For more than 70 years, Mosley’s enemies have maintained the myth that the East End rose up against the Blackshirts at the Battle of Cable Street and British Union went into decline. Nothing could be further from the truth. Arthur Mason, later British Union District Leader for Limehouse, recalled that in the two days after the banned March, 600 new members joined the Limehouse branch alone.

Five months later came the local elections which in those days only the heads of households could vote in. This effectively prevented Mosley’s young East End supporters from voting in what was called a ‘Dad’s and granddad’s election’. Despite this handicap, in March 1937 British Union won over 23% of the vote in Limehouse. Without that handicap it could have been over 50%. This proved conclusively that East London was a stronghold of British Union and Mosley’s Blackshirts had not been put to flight by Communists and their left-wing allies.

The ‘Observer’ newspaper commented (7/3/1937): ‘the size of their vote was a surprise even to those in touch with the East end’. The ‘Guardian’ (5/3/1937) called it ‘a surprising indication of strength’. Even the communist ‘Daily Worker’ (5/3/1937) admitted: ‘a disturbing feature is the large number of votes they recorded’. In the November 1937 Borough Elections British Union candidates moved up into second place in Limehouse putting a Tory/Liberal coalition bottom of the poll. The ‘Daily Worker’ noted (3/11/1937) : ‘For the whole of Stepney the fascist vote was 19%, an overall increase’.

Almost total censorship of Mosley and British Union activity in East London by the press and the BBC left the rest of Britain generally unaware of the growing strength of Mosley’s Balckshirts in this important working class area of Britain’s capital city. This assisted the left-wing created myth that East Enders stopped Mosley once and for all at the Battle of Cable Street and his support thereafter declined. This fraudulent historical view has continued to appear in history books and autobiographies for over 75 years. Only recently is the truth beginning to emerge thanks to a new generation of enquiring academics and historians unwilling to accept political myths for which there is no substantiation.

Gordon Beckwell