Jeffrey Hamm was one of the handful of activists who kept the flame of British Nationalism alive in the barren years following the Second World War. A life-long supporter of Sir Oswald Mosley, he served in the original British Union of Fascists (BUF), the post-war Union Movement (UM), and later helped “The Leader” in the compilation of his memoirs (published in 1968 as My Life).
Having chosen the path of National Socialism, he faced the usual opposition from the ‘organised’ left. a group he was forced to fight both physically in the streets, and legally through the courts. He helped to organise Mosley’s campaign in the 1959 North Kensington by-election. For his activism, he was detained by the authorities under Defence Regulations 18B in 1941 and held in an Allied prisoner-of-war camp together with German nationals, only to subsequently be released and then called up to the British armed forces.
Jeffrey Hamm was born in the south Wales town of Ebbw Vale on 15th September 1915. A war-baby, his father was serving abroad on active service at the time. Hamm’s family later moved to the Monmouth area, and the young Jeffrey had a happy, though impoverished, childhood growing up in the English/ Welsh borders.
A holiday to London in 1934 changed his whole life. One evening he stumbled across a BUF street corner meeting on Kilburn High Road. The speaker was attempting to be heard above the shouting and jeering of a hostile audience. Naively, he asked one of the hecklers why he didn’t at least listen to what was being said. “We haven’t come to listen to the meeting” replied the Red. “We’ve come to smash it!” The response set Hamm thinking, and when the Blackshirts eventually marched off back to their headquarters, he fell in behind them.
He later joined the BUF in March 1935, a decision which did not find favour with his father. To avoid family disagreements, in 1936 he packed a suitcase and moved to London. Hamm worked as a teacher at various private schools, duties that left him little time then for active politics, but recalled attending a 1937 Blackshirt meeting in Brighton. The ‘Red Front’ succeeded in cutting the wires to the loudspeaker van, but former Royal Navy boxer and BUF official Tommy Moran possessed a powerful pair of lungs, and was able to make himself heard above the din!
The BUF’s newsletter, The Blackshirt, carried adverts from fellow Nationalists in Europe wishing to become pen-pals with ideological comrades in Britain. Through this facility, Hamm was able to spend four weeks in Heidelberg, Germany, in the summer of 1937. On the return journey, his train was crowded with British holidaymakers, all of whom had nothing but praise for what they had witnessed in National Socialist Germany. As Hamm subsequently wrote: “Only later did this become unfashionable, so that everything in Germany had to be denigrated.”
Hamm was pleased that he had joined the BUF prior to hearing Mosley speak, believing there were many who simply jumped on the bandwagon, swept along by the wave of excitement generated at a monster rally Like Olympia or Earl’s Court.
Hamm’s first encounter with Sir Oswald was at a giant outdoor meeting in Limehouse, one of the BUF’s strongholds of support in east London. He did not get to know Mosley personally until later, hut always remained inspired by his prewar speeches, and in particular the famous statement: “We have lit a flame that will never be extinguished. Guard that flame until it illuminates Britain, and lights again the path of mankind.’ (A version of this was ‘sampled’ on No Remorse s 1994 track “The Flame That Never Dies”.) Another favourite saying was: “We care not whether we win tomorrow morning, or at the end of a lifetime of struggle, but win we will because Britain demands it, and nothing can hold down the spirit of Britain reborn.” Surely, as true then as it is now.
In 1938, Hamm took part in BUF marches from Kentish Town to Trafalgar Square, and from the Embankment to Bermondsey. He later recalled how the Blackshirts always marched in perfect order, “in spite of the provocative shouting of obscenities from the mob which shuffled and shambled alongside us”. Hamm rejected the accusation that the BUF’s marches in east London were ‘provocative’, because this was an area where the movement had a large and enthusiastic support. ‘the BUF marched in Bethnal Green and Shoreditch, where it had many members. it did not march in the Jewish area of Whitechapel, where it had no support.
