Sir Oswald Mosley 1896-1980

a cad and a wrong ‘un” – Stanley Baldwin

Early Life


Sir Oswald (4,5) Ernold [1] [OR] Ernald (5,8) Mosley (4,5) 6th baronet, (4,6) of Ancoats (7,23) was a British (4,5) English (4,10) politician. (4,5) He was born (4,5) on 16th November (6,8) 1896, (4,5) at 47, Hill Street, (21,23) in Mayfair, (8,18) Westminster (18,23) London, England. (8,18) His aristocratic family (13,14) family had a long history, dating back to the 12th century, (18,23) tracing its roots to Ernald de Mosley of Bushbury, Staffordshire, in the time of King John2. (23) They were an Anglo-Irish family at their most prosperous, landowners in Staffordshire seated at Rolleston Hall near Burton-upon-Trent. (23) Oswald’s five-time great-grandfather John Parker Mosley, a Manchester hatter, was made a baronet in 1781. (23) Three baronetcies were created, two of which are now extinct. (23) The Mosleys were one of the most respected families of commoners in Westminster. (18) Oswald was the eldest of the (17,18) three (18,23) sons of Oswald Mosley, (17,18) 5th baronet, (17,18) (1873–1928) (23) and Katharine Maud Edwards-Heathcote. (17,18) (1874–1950) (21,23) daughter of Captain Justinian H. Edwards-Heathcote (23) of a massive mansion (18) named ‘Apedale Hall’ (18,23) in the post town of Newcastle-under-Lyme (23) in Staffordshire. (21,23) His younger brothers were Edward (18,23) Heathcote(1899–1980) (23) and John (18,23) Arthur Noel (1901–1973). (23). (18) In a senior aristocratic Georgian intermarriage, his father was a third cousin (23) to the 14th (23) Earl of Strathmore (23) and Kinghorne (23), father of Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, (23) the wife of Prince Albert, second son of King George V, (23) who eventually became eventually becoming King George VI’s Queen, (8,23) as ‘Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother’. (8,23) Oswaid was therefore her fourth cousin (8,23) After his parents separated, Oswald (17,18) known as Tom (18,23)T to the family, moved to his paternal grandfather’s house (18) [OR] lived with his mother at Betton Hall near Market Drayton. (23) Oswald spent most of his teenage years there, (18) being raised by his mother and paternal grandfather, (17,18) Sir Oswald Mosley, 4th Baronet. (17,23)


He was educated at West Downs School, and Winchester College, (17,18) and at the Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst, (17) following a well worn path for his social class. (19) He was a champion (14) fencer. (14,18) and practiced fencing all through his life. (18) He was admitted to the ‘Royal Military College’ (18,23) in January (21,23) 1914. (18,23) There he first exhibited the aristocratic insolence which later marked his politics. (24) He was expelled from Sandhurst (18,23) in June (23) for brash behaviour (18) [OR] a “riotous act of retaliation” against a fellow student. (23) A dispute over some ‘misplaced’ polo ponies led to a fight in college in which Mosley hit a fellow cadet with a riding crop. (24) A skirmish ensued, in which he fractured his right ankle, and as a result of which he and fifteen other cadets were rusticated. (24) They were soon recalled, however, on the outbreak of war. (24) [OR] When he was eighteen the First World War broke out. (19) It motivated him to join the army. (18)

War Service and politics 1914-31

War Service

Figure 1: Lieutenent Mosley

Figure 1He entered the battlefield at the age of 20. (18) [OR] 18 (19) He was commissioned (17,18) 2/Lt (24) into the (17,18) Queen’s (18,23) 16th Lancers, (17,18) a smart cavalry regiment, and sent for training in Ireland. (24) He then went to the Western Front. (17,18) His background in sports, helped him become a combat expert. (18) He performed distinguished (14) military service (7,14) [OR] exhibited brash behaviour on the battlefield and was considered to be reckless, yet brave. (18) He transferred (23) to the 6th squadron of (24) the Royal Flying Corps (17,19) the forerunner of the RAF, (19) as an observer, (18,23) but while demonstrating in front of his mother and sister (23) at Shoreham, (24) he crashed (17,23) sustaining a leg injury (17,23) which left him with a permanent limp. (23) [OR] he was injured and then became an observer. (18) Before the injury had healed, (17) he returned to the trenches (17,18) before the injury was fully healed (23) and passed out from pain during the Battle of Loos in 1915. (17,18) On 17th July, (24) 1916, (16,24) when his injury did not heal, he was dismissed as an invalid (17) with the rank of Lieutenant (24) He was assigned to do administrative work and spent the remainder of the war (17,18) at desk jobs (23) in the offices (17,18) of the Munitions (17,23) and Foreign Ministries. (17,18) By the time the World War was over, (18,23) although he had no university or practical experience (18,23) he was determined to make a career in politics (18,23) as a Conservative Member of Parliament, (4,5) and when the war was over he entered politics. (17,18) His family background and history as an army man helped him to gain a strong line of followers in the areas where his family had a strong reputation. (18)

MP for Harrow

Largely because of his family background and war service, local Conservative and Labour Associations preferred Mosley in several constituencies — a vacancy near the family estates seemed to be the best prospect. (23)

Figure 2: Marriage to Cynthia Curzon

However, he was unexpectedly selected for Harrow first. (23) He fought the general election of 1918 there: (18,23) he faced no serious opposition and (23) and won easily. (18,23) Thus, (14,18) still on the list of officers on half pay, (24) he became, at the age of 21, (14,18) one of the youngest Members of Parliament (7,14) [OR] the youngest member of the ‘House of Commons’ (18) to take his seat, though Joseph Sweeney, an abstentionist Sinn Féin member, was younger. (23) [OR] the youngest member of Parliament in English history. (17) He was Conservative (4,5) MP for Harrow from 1918 to 1924; (6,7 He proclaimed himself as a ‘great orator.’ (18) [OR] He rose to fame (7,9) because he WAS one of the greatest orators of the inter war period, (15) He was 21 years of age and had not fully developed his own politics. (23) He was driven by, and in Parliament spoke of, a passionate conviction to avoid any future war, and this seemingly motivated his career. (23) He spoke in the Commons without notes. (18,23) He could set crowds alight3 with his passionate speeches. (17,23) The Liberal ‘Westminster Gazette’ wrote that Mosley was: the most polished literary speaker in the Commons, words flow from him in graceful epigrammatic phrases that have a sting in them for the government and the Conservatives. To listen to him is an education in the English language, also in the art of delicate but deadly repartee. He has human sympathies, courage and brains.” (23)

First Marriage 1920

His lack of higher education and experience became an obstacle to political success. (18) On 11th (8) May (8,18) 1920 (4,8) he married Cynthia (4,8) Blanche Curzon (8,10) second (4,18) daughter of (4,10) the Foreign Secretary (20) George (17) Earl (4,14) [OR] 1st Marquess (10) Curzon of Kedleston, (4,10) the former (18,19) Viceroy of India (17,18) (1899–1905), (20) and his first wife, the U.S. mercantile heiress, the former Mary Victoria Leiter. (23) Lord Curzon had to be persuaded that Mosley was a suitable husband, as he suspected Mosley was largely motivated by social advancement in Conservative Party politics and her inheritance. (23)

Figure 3: Oswald Mosley, MP, 1922

The 1920 wedding took place in the Chapel Royal in St James’s Palace in London — arguably the social event of the year. (23) The hundreds of guests included European royalty such as King George V and Queen Mary; and Leopold III and Astrid of Sweden, future King and Queen of Belgium. (23) “In the 20s he was a fashionable figure,” says Stephen Dorril, Mosley’s biographer. (14) “He was invited to lots of parties: he knew Churchill, and all the politicians”. (14) He lived life to the full. (14) He was 6 feet 2 inches high, (17) which was very tall for the time, although he had a limp from his war injury. (14) Handsome and charismatic (17) he was a great womaniser. (14) He had an infamous affair with his wife’s younger sister, (13,18) Lady (18,23) Alexandra Metcalfe, (18,19) and with her stepmother, (13,18) Grace Curzon. (18,19) Marchioness Curzon of Kedleston, the U.S.-born second wife and widow of Lord Curzon of Kedleston. (23) Cynthia and Sir Oswald had three children: Vivien Mosley (1921–2002), who married (on 15 January 1949) Desmond Francis Forbes Adam (1926–58), educated at Eton College and at King’s College, University of Cambridge, by whom she had two daughters; Nicholas Mosley, (later 7th Baronet of Ancoats; born 1923), a successful novelist who wrote a biography of his father and edited his memoirs for publication; and Michael Mosley (born 1932), unmarried and without issue. (23)

Political drift in 20s

Earl Curzon helped him make his way in the British political arena. (17) He had not yet developed any stable political ideologies. (18) His experiences during the First World War had a profound effect on him, shaping many of the views that he took into politics. (19) Having started out as a Tory, (4,5) he moved much further to the right. (14) [OR] In 1921, (17) strongly (18) disapproving of the Conservatives’ behaviour towards the Irish question, (17,18) particularly the use of the Black and Tans to suppress the Irish population. (23)

Crossing the floor, 1924

Mosley abandoned the Tories (17,18) and crossed the floor (23) to became an Independent (4,5) siding with the opposition. (17,23) In the general elections of 1922 and 1923, he was able to retain his seat, (17,18) against a Conservative challenge (23) owing to the great support he had gained from his constituency by then. (18,23) By the mid-20s, his loyalty had started drifting toward the ‘Labour Party,’ which had formed the government in (18) January 4, 1924. (18) He approached them and joined the ‘Independent Labour Party’ (18,19) in March 1924, becoming a member of the British political left. (18,23)

