a band of bullyboys, and so becoming a pathetic imitation Hitler, doomed to political impotence for the rest of his life.

(2) David Marquand, Ramsay MacDonald (1977)

On January 23rd, Mosley sent MacDonald a copy of a long memorandum on the economic situation, on which he had been at work for well over a month, and which has gone down to history as the "Mosley Memorandum". It made three main assertions - that the machinery of government should be drastically overhauled, that unemployment could be radically reduced by a public-works programme on the lines advocated by Keynes and the Liberal Party, and that long -term economic reconstruction required "a mobilisation of national resources on a larger scale than has yet been contemplated". The existing administrative structure, Mosley argued, was hopelessly inadequate. What was needed was a new department, under the direct control of the prime minister, consisting of an executive committee of ministers and a secretariat of civil servants, assisted by a permanent staff of economists and an advisory council of outside experts. The problems of substance, he went on, had to be looked at under two quite separate headings, which had so far been muddled up. First, there was the long-term problem of economic reconstruction, which could be solved only by systematic Government planning, designed to create new industries as well as to revitalize old ones. Second, there was the immediate problem of unemployment. This could be solved by making road-building a national responsibility, by raising a loan of £200 million and spending it on roads and other public works over the next three years, by raising the school-leaving age and by introducing earlier retirement pensions. Whatever their faults, Mosley concluded flamboyantly, his proposals "at least represent a coherent and comprehensive conception of national policy... It is for those who object to show either that present policy is effective for its purpose, or to present a reasoned alternative which offers a greater prospect of success.

(3) Ramsay MacDonald, diary entry (19th May, 1930)

Mosley came to see me... had to see me urgently: informed me he was to resign. I reasoned with him and got him to hold his decision over till we had further conversations. Went down to Cabinet Room late for meeting. Soon in difficulties. Mosley would get away from practical work into speculative experiments. Very bad impression. Thomas light, inconsistent but pushful and resourceful; others overwhelmed and Mosley on the verge of being offensively vain in himself.

(4) David Low, Autobiography (1956)

The British Fascist Party was comparatively insignificant until Mosley took over its leadership. Mosley was young, energetic, capable and an excellent speaker. Since I had met him in 1925 he had graduated from close friendship with MacDonald to a job in the second Labour Government; but he had become disgusted with the evasions over unemployment and had resigned to start a party of his own.

Unfortunately at the succeeding general election he fell ill with influenza and his party-in-embryo, deprived of his brilliant talents, was wiped out. Mosley was too ambitious to retire into obscurity. Looking around for a "vehicle" he united himself to the British Fascists, rechristened "the Blackshirts", and acquired almost automatically the encouragement of Britain's then biggest newspaper, the Daily Mail, which was more than willing to extend its admiration for the Italian original to the local imitation. That was a fateful influenza germ.

(5) Lord Rothermere, The Daily Mirror (22nd January, 1934)

Timid alarmists all this week have been whimpering that the rapid growth in numbers of the British Blackshirts is preparing the way for a system of rulership by means of steel whips and concentration camps.

Very few of these panic-mongers have any personal knowledge of the countries that are already under Blackshirt government. The notion that a permanent reign of terror exists there has been evolved entirely from their own morbid imaginations, fed by sensational propaganda from opponents of the party now in power.

As a purely British organization, the Blackshirts will respect those principles of tolerance which are traditional in British politics. They have no prejudice either of class or race. Their recruits are drawn from all social grades and every political party.

Young men may join the British Union of Fascists by writing to the Headquarters, King's Road, Chelsea, London, S.W.

(6) Chris Hare, Historic Worthing (2008)

Despite local hostility, the Fascist branch in Worthing was one of the most successful in the south of England, a fact that Captain Budd was keen to stress in an interview with the press: "Fascism is the one thing that will sage this country from the trouble for which it is heading! When I was put in charge of this area was given to understand that I would find things slow in West Sussex; but now I find the people very eager and interested in our movement." In recognition of the hard work being done in Worthing for the movement, it was arranged for Mosley to hold a Fascist rally at the Pavilion in Worthing on 9 October 1934. In the meantime Captain Budd was once again grabbing the local headlines. He stormed out of the Town Hall when other councillors refused to give him the committee places he desired. And he attacked the Council fur its police of banning the Fascists from holding open-air meetings on the site of the old fish market near the pier. He protested that the Salvation Army was allowed to hold meetings there, so why not the Fascists, but was bluntly told that this privilege was only extended to religious bodies.

