Those who supported Mosley throughout the 1930s came from a wide social spectrum. Intellectuals, the military, farmers, the middle classes and the industrial workers … all had one thing in common. It was a belief in a revolutionary change that would free Britain from international exploitation and bring social justice for all.
Mosley’s programme for national renewal through positive state management became the creed of fascist action.
The Blackshirt movement was the fascist state in embryo. The simple black shirt was the great social leveller and the principle of leadership was based purely on a meritocracy regardless of social background.
Those who rallied round Mosley in the early days formed a brotherhood made stronger by the daily struggle against communist attacks and the misrepresentations by the Establishment press. In the fighting to preserve the right of free speech, the Blackshirts relied on their comrades, as did soldiers on the front line in the Great War.
Not surprisingly, many early Blackshirts were ex-servicemen. Ian Hope Dundas was the first chief of staff. The Blackshirt defence force was under the command of Eric Hamilton Piercy (a Special Constabulary inspector) with Neil Francis-Hawkins as his adjutant. A.K. Chesterton was an early recruit, having served in the trenches and gaining the Military Cross.
The intellectual and academic, Alexander Raven Thomson, came from the communist camp and laid the philosophical foundations of the Corporate State within British Union.
More controversial personalities included William Joyce, a former Black and Tan informer and later notorious as “Lord Haw Haw”. Joyce was one of the very few former British Union members to lend active support to the Germans in the Second World War.
Joyce’s friend, John Becket, a former Labour MP and co-founder of the British Legion, became the editor of the British Union paper, Action, and was responsible for adopting the “flash and circle” as the emblem of British Union. He also coined the phrase, “Mind Britain’s Business” during the Abyssinian crisis in 1935.
Major-General J.F.C. Fuller, a chief of staff of the British Tank Corps in 1917 and famous as a military strategist, gave support to Mosley up to the end of his life.
On the women’s side was Mosley’s mother, Lady Katherine-Maud Mosley, who assisted in the early days. Three former suffragettes, Mary Richardson, Norah Elam and Mary Mien, became very active within British Union with Mosley commenting later, “Without the women I could not have got a quarter of the way”.
There was also Ann Brock-Griggs, the leader of the Women’s Section and an effective public speaker in her own right.
Of the East London stalwarts, Edward “Mick” Clarke, then only 23 years old, led the movement there. Clarke rallied the working class in East London to Mosley’s side, establishing a base of proletarian support that was to endure for years to come.
©2002 'Sir Oswald Mosley and the British Union of Fascists by Robert Edwards'
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oswaldmosley.net - 2008