Meets Gandhi, 1924

Among his many travels, (23) Mosley took a trip to India in 1924, (18,23) accompanied by Lady Cynthia. (23) His father-in-law’s past as Viceroy of British India allowed for the acquaintance of various personalities along the journey. (23) They travelled by ship and stopped briefly in Cairo. (23) Having initially arrived in Ceylon (present day Sri Lanka), they spent these initial days in the government house of Ceylon. (23) The journey then continued through mainland India, including Madras and then Calcutta, where the Governor at the time was Lord Lytton. (23) Mosley met Gandhi (18,23) through C.F. Andrews, a clergyman and an intimate friend of the “Indian Saint”, as Mosley described him. (23) They met in Kadda, where Gandhi was quick to invite him to a private conference in which Gandhi was chairman. (23) They enjoyed each other’s company for the short time they were together. (23) Mosley was a great (18) admirer of Mahatma Gandhi, and after their meeting he famously stated that Gandhi was a “sympathetic personality of subtle intelligence.” (18,23)

General Election 1924: Ladywood

The Labour government fell in October, (23) [OR] November1 and at the 1924 general election (9,23) [OR] Around 1925, (17) he stood for the Labour Party. (17,23) Believing that Harrow would not re-elect him as a Labour candidate, (23) he decided to oppose (9,17) future Prime Minister (9) Neville Chamberlain, (9,17) in Birmingham Ladywood. (9,23) [OR] in the difficult college [5] of Birmingham. (17)

Figure 4: Mosley in 1925

Mosley campaigned aggressively in Ladywood; and accused Chamberlain of being a “landlords’ hireling”. (23) The outraged Chamberlain demanded that Mosley retract the claim “as a gentleman”. (23) Mosley, whom Stanley Baldwin described as “a cad and a wrong ‘un’”, refused to retract the allegation. (23) It took several recounts before Chamberlain was declared the winner. (23) Mosley had come within (9,17) 100 (9) [OR] 77 (17,23) votes of beating him. (9,17) He blamed poor weather for the result. (23)


After the fall of the Labour government (17) he proposed himself for the role of Prime Minister but his appeal went unheeded and new elections were held. (17) Through thick and thin, he remained affiliated with the party (sometimes as an “official” candidate,sometimes as “independent”) until 1930. (17) His period outside Parliament was used to develop a new economic policy for the ILP, which eventually became known as the Birmingham Proposals; they continued to form the basis of Mosley’s economics until the end of his political career. (23) Mosley visited the USA in 1926 where he was friendly with the future President Roosevelt. (Fig 5)

MP for Smethwick 1926

The serious political crisis that raged in Britain in the twenties allowed Mosley not to stay out of Parliament for too long: (17) in 1926, the Labour-held seat of Smethwick fell vacant. (23) Mosley returned to parliament in 1926, (17,23) as Labour (7,9) MP for Smethwick (6,7) after being elected as at a by-election in (7,9) on 21st December (17,23) 1926. (6,7) Mosley felt the campaign was dominated by Conservative attacks on him for being too rich, including claims that he was covering up his wealth. (23) In 1927 he was elected to the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party. (19) He and his wife Cynthia presented themselves as supporters of Fabianism and both worked within various journalistic and political organizations controlled by the Fabian Society. (17,23) He had not been knighted, (9) but on his father’s death (9,23) on 21st September (9) 1928 he became the ‘sixth baronet’ (9,23) of Ancoats (23) inheriting a title that had been in his family (9,23) for more than a century at his father’s death. (9) The title meant that all the male members of the family could use the prefix ‘Sir’ if they wished to do so. (18,23) He appears in a list of names of Fabians from Fabian News and the Fabian Society Annual Report 1929–31. (23) He was Kingsway Hall lecturer in 1924 and Livingstone Hall lecturer in 1931. (23)

Figure 5: Mosley with Roosevelt, 1926

Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster

The Mosley Memorandum

The slump had not yet bitten, (15, and Note 5)) The Labour Party did not know how to respond to the slump. (15) Only Oswald Mosley, a rich and relatively recent recruit to labour, rose to the height of the challenge. (15) In 1930, (17) Realising the economic uncertainty that was facing the nation because of the death of its domestic industry (23) and dissatisfied with the laissez-faire attitudes held by both Labour and the Conservative party, and their passivity towards the ever-increasing globalisation of the world, he looked to a modern solution to fix a modern problem. (23) Mosley proposed to the executive the famous Mosley Memorandum, (17,18) in which he illustrated his ideas about the economy. (17)

Figure 6 Mosley & Family, 1929

It fused protectionism with a proto-Keynesian programme of policies designed to tackle the problem of unemployment. (20) It called for high tariffs (18,23) to protect British industries from international finance, (23) and corporatist economic policies, (18,23) such as state nationalisation of main industries, (15,23) and for a programme of public works to solve unemployment. (23) He wanted planned foreign trade and a systematic use of credit to promote expansion. (15) He laid out the foundations of the corporate state which intended to combine businesses, workers and the government into one body as a way to “Obliterate class conflict and make the British economy healthy again”. (23)

Resigns from the Labour Party

In May 1930, (15) the cabinet rejected Mosley’s ideas. (14,15) [OR] his ideas were not very successful. (15) Labour drifted on without a policy. (15) The rejection by labour of Mosley’s programme was a decisive, though negative, event in British history: the moment when the British people resolved unwittingly to stand on the ancient ways. (15) The very forces which made GB peaceful and stable prevented her from becoming the country of the new deal. (15) Even if labour had listened more receptively to Mosley, the obstacles would have been too great. (15) His ideas would have had to be applied by civil servants and industrialists who had no faith in them. (15) The British people needed years of economic debate and the impact of a second Great War before they gave up the idea of returning to the days of Queen Victoria. (15) Those in authority had pride in the past; they had little belief that Great Britain could be even greater in the future. (15) Neither Lloyd George nor Mosley could stir the enthusiasm for new ways which Roosevelt was to arouse a little later in the United States. (15) The old outlook was too entrenched, and even the crisis, when it came, was not fundamental enough to shake men from their moorings. (15) During the national government only Mosley and Bevin grasped the creative alternative of expansionist economics and a managed currency. (15) Mosley couldn’t accept this, because he was ‘incredibly egotistical’, and believed he was the right man and had the solution. (14) In the autumn (15,20) (October) (23) of 1930, Mosley appealed to the party conference. (15,20) His speech there was received with general admiration, but loyalty to MacDonald and distrust for the wealthy outsider were too strong: (15) Mosley’s proposals were again rejected (15,20) by 202 votes for 29. (15)

He still believed that he could carry the party with him. (15) In December he published a manifesto, which was backed by AJ Cook and 217 labour MPs. (15) Faced with this support of the Labour Government’s unemployment policies, (6,7) he resigned (4,5) from the Labour Party (5,6) in May 1930. (19) His proposals were more creative than those of Lloyd George and offered a blueprint for most of the constructive advances in economic policy to the present day. (15) Thirty years later, in 1961, R. H. S. Crossman said of the memorandum: “…this brilliant memorandum was a whole generation ahead of Labour thinking.” (23) It is impossible to say where Mosley got his ideas from. (15) Perhaps he devised them himself. (15) If so, they worth an astonishing achievement, evidence of a superlative talent which was later to be wasted. (15) His ideas were supported by some of the ‘Labour’ and ‘Conservative’ politicians, (18) but were beyond the grasp of J.H. Thomas, and an outrage to Snowden and to the free trade sentiment which still lingered in the labour movement; an outrage, almost as much, to orthodox socialists. (15) At the time, the weekly Liberal-leaning paper The Nation described his move:

“The resignation of Sir Oswald Mosley is an event of capital importance in domestic politics… We feel that Sir Oswald has acted rightly—as he has certainly acted courageously—in declining to share any longer in the responsibility for inertia.” (23)

As his book The Greater Britain focused on the issues of free trade, the criticisms against globalisation that he formulated can be found in critiques of contemporary globalisation. (23) He warns nations that buying cheaper goods from other nations may seem appealing but ultimately ravage domestic industry and lead to large unemployment, as seen in the 1930s. (23) He argues that trying to “challenge the 50-year-old system of free trade … (23) exposes industry in the home market to the chaos of world conditions, such as price fluctuation, dumping, and the competition of sweated labour, which result in the lowering of wages and industrial decay.” (23) Dissatisfied with the Labour Party (17,23) and disillusioned with mainstream politics, (9,15) Mosley chose to take his career down a much more dangerous path: (17) he tried to form a socialist party (10) based on his memorandum. (20)

