Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Fighting Fascists on Tyneside; When the Leader of the British Union of Fascists, Oswald Mosley, Planned to Come to Tyneside in 1934 He Thought He Would Be Welcomed with Open Arms as His Extreme Right Movement Was on the Rise. Instead, His Supporters Were Left in Fear for Their Lives, as MIke Kelly Reports

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Fighting Fascists on Tyneside; When the Leader of the British Union of Fascists, Oswald Mosley, Planned to Come to Tyneside in 1934 He Thought He Would Be Welcomed with Open Arms as His Extreme Right Movement Was on the Rise. Instead, His Supporters Were Left in Fear for Their Lives, as MIke Kelly Reports

Article excerpt

IT was in 1936 that Oswald Mosley's blackshirts were attacked in Cable Street, London, in a clash which the history books say halted the rise of the fascist organisation and hastened its demise.

However, what is not so widely known is that two years before, with Mosley's political star apparently on the rise, his group got its first real bloody nose in clashes on Tyneside, revealing he did not have the popular support he thought he had.

Over two days in May of 1934, meetings had been organised at Cowen's monument in Newcastle and then at Gateshead Town Hall which ended with the fascists beaten and having to rely on police protection. Nigel Todd, whose book about 1930s Newcastle - In Excited Times - captured the moment, said: "The Oswald Mosley movement was characteristic of the time, modelled on Mussolini in Italy and to some degree Hitler in Germany, that if you wanted to take power you had to be seen to be strong, that you could control the streets, that it was the party of order.

"There was a lot of social life on the streets, lots of entertainment, which meant political meetings taking place on them and it was seen as the place to be.

"Fascists behaved in a paramilitary fashion, marching about wearing uniforms, hence Mosley's 'black shirts', as Mussolini had put his supporters in black shirts."

With the backing of the Daily Mail newspaper, which included recruitment posters in its pages, and a number of businessmen and industrialists, notably Vickers' boss Lord Armstrong on Tyneside, he thought fascism was on the march in this country.

"However, what happened in Newcastle was to prove a seminal moment in all of this plan," said Mr Todd.

In May, 1934, a fascist meeting was arranged, without Mosley in attendance, at Cowen's monument in Newcastle - erected in honour of the owner of the Evening Chronicle - which had become a regular place for political meetings.

There they encountered the recently formed Tyneside Anti-Fascist League.

"It had tremendous support from the trade unions and people in general," said Mr Todd.

The fascists had come from their meeting room in Clayton Street to be met by a violent response which drove them back there.

Mr Todd said: "A Journal reporter infiltrated the meeting room and described what he saw as being something like a retreat to the trenches in the First World War."

The next day they went for a second meeting, this time at Gateshead Town Hall and, with a huge police turnout from the Northumberland and Durham forces, they managed to stage a march across the Tyne Bridge.

But Mr Todd added: "The anti-fascists got within an ace of throwing them over the bridge. It was another night of mayhem that actually became a big national story, about whether you should allow people to wear uniforms when they're attached to political parties.

"The whole thing was a great flop from the blackshirts point of view."

It turned out to be a prelude of what was to happen when Mosley actually turned up on Tyneside for, as Mr Todd put it, "a Nuremburgstyle rally on the Town Moor".

It was in August, before the Hoppings was staged, when the Town Moor became like a "political market place". …

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