British League of Ex-Servicemen and Women

The British League of Ex-Servicemen and Women (BLESMAW) was a British ex-service organisation that became associated with far right politics during and after the Second World War.


BLESMAW had its origins in 1937 when James Taylor set up the group as an alternative to the Royal British Legion.[1] Its main area of concern was the right of military veterans to receive a good pension.[2]


By 1944 Jeffrey Hamm and Victor Burgess, both members of the British Union of Fascists who had been interned under Defence Regulation 18B, had taken control of the group.[3] The League held its first meeting in Hyde Park on 4 November 1944, where it promoted itself as a fascist organisation that endorsed racial purity and "Britain for the British", inspiring a hostile reaction from the crowd.[4] Under Hamm and Burgess the group became active in East London, where it was involved in street violence.[5]

In June 1945 the League was represented at a meeting of the National Front After Victory, an A. K. Chesterton-led initiative aimed at forming a united post-war party, although this group quickly floundered.[6] By 1946 Hamm was in full control, having expelled Propaganda Director Burgess, whom he viewed as a rival for the leadership, as well as John Marston Gaster, the League's public relations officer, whose public displays of Nazism were proving an embarrassment and damaging the League's chances of gaining a following.[2] Nonetheless the League, along with other more minor fascist groups in Britain at the time, worked closely with German POWs held in camps in and around London.[7]


The group was noted for its virulent antisemitism and immediately after the war this policy was publicly criticised by Oswald Mosley.[5] As a result of the group's antisemitism it came into regular conflict with the militant 43 Group, although individual members of this movement such as James Cotter also managed to infiltrate the League.[8] Ultimately the 43 Group proved successful in forcing the League to abandon many of its street parades.[9] However, the League also won support due its antisemitism as anti-Jewish sentiments became widespread around 1947 in response to the situation in the British Mandate for Palestine, with the battle there between the British Army and Zionist groups. Such a growth in antisemitism not only boosted the league but gave renewed impetus for a refoundation of a wider fascist movement.[10]

Union Movement

On 15 November 1947 a meeting was held at the Memorial Hall in London's Farringdon Road where Mosley announced his intention to return to politics. Four main movements were represented at this gathering i.e. Anthony Gannon's Imperial Defence League, Burgess's Union of British Freedom, Horace Gowing's Sons of St George and the League itself.[11] Hamm and the League reacted favourably to this development although some, such as former BUF member Robert Saunders of the Rural Reconstruction Association, were less than enthusiastic about admitting BLESMAW, feeling that they represented the brawling, vulgar, anti-Semitic tendency of the BUF that should be kept out of any new movement.[12] Nevertheless, BLESMAW was one of the constituent groups of the Union Movement upon that group's foundation in 1948, marking the end of the movement.[5]


  1. ^ Peter Barberis, John McHugh, Mike Tyldesley, Encyclopedia of British and Irish Political Organizations: Parties, Groups and Movements of the 20th Century, Continuum International Publishing Group, 2000, p. 176
  2. ^ a b Graham Macklin, Very Deeply Dyed in Black, I.B. Tauris, 2007, p. 39
  3. ^ Barberis et al, Encyclopedia of British and Irish Political Organizations, pp. 176-177
  4. ^ Stephen Dorril, Blackshirt: Sir Oswald Mosley & British Fascism, Penguin Books, 2007, p. 542
  5. ^ a b c Barberis et al, Encyclopedia of British and Irish Political Organizations, p. 177
  6. ^ Dorril, Blackshirt, p. 547
  7. ^ Macklin, Very Deeply Dyed in Black, p. 86
  8. ^ Dorril, Blackshirt, p. 558
  9. ^ Dorril, Blackshirt, p. 569
  10. ^ Macklin, Very Deeply Dyed in Black, pp. 45-46
  11. ^ Dorril, Blackshirt, p. 566
  12. ^ Dorril, Blackshirt, pp. 567-568
Adam Marshall Diston

Adam Marshall Diston (1893–1956; born in Scotland) was a journalist for the Sunday Dispatch and ghostwriter for Winston Churchill. He had 'close affinities' to Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists. He had a military background, serving in a Scottish regiment from 1914-1918.