New Party and British Union of Fascists

The New Party

The path marked fascism. (17) In February (15) 1931, (5,10) He founded the New Party. (5,6) This was the greatest personal miscalculation since the fall of Lord Randolph Churchill. (15) Mosley and his supporters were expelled from the Labour Party. (15) Even the most sympathetic labour men would not forfeit their party backing. (15) Only four MPs, one of them his wife, followed him. (15) Early in 1931 the New Party won 16% of the vote at (20) a by-election in Ashton-under-Lyne (20,23) and subsequent by-elections, (23) [OR] it failed to achieve any other electoral success, (20) and arguably had a spoiler effect in splitting the left-wing vote and allowing Conservative candidates to win. (23) Despite this, the organisation gained support among many Labour and Conservative politicians: (23) supporters of the New Party included John Strachey, (15,19) who moved on to communism after being supporters of Mosley, (15) Aneurin Bevan (23,44) [OR] for Bevan, joining Mosley’s New Party was not an option. (44) Soon after he entered parliament Bevan was briefly attracted to Oswald Mosley’s arguments, in the context of MacDonald’s government’s incompetent handling of rising unemployment. (44) However, in the words of his biographer John Campbell, “he breached with Mosley as soon as Mosley breached with the Labour Party”. (44) This is symptomatic of his lifelong commitment to the Labour Party, which was a result of his firm belief that only a Party supported by the British Labour Movement could have a realistic chance of attaining political power for the working class. (44) Ernest Bevin; (15,45) The Communists complained that “In the midst of the Social Fascist Labour Party, naked Fascism has raised its head and bids for leadership, gathering around the personalities of Mosley and Bevin”. (45) There was also Harold Macmillan (23) and Harold (20,23) Sidney (20) Harmsworth (20,23) 1st (20) Viscount Rothermere (10,12) the Daily Mail (14,20) newspaper’s (10,12) owner (20) and publisher (10,12) used his paper to support Oswald’s ideas. (18,28) In the 1930s Rothermere used his newspapers to try to influence British politics, particularly reflecting his strong support of the appeasement of Nazi Germany; historian Martin Pugh considers him “perhaps the most influential single propagandist for fascism between the wars”. (28) For a time in 1934 the Rothermere papers championed the British Union of Fascists (BUF), and were again the only major papers to do so. (28) On 15 January 1934 the Daily Mail published a Rothermere-written editorial entitled “Hurrah for the Blackshirts”, praising Oswald Mosley for his “sound, commonsense, Conservative doctrine”. (28) Rothermere visited and corresponded with Hitler on multiple occasions, such as after the 1930 elections that saw the Nazi Party dramatically increase the number of its seats in the Reichstag, which Rothermere welcomed. (28) In gratitude for this foreign support, Hitler granted Rothermere an exclusive interview. (28) On another occasion, on 1 October 1938, Rothermere sent Hitler a telegram in support of Germany’s invasion of the Sudetenland, and expressed the hope that “Adolf the Great” would become a popular figure in Britain. (28) Rothermere was also aware of the military threat from the resurgent Germany. (28) He warned J. C. C. Davidson, then Chairman of the Conservative Party, about it. (28) In the 1930s Rothermere fought for increased defence spending by Britain. (28) He wrote about it in his 1939 book My Fight to Rearm Britain. (28) He seemed to regard the Fascist movement chiefly as a bulwark against Bolshevism, while apparently remaining blind to some of the movement’s dangers. (28) During 1931, the New Party became increasingly influenced by fascism. (20,23) It held meetings stewarded by heavies known as the “biff boys”. (14) Mosley was denied the opportunity to get his party established when during the Great Depression the 1931 Election was suddenly called. (23) In the 1931 general election, (7,9) Mosley (10,12) and his New Party (12) were defeated (10,12) without winning a single seat. (18,19) — the party’s candidates, including Mosley himself, lost the seats they held and won none. (23) Mosley lost (7,23) [OR] chose not to defend (9) his seat at Smethwick. (7,9) Instead he stood unsuccessfully in Stoke-on-Trent. (9,23) which had been held by his wife. (23) [OR] She lost the 1931 election in Stoke. (23) He was described by the Manchester Guardian: “When Sir Oswald Mosley sat down after his Free Trade Hall speech in Manchester and the audience, stirred as an audience rarely is, rose and swept a storm of applause towards the platform—who could doubt that here was one of those root-and-branch men who have been thrown up from time to time in the religious, political and business story of England. (23) First that gripping audience is arrested, then stirred and finally, as we have said, swept off its feet by a tornado of peroration yelled at the defiant high pitch of a tremendous voice. (23) But Mosley was ruined politically, and his ideas were ruined with him. (15) Slowly, the party’s views turned more radical and bordered on fascism. (18,23) This was at a time when both liberals and the conservatives abhorred fascism. (18) [OR] A huge chunk of population was drifting toward fascism, and in 1934, Mosley’s popularity was at an all-time high. (18) As the New Party gradually became more radical and authoritarian, and as critics of the fascists in the Spanish Civil War emerged in the press, art and literature, many previous supporters defected from it. (23) [OR] He disbanded the New Party, (10,20) in April 19326. (18) Many experienced politicians left the party. (18) Mosley was an ineffective exile in his diminutive new party; Bevin’s influence did not extend beyond the General Council, and his ideas were not understood even there. (15) Over planning the parties fought less fiercely, or divided less sharply. (15) There were planners on the conservative side: Amery as part of his old protectionism, and Harold Macmillan and others in a more cautious, and of course more democratic, version of the ideas which Mosley had originated. (15) Alan Young, originally Mosley’s economic adviser and a candidate of the new party in 1931 became, after that, Harold Macmillan’s economic advisor. (15)

The British Union of Fascists

Visit to Italy

With the crushing defeat of the New Party in the 1931 general election, (19,23) Mosley began to move toward the most infamous phase of his career. (19) Mosley was on friendly terms with Mussolini, (14) and following the electoral defeat (12,18) in 1932, (6,7) he went to Italy (5,18) to see Mussolini (19,20) and study his fascist practices. (17,18)

Figure 7: Mosley with Mussolini

He was particularly impressed by Fascist Italy’s economic programme. (23) His conversion to fascism was confirmed. (20) He was further convinced that this was the way to go for Britain. (17,18) He determined to unite the existing fascist movements, (17,23) such as the British Facisti [7], formed in 1923, and the Imperial Fascist League in 1928. (19) The former, associated particularly with R. Lintorn Orman, did not last long, but the latter associated predominantly with Arnold S. Leese continued its existence until Leese’s death in 1948. (19)


He spent the summer that year writing a fascist programme, The Greater Britain, and this formed the basis of policy of the BUF, which was launched on 1st (20) October (19,20) 1932 (17,19) when he founded the British Union of Fascists, (5,8) and became its leader. (4,5) It is for this that he is principally known. (6,17) The New party merged with it. (6,7) [OR] he disbanded the New Party, (10,20) in April 1932, but preserved its youth movement, which would form the core of the BUF, intact. (20)


The B.U.F. was a fascist movement, (13,14) ‘emerging from the British far-right’. (12) The B.U.F. was anti-communist and protectionist (17,23) and nationalistic to the point of advocating authoritarianism. (23) Alexander Raven Thomson (20,42) was the party’s Director of Public Policy. (20) He joined the British Union of Fascists in 1933 and soon rose to the post of Director of Policy. (42) There, he became the leading ideological light in the party and a close associate of Oswald Mosley and Neil Francis Hawkins. (42) In that position, he produced his seminal work The Corporate State (March 1935, republished as The Coming Corporate State in January 1937) in which he set out the vision of a BUF government in Britain. (42) Thomson envisaged the formation of 20 corporations, each controlling a specific sector of the economy. (42) The corporations would be further divided up to cover each individual industry and would also feed into a National Corporation, which would effectively form the government. (42) Corporations would have equal representation for employers, workers and consumers, with elections to the corporations taking the place of existing political activity. (42) (See also Appendix I)


The Party blended Mosley’s economic programme (14) with explicit anti-Semitism. (14) At one of his New Party meetings in Leicester in April 1935, he stated, “For the first time I openly and publicly challenge the Jewish interests of this country, commanding commerce, commanding the Press, commanding the cinema, dominating the City of London, killing industry with their sweat-shops. These great interests are not intimidating, and will not intimidate, the Fascist movement of the modern age.” (23) [OR] Oswald Mosley was not anti-Semitic, because he never criticised anybody for what they were born. (13,16) He didn’t believe that Jews were the only people in the world immune from criticism. (16) Oswald Mosley criticised some Jews for what they did, not all Jews for what they were. (16) Mosley wrote that “Jews must put the interests of Britain before those of Jewry, or be deported from Britain. This is not a principle of racial or religious persecution. Any well-governed nation must insist that its citizens owe allegiance to the nation, and not to co-racialists and co-religionists resident outside its borders or organized as a state within the State.” (13)

