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JEFFREY HAMM - BLACKSHIRT, PATRIOT, STREET ORATOR

By Bill Baillie

Jeffrey Hamm was born in Ebbw Vale in 1915 and grew up in the grinding poverty of South Wales during the Depression. He qualified as a schoolteacher and moved to London in 1936. He became an active member of the British Union of Fascists and attended many meetings and marches including the great Earls Court rally of 1939 where 30,000 people cheered Mosley’s call for peace. He was inspired by Mosley’s famous words, "We have lit a flame that will never be extinguished. Guard that flame until it illuminates Britain and lights again the path of mankind".
In 1940 Jeffrey Hamm was working as a schoolteacher in the Falkland Islands. He was arrested under 18B and shipped to South Africa where he was detained until 1941. On returning to the UK he joined the Royal Armoured Corps. Soon after leaving the army in 1944 he formed the British League of Ex-Servicemen and Women, a charitable and political movement. The Ex-Servicemen held meetings in East London and were regularly assaulted by the fanatical 43 Group but they defended themselves and kept alive the spirit of British nationalism. In 1947, at the historic meeting at the Memorial Hall, Farringdon Street, more than 50 nationalist groups, including the Ex-Servicemen’s League, came together to form Union Movement and invited Sir Oswald Mosley to be their leader.
Jeffrey Hamm supported Mosley throughout the 1950s when Union Movement regularly filled Trafalgar Square with successful and orderly meetings. He helped to organize the 1959 North Kensington election campaign where Mosley got a disappointing 8 per cent in an election marred by allegations of missing ballot papers. He opened the Ridley Road meeting in 1962 that was wrecked by an organised mob of screaming communists. He stood himself in Handsworth, Birmingham, in 1966 and got 4 per cent despite being blatantly misreported by the "Birmingham Post". The newspaper fell foul of the Press Council but they were not prosecuted.
In 1969 Jeffrey Hamm took part in a BBC documentary about the Battle of Cable Street of 1936. He put the record straight that it was the Reds who had fought the Police and the BUF who had complied with the law, and got 23 per cent in Bethnal Green six months later.
In another BBC interview in 1976 he was asked if he had wasted his time in politics. He replied, "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".
Jeffrey Hamm acted as Mosley’s ADC and following the leader’s death in 1980 he continued to publish the Union Movement newspaper "Action" and maintain Action Society. His autobiography "Action Replay" was published in 1983. He died in 1994.
Jeffrey Hamm was a brave and decent man who believed passionately in social justice and European solidarity. He was a true and loyal friend who will always be remembered by those who had the privilege of knowing him.

 

(below) Extract from the first chapter of Jeffrey Hamm's autobiography, ACTION REPLAY, published in 1983

 CHAPTER ONE

"Never apologies; say it again and be ruder the second time!" was the advice the elder

statesman Lloyd George gave to the young Oswald Mosley, Conservative,

Independent and Labour M.P. and junior Minister before founding the British Union

of Fascists. Many years later Mosley passed this piece of homespun advice on to me. I

trust I have never been unduly rude, but I have certainly never apologised for my

membership of British Union and of the post-war Union Movement, nor for being

private secretary to Mosley up to his death in December 1980. This book will

examine the facts as distinct from the myths and the reader may well agree with me

that my life has been a source of modest pride rather than regret.

A holiday in London in 1934 changed my whole life. One Saturday evening I came

across a Blackshirt speaker shouting above the din of a howling mob on the corner of

Brondesbury Road and Kilburn High Road. I naively asked a particularly noisy

interrupter why he did not keep quiet and listen to the speaker. He gave me a reply

that set me thinking: "We haven't come to listen to the meeting. We've come to smash

it!" At the end of the meeting the Blackshirts marched away to their local

headquarters, and I fell in behind them. That was the beginning of a long march which

led me to some very strange places: to prison without any charge or trial, and to

hospital when I forgot the golden rule of any sport— never to take your eye off the

ball. On that occasion the ball was a brick which struck my head and laid me low for

several days.