The night of 9 October proved to be a desperate affair, one local newspaper describing the night's events as more akin to revolutionary Spain than one would usually expect in an English town. As Mosley addressed a carefully vetted audience in the Pavilion, an angry mob gathered outside. The meeting, stage-managed to the least detail, was disrupted when a small hand of intruders let off a number of squibs, and had to be ejected by hefty East End bouncers....

After the rally, Mosley, accompanied by William Joyce, left the Pavilion and, protected by a large body of blackshirts, crossed over the road to Barnes's cafe in the Arcade. Stones and rotten vegetables were soon crashing through the windows of the cafe. Boys were observed firing peashooters at the beleaguered Fascists, while some youths were taking aim with air rifles. Meanwhile a group of young men climbed onto the roof of the Arcade and dislodged a large piece of masonry, which plummeted to earth through the arcade, landing only feet away from the Fascist leader. Things were getting too hot for the Fascists, who made a run for it, up the Arcade into Montague Street, then into South Street. Their intention was presumably to reach either their headquarters in Ann Street, or The Fountain in South Street, known as a "Fascist pub", but they were ambushed on the corner of Warwick Street by local youths. Hearing the row, more Fascists hurried down from the Fountain to go to Mosley's aid. Fights broke out, bodies were slung against shop windows, and startled residents thrcxv open their windows to see a seething mass of entangled bodies desperately struggling for control of the junction between South Street and Warwick Street. Only the arrival of a large force of police defused the situation. Several blackshirts were arrested and led away to the cheers of the crowd.

Mosley made two more public appearances in Worthing during the 1930s. On both occasions the police visited the houses of several local young men during the days before, confiscating catapults and air rifles. These meetings were, however, more low-key, and the Fascists never again tried to march en masse through the streets of the town. The antipathy felt towards the Fascists again manifested itself on 5 November 1934. During the previous days several Worthing boys and men known to be hostile to the Fascists had been waylaid at night and beaten up. Bonfire Night saw several cases of retaliation. At least one blackshirt was thrown in the sea, and others had to run the fiery gauntlet. Cars were stopped, and passengers scrutinised before being allowed to pass on. A group of nearly a thousand people gathered outside a hotel, where it was alleged a number of Fascist leaders were staying. A plentiful supply of squibs and crackers were thrown up at the windows, as the crowd howled its fury. Presently a window opened, and several buckets of cold water were showered down on the besieging party. The arrival of the police prevented an escalation of the disturbances, but not before Worthing had truly resurrected the spirit of Bonfire Nights past.

Superintendent Bristow's comment, quoted in the national press, that the Fascists were "just very nice Worthing people", caused a certain degree of embarrassment, and he retired from his post a few months later. Due to the perceived improvement in the law and order situation in the town, the police had not for some years been Issued with helmets, caps being considered quite adequate. From 1935-37 the police were reissued with helmets. Bonfire Night remained a problem, and after the war became extremely disorderly, culminating in a serious riot on the night of 5 November 1958, after which stringent measures were taken to suppress the wild excesses of the "Bonfire Boys" once and for all.

(7) Michael Payne, Storm Tide: Worthing 1933-1939 (2008)

Still anxious to speak to the people of Worthing himself where, he had become convinced, his movement had built up a strong position, and he himself would receive a warm reception, Sir Oswald announced that he would address a meeting at the Pavilion on October 9. Prior to the event, those supporters who wished to meet him, briefly but privately, were invited to apply in writing to Captain Budd, who from amongst their number selected those with the most "serious and earnest enquiries to make." Also to be admitted into his presence were representatives of both the BUF Sussex and Hampshire HQs, who would use the occasion to present their leader with a portrait of himself embossed in relief on a bronze plaque.