Figure 8: Mosley speaks


The B.U.F. included the Blackshirts (6,12) [OR] The members of the B.U.F. wore black shirts. (12,13) [OR] Mosley had encountered problems with the disruption of New Party meetings and instituted a paramilitary vigilance body (17,23) streetfighters (14) who wore black shirts and uniforms on the Italian model, (15) and so were dubbed the ‘Blackshirts’. (14,17) The B.U.F. was at first applauded (10,15) by many respectable conservatives, who still regarded communists as the greater danger. (15) A huge chunk of population was drifting toward fascism, and in 1934, Mosley’s popularity was at an all-time high. (18) In 1934 the government undid John Wilkes’ achievement and restored general warrants as a precaution against communist propaganda in the armed forces. (15) As Britain’s leading fascist, Mosley was able to command armies of black shirts. (17) The B.U.F. was also supported by (15) the Daily Mail (14,20) newspaper’s (10,12) owner (20) and publisher (10,12) Harold Sidney Harmsworth, 1st (20) Viscount Rothermere (10,12) was a member of the House of Lords. (20) In 1934 he wrote an (14) article headlined “Hurrah for the Blackshirts!” (14,20) The Daily Mirror was also among its earliest (though short-lived) supporters. (23) The Mirror piece was a guest article by Daily Mail owner Viscount Rothermere and an apparent one-off; despite these briefly warm words for the BUF, the paper was so vitriolic in its condemnation of European fascism that Nazi Germany added the paper’s directors to a hit-list in the event of a successful invasion of Britain in World War II. (23) The first Director of Propaganda, appointed in February 1933, was Wilfred Risdon, who was responsible for organising all of Mosley’s public meetings. (20) In 1934 (19,30) the infamous traitor (19) Joyce was promoted to the BUF’s Director of Propaganda, (19,30) to replace Risdon (who had expressed concern to Mosley about the use of the spotlights at the Olympia rally in June) and later appointed deputy leader. (30) Joyce broadcast pro-Nazi radio broadcasts from Germany, and was known as Lord Haw – Haw, (19,20) Joyce along with Mosley and Mick Clarke were the organisations three main public speakers. (19) The B.U.F. initially attracted a sizeable following, claiming 50,000 (12,14) [OR] 20,000 (15) [OR] 40,000 (19) members at one point. (12,14) The B.U.F. got a handful of councillors elected (14,20) during the 1930s (including Charles Bentinck Budd (Worthing, Sussex), 1934; (20) and Ronald Creasy (Eye, Suffolk), 1938) (20,32)

Figure 9: Mosley Speaking

Mosley spoke to an enthusiastic crowd at the subsequent victory meeting in Eye Town Hall. (32) It did not, however, win any parliamentary seats. (20) On 13th November 1934 Mosley went to Worthing to support Budd at a meeting. (29) There was trouble, which came to be known as ‘The Battle of Warwick St.’ (29) On the next day the police arrested Charles Budd, Oswald Mosley, William Joyce and Bernard Mullans and accused them of “with others unknown they did riotously assemble together against the peace”. (29) The court case took place on 14th November 1934. (29) Charles Budd claimed that he telephoned the police three times on the day of the rally to warn them that he believed “trouble” had been planned for the event. (29) A member of the Anti-Fascist New World Fellowship had told him that “we’ll get you tonight”. (29) Budd had pleaded for police protection but only four men had turned up that night. (29) He argued that there had been a conspiracy against the BUF that involved both the police and the Town Council. (29) Several witnesses gave evidence in favour of the BUF members. (29) Eric Redwood – a barrister from Chiddingfield, that the trouble was caused by a gang of “trouble-seeking roughs” and that Budd, Mosley, Joyce and Mullans “acted with admirable restraint”. (29) Herbert Tuffnell, a retired District Commissioner of Uganda, also claimed that it was the anti-fascists who started the fighting. (29) 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.” (29) Mullans claimed that told an anti-fascist demonstrator that he “should be ashamed for using insulting language in the presence of women”. (29) The man then hit him in the eye and he retaliated by punching the man in the mouth. (29) John Flowers, the prosecuting council told the jury that

“if you come to the conclusion that there was an organised opposition by roughs and communists and others against the Fascists. that this brought about the violence and that the defendants and their followers were protecting themselves against violence, it will not be my duty to ask you to find them guilty.” (29)

Women in the B.U.F.

The January Club

The January Club was a discussion group founded in 1934 by Oswald Mosley to attract Establishment support for the movement known as the British Union of Fascists. The Club was under the effective control of Robert Forgan, working on behalf of the BUF. (36) The founders as identified by MI5 were Forgan, Donald Makrill, Francis Yeats-Brown and H.W. Luttman-Johnson. (36) Members of the January Club included Wing-Commander Sir Louis Greig; Lord Erskine, a Conservative and Unionist MP and assistant Government whip; Lord William Montagu-Douglas-Scott, brother of the 8th Duke of Buccleuch and Conservative and Unionist MP; and (according to Nigel H. Jones’ biography of Mosley) Lord and Lady Russell of Liverpool. (36) Sir Charles Petrie, who participated in the club’s early stages, discusses the club at some length (and offers criticisms of Mosley’s methods) in his 1972 memoir, A Historian Looks at his World. (36) The poet and editor John Collings Squire was another author initially involved with the club but “found the atmosphere uncongenial before long”. (36) Petrie’s memoir also mentions Yeats-Brown as soon complaining: “The January Club will probably collapse; anyway I’ m not going to the next meeting. (36) Mosley is not human enough.” (36)


The B.U.F. is remembered for its support for Hitler, (5) JFC Fuller frequently praised Adolf Hitler in his speeches and articles, once describing him as “that realistic idealist who has awakened the common sense of the British people by setting out to create a new Germany”. (35) Its enemies claimed that the B.U.F. was financed by the Nazis. (16) Mosley spent large amounts of his private fortune the B.U.F. (23) He received funding from Benito Mussolini, and was friends with Adolf Hitler. (17) [OR] No evidence that he had been financed by Germany, Italy or any other country was produced. (16) Subsequent research by historians, journalists, and academics have also failed to produce a single piece of evidence to support the claim that Oswald Mosley or his political movement received finance from foreign countries. (16) [OR] The historian Stephen Dorril revealed in his book Blackshirts that secret envoys from the Nazis had donated about £50,000 to the BUF. (20) [OR] In fact it was financed by donations from thousands of patriotic British people who believed their fellow countrymen and women deserved better than long-term unemployment, hunger and war. (16) There is however clear evidence that the British Communist Party, the Labour Party, and the Conservative Party have all in the past received donations from overseas sources. (16) and tried to establish it on a firm financial footing by means including an attempt to negotiate, through Diana, with Adolf Hitler for permission to broadcast commercial radio to Britain from Germany. (23) Mosley reportedly struck a deal in 1937 with Francis Beaumont, heir to the Seigneur of Sark, to set up a privately owned radio station on Sark. (23)

And Unions

Far from being against trade unions, Mosley wanted trade unionists to become majority stakeholders in the companies that employed them. (16) Under the Corporate State that British Union proposed, working people would share in the ownership and running of the companies they worked for. (16) All profits would be shared fairly between workforce and managers – not among absentee shareholders. (16) Instead of starting strikes which solve nothing, trade unionists would take responsibility for ensuring companies were run more efficiently and profitably. (16) The B.U.F. was blamed for distributing anti-Semitic propaganda and wearing Nazi-style uniforms and insignia, (10) and for the violence of the streetfighters against Jews (5,13) and left-wing opponents (13,14) [OR] hostile demonstrations in the Jewish sections of (10) the East End of London (5,10) His party held several protests on the streets in the next few years, (18) but most of them ended up becoming violent, (17,18) particularly with communist and Jewish groups and especially in London. (17) This maligned their reputation to a great degree. (18) On 16th May, (8) 1933 his wife (8,17) Cynthia (8,19) [OR] Cimmie (17,20) died (8,19) of peritonitis (17,19) [OR] after an operation for appendicitis. (24) They had had 3 children. (8,18)

The Ulster Fascists

Decline of the B.U.F.

The Olympia Rally: B.U.F. Violence?

Figure 10: The Olympia Rally, 1934

The British Union Regulations forbade members to carry weapons or engage in unprovoked attacks on opponents, regardless of their race or political allegiance, on pain of instant dismissal. (16) These Regulations were always strictly enforced. (16) Whilst many examples are recorded where Mosley’s enemies tried to break up his meetings to stop audiences from hearing him speak, there are no known reports in newspapers at the time indicating that British Union members retaliated by breaking up opponents’ meetings. (16) As the party became increasingly radical, however support declined. (12, 19)

The party was frequently involved in violent confrontations, particularly with Communist and Jewish groups and especially in London. (23) On the 7th June (19,23) 1934, there was a rally at London’s Olympia. (12,14) Harold Soref, the future Conservative MP, the son of Romanian Jewish immigrants, was a standard bearer at the Olympia Rally. (32) The paramilitary wing of the BUF, the Fascist Defence Force (12) 1,000 black-shirted stewards, (19) brutally (14) attacked (14,19) [OR] were attacked by (16) about 500 anti-fascist (19) left-wing (12,14) hecklers in the crowd (14,19) as well as Jews (14) who had managed to infiltrate the hall.(19) They were violently ejected. (20,23) by Blackshirts. (23) Several of the protestors were badly beaten up by the black-shirts, and a public outcry ensued. (19) The violent clashes with opponents began to alienate some middle-class supporters, (20) resulting in bad publicity (23) and isolating the party from much of its following, (12,20) and causing withdrawal of respectable support such as the Rothermere press, (19,20) The Night of the Long Knives in Germany, three weeks later, led to the loss of most of the BUF’s mass support. (23) The anti-semitic emphasis also provoked the resignation of members such as Dr. Robert Forgan. and these high-profile resignations resulted in a significant decline in membership, which fell below 8,000 by the end of 1935, and, ultimately, Mosley shifted the party’s focus back to mainstream politics. (20) One observer claimed: “I came to the conclusion that Mosley was a political maniac, and that all decent English people must combine to kill his movement.” (20), No such embargo appears to have existed among British Union’s Communist and Jewish opponents. (16) For example, both Claude Cockburn and Jacob ‘Jack the Spot’ Comacho boast in their memoirs about the weapons, which included razors, axes, knives, and iron bars, that some Jews / Communists used to assault men and women members of British Union. (16) All the famous political disorders during the period that the Blackshirts were active – Cable Street, Olympia, Holbeck Moor and Liverpool (where Mosley was knocked unconscious by a brick) – involved attacks on Mosley meetings and not attacks on Mosley’s opponents’ meetings. (16) Members who served as speakers at outdoor meetings or sold party newspapers on street corners were often subject to razor attack by Communists following their party’s instruction to “Clear the Blackshirts off the streets!” (16) Therefore active members had to become proficient at self-defence or face horrific injuries. (16) Although they never started fights they certainly knew how to finish them. (16) By the mid-1930s, (13) From 1934 onwards unbeknown to Mosley, (23) the British Security Service were secretly monitoring Mosley and the BUF, (13,23) The Special Branch had deeply penetrated the B.U.F. and were also monitoring him through listening devices, (23) as they thought Mosley’s charisma and powerful speeches would gain the party more power and financial support. (13,23) enabling it to challenge the political establishment. (23) The B.U.F. became more antisemitic over 1934–35 owing to the growing influence of Nazi sympathisers within the party, such as William Joyce and John Beckett, but having lost the funding from Rothermere (20) the B.U.F. was unable to fight the 1935 general election. (20,23) instead urging voters to abstain, calling for “Fascism Next Time”. (20) There never was a “next time” as the next general election was not held until July 1945, five years after the dissolution of the BUF. (20)

