Above: First BUF rally in Trafalgar Square
Right: Unfurling the first fasces flag
ORIGINS OF THE BUF
On his return from Rome, Mosley officially dissolved the New Party and founded the British Union of Fascists.
Fascism existed previously in Britain in the form of small groups of reactionaries, the British Fascists led by the eccentric Lotha Lintorn-Orman being one. The other, being the Imperial Fascist League led by the notorious Arnold Leese, a retired camel doctor.
Most recruits from these fascists groups came from the British Fascists, with Neil Francis-Hawkins bringing along most of the membership. Leese’s group remained hostile, however, and shunned any thought of co-operation … with Leese denouncing Mosley as being in the pay of the Jews.
Henceforth the Mosleyites were dubbed “kosher fascists” by the IFL with Mosley dismissing them as, “One of those crank little societies mad about the Jews”.
Why did Mosley adopt fascism as his new creed after many of his old parliamentary colleagues had tipped him as a future prime minister if he had remained in either one of the mainstream parties?
The answer probably rests on his personality more than any other factor. He was prepared to take a risk and trust in the good honest judgement of the people. He was blessed with a supreme self-confidence, often mistaken for arrogance, and this, combined with courage, intelligence and tenacity, made him one of the greatest public orators of the twentieth century.
He adopted the fasces, the symbol of Imperial Rome, representing unity and the authority of the state in an obvious imitation of the Italian fascists. Later, this was dropped in favour of the “flash and circle”, symbolising union and action.
The simple black shirt was based on the design of the fencing jacket, a sport in which he excelled up to Olympic standards. Mosley described the wearing of the new uniform as “the outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace” but more prosaically it was a leveller of class divisions, worn by all members irrespective of rank or status.
The “war generation” recognised the wearing of a uniform as a natural symbol of the camaraderie that bonded men in the trenches. Many new recruits had fought in the First World War and rallied to Mosley’s new banner as a duck takes to water.
The BUF was founded on October 1, 1932, at the new headquarters in Great George Street. They would later move to “Black House” in Chelsea, a former teacher training college, where British Union would take on the air and appearance of a more military organisation with all the paraphernalia of a barracks.
From here came the support to defend meetings from communist attack.
©2002 'Sir Oswald Mosley and the British Union of Fascists by Robert Edwards'
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oswaldmosley.net - 2008