"Hear Moseley at the Pavilion," ran the Fascist advertisement in the local press in heralding his forthcoming appearance, below which, in an accompanying box, was depicted a simple but striking line drawing in ink of the Fascist leader. In company with a score or so members of his Defence Force, he duly arrived from London in a black lorry, the windows of which had been covered in protective wire netting; but even though the vehicle also contained several so called "ambulance" men, who were regularly on hand at rallies to treat casualties, he was hardly expecting any serious trouble. However, in looking upon Worthing as a relatively safe and peaceful haven for himself and his followers, in contrast to the Socialist cauldrons of London and the industrial cities of the Midlands and North - a town, in fact, ever more receptive to, and supportive of, his Fascist creed - he was soon to be disabused of such a misguided notion. An inkling of what might transpire during his sojourn in the Borough might have been gathered from the sensational daubing of paint on the facade of the Town Hall, during the night prior to the meeting, of the slogans: "Damn Moseley! Fight Fascism! No more War;" or from the tarspattered Georgian facade of the BUF HQ on Marine Parade and the similarly besmirched crazy paving at the home of Captain Budd.

The following evening, as the meeting inside got under way, the crowd gathering outside the Pavilion grew steadily larger, with accompanying shouts and cat-calls, the sharp explosions of firecrackers and the whooshing of rockets; while more emboldened individuals hammered continuously on the bolted doors of the auditorium and on the iron supports of the Pier beneath it. But at this stage the kerfuffle appeared more akin to high-spiritedness than violent disturbance, with even the watchful black-shirted stewards generally Ignoring the commotion. To David Bernard Trent of Park Road, the whole affair seemed to be a joke on the part of the crowd - which, he further observed, was just as well, for at 7.30 p.m. lie could discern just four policemen in attendance. Posted by Superintendent Bristow, as far as these youthful looking 'Bristow Babies' were concerned, they were faced by a peaceful gathering simply letting off a few fireworks.

Within the Pavilion itself the meeting went off in an orderly enough manner - although hearing that the event might be stormy at least one lady arrived having taken the precaution of concealing a Life Preserver in her attire - for although the house was packed the audience was largely composed of Fascist supporters, including contingents from London and all parts of Sussex. Prior to the actual start, a file of black-bloused young women had formed up in the Foyer to hail the arrival of their leader, but prudently he had entered the theatre by means of the stage door at the rear. With less foresight his mother had entered by the front entrance where she had been startled by a fire cracker being thrown at her. Finally the curtain rose to reveal Sir Oswald himself standing alone on the stage. Clad entirely in black, his great silver belt buckle gleaming, his right arm raised in the Fascist salute, lie was spellbindingly illuminated in the hushed, almost reverential atmosphere by the glare of spotlights from right, left and centre. A forest of black-sleeved arms immediately shot up to hail him, but finding himself completely blinded, the dramatic effect was immediately shattered by his opening words requesting that the centre beam be switched off...

Again the police intervened to restore order and with shouts, accusations and insults ringing in his ears Sir Oswald was enabled, in company with his mother and bodyguards, to reach Marine Parade. His immediate destination was Barnes Cafe, almost directly opposite, but before entering it he led his troops, attired in their heavy boots and riding breeches, fists clenched and elbows stuck out, in a defiantly ostentatious and provocative march around the adjacent South Street traffic island. Several tomatoes were thrown at them, but an easier target was provided by a group of Fascist women crossing Marine Parade at the same moment. One tomato struck the unfortunate Winifred Collins on her left eye, an experience which she afterwards described as "very squashy." Mary Hodges, on the other hand, was struck by the filthy and hostile language hurled at her by many of the onlookers; while her companion, Florence Spiers - herself hit on the head by a tomato - noted that the crowd was very far from being "the nice friendly one composed of old ladies and cripples" she had been led to expect.

Gathered at last in the comparative safety of the Cafe, which had been gained amid a cascade of fire crackers, nevertheless, from outside the Blackshirts continued to be subject to a barrage of taunts and threats, which included: "Come out Moseley and show yourself, or we'll come in and get you;" "Come out you dirty coward;" "Down with'em, kill'em;" together with the chant: "One, two, three, four, five, we want Moseley dead or alive." To avoid being struck by
tomatoes being thrown in at them, a number of which had already bespattered the waitresses, or wounded by pellets being fired from an air pistol by a youth of about sixteen from the Esplanade's balustrade, those inside the Cafe shut the windows: but as these began to be smashed by stones from the beach, Sir Oswald, following a hasty discussion with Joyce, ordered his second-in-command to create a diversion by leading his own fifteen or so bodyguards in a march up South Street to the branch HQ in Warwick Street.