Cable Street 1936

In 1936 Mosley visited Italy again: (23) by then, (12,19) after he had failed to make further political headway, considerable energy was pumped into the local politics of (19) London’s East End. (12,14) The B.U.F. had been steadily gaining ground in many parts of East London and had strong support in such districts as Stepney, Shoreditch, Bethnal Green, Hackney and Bow. (19) He saw the opportunity to exploit anti-Semitism for political gain. (19) This resulted in violent clashes (19,20) on the streets of the East End, symbolised by (19) the famous “Battle of Cable Street”, (12,14) on 4th (19) October 1936. (19,20) After a series of well-supported marches through the East End of London which had attracted little opposition, Mosley decided to hold a mass rally to mark the fourth anniversary of the founding of the party. (19) Mosley and the B.U.F. attempted to march through an area with a high proportion of Jewish residents. (23) The intention was that the B.U.F. should assemble at Royal Mint Street at 2.30 p.m., for an inspection by Mosley. (19) This would be followed by (19) a march through a Jewish area (14,18) of the East End. (19) He was due to speak at SalmonLane, Limehouse, at 5 p.m.; Stafford Road, Bow, half an hour later; Victoria Park Square at 6 p.m. (19) and Aske Street, Shoreditch, at 6.30 p.m. (19) The B.U.F. began to assemble at 1.25 p.m., (19) but they had been pre-empted by a group of some 500 or so communists who were already there, with the Communist ‘Daily Worker’ being sold in Leman and Cable Streets. (19)

Figure 11: Cable Street – No Blackshirts!

By 2.15 it was estimated that there were around 2,000 communists and anti-B.U.F. demonstrators in the Aldgate area, about half of whom had blocked the Commercial Road at Gardiner’s Corner. (19) At 3 p.m. the BUF, still in Royal Mint Street, now totalled around 2,000 including women and cadets and four bands. (19) The organised anti-fascists prevented the B.U.F. from marching through Cable Street (19,20) when at 3.30 p.m, (19) Sir Philip (19,23) Simon (19) [OR] Game, the Police Commissioner, (23) after receiving reports from the police of the potential for trouble decided that he did not have the resources to keep the communists and B.U.F. apart. (19) He consequently forbade the march, (18,19) and the B.U.F. abandoned it. (23) Sir Philip instead allowed the B.U.F. to march West through the City and the B.U.F. moved off at 4 p.m, ending their march at Somerset House in the Strand at 4.30 p.m. (19) [OR] Local people and anti-fascists blocked the blackshirts’ path (14) and the police tried to force the B.U.F. march through. (23) whereupon B.U.F. and anti-fascist groups fought each other. (Also 19) “The general cry was that the entire population of East London had risen against Mosley and had declared that he and his followers should not pass and that they did not pass owing to the solid front presented by the workers of East London. (19) [OR] It was not between Blackshirts and the people of East London. (16) It was fought between the police and communists (16,19) imported from all over Britain. (16,23) There can he no doubt that the unruly element in the crowd was very largely Communist-inspired. (19) A number of well-known active communists were seen at, or near, points where actual disorder occurred. (19) Communists in Cable Street had overturned a lorry; timber was expropriated from a builder’s yard, along with bricks with which to pelt the police. (19) Broken glass was strewn across the road to hamper and injure the police horses and the battle between the police and communists lasted for some hours, overall there were dozens of injured police and 70 arrests. (19) The BUF’s membership rose in the wake of Cable Street. (14,16) While attempts by the Communist Party to raise enthusiasm over the ‘Fascist defeat’ were comparative failures, the BUF, during the week following the banning of their march, conducted the most successful series of meetings since the beginning of the movement. (19) The party later staged other marches through the East End without incident, (16,20) albeit not on Cable Street itself, (20) for example ten days after Cable Street the Blackshirts marched to Limehouse in East London where Mosley spoke amid scenes of considerable enthusiasm. (16) In Stepney, Shoreditch, Bethnal Green, Stoke Newington and Limehouse, crowds estimated at several thousands of people (the highest being 12,000 [OR] over 100,000 people b(16) who accorded the speakers an enthusiastic reception; opposition was either non-existent or negligible and no disorder took place. (19) In the local elections 6 months later, nearly 25% of the people of East London voted for Oswald Mosley which was an astonishing result considering that the vote was restricted to house owners. (16) In the 1930s only heads of households had the right to vote in local elections – the young, the unemployed, and most women did not get a vote. (16)

Figure 12: England football team gives Nazi salute at 1936 Olympics

Marriage to Diana Mitford, October 1936

Mosley had begun an affair with Diana Mitford (19) a prewar apologist of Nazi Germany (10) and a daughter of the 2nd Baron Redesdale. (10,19) Diana left her husband but Mosley refused to desert his wife. (19) It was not until Cynthia Curzon died of peritonitis (19,23) that Mosley agreed to marry Diana. (19) On 6th (8,23) October, (8,19) 1936 (4,8) three years after Cynthia’s death, Mosley (4,23) secretly (17,19) married again, (4,17) to the honourable (4) [OR] his mistress (13,17) Diana (4,8) Mosley (7) [OR] Guinness (10) neé (8,10) Mitford (4,8) [OR] Freeman-Mitford (10) His wedding to Lady Diana, took place (8,13) at the Berlin (8) home of (13,14) the Nazi (19,23) Minister of Public Enlightenment (23) and propaganda, (19,23) Joseph Goebbels. (13,14) Adolf Hitler (8,13) reportedly (13) attended (13,17) as one of only six guests (19) [OR] was guest of honour. (14,23) He had been spending large sums of his private fortune on the B.U.F. and, wanting to establish it on a firm financial footing (17) negotiated with Hitler through Diana (17,19) while they were in Germany for their wedding, (19) for a permit to establish a commercial radio station in Germany. (17,19) but it never materialised. (19) Oswald and Diana had two children. (8,18) Diana and Mosley had two sons, (19,23) Oswald (23) Alexander born in 1938 (19,23) father of Louis Mosley (born 1983) (23) and Max born in 1940 who became (19,23) famous as (19) the president of the Federation Internationale de L’Automobile (FIA). (19,23) for 16 years. (23)


Public Order Act of 1936

Because the government was concerned by the party’s growing prominence to pass the [OR] Because ‘the British don’t like people parading around in uniform’ (14) [OR] because of the increasing political violence (12,19) Parliament passed the Public Order Act 1936, which banned (12,14) quasi-military style organisations (23) political uniforms (12,14) in public, (19) and required police consent for political marches. (20) It came into effect on January 1, 1937. (17,23) It had a particularly strong effect on the B.U.F., (12) because its members could not wear its hallmark black shirts and the appeal of the B.U.F. was curtailed. (19) The recovery of the economy did not assist the BUF’s cause. (19)

B.U.F. and Nazi Germany

The B.U.F. included Nazi sympathizers among its ranks (13) In 1936 Mosley changed its name to the British Union of Fascists and National Socialists in 1936 and, in 1937, to the British Union. (12) A.K. Chesterton also wrote the officially sanctioned biography of Mosley entitled Oswald Mosley: Portrait of a Leader (1937), in fact a hagiography of Mosley in which Chesterton claims that the BUF leader had an “unconquerable spirit, with its grandeur of courage and resolve”, closing the book with the salutation “Hail, Mosley, patriot, revolutionary and leader of men!” (41) His ideas on Foreign Policy were sensible: (3) he opposed free trade and associated closely with Nazi Germany. (6) there was growing British hostility towards Nazi Germany, with which the British press persistently associated the BUF. (12)