At the end of my holiday I returned to my home in Pontypool in South Wales and

subscribed to all the current British Union publications, which I devoured avidly. In

one of them I read the striking challenge— 'Those who are not for us are against us'

— and I had to decide on which side of the fence I stood. I have never been a

mugwump, which has been defined as someone who sits with his mug on one side of

the fence and his wump on the other. So in March 1935 I filled in an application form

to join the British Union of Fascists, which Sir Oswald Mosley had launched in

October 1932 in the hope of creating a modern movement that would achieve— as

the old political parties seemed powerless to do— the economic reconstruction that

the country so badly needed, through a great programme of economic measures on

Keynsian lines, which would solve the unemployment problem through large-scale

projects of public works. A number of well-known and respected names in British

politics were thinking along these lines and it was not until the later years of pre-war

and wartime propaganda that a man or woman holding 'fascist' opinions was generally

assumed to be a villain.

What was Fascism? As it was an intensely nationalistic creed it varied considerably

from one country to another, and I shall concern myself primarily with the British

variety to which I subscribed. Some years ago I was invited to lecture at Sunderland

Polytechnic on the origins and development of this 'British' Fascism. It was necessary

to discuss Fascist movements in Britain which had preceded the British Union of

Fascists. In 1923 a Miss Rotha Lintorn-Orman had founded the British Fascists,

joined a year later by the late Arnold Leese, who in 1929 had broken away to form his

Imperial Fascist League. So in chronological terms these were the forerunners of

British Union, but to what degree did the Mosley movement owe its origins to them?

The British Fascists gained some strength during the General Strike of 1926, to which

they were strongly opposed, in that age when it was fashionable for Oxbridge

undergraduates to drive buses and lorries in strike-breaking activities. But what was

Mosley doing during that strike? Leading the Labour Party in Birmingham and

addressing innumerable meetings in support of the miners, justifiably striking in

protest against cuts in their then miserable wages. This is the first answer to the myth

that Fascism was a right-wing movement. It was in fact a movement of protest against

the gross injustices of the capitalist system, and against that communism which

attacked it only to substitute its own state capitalism for that of private enterprise.

Arnold Leese certainly had no influence on Mosley, whom he detested. I shall later

examine the allegations of anti-semitism, but Leese had no doubt on the matter: he

always referred to Mosley and to those of us who followed him as "kosher Fascists",

alleging that we were paid by Jewish interests to propagate a false brand of Fascism,

while he personified its pure and undiluted form !

What of the allegation that Mosley's Fascism was copied from Mussolini and Hitler?

Mosley's first election address, as a Conservative candidate for Harrow in 1918,

contained the extraordinary phrase 'socialistic imperialism', years before anyone had

heard of Hitler's 'national socialism.' But if either of these European Fascists had

exercised any influence over Mosley, would it have been from the right or from the

left? Mussolini had been Editor of a socialist newspaper, and what does the dreaded

word 'Nazi' mean? It is, of course, an abbreviation of the long and cumbersome name

of the German party, translated into English as 'The National Socialist German

Workers' Party'. Nothing very right-wing about that!

But where did British Fascism originate? I profoundly believe the answer I gave the

Sunderland students: in the trenches of the first World War. Mosley had served with

distinction there and in the air, in the Royal Flying Corps which later became the

Royal Air Force. He lost most of his dearest friends in that holocaust and dedicated

the rest of his life to attempt to save a future generation from the horrors which he had

experienced. He was later joined in British Union by men typical of that flower of

British manhood who had not waited for conscription to be introduced, but had

volunteered to fight in the war to 'make the world safe for democracy'.

His comrades included the distinguished author HenryWilliamson, who wrote so

vividly of his war experiences, which left their mark upon him for life. He had taken

part in that Christmas Day truce of 1914, when British and German soldiers had

cautiously ventured out of their respective trenches, to chat in broken versions of their

kindred languages, and to play football, before such dangerous fraternisation was

sternly forbidden by the brass-hats in both of the High Commands. On another

occasion he had heard a voice crying weakly from a muddy shell-hole and had

crawled down to investigate. There he had found a young German soldier, a mere boy,

dying of his wounds and in his delirum crying for his mother. Henry had put a

comforting arm around the lad, and in halting German had assured him that his

mother was there.