As they left the Cafe, in company with a contingent of Fascist women and local supporters, they were indeed, as they had anticipated, immediately accompanied by a sizeable section of the crowd, which immediately broke into boos, shouted insults and chants of The Red Front. Both groups broke into a run, during which, in attempting to protect a Fascist woman, a Blackshirt, Mr. Chamberlain, was knocked violently to the ground. "Go home and wash your husband's shirt and cook his dinner," bellowed an incensed man at the equally dazed woman. On gaining the western entrance to Warwick Street, the Blackshirts found it blocked by a further, larger, and even more hostile group, many among which mockingly raised their arms in the Communist salute. Deciding to detour through Market Street, here, too, they found the roadway and pavements thronging with people, several of whom, spoiling for a fight, were only too eager to embroil themselves in brawls with the beleaguered Fascists. They were not to be disappointed, and as one hefty Blackshirt was sent sprawling into a shop doorway by punches from an equally robust "civilian," the battle of Market Street commenced. Immediately several bedroom windows were flung open as startled residents in their night attire peeped from behind curtains at the melee below in terror and amazement.

Meanwhile, just as Sir Oswald was preparing to slip away from the Cafe - before it could be further damaged and in order to quell the growing alarm of the proprietor and the several remaining women Fascists - word reached him of the dire predicament Joyce and his men were in. Darting out onto the pavement and breaking into a double, Sir Oswald and his cohort of bodyguards sped east along Marine Parade before turning left into Bedford Row and thence to the eastern entrance to Market Street where, with himself as the spearhead, they immediately charged from the rear the mob assailing Joyce's force. Caught completely off guard by this unforeseen sally - subsequently dubbed by the national press as the "Charge of the Black Brigade" - the crowd, faltering, began to break up and disperse, and within minutes the re-united and reassembled, bloodied but undaunted Blackshirts were able to turn their attention to the clearing of Warwick Street and the relief of their beleaguered HQ.

Here too the crowd was dense, numbering nearly four hundred - a situation Police Sergeant Heritage described as "very ugly" - and as the cavalcade of Blackshirts attempted to march back and forth, cries of "We'll give Moseley a hot time" and "Come on lads, get stuck into them" heralded the outbreak of further violence. Warwick Street - dubbed by the community the "Bond Street of Worthing" - was soon a seething, howling, mass of struggling bodies but in a series of powerful rushes, during which numerous people were knocked to the ground, thrown aside or sent thudding against shop windows, the hefty, disciplined Blackshirts finally began to cut swathes through, and break up, the unruly mob. But not before sustaining several casualties themselves, amongst whom was Sir Oswald, who in trying to gain the door of the HQ received a punch under his left eye and a second to the jaw; an action which spurred a gang of Brighton roughs to press toward him, only to be baulked by those Fascists gathered at the doorway hurrying to rally around their leader...

Robert Poore, meanwhile, an Italian Post Office messenger living at 26, Loder Gardens, when initially confronted himself by Black-shirtecl assailants, had pleaded with them that he "did not understand British;" to which came the sardonic reply that they did not understand Italian, a sarcasm followed by the delivery of several Weighty punches to his head. Sustaining severe facial cuts, he too was removed to hospital. Not one child was hurt, however, the police having had the foresight to order home any amongst the spectators long before any violence threatened. One boy disappointed not to have been present was nine-year-old Clifford Skeet, who had previously overheard his uncles Norman and Edin Williams, both members of the local Territorial "C" Company 4 Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment, discussing at the room they shared at their mother's boarding house at 17 West Buildings how they intended to "sort the Blackshirts Out."

With the arrival of more and more police detachments drafted in from outside the Borough, by 11 p.m. the battle of Warwick Street, too, drew to a close. Now, with only sporadic boos and shouts being directed towards the Blackshirts the atmosphere among the crowd quietened - pierced only at one point by an enthusiastic cheer as Police Constables Ridge and Griffin escorted Bernard Mullens, a Chelsea Fascist, to the police station on suspicion of his having taken part in the assault on Robert Poore. There, nursing a damaged right hand himself, Mullens denied the charge, but nevertheless was remanded in custody for a week - unlike the assailant of Captain Budd who, despite the hitter's forceful demands that a charge of assault be made upon him, was merely cautioned to leave Warwick Street and return home.