Figure 13: Oswald with Diana Mosley

In the London County Council elections in 1937 the B.U.F. stood in three wards in East London (some former New Party seats), its strongest areas, polling up to a quarter of the vote. (23) Mosley made most of the Blackshirt employees redundant. (23) In 1937, William Joyce and other Nazi sympathisers (20,23) some of whom were those who had been made redundant, (23) split from the party (20,23) to form the National Socialist League, which quickly folded. (20) Joyce became naturalized as a German citizen (20) and broadcast pro-Nazi propaganda from German territory. (19,20) Mosley later denounced Joyce as a traitor and condemned him for his extreme anti-semitism. (20) This further contributed to the (12) decline of the movement’s membership. (12,13) [OR] the B.U.F. was active (19) in support for Edward VIII. (20) B.U.F. posters, read “Fascism is Practical Patriotism” and “Stand by the King”. (20) As the European situation moved towards war (23) their peace campaign to prevent a second World War saw membership and public support rise once more. (20) On 20th April 1939 JFC Fuller was an honoured guest at Hitler’s 50th birthday parade, watching as “for three hours a completely mechanised and motorised army roared past the Führer.” Afterwards Hitler asked, “I hope you were pleased with your children?” Fuller replied, “Your Excellency, they have grown up so quickly that I no longer recognise them.” (35) The B.U.F. began to nominate Parliamentary by-election candidates and launched campaigns on the theme of Mind Britain’s Business. (23) Mosley remained popular as late as summer 1939. (23) He continued to attract large crowds at public meetings until the outbreak of the Second World War. (19) His Britain First rally at the Earls Court Exhibition Hall on 16 July 1939 was the biggest indoor political rally in British history, with a reported 30,000 attendees. (23) [OR] By 1939, total B.U.F. membership had declined to just 20,000. (20)

World War II

The war pretty much put an end to his political career. (14) After the war began in 1939 (12,17) The first two casualties of WW2 were RAF Gunners George Brocking and Ken Day who died on the second day of war attacking the German fleet. (16) They were both members of Mosley’s British Union. (16) Mosley led the campaign for a negotiated peace with Nazi Germany. (8,17) This stance was popularly acceptable. (23)

Figure 14 Unity Mitford with Hitler

Oswald Mosley was pro-British not pro-German. (16) He was against fighting a War in which 60-million people died unless Great Britain or its Commonwealth were attacked. (16) But when War was declared he instructed all members in the Armed Services to strictly obey their orders and all other supporters to fight to the death if invaded to drive the foreigners from our shores. (16) But many members who obeyed Mosley’s call died fighting for their country. (16) At the start of 1940 the Duke of Bedford corresponded with the Home Secretary Sir John Anderson after obtaining a document from the German legation in Dublin that Russell claimed contained Adolf Hitler’s draft proposals for peace. (40) Following the obtaining of this document the Duke of Bedford, on 13 March 1940 Domvile organised a meeting for Mosley and Imperial Fascist League (IFL) veteran Bertie Mills to discuss their next course of action. (40) At this meeting, Mosley proposed the creation of a “Peace Government” to be led by David Lloyd George, although nothing more came of this initiative as the government soon launched a crackdown on far-right activity. (40) The very first of the armada of ‘Little Ships’ to arrive at Dunkirk in May 1940 to rescue British troops from the beaches was sailed over by Eric Piercy and Colin Dick. (16) They were both members of Oswald Mosley’s British Union. (16)

Mosley Arrested in 1940

At first, his stand was well-received, (17,18) and was officially tolerated until the events of (23) the invasion of Norway, (17,23) [OR] the Battle of France in May 1940. (23) In March Hitler made a peace proposal, and Mosley was focused on pleading for the British to accept it. (23) As the war intensified (17,18) overall public opinion of him turned to hostility [10]. (18, 23) and the government considered him too dangerous. (23) It was widely assumed at the time that, (14) had the Nazis successfully invaded the UK, he would have been installed as head of a pro-German puppet (14,17) fascist (17) regime. (14,17) In mid May 1940 he was nearly wounded in an assault. (23) John Gunther described Mosley in 1940 as “strikingly handsome. He is probably the best orator in England. His personal magnetism is very great”. (23) He (7,10) and his wife (13,15) were arrested (13,15) on 23rd (17,20) [OR] 21st (19) May (7,17) [OR] March (18) 1940. (7,12) less than a fortnight after Winston Churchill became Prime Minister. (23) The Moseleys were interned, (17,23) under Regulation 18B, (12,20) (1A), (19) of the defence regulations. (4,5) [OR] Mosley’ was, with his wife, Diana following in June (23) shortly after the birth of their son Max (17,23), on 13th April. (23) Regulation 18B allowed the internment of people (13,14) who had associations with enemy powers (19) or who were suspected of being Nazi sympathizers. (13,14) Though Mosley was never formally charged with a crime (13,23) or stood trial (13) [OR] he was accused of collaboration and (17) interrogated for (17,23) 16 hours (23) [OR] more than 16 hours (17) by Lord Norman Birkett. (17) There was suspicion that the B.U.F’s remaining supporters might form a pro-Nazi “fifth column”, (12) so along with them went (12,19) most active fascists in Britain, (23) including key members of his organisation (12,19) such as Neil Francis Hawkins, Arnold S. Leese and Alexander Raven Thomson. (19) JFC Fuller was under suspicion for his Nazi sympathies. (35) He continued to speak out in favour of a peaceful settlement with Germany. (35) Alan Brooke (in his war diaries, p. 201) (35) comments that “the Director of Security called on him to discuss Boney Fuller and his Nazi activities”, but Brooke commented that he did not think Fuller “had any unpatriotic intentions”. (35) Although he was not interned or arrested, he was the only officer of his rank not invited to return to service during the war. (35) There was some suspicion that he was not incarcerated in May 1940 along with other leading officials of the BUF because of his association with General Edmund Ironside and other senior officers. (35) Mosley himself admitted to “a little puzzlement” as to why Fuller had not been imprisoned. (35) Creasy and his wife’s were arrested and interned in Liverpool and then in a prisoner of war camp in Ascot, where he described conditions as “terrible”, and added: “To this day I set aside some time each month to write concerning Prisoners of Conscience around the world.” (32) MK Marendaz was also jailed on security charges but he was released after a few days. (33) The internment, particularly that of Lady Mosley, resulted in significant public debate in the press. (23) Most British people thought of WW2 as a war against fascism (14) and most of the public supported the Government’s actions. (14,23) Others demanded a trial, either in the hope it would end the detention or in the hope of a conviction. (23) Most of the members of Joyce’s ‘National Socialist League’ were interned, (20) and the B.U.F. was banned, (7,8) later that year, and so practically removed at an organised level from the United Kingdom’s political stage, (23) although it never disappeared completely. (19) A total of 1769 British subjects were interned of whom 763 had been members of the B.U.F. (15) and 740 were other fascists. (20) 1106 were later released. (15) Mosley and his wife lived in a house (19,23) with a small garden. (19) [OR] a cell (20) in the grounds of (23) [OR] near (17) Holloway prison, (19,20) In a January 2010 BBC documentary, Mother Was A Blackshirt, James Maw reported that in 1914 Norah Elam was placed in a Holloway Prison cell with Emmeline Pankhurst for her involvement with the suffragette movement, and, in 1940, (20) she was returned to the same prison (20,23) with Diana Mosley, this time for her involvement with the fascist movement. (20) Mosley used the time in confinement to read extensively in Classics, particularly regarding politics and war, with a focus upon key historical figures. (23) Mosley refused visits from most B.U.F. members, but on 18th March 1943 Dudley and Norah Elam (who had been released by then) accompanied Unity Mitford to see her sister Diana. (23) Mosley agreed to be present because he mistakenly believed Diana and Unity’s mother Lady Redesdale was accompanying Unity. (23) Nobody who was a member of the B.U.F. when War was declared was ever charged or convicted of treason. (16) At the other extreme, the Daily Mirror was so vitriolic in its condemnation of European fascism that Nazi Germany added the paper’s directors to a hit-list in the event of a successful Operation Sea Lion. (23)

And released in 1943

In November (19,23) 1943, Mosley (7,13) was suffering with phlebitis. (23) Home Secretary Herbert Morrison ordered the release of the Mosleys. (23) There was an outcry from the extreme left (13) but after a fierce debate in the House of Commons, Morrison’s action was upheld by a vote of 327–26. (23) Oswald and Diana were (13,15) released from prison (7,13) mostly (13) because of his illness. (10,13) [OR] Because Beaverbrook prompted Morrison, the Home Secretary to do it. (15) Churchill applauded their release, (15) They spent the rest of the war under house arrest, and police supervision. (23) at first with his sister-in-law Pamela Mitford, and then at the Shaven Crown Hotel in Shipton-under-Wychwood. (23) He then purchased Crux Easton, near Newbury, with Diana. (23) He and his wife were the subject of much media attention. (23) By then, his political popularity had significantly reduced. (18) [OR] ended: (23) the B.U.F. was no more. (19)

Post War

Under the Labour Government, 1945-51

After the war, (5,10) Mosley was contacted by his former supporters and persuaded (23) to resume his political activity. (14,17) He attempted to revive his party. (14) He criticised the Nuremberg trials as “a zoo and a peep show”. (23) The Labour Government, which hated Mosley, accused him of taking money from the fascist governments before the war. (16) He challenged the government to go through the B.U.F. account books and bank transactions and find any evidence of donations by foreign governments, and none was produced. (16)

The Union Party

On February 7th (10) 1948 (5,10) he founded a new (4,5) racialist (5) party called the Union (4,5) [OR] Union of Progress (17) Movement. (4,5) It proposed a single European nation, (13,17) to cover the continent of Europe (known as Europe a Nation) (23) because Mosley thought it was necessary to counter the aggressive aspirations of the USSR in Europe. (17)

