Whenever the name of Mosley is mentioned in print it is usually to vilify or in some way ridicule his memory. Occasionally, a brave journalist will praise him but when this is done the very same writer cannot help adding some comment about ‘Blackshirt bully boys’. There seems to exist a complete misunderstanding of what motivated the men and women who joined Mosley’s ranks.
I have some personal knowledge of this because my own father, James Whelan, was a member of both the BUF and Union Movement. He was also detained under the Emergency Powers Act, Defence Regulation 18B. One major influence on people turning to radical ideas was the tragedy of the First World War. My own father lost his father fighting on the Western Front (Pte John Joseph Whelan, 1st Battalion Royal Dublin Fusiliers, killed September 1918 ). Many who joined had either served on the Western Front or, like my own father, had lost someone close to them. The prospect of another war which would destroy, yet again, a generation of Europe’s youth appalled them. In addition, the effects of the economic collapse of the late 1920s and the mass unemployment of the 1930s caused young men and women of my father’s generation to look for more radical solutions.
Some turned to communism, others to fascism. The people who were at the core membership of the BUF and Union Movement were never, even from the earliest times, narrow nationalists. My father always detested the ‘little Englanders’. He understood, like all those who served the Movement, the real meaning of patriotism. Another part of his motivation in joining the BUF was Mosley’s attack on the Black and Tan atrocities in Ireland. My father always supported the idea of a united Ireland. He was also an admirer of T.E. Lawrence and the Arab world in general.
In fact, Eastern societies always fascinated him, especially Japan, and he read many books about Eastern religions. I read recently of the BUF policy on animal rights. I am not sure how aware my father was of this when he joined but it is something for which he would have had strong support. I believe that my father was typical of the serious-minded people who joined and stayed in the Movement, even when their freedom was taken away.
So why the term ‘Blackshirt bully boys’? Well, there was certainly plenty of violence involved whenever the BUF or Union Movement held meetings. Over the period he was involved, my father was punched, kicked, beaten with clubs, shot at and attacked with a machete (by Spanish communists at Hull docks, I believe).
The following is an excerpt from Jeffrey Hamm’s book Action Replay and recalls an incident where my father was involved.
“In September 1949, a particularly successful meeting in Bradford provoked the Yorkshire communists to lay on a warm reception committee for me when I returned a fortnight later. They brought in heavy reinforcements from Leeds and at one stage they backed a heavy lorry into our platform, which was gallantly defended by two old friends, Jimmy Whelan from Manchester and Norman Heys, a native of Accrington but then living in Brighouse. (I have lost touch with Jimmy, and I was sad to hear of Norman's death in September 1980). Jimmy had recently had his teeth out and was wearing a set of dentures; as the situation grew more menacing I saw him take them out and carefully deposit them in a tin which he slipped into his pocket, ready for action. Norman grew increasingly impatient at the antics of the mob and was muttering to me, out of the corner of his mouth: "I'll shift this lot in a minute". He could have done so, single-handed, because he was a great bull of a man who knew no fear but I restrained him as I did not want the meeting to break up in disorder. When we eventually closed it, we found that we were in a cul-de-sac and that the only way out was through the mob in front of us. "What do we do now?", my friends inquired of me. There was only one answer: we go through them. We walked up to them and I politely asked them to excuse us. This so astonished them that they obligingly parted and made way for us. We walked through them and were away before it occurred to any of them to attack us. The golden rule on such occasions is to follow the advice which Corporal Jones used to tender to Captain Mainwaring, and "don't panic". To run away would not only be cowardly but suicidal; a steady walk is the correct procedure. Self-confidence is a valuable asset which has extracted many of us from difficult and dangerous situations”.
The calmness and bravery displayed here is typical of the many tales my dad told me. Also the humour, in the face of what must have been a frightening situation. He was, until the end of his days, a fierce enemy of communism and staunch supporter of Mosley and his ideals. For many years I had assumed the ideals my father had fought for had been forgotten. In the 1970s and 1980s, I observed the emergence of organisations like the National Front and later the British National Party. I have to say, I was not in the least bit impressed by these people. They seemed to represent the very narrow-minded nationalists my father had always ridiculed, the BNP being the foremost present-day culprits. They do not have the answers to the problems which face us. In fact, they do not even have the questions. The NF just appear to want to rid the world of all minorities who do not fit their bizarre definition of what it means to be British.
I am involved in a music project called The Pride of Wolves. In certain aspects of our music we like to express our feelings about the present political situation. In some of our songs I have included quotes from The Alternative and from The European, Mosley's essays on Europe.
The music scene in which we are involved, the Neo-Folk, martial scene, can be quite political. One band of particular interest is German band Von Thronstahl, fronted by Josef Maria Klumb. The concept of Europe a Nation features prominently in his work as does the history and ideas of fascism. As a result of this, attempts have been made to place his music on ‘the index’, the list of forbidden publications and works in Germany. These attempts have failed and Von Thronstahl continue to produce very interesting and varied music.
In 1979, Jean Jacques Burnel of The Stranglers (my all-time favourite band) did a solo LP called Euroman Cometh, which deals with the ideas of Europe as a nation. The Pride of Wolves next CD will be called Imperium Europa and is partly about the historical concept of Europe a Nation.
We hope to release this later in the year.
© David Whelan 2009