At the same time a summons was issued against Sir Oswald for assaulting Jack Pritchard of 81 Ham Road, outside the Pavilion, although the Fascist leader protested that he had merely been protecting himself from a "violent rough" who had lunged forward and punched him on the left cheek bone. He had been pushed from behind, retorted Mr. Pritchard, had fallen forward, and it was then he had been thumped. To prevent a second punch he had caught hold of Sir Oswald's sleeve, but had then been the recipient of several more hefty blows from behind. He also denied the allegation levelled at him by Captain Budd that he had confided to a "certain man" that the police were using him as a "pawn in their game," or that if he had been in Sir Oswald's position himself he would have acted to protect himself in a like manner.


(8) The Western Morning News (15th November 1934)

The summons for alleged assault brought against Sir Oswald Mosley, leader of the British Union of Fascists, following a disturbance after a Fascist meeting here on October 9, was dismissed to-day. The magistrates reached this decision after further evidence had been called for the defence. The Bench held a consultation, and Mr. A. F. Somerset (the chairman) announced that they were agreed the charge should be dismissed.

Mr. St. John Hutchinson, who appeared for Sir Oswald, asked if he could confine to Warwick-street the remainder of the evidence on the charge of alleged riotous assembly. The Bench said that they could not dissociate one from the other. They had heard sufficient evidence to the trouble around the café.

Sir Oswald and three men were summoned for alleged riotous assembly. The other men were William Joyce, described as director of Fascist propaganda; Capt. Charles Henry Budd, described as Blackshirt officer for West Sussex area: and Bernard Mullans, stated to be a member of the movement. Mullans was also summoned for alleged assault. All men denied the charges. Joyce, in evidence, said that any suggestion that they came down to Worthing to beat up the crowd was ridiculous in the highest degree. They were menaced and insulted by people in the crowd.

Mullans stated that he told Poore that he should be ashamed for using insulting language in the presence of women. Poore hit him in eye, and he (Mullans) then hit him in the mouth. The case was adjourned till tomorrow.

(9) Collin Brooks, diary entry (6th June, 1934)

The advertised time of the great oration was eight o'clock. At 8.45 the searchlights were directed to the far end, the Blackshirts lined the centre corridor - and trumpets braved as a great mass of Union Jacks surmounted by Roman plates passed towards the platform. Everybody thought this was Mosley and stood and cheered and saluted. Only it wasn't Mosley. He came some few minutes later at the head of his chiefs of craft. In consequence the second greeting was an anti-climax. He mounted to the high platform and gave the salute - a figure so high and so remote in that huge place that he looked like a doll from Marks and Spencer's penny bazaar. He then began - and alas the speakers hadn't properly tuned in and every word was mangled. Not that it mattered - for then began the Roman circus. The first interrupter raised his voice to shout some interjection.The mob of storm troopers hurled itself at him. He was battered and biffed and hashed and dragged out - while the tentative sympathisers all about him, many of whom were rolled down and trodden on, grew sick and began to think of escape. From that moment it was a shambles. Free fights all over the show. The Fascist technique is really the most brutal thing I have ever seen, which is saving something. There is no pause to hear what the interrupter is saying: there is no tap on the shoulder and a request to leave quietly: there is only the mass assault. Once a man's arms are pinioned his face is common property to all adjacent punchers...

The breaking of glass off-stage added to the trepidation of old ladies and parsons in the audience who had come to support the 'patriots'. More free fights - more bashing and lashing and kickings - and a steady withdrawal of the ordinary audience. We left With Mosley still speaking and the loud speakers still preventing our hearing a word he said, and by that time the place was half empty. Outside, of course, were the one thousand police expecting more trouble, but I didn't wait to see the aftermath. One of our party had gone there very sympathetic to the fascists and very anti-Red. As we parted he said "My God, if ifs to be a choice between the Reds and these toughs, I'm all for the Reds".

(10) David Low attended one of the public meetings held by the British Union of Fascists in 1936.