Figure 15: Oswald and Diana 1947

He described it as ‘an amalgam of 51 organizations, most of them right-wing book clubs’. (10) He remained its leader until his death. (10) He produced constructive proposals to give everybody a fair deal in their country of origin. (16) After the War he founded the ‘Associate Movement’ for Black immigrants who supported his ideas. (16) It was run by an African Airline Pilot and an Indian Solicitor. (16) Politically disgraced by its association with fascism, (7) The Union Movement’s demonstrations were routinely disrupted by demonstrators (13,23) as Mosley’s meetings had been before the war, and largely by the same opponents. (23) It had little success, (14,17) and as a result of the marginalization of his political activity (17) [OR] Miffed by the amount of disrespect in the political bubble of Britain, (18) Mosley left the country in 1951. (14,17) Of his decision to leave, he said, “You don’t clear up a dungheap from underneath it.” (23)

In France 1951-9

He moved abroad, (7,13) first to Ireland, (13,17) and then soon took asylum in (18) Paris, (23) in France (5,13) where he lived for most of the rest of his life. (5) Mosley was the author of several books and essays in which he outlined and defended his political ideas, including The Greater Britain (1932) and The Alternative (1947). (10) His vision of a politically and economically united Europe is embodied in his ‘Europe: Faith and Plan’, published in 1958. (4) He founded the January Club. (18) In the 1950s, Mosley advocated for Africa to be divided into black and white areas but the decolonisation of the 1960s put an end to this proposal. (23)

Holocaust Denial

Mosley was a key pioneer in the emergence of Holocaust denial. (23) While not denying the existence of Nazi concentration camps, he claimed that they were a necessity to hold “a considerable disaffected population”, where problems were caused by lack of supplies due to “incessant bombing” by the Allies, with bodies burned in gas chambers due to typhus outbreaks, rather than being created by the Nazis to exterminate people, and sought to discredit pictures taken from places like Buchenwald and Belsen. (23) He also claimed that the Holocaust was to be blamed on the Jews and that Hitler knew nothing about it. (23) Reginald Goodall, too, was known to refer to the Holocaust as a “BBC Jewish plot”. (26)

The 1959 Election

Eight years later, (13,14) in the wake of (14,19) the 1958 (23) race riots in Notting Hill (14,19) Mosley came back to the UK to run in the general election of that year. (13,17) He stood for election (13,14) in Kensington North (14,19) on an anti-immigration platform. (13,14) He called for forced repatriation of Caribbean immigrants as well as a prohibition upon mixed marriages. (13,23) but he was against immigration, not immigrants. (16) “We believe profoundly in our own British race which has created the Empire, but we know also it would be bad for the Empire to stigmatize by law other races within it as inferior or outcast. (13) We have created that Empire without race mixture or pollution, by reason of the British social sense and pride of race… (13) All immigration will be stopped.” (13) He believed multi-racism undermined cultural cohesion in both communities and was driven by Big Business wanting to exploit immigrants as cheap labour. (16) “Britain for the British, is our motto, and all of Britain is required for the British. (13) Further, all foreigners who have already been naturalized will be deported unless they have proved themselves valuable citizens of Great Britain”. (13) He failed to break through, (13,14) finishing the election with 8.1% of the vote. (13,23)


In the early 60s, (17) he tried to create a National Party of Europe, (19) which was supposed to unite the leading extreme right-wing organizations of Western European countries, but this initiative was not developed. (17) In 1961 he took part in a debate at University College London about Commonwealth immigration, seconded by a young David Irving. (23) In 1962 he spoke at a rally in Ridley Road, London E8, where he was attacked by a large crowd. (13) Police closed the rally within the first three minutes. (13) He returned to Great Britain again in 1966 (17,23) to contest the 1966 General Election in a London constituency, (14,19) (Shoreditch and Finsbury) but (19,23) after failing again, (13,14) (only receiving 4.6% of the vote, (23)) he retired to France. (13,14)

Last Years

Figure 16: Mosley in 1968

Mosley set about reconstructing the past on his terms. (19) His autobiography, My Life, was published in 1968. (10,17) In it he denied that he had ever been an anti-Semite. (19) In 1977, he was one of the candidates for the position of Lord Rector of Glasgow University but he lost the election. (17,23) He polled over 100 votes but finished bottom of the poll. (23) In 1977 (17) he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, (17,23) and so retired from active political activity. (17)

Death 1980

After retirement, he mainly lived in France. (17) He died (4,5) from natural causes (19) in his home (23) at Orsay, (5,8) Essonne (8,17) a suburb (18) near (5,18) Paris (5,17) on 3rd December (6,8) 1980, (4,8) at the age of 84. (13,17) His body was cremated (17,23) in a ceremony held at the Père Lachaise Cemetery, (17) and his ashes were scattered on the pond at Orsay. (17,23) His papers are housed at the University of Birmingham’s Special Collections. (23) His son Alexander stated that they had received many messages of condolence but no abusive words. (23) “All that was a very long time ago,” he said. (23)


His children were Max Mosley (8,18) the former FIA President (8) Michael Mosley, Nicholas Mosley, Oswald Alexander Mosley, Vivien Mosley. (18) In P. G. Wodehouse’s Bertie Wooster stories, he is caricatured as Sir Roderick Spode, leader of the “Saviours of Britain” or Blackshorts (but who secretly designs and sells women’s underwear). (8) In 2005, Mosley landed on the BBC’s list of the 10 worst Britons of the last 1,000 years. (13) In 2019, the Australian man charged with killing worshippers at two New Zealand mosques said Mosley was his one of his inspirations. (13) BBC quotes a biographer to the effect that Mosley would have welcomed the recent surge in populism, but he wouldn’t have approved of Brexit: “He would have been appalled about Britain leaving Europe,” he says. (14) After WW2, Mosley began promoting the idea of “Europe, a nation”. (14) Mosley shows that the far-right has in the past had a certain appeal in the UK – but his biographer says Mosley was never in danger of securing power: “It’s clear he was an exceptional speaker, but it never translated into a real mass movement.” (14):

Appendix I:

In “Fascism” Mosley answers 100 questions on policy

  1. Why is the Movement called Fascist? Fascism is the name by which the modern Movement has come to be known in the world. It would have been possible to avoid misrepresentation by calling our Movement by another name. But it was more honest to call it Fascism and thus to let everyone know exactly where we stood. It is up to us to defeat misrepresentation by propaganda and explanation of the real policy and method of Fascism as it will operate in Britain. In the long run straightforward dealing is not only honest but also pays best. The alternative name for the modern Movement is the National Socialism used in Germany. But the German Movement also is known throughout the outside world as Fascist, which is the name commonly used to describe the phenomenon of the modern Movement whether in Britain, Germany or Italy…
  2. Do you believe in the racial theories of the German Nazi Movement? They are German and we are English, therefore our views and our methods on many subjects will be different. In this particular we possess a great Empire comprising many different races. They possess no such Empire, and their aim is a revived German race, geographically united. We believe profoundly in our own British race which has created the Empire, but we know also it would be bad for the Empire to stigmatize by law other races within it as inferior or outcast. We have created that Empire without race mixture or pollution, by reason of the British social sense and pride of race. That is an achievement unique in history, and we can trust the British genius in this respect in the future as in the past. It should not be necessary to secure British racial purity by act of law. It should only be necessary by education and propaganda to teach the British what racial mixtures are bad. If a Briton understands that some action is bad for his race he will not do it. With the British this is a matter for the teacher rather than the legislator, but if legislation was ever necessary to preserve the race, Fascism would not hesitate to introduce it.
  3. What alterations, if any, will you make in the laws governing the immigration of alien races into Great Britain? All immigration will be stopped. Britain for the British, is our motto, and all of Britain is required for the British. Further, all foreigners who have already been naturalized will be deported unless they have proved themselves valuable citizens of Great Britain.
  4. What is the Fascist attitude towards the Jews? Jews must put the interests of Britain before those of Jewry, or be deported from Britain. This is not a principle of racial or religious persecution. Any well-governed nation must insist that its citizens owe allegiance to the nation, and not to co-racialists and co-religionists resident outside its borders or organized as a state within the State. Neil Francis-Hawkins Alexander Raven Thomson The Jews, as a whole, have chosen to organize themselves as a nation within the Nation and to set their interests before those of Great Britain. They must, like everyone else, put “Britain First” or leave Britain.
  5. Is not this hard on the minority of Jews who put “ Britain First “? Minorities always suffer from the faults of the majority. Races, as a whole, suffer from the mistakes of the majority of the race when a mistaken policy is pursued. Such Jews would certainly not be molested, let alone persecuted. But they can no more complain of suffering from the errors of Jewry as a whole, than members of any other nation can complain of suffering for the mistakes of the majority and the blunders of its Government.
  6. Will the Jews then be persecuted or ill-treated? It is untrue to suggest that Jews will be persecuted under Fascism in Britain. Bullying or persecution of any kind is foreign to the British character. We shall not keep Jews here to bully them. Those who have been guilty of anti-British conduct will be deported. Those against whom no such charge rests will be treated as foreigners, but in accordance with the traditional British treatment of foreigners within these shores, will not be ill-treated or molested. On the other hand, foreigners who have not proved themselves worthy citizens of Britain will be deported.
  7. Will they be allowed the right of citizenship or permitted to be officials or M.P.’s in the Fascist State? As stated above, the Jews have deliberately maintained themselves as a foreign community in Britain, setting their racial interests above the national interest. As such, therefore, they will be treated, and none can complain of treatment which accords with their own actions. We do not permit foreigners to be M.P.’s or officials, or afforded the full rights of British citizenship, and Jews will not be afforded these privileges. Anyone in the service of the State under Fascism must be entirely British.
  8. Will Jews, who are deported, be able to take their money with them? They will be able to take anything they have honestly earned.