On 16th July 1939, Hamm was at the huge Earl’s Court meeting – the largest such assembly ever held in the world. Thirty thousand people packed the hall and heard Mosley make an impassioned call for peace. In August 1939, the BUF Leader addressed a large crowd in London’s St. Martin’s Lane. The same issue was put to the vote: A forest of arms would be raised for peace, only a handful for war. The outbreak of war in September 1939 put Hamm in a difficult position. Naturally, he wanted to defend his country, yet he had friends in Germany. How could he try to kill them? Mosley had made the position of BUF members clear: “Our country is involved in war. Therefore I ask you to do nothing to injure our country, or to help any other power. We have said a hundred times that if the life of Britain were threatened we would fight for 8ritain again.’ Mosley’s ‘reward’ for this declaration was detention without trial in 1940!
One evening, Hamm read an advert in Teachers’ World for a position in the Falkland Islands. Like many people prior to the 1982 war, he assumed these lay somewhere off the coast of Scotland, and thus applied for the job. By the time he was accepted, he had realised that they were actually situated deep in the South Atlantic. His career on the islands did not last long. On 23rd May 1940, he heard of the arrest of Mosley and most of the leading BUF activists under Defence Regulation 18B. As a very junior rank-and-file member, he did not think that the authorities would be bothered with him, but on 3rd June, he was arrested by three of the Falkland Islands Defence Force ‘Home Guard’.
After being imprisoned for a few months on the island, he was transferred to a detention camp in South Africa. Since the vast majority of the inmates were either German or Axis power nationals, they were naturally more than a little surprised by the arrival of a Britisher within their ranks! They bore him no animosity however, as all were agreed on the futility of the ‘brothers’ war’ now being waged in Europe.
Though he joined in an attempt to tunnel out of the camp, his release came in a more conventional manner. In April 1941 he was summoned to the governor’s office and told he was to be sent home within a few days. As he left the compound, he was deeply moved by actions of his former comrades, who gathered together to sing the German funeral hymn: “Ich hat, ein Kameraden, ein besseren findst Du nacht”.
One aspect of South Africa which he later recalled were the separate facilities provided for blacks, whites and ‘coloureds’. All the more odd, since this was under the regime of the kindly Prime Minister General Jan Smuts. Such racial divisions are nowadays blamed on the Afrikaner Nationalist Party, yet the latter did not come to power until 1948! Hamm arrived back in England in June 1941. Not surprisingly, the ‘authorities’ had prepared a reception for him. He was made to register his address to the police, and had to report to them once a week. Hamm was now in a dilemma.
Though he was totally opposed to the war, and had been effectively imprisoned for this belief, he was also fiercely loyal to his country, which was now in grave danger of invasion, He therefore registered for military service, and was subsequently called up as 7944045 Trooper Hamm E.J. of the Royal Armoured Corps. his war record was destined to be undistinguished though. Early on, he had been warned by an officer that he had been overheard “talking foolishly” in the canteen. Hamm recognised this as a bluff, since like other new recruits, he had spent all his time learning how to clean and polish his equipment and lay it out for inspection in the required manner. He was posted from unit to unit, and became used to criss-crossing the country from one army base to another. This ended in 1944, when he was unexpectedly told he was being discharged. Being given no word of explanation, he later wrote to the War Office. Their response: “His Majesty has no further use of your services.”
Out of the army, he was free to pursue his political career. Hamm teamed up with several other ex-BUF members and formed the ‘British League of Ex-Servicemen and Women’. As well as campaigning for the welfare of former members of the armed forces, it also aimed to keep the name of Sir Oswald Mosley alive, since Mosley himself was under various restrictions following his release from prison due to ill-health.
It was not only League meetings that were attacked. Hamm was assaulted with a knuckle-duster by a caller to his house. He recognised his assailant as a member of the Jewish ’43 Group’ and took him to court. Although a neighbour appeared as a witness, a falsified night-club members’ book was produced and the case dismissed. Afterwards, even the police contributed to Hamm’s legal costs! Events became brighter on 15th November 1947, when a historic meeting was held in the Memorial Hall, Farringdon Street. Fifty-one diverse organisations, including the British League, came together to appeal for Mosley to return to politics and start a new movement. The Mosley Newsletter of December 1947 reported: ‘Jeffrey Hamm then spoke from the gallery, where he was surrounded by his most ardent League members from east London.. .He spoke of the great struggle for freedom of speech which had been won for east London at Ridley Road. He now offered to merge the British League in a new movement under Mosley’s leadership, and to support the new movement in any capacity.