Mosley spoke effectively at great length. Delivery excellent, matter reckless. Interruptions began, but no dissenting voice got beyond half a dozen sentences before three or four bullies almost literally jumped on him, bashed him and lugged him out. Two such incidents happened near me. An honest looking blue-eyed student type rose and shouted indignantly "Hitler means war!" whereupon he was given the complete treatment.

(11) Oswald Mosley, Message for British Union Members and Supporters (2nd September, 1939)

We have said a hundred times that if the life of Britain were threatened we would fight again, but I am not offering to fight in the quarrel of Jewish finance in a war from which Britain could withdraw at any moment she likes, with her Empire intact and her people safe. I am now concerned with only two simple facts. This war is no quarrel of the British people, this war is a quarrel of Jewish finance, so to our people I give myself for the winning of peace.

(12) Herbert Morrison, An Autobiography (1960)

During his detention under the 18B regulation, moves to have him released came from all sorts of people and organizations. Some were undoubtedly genuine efforts by those who put the basic principles of British freedom first even if the matter concerned a man with an avowed policy of destroying that freedom, but the majority, I had no doubt, were the efforts of Mosley's class friends and political sympathizers.

And a few of the complaints were doubtless meant to embarrass me personally or to put a spanner in the works of a smoothly- running coalition by rousing political controversy. I noticed with amusement that some critics, who had been vociferous about the ruthless injustice of interning aliens and keeping them interned, now, showed an equally large amount of indignation about my tender-heartedness when the possibility of releasing Mosley from prison was known. It was impossible to please everyone, and in any case placating my critics was of no importance as compared with observing the law and safeguarding the nation.

The crux of the matter was Mosley's health. He had become ill with phlebitis. His doctor was allowed to examine him and he reported that continued imprisonment would jeopardize his life. I did not consider it advisable to accept this without a second opinion. The prison doctors confirmed it. The quandary was whether to free this leading fascist, a sympathizer with Hitler and Mussolini, or whether to risk having a British citizen die in prison without trial. Apart from such a blot on history going back to Magna Charta, martyrdom is a very profound source of strength. I had little doubt that some of the near-fascists in the country would have liked nothing better than that their leader should become a dead martyr. However, my task was to decide what was the right thing to do.

(13) New York Times (November, 1943)

There is little doubt that the people of Britain are worked up over Sir Oswald's release. Early morning trains arriving here from the Midlands carried large numbers of outraged Yorkshire miners representing 140,000 fellow workers. Representatives of 10,000 miners of South Wales also arrived, and a telegram signed in the name of 75,000 Sheffield war workers was sent to Mr Churchill.

(14) Jessica Mitford, letter to San Francisco Chronicle (November, 1943)

Like millions of others in the United Nations and the occupied countries, I have all my life been an opponent of the fascist ideology in whatever form it appears. Because I do not believe that family ties should be allowed to influence a person's convictions I long ago ceased to have any contact with those members of my family who have supported the fascist cause. The release of Sir Oswald and Lady Mosley is a slap in the face of anti-fascists in every country and a direct betrayal of those who have died for the cause of anti- fascism. They should be kept in jail, where they belong.

(15) Francis Beckett, The Guardian (16th August, 2003)

In recent years, there has been an appalling TV biopic portraying Mosley as a heroic figure, their affair as one of history's great love stories, and fascism as a tremendous lark. Lady Diana was interviewed by Sue Lawley on Desert Island Discs and by James Naughtie on Today with a level of indulgent respect that neither of these interviewers would have summoned up for a working-class fascist. And four years ago, Jan Dalley's biography whitewashed Lady Diana and her husband.

Like Mosley's biographer Robert Skidelsky before her, Dalley fell for the central post-war Mosley lie: that anti-semitism was confined to his proletarian followers. She repeated uncritically the Mosley version that William Joyce, a leading fascist who broadcast for Hitler during the war, inspired fascist anti-semitism, and that Mosley was "unwise" to let Joyce edit his newspaper. But it was Mosley, not Joyce, who said during the Abyssinian war: "Greater even than the stink of oil is the stink of the Jew." It was Mosley who talked of German Jews as "the sweepings of continental ghettos hired by Jewish financiers". The only difference is: Mosley was rich and well-born; Joyce was proletarian and poor.