Appendix 2: Mosley portrayed in fiction.

In popular culture Emblem of P.G. Wodehouse’s fictional Black Shorts movement that appeared in the television series Jeeves and Wooster. (20) The Channel 4 television serial Mosley (1998) portrayed the career of Oswald Mosley during his years with the BUF. (20) The four-part series was based on the books Rules of the Game and Beyond the Pale, written by his son Nicholas Mosley. (20) In the film It Happened Here (1964), the B.U.F. appears to be the ruling party of German-occupied Britain. (20) A Mosley speech is heard on the radio in the scene before everyone goes to the movies. (20) The first depiction of Mosley and the B.U.F. in fiction occurred in Aldous Huxley’s novel Point Counter Point (1932), in which Mosley is depicted as Everard Webley, the murderous leader of the “BFF”, the Brotherhood of Free Fascists; he comes to a nasty end. (20) The B.U.F. has been featured in several novels by Harry Turtledove. (20) In his alternative history novel In the Presence of Mine Enemies, set in 2010 in a world in which the Nazis were triumphant, the B.U.F. led by Prime Minister Charlie Lynton governs Britain. (20) It is here that the first stirrings of the reform movement appear. (20) In the Southern Victory series, set in a reality in which the Confederate States of America became independent and the Central Powers (including the United States) won that reality’s analogue of the First World War, the “Silver Shirts” (analogous to the BUF) entered into a coalition with the Conservatives who were led by Churchill with Mosley being appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer. (20) The B.U.F. and Mosley also appear as background influences in Turtledove’s Colonization trilogy which follows the Worldwar tetralogy and is set in the 1960s. (20) Pink Floyd’s album The Wall (1979) features B.U.F. Blackshirts, particularly in the song “Waiting for the Worms” in which the protagonist of the conceptual album has a drug induced delusion that he is the leader of the resurgence of the BUF’s Blackshirts. (20) James Herbert’s novel ‘48 (1996) has a protagonist who is hunted by B.U.F. Blackshirts in a devastated London after a biological weapon is released during the Second World War. (20) The history of the B.U.F. and Mosley is recapitulated. (20) In Ken Follett’s novel Night Over Water, several of the main characters are B.U.F. members. (20) In his book Winter of the World, the Battle of Cable Street plays a role and some of the characters are involved in either the B.U.F. or the anti-B.U.F. organisations. (20) The B.U.F. also appears in Guy Walters’ book The Leader (2003), in which Mosley is the dictator of Britain in the 1930s. (20) The British humorous writer P. (20) G. (20) Wodehouse satirized the B.U.F. in books and short stories. (20) The B.U.F. was satirized as “The Black Shorts” (shorts were worn because all of the best shirt colours were already taken) and its leader was Roderick Spode, the owner of a ladies’ underwear shop. (20) The British novelist Nancy Mitford satirized the B.U.F. and Mosley in Wigs on the Green (1935). (20) Diana Mitford, the author’s sister, had been romantically involved with Mosley since 1932. (20) In the 1992 Acorn Media production of Agatha Christie’s One, Two, Buckle My Shoe with David Suchet and Philip Jackson, one of the supporting characters (played by Christopher Eccleston) secures a paid position as a rank-and-file member of the BUF. (20) The B.U.F. and Oswald Mosley are alluded to in Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel The Remains of the Day. (20) The B.U.F. and Mosley are shown in the BBC version of Upstairs, Downstairs (2010) in which two of the characters are B.U.F. supporters. (20) The Pogues’ song “The Sick Bed of Cuchulainn”, from their album Rum Sodomy & the Lash (1985), refers to the B.U.F. in its second verse with the line “And you decked some fucking blackshirt who was cursing all the Yids”. (20) Ned Beauman’s first novel, Boxer, Beetle (2010), portrays the Battle of Cable Street. (20) C. (20) J. (20) Samson’s novel Dominion (2012) has Sir Oswald Mosley as Home Secretary in a “post-Dunkirk peace with Germany alternate history thriller” set in 1952. (20) Lord Beaverbrook is Prime Minister of an authoritarian coalition government. (20) Blackshirts tend to be auxiliary policemen. (20) In the film The King’s Speech (2010), a brief shot shows a brick wall in London plastered with posters, some of them reading “Fascism is Practical Patriotism” and others reading “Stand by the King”. (20) Both sets of posters were put up by British Blackshirts, who supported King Edward VIII. (20) Edward was suspected of fascist leanings. (20) In the war strategy video game Hearts of Iron IV (2016), certain options can be used to increase fascist leanings in the United Kingdom. (20) Doing so can eventually lead to the British Union of Fascists becoming the ruling party, with Oswald Mosley as the nation’s leader. (20) The country’s name will change to the British Empire and its flag will be replaced with a Union Flag which is defaced with the flash and circle logo. (20) Further events can lead to Edward VIII being reinstated as monarch and being placed as the direct ruler of the British Empire. (20) Amanda K. Hale’s novel Mad Hatter (2019) features her father James Larratt Battersby as a member of the BUF. (20) Mosley was portrayed by Sam Claflin in season 5 of the BBC show Peaky Blinders as the founder of the BUF. (20) The legacy of B.U.F. is a theme of the final episode of season 8 of the detective series Father Brown. (20)


  1. Niall Ferguson World at War 13-978-0-713-99708-8
  2. W.L. Langer: Encyclopaedia of World History 0-245-50992-5
  3. J Charmley: Chamberlain and the lost Peace
  4. ISBN 0-550-16041-8 Chambers Biographical dictionary
  5. ISBN 0-550-13000-4 Chambers Encyclopaedia of World History
  7. identical wording to 9 and 11
  9. Brief summary
  12. – Summary
  15. AJPTaylor English History 1914-1945 – OUP ISBN 0-190821713-3
  18. v similar to (21)
  20. summary of article
  21. As usual Wikipedia is the source of most internet pieces. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. All references to (21) have been changed to (23)
  22. Appears to have been written for some gaming exercise based on what might have happened: it is therefore dismissed as quite unreliable, and has been excised. An example of its unreliability was describing the formation of the Blackshirts in the 1920s!
  23. full article
  24. appears to be identical with 23, and has been ignored
  26. 26
  27. Notable for not mentioning Mosley at all even though he was a member of the B.U.F. and father of the spy Kim Philby 27
  28.,_1st_Viscount_Rothermere 28
  29. 29
  30. 30
  31. Harold Soref › wiki › Harold_Soref 31
  32. 32
  33. 33
  34. 34
  35. 35
  36. 36
  37. 37
  38.,_2nd_Baron_Redesdale 38
  39.,_12th_Duke_of_Bedford 39
  40. A.K.Chesterton 40
  41. 41
  42. 42
  43. 43
  44.;sequence=5 44


Foreign and Military

  • Irish origins; Manchester; Staffordshire; West Downs; Winchester; Sandhurst; France; Harrow; Ireland; Travels; India; USA, Ladywood; Smethwick; Stoke; Italy; Olympia; Cable Street; Berlin; Holloway; Ireland; Europe v USSR; Paris; Kensington North; Shoreditch and Finsbury Park; Glasgow; Paris.
  • Sandhurst; Cavalry in France; RFC; Loos; Peace Mission;
  • Pacifism focus post First World War;
  • Anti-immigration and Empire post Second World War.

Religion & Ideas

  • No mention of Religion
  • Blank as Harrow MP; Irish Nationalism; Socialism; M. Memorandum; Italian Fascism; Anti-Semitism; Pan-European; African Partition; Holocaust denial; Anti immigration.

Economic and Financial

  • Impact of the Slump; M-Memorandum: Protectionism, Direction of Industry;
  • Inherited and married wealth; allegations of foreign funding.

Social & Cultural

  • Upper Class titled background; Winchester, Sandhurst & Guards. Separated parents; Sportsman (fencing); war injury; party animal in 20s; marriage and affairs; Illness in Holloway
  • Proposals to unify the classes through corporatism; make Jews British; as MP for Smethwick aware of poor issues. Mocked by Tories as ‘too rich’. Nothing on literature (apart from his own books) education, transport, art or music.
  • Suffragettes attracted by programme for women but one left, finding it ‘insincere’

Constitutional and Legal

  • Works in the system until Feb 1931, and then formed New Party & B U F;
  • Supports Edward VIII
  • Interned in 1940
  • BUF 2 attempts at parliament.

Individual & Random

  • Expelled from Winchester and Sandhurst; sportsman; ‘rash’ soldier; crashes showing off; Marriage 1; party animal; affairs; Meets Gandhi, Roosevelt, Mussolini, Hitler; Tory abuse at Ladywood; Public speaker; marriage 2.


[1] The Ancestor was ‘Ernald’.

[2] Only two years of John’s reign were in that century!

[3] ‘the light’


[5] Sc ‘constituency’

[6] The Spanish Civil War did not begin until 1936.

[7] Presumably ‘Fascisti’



[10] (23) says ‘after the commencement of aerial bombardment’. Mosley was already in prison by then.

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