The British Union of Fascists

Newspapers and secret files
Date published: 
September 2008
Electronic resource

On Thursday the 23rd of May 1940, after a lengthy period of surveillance by the security services, Sir Oswald Mosley leader of the British Union of Fascists (BUF) together with his chief lieutenants was arrested by police under Defence Regulation 18B of the Emergency Powers Act (1939). He was interned, initially in Brixton Prison and thence in Holloway. The reasons for his internment lay in his position as leader of the BUF, a political party which he had founded in 1932 and which he used to incite racial hatred and violence. Throughout the 1930s the British Union of Fascists became increasingly pro-Nazi in its orientation, supporting the appeasement of Hitler and the Third Reich in blaming the Jews for the rising tension across Europe, and urging his followers and countrymen not to fight in a "Jews' war." The British Union of Fascists continued to function throughout the "phoney war" but the invasion of France in May 1940 and the imminent invasion of Britain, which was feared at any moment, led the authorities to act swiftly against Mosley and the British Union, which was seen as a focus for Nazi collaboration. Although the case against Mosley was never tried in court, there were a number of hearings at which he attempted to overturn the order of arrest and internment. In addition to reproducing the three principal organs of BUF, Action (1936-1940), Blackshirt (1933-1939), Fascist week (1933-1934), together with a wealth of evidence gathered by the authorities against Mosley and also his second wife, Lady Diana Mosley, who was arrested and interned just over a month later, on the 29th of June, the present collection contains the files relating to the hearings, comprising recently released secret papers from the Home Office, the Police, MI5 and the Cabinet Office, now held at the National Archives, Kew. Read together, these newspapers and previously classified documents provide detailed insights not only into the threat that home-grown fascism posed to Britain during the early stages of the Second World War, but also of the network of political and financial relationships built up between British fascists, the Nazis in Germany, and Mussolini's fascist party in Italy, as well as elsewhere in Europe.