British Brothers League

The British Brothers' League (BBL) was a British anti-immigration, extraparliamentary, proto-fascist pressure group (the 'largest and best organised' of its time) that attempted to organise along paramilitary lines.The group was formed in May 1901 in east London as a response to waves of immigration that had begun in 1880 and had seen a rapid increase in the numbers of Russian and Polish Jews, as well as others from Eastern Europe, into the area. As a result, Captain William Stanley Shaw formed the BBL to campaign for restricted immigration with the slogan 'England for the English' and soon formed a close alliance with local Conservative MP Major Evans-Gordon. Initially the League was not antisemitic and was more interested in keeping out the poorest immigrants regardless of background, although eventually Jews became the main focus. The League promoted their cause with large meetings, which were stewarded by guards whose role was to eject opponents who entered and raised objections.The League claimed 45,000 members, although membership was actually fairly irregular as no subscriptions were lifted and anyone who signed the organisation's manifesto was considered a member, with Tory MP Howard Vincent amongst those to do so. As a result of this, attempts to militarise the group were largely a failure, although the movement continued to organise demonstrations against immigrants. The Aliens Act 1905, which restricted immigration, was largely seen as a success for the BBL and, as a result, the movement by and large disappeared. It officially carried on until 1923, albeit on a tiny scale, and was associated with G. K. Chesterton and the distributist movement. Nonetheless they would resurface from time to time as new immigrant scares and shortly before the outbreak of the First World War they were even given a public donation of ten shillings by Arthur Conan Doyle, who had been caught up in a growing public swell of Germanophobia as war loomed.The League also left behind a legacy of support for far-right groups in east London and this was exploited by the British Union of Fascists, the British League of Ex-Servicemen and Women, the Union Movement and the National Front who gained followings in the same environs.

Colin Jordan

John Colin Campbell Jordan (19 June 1923 – 9 April 2009) was a leading figure in post-war neo-Nazism in Great Britain. In the far-right circles of the 1960s, Jordan represented the most explicitly "Nazi" inclination in his open use of the styles and symbols of the Third Reich. Through his leadership of organisations such as the National Socialist Movement and the World Union of National Socialists, Jordan advocated a pan-Aryan "Universal Nazism". Although later unaffiliated with any political party, Jordan remained an influential voice on the British far right.

English Defence League

The English Defence League (EDL) is a far-right, Islamophobic organisation in the United Kingdom. A social movement and pressure group that employs street demonstrations as its main tactic, the EDL presents itself as a single-issue movement opposed to Islamism and Islamic extremism, although its rhetoric and actions target Islam and Muslims more widely. Founded in 2009, its heyday lasted until 2011, after which it entered a decline. It is presently chaired by Tim Ablitt.

Established in London, the EDL coalesced around several football hooligan firms protesting the public presence of the small Salafi Islamist group Ahlus Sunnah wal Jamaah in Luton, Bedfordshire. Tommy Robinson, a former member of the British National Party (BNP), soon became its de facto leader. The organisation grew swiftly, holding demonstrations across England and often clashing with anti-fascist protesters from Unite Against Fascism and other groups, who deemed it a racist organisation victimising British Muslims. The EDL also established a strong social media presence on Facebook and YouTube. Moving towards electoral politics, it established formal links with the far-right British Freedom Party, a breakaway from the BNP. The EDL's reputation was damaged in 2011 after supporters were convicted of plotting to bomb mosques and links were revealed with Norwegian far-right terrorist Anders Breivik. In 2013 Robinson—supported by the Quilliam think tank—left the group; he claimed it had become too extreme, and established the rival Pegida UK. The group's membership declined significantly following Robinson's departure and various branches declared independence.

Ideologically on the extreme-right or far-right of British politics, the EDL is part of the international counter-jihad movement. Officially, it presents itself as being opposed to Islamism, Islamic extremism, and jihadism, although its rhetoric repeatedly conflates these with Islam and Muslims more broadly. Rejecting the idea that Muslims can truly be English, the EDL presents Islam as an intolerant, primitive threat seeking to take over Europe. Political scientists and other commentators have characterised this Islamophobic stance as culturally racist. Both online and at its events, EDL members have incited violence against Muslims, with supporters carrying out violent acts both at demonstrations and independently. The EDL's broader ideology features nationalism and populism, blaming a perceived decline in English culture on high immigration rates and an uncaring political elite. It distinguished itself from Britain's traditional far-right by rejecting biological racism, anti-Semitism, and homophobia. Although several of its leaders were previously involved in fascist organisations and some neo-Nazis and other fascists attended EDL events, commentators differ on whether the EDL itself is ideologically fascist or not.

