My father wasn't valiantly' beaten at Cable Street, he just marched away—Nicholas Mosley
PUBLISHED: 21:25 29 October 2008 | UPDATED: 13:43 05 October 2010
Sir Nicholas Mosley, now in his eighties, 3rd Baron Ravensdale, son of one-time fascist leader Oswald Mosley, talked candidly to the East London Advertiser on the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Cable Street in October, 2006, about his father's part in the Blackshirt movement
Sir Nicholas Mosley, now in his eighties, 3rd Baron Ravensdale, son of one-time fascist leader Oswald Mosley, talked candidly to the East London Advertiser on the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Cable Street in October, 2006, about his father’s part in the Blackshirt movement.
I WASN’T actually in London on the day of the Battle of Cable Street on October 4, 1936. I was about 13 and was at my prep school.
But I do know that the story of the anti-fascists valiantly beating off the Blackshirts wasn’t true.
My father marched to the Tower of London and was told to wait until the police overturned the barricade at Cable Street. The police wanted to pull down the barricades. But the Metropolitan Commissioner told him they couldn’t do it.
My father asked, “Are you giving the order that we can’t march?” The Police Commissioner said, “Yes,” and advised him to go back through the City.
He was in a no win’ situation. If he had gone on with the march and fought at the barricades, he would have been seen as the leader of thugs. But he turned back and was seen instead as a wimp.
He wanted to show the Blackshirts were not thugs, but a disciplined group—so he agreed to turn back.
But the Nazi-type uniforms made them look like an army of thugs in the public’s eye. He realised too late the mistake of black uniforms.
My father had been carried away on the Nazi bandwagon. He started the movement before Hitler came to power in 1933, but was tainted by what Hitler was doing in Germany.
The barricades at Cable Street chanced all that. They did work. People in Cable Street had made their point—their protest worked. Those who put up the barricades were heroic.
Years later, my father told me it was “the most terrible propaganda disaster.”
I later found out that the reason he turned away from Cable Street so easily that day was because the next day he was due to marry Diana Guinness (nee Mitford) in Goebbels’ house in Germany (Hitler was one of the guests). It was a strict secret and I think he was worried it would get out if he had been arrested.
But he was already losing politic al influence. I remember his public meeting two years earlier at Olympia, which was disrupted by communists. It was to attract the good and the great, but his stewards behaved badly, brutally dragging protesters out and attacking them.
After that, influential people like Lord Rothermere, owner of the Daily Mail, who had supported him, withdrew their backing.
My father’s people had got out of control. So he dressed his followers in new blackshirt uniforms to claim he was in charge of a disciplined force. The first time they really dressed up was in 1936 at Cable Street. I thought it sounded crazy, all this dressing up and talk of Hitler.
Two of his members, including William Joyce (the traitor who was later to broadcast Nazi wartime propaganda from Hitler’s Germany) quit the movement after Cable Street, saying it was feeble. Both were anti-Semites.
My father then cut the movement down. He realised there was no chance of gaining power. By 1937 his movement collapsed.
After the war, my father was a gentleman farmer in Wiltshire.
But something went terribly wrong. He realised in 1946 he was being brought back into politics.
He asked me to drive him up to London to see old friends in a pub that year, somewhere in East London.
As we drew up, he was taken by surprise. People on the approach to the pub lined the entrance and did the fascist solute.
The pub was crowded. People were touching him as if to get some sort of magic from him. They tried to touch the hem of his garment as he passed. One old Blackshirt said to me, “We thought your father was a prophet.”
My father had that kind of effect. But his great failing was that he lacked moral sense.
I was amazed, then left him there in the pub. He was being drawn back into politics by his old lieutenants starting up their own movements, meeting in Ridley Road in Dalston. By 1947, I got married and moved to North Wales to get as far away from this nonsense.
We had a huge argument when he got involved in politics again, around the issue of post-war black immigration. I said, “What are you doing? You are either wicked or insane.”
He said he would never speak to me again. We never saw each other for seven years.
I finally went to see him, living on the outskirts of Paris. He wa ill with Parkinson’s Disease. We talked about politics and he finally admitted that the Holocaust did happen.
I don’t think he ever would have got in power in Britain. All those who stood for Parliament as British Union of Fascist candidates lost their deposits. The BUF was not made up of clever men.
And all the talk about my father being Hitler’s right-hand man in England is nonsense. Hitler didn’t actually like my father.
Sir Nicholas Mosley
3rd Baron Ravensdale