Sir Oswald Mosley launched his post-war Union Movement on 7th February 1948. Though political uniforms were now banned, the ‘flash & circle’ symbol was retained, and now stood for the flash of action within a European union (as opposed to just in Britain). Once again, Mosley’s supporters marched through their old strongholds in east London, with “flags flying high, and drums beating proudly. June 1949 saw him move to Manchester as the local Union Movement organiser. An international communist ‘Peace’ conference was announced for Sheffield. The UM immediately announced a counter-campaign which included a march through the city. This panicked the authorities, who not only banned the proposed march, but also stopped some of the delegates from entering Britain, thus causing the cancellation of the conference. Another successful ploy was getting a sympathetic Conservative member of Manchester Council to propose that: Public halls should not be let to Fascists or Communists. Since the Labour Party members would not see their communist comrades banned from holding meetings, the motion fell, and the Union Movement had the use of council premises for some years.
Hamm later returned to London, and was living in Holland Park, west London in 1958, when the race riots broke out in North Kensington. As concern over immigration rose, the UM opened a bookshop in Kensington Park Road. Calls began to be made for Mosley to contest the constituency at the next election. He accepted the invitation on 6th April 1959, and local papers reported that: “Thunderous applause, cheering, and foot-stamping greeted Sir Oswald Mosley as he stepped on to the platform. ..A cheering stamping audience packed the Argyll Hall to hear Sir Oswald Mosley.” When a member of the audience asked Mosley why he was standing in North Kensington, the audience shouted its own reply: “Because we want him!” Despite predictions, Mosley was not victorious on polling day. An investigation into possible electoral fraud followed, but petered out when many people who claimed to have voted U.M. strangely decided to retract their statements. As Hamm later wondered: “Who had approached them and terrified them in this way?” More successful was a counter-campaign against a Labour Party boycott of South African goods. The UM announced it would counter-picket and encourage people to buy SA produce. The Reds did not relish the thought of confrontation and called off this part of their campaign.
Communist violence returned in 1962. Mosley had spoken in Trafalgar Square on 13th March, and was scheduled to do so again on 22nd July. However, before the second date, Colin Jordan’s National Socialist Movement had met in the Square. This caused the Reds to whip up hatred against Mosley. On the afternoon of 22nd July, Hamm opened the UM’s rally at 3 p.m. At that moment, hundreds of screaming communists charged. Mosley himself was attacked at Ridley Road on 3rd July, an event captured on newsreel footage. The organised communist violence of 1962 was used as an excuse to deny Mosley any further use of Trafalgar Square (though all-manner of anti-British groups continue to be allowed to assemble there).
Jeffrey Hamm stood for election himself in 1966 as UM candidate for Handsworth. This was then a smart suburb of Birmingham, and not the inner-city third-world slum it has since deteriorated into. In a tactic repeated more recently, the local newspaper neglected to mention the UM candidate, and referred to a ‘straight fight’ between Labour and Tory. Being given the ‘silent treatment’ contributed to Hamm getting just 4% of the votes – though he still considered this satisfactory given the circumstances. The Press Council later censured the Birmingham Post newspaper for failing to cover the election properly, but the damage was already done.
In 1969, he assisted the BBC with the making of a film on the 1936 ‘Battle of Cable Street’. Once again, he corrected the popular assumption that local people ‘smashed’ the Blackshirts, when the opposition was actually provided by Jews and communists imported from all over the country (who were the ones who actually ‘battled’ with the police that day), He was interviewed for BBC TV in 1976. Asked if he ever felt he was wasting his time in politics, he replied: Yes… friends often say that to me, but what are they really asking me to do? To give up what I believe in, because it is difficult, and to take up something I know to be wrong, because it is easier. That seems to be so absurd that I must reject it out of hand. A suitable epitaph for any British Nationalist.
Blood and Honour – No19.