These were the soldiers who had been assured by the old men of the Establishment

that they would return to 'a land fit for heroes', only to find that they had been cheated

and betrayed. The returning ex-serviceman was thrown on to the scrap-heap of

unemployment, and officers joined with the men they had commanded in selling matches

and bootlaces in the streets of an ungrateful country. In bitterness and

cynicism they declared that the promised 'land fit for heroes' had become one in

which you had to be a hero to survive. In later years many of them turned to Fascism,

in Britain and all over Europe.

I do not propose to set out here a detailed exposition of the pre-war or post-war

policies to which I gave my support. These policies have been explained by Mosley in

a series of books readily obtainable from public libraries, of which the most notable

and fascinating, perhaps, is his autobiography My Life, published in 1968 and

currently still in print. This should be supplemented by Professor Robert Skidelsky's

biography Oswald Mosley, in the main a very fair and objective study.

However, at a time when it is still fashionable to condone the crimes of Communism

and the treacherous antics of its adherents and fellow-travellers within the

Establishment, while condemning Fascism and all its works, it is probably necessary

that I should explain briefly why I joined Mosley in British Union, and what this

cause meant to me personally.

At innumerable public meetings I have spoken in personal terms, relating my political

ideas to my early experiences. For instance, as a young student-teacher in Pontypool I

had the heartbreaking task of teaching children who had never seen their fathers in

work. My friends and neighbours had been abandoned by the old political parties, and

left to rot away their lives on street-corners, so that James Maxton, the great socialist

and leader of the Independent Labour Party, could justly describe them as "the legions

of the lost and the cohorts of the damned."

I used to go every Saturday morning to the weekly session of the magistrates' court in

Pontypool, where I listened to the most extraordinary cases. Man after man would

shuffle into the dock, to hear the charge read out to him by the clerk of the court:

"Stealing a quantity of coal, to the value of one shilling." The 'criminal' was an

unemployed miner who had gone to a railway siding where hundreds of rusting trucks

were standing, piled high with coal for which there was no market. He had taken a

lump of coal, and was running home with it, to light a fire in his empty grate for his

wife and children, when he had been arrested. Ridiculous fines would be imposed on

these unhappy men, which of course they could not pay. In default, they trooped off to

Cardiff Prison, week after week.

In the same period of this shameful betrayal of Britain by the Conservative Party—

thinly disguised in 1931 as the 'National' Government — I used to attend Labour

Party meetings, and listen to our M.P., Arthur Jenkins, denounce the evils of life in

Germany under Hitler, or later in Spain under Franco, while only the previous Sunday

he had read in chapel the lesson which advised us to cast out the mote in our own eye

before examining the beam in others. (While I was at school in Pontypool Arthur

Jenkins's son, Roy, was at his school in neighbouring Aberscychan. He did not then

speak with the accent and lisp he acquired and carefully cultivated in later years).

Before I examine those childhood years, let me emphasise that it was in revolt against

this state of things that I became 'an angry young man', some twenty years before the

phrase was thought of, and turned to Fascism, which was to me, as to so many others,

basically an economic creed. Policies made sense to me which advocated forbidding

the export of capital from the City of London, which in the thirties was investing its

money in countries where wages were lowest and hours of work longest, so as to draw

a high rate of interest.

Successive British governments allowed the good produced in the Far East by

sweated labour to flood back into Britain, undercutting British industry and causing

widespread unemployment. I saw the tragic absurdity of that system in South Wales,

and also in Lancashire, where the unemployed textile worker went off with the dole in

his pocket to the corner shop, there to buy a Japanese shirt. Fascism was to me simply

a revolt against that system, advancing the alternative policy of compelling the City to

invest in British industry and to re-equip it with modern machinery, while forbidding

the importation of any goods which could be produced in Britain. The policy of

British Union was summarised in such slogans as 'Britain First!' and 'Britain for the

British!' Should I now apologise for having embraced such a patriotic, nationalist

creed? I shall never offer any apology, for none is due. "Never apologise; say it again

and be ruder the second time!"