It was only after the second world war, when the Holocaust had so discredited anti-semitism that no politician could hope to benefit from it, that Mosley started to express well-bred distaste for his movement's wilder excesses, and to blame people like Joyce. By then Lady Diana was used to the idea that her wealth and social position would cushion her from the consequences of her views. During the war, hundreds of Mosleyites were interned without trial. But while humbler fascists were put in dank prisons and prison camps, and husbands and wives separated, the Mosleys were allocated a little house in the grounds of Holloway prison, where they hired other prisoners to wait on them.

(16) Audrey Gillan, The Day the East End Said "No Pasaran' to Blackshirts (30th September, 2006)

They built barricades from paving stones, timber and overturned lorries. Women threw the contents of chamber pots on to the heads of policemen and children hurled marbles under their horses and burst bags of pepper in front of their noses.

Next Wednesday marks the 70th anniversary of the day that Jews, communists, trade unionists, Labour party members, Irish Catholic dockers and the people of the East End of London united in defiance of Sir Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists and refused to let them march through their streets.

Shouting the Spanish civil war slogan "No pasaran" - "They shall not pass" - more than 300,000 people turned back an army of Blackshirts. Their victory over racism and anti-Semitism on Sunday October 4 1936 became known as the Battle of Cable Street and encapsulated the British fight against a fascism that was stomping across Europe.

Mosley planned to send columns of thousands of goose-stepping men throughout the impoverished East End dressed in uniforms that mimicked those of Hitler's Nazis. His target was the large Jewish community.

The Jewish Board of Deputies advised Jews to stay away. The Jewish Chronicle warned: "Jews are urgently warned to keep away from the route of the Blackshirt march and from their meetings.

"Jews who, however innocently, become involved in any possible disorders will be actively helping anti-Semitism and Jew-baiting. Unless you want to help the Jew baiters, keep away."

The Jews did not keep away. Professor Bill Fishman, now 89, who was 15 on the day, was at Gardner's Corner in Aldgate, the entrance to the East End. "There was masses of marching people. Young people, old people, all shouting 'No Pasaran' and 'One two three four five - we want Mosley, dead or alive'," he said. "It was like a massive army gathering, coming from all the side streets. Mosley was supposed to arrive at lunchtime but the hours were passing and he hadn't come. Between 3pm and 3.30 we could see a big army of Blackshirts marching towards the confluence of Commercial Road and Whitechapel Road.

"I pushed myself forward and because I was 6ft I could see Mosley. They were surrounded by an even greater army of police. There was to be this great advance of the police force to get the fascists through. Suddenly, the horses' hooves were flying and the horses were falling down because the young kids were throwing marbles."

Thousands of policemen were sandwiched between the Blackshirts and the anti-fascists. The latter were well organised and through a mole learned that the chief of police had told Mosley that his passage into the East End could be made through Cable Street.

"I heard this loudspeaker say 'They are going to Cable Street'," said Prof Fishman. "Suddenly a barricade was erected there and they put an old lorry in the middle of the road and old mattresses. The people up the top of the flats, mainly Irish Catholic women, were throwing rubbish on to the police. We were all side by side. I was moved to tears to see bearded Jews and Irish Catholic dockers standing up to stop Mosley. I shall never forget that as long as I live, how working-class people could get together to oppose the evil of racism."

Max Levitas, now 91, was a message runner and had already been fined £10 in court for his anti-Mosley activities. Two years before Cable Street, the BUF had called a meeting in Hyde Park and in protest Mr Levitas whitewashed Nelson's column, calling people to the park to drown out the fascists. Mr Levitas went on to become a Communist councillor in Stepney.

"I feel proud that I played a major part in stopping Mosley. When we heard that the march was disbanded, there was a hue and cry and the flags were going wild. They did not pass. The chief of police decided that if the march had taken place there would be death on the road - and there would have been," he said.

"It was a victory for ordinary people against racism and anti-Semitism and it should be instilled in the minds of people today. The Battle of Cable Street is a history lesson for us all. People as people must get together and stop racism and anti-Semitism so people can lead an ordinary life and develop their own ideas and religions."

Beatty Orwell, 89, was scared and excited. "People were fighting and a friend of mine was thrown through a plate glass window."