Headed by a small leadership team, the EDL sub-divided into over 90 local and thematic divisions, each with considerable autonomy. Its support base consisted primarily of young, working-class white British men, some from established far-right and football hooligan subcultures. Polls indicated that most UK citizens opposed the EDL, and the group was repeatedly challenged by anti-fascist groups. Many local councils and police forces discouraged EDL marches, citing the high financial cost of policing them, the disruptive influence on community harmony, and the damage caused to counter-terrorism operations.

English National Association

The English National Association (ENA) was a political group active in the United Kingdom during the Second World War. It was accused of having fascist sympathies.

Formed by John Webster in 1942, the ENA was led by Edward Godfrey, a former member of the British Union of Fascists who had served under Admiral Sir Barry Domvile in the Royal Navy. The ENA, which sought to regroup former members of the British Union of Fascists, was originally called the British National Party (BNP). The group was funded by the Duke of Bedford, a veteran supporter of right-wing movements, most notably the British People's Party. Calling for a negotiated peace, the group attempted to march on the Cenotaph in 1942 but the demonstration was banned by the authorities and the group came under suspicion. The BNP, which emphasised anti-Semitism, initially gained some support and not long after its foundation claimed to have 50 branches across the country. It also enjoyed the support of a number of right-wing journals, such as those of Captain Bernard Acworth and Joseph Ball, as well as the backing of the British League of Ex-Servicemen and Women, a group that had been associated with the BUF and which was later taken over by Jeffrey Hamm. William Craven, a farm worker from Gloucester who was sentenced to life imprisonment for twice writing to government agencies of Nazi Germany to offer his services, was also a BNP member following his expulsion from the BUF for extremism.In order to avoid the attentions of the government Godfrey disbanded the BNP in 1943 before recreating the group immediately as the ENA. Like most groups in existence at the time however many supporters were loath to join as they feared that active groups were too easily infiltrated by MI5. Before long Webster had left to form his own English Legion and they did not survive the war.The group contested the 1943 Acton by-election with Godfrey officially running as independent, although he finished bottom of the poll with 258 votes.

Football Lads Alliance

The Football Lads Alliance (FLA) is a movement in the United Kingdom founded by John Meighan in 2017. According to The Times, "the movement was set up as a self-proclaimed 'anti-extremist' movement" but has increasingly become associated with far-right politics and far-right activists.The Premier League has warned clubs that "the group is using fans and stadiums to push an anti-Muslim agenda". Concern has also been expressed that the Alliance is "giving cover to the far right" and "uses a secret Facebook page full of violent, racist and misogynistic posts".

Jeffrey Hamm

Edward Jeffrey Hamm (15 September 1915 – 4 May 1992) was a leading British Fascist and supporter of Oswald Mosley. Although a minor figure in Mosley's pre-war movement he became a leading figure after the Second World War and eventually succeeded as leader of the Union Movement on Mosley's retirement.

List of British far-right groups since 1945

The far-right, extreme right, hard right, radical right, fascist-right and ultra-right are terms used to discuss the position a group or person occupies within right-wing politics. The terms are often used to imply that someone is an extremist. The terms have been used by different scholars in somewhat conflicting ways.Far right politics usually involve supremacism — a belief that superiority and inferiority is an innate reality between individuals and groups — and a complete rejection of the concept of social equality as a norm. Far right politics often support segregation; the separation of groups deemed to be superior from groups deemed to be inferior. Far right politics also commonly include authoritarianism, nativism, racism and xenophobia.Many of these parties stem from either the legacy of Sir Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists, or the political views held by either John Tyndall, Andrew Fountain, Eddy Morrison, Ian Anderson, Colin Jordan and A.K. Chesterton, along with those of their parties like the British National Party, National Front (United Kingdom), National Socialist Movement (1960s) and National Democrats (United Kingdom) over the last 40 years.

The ideologies usually associated with the far right include fascism, Nazism and other ultra-nationalist, religiously extreme or reactionary ideologies.The term radical right refers to sections of the far right that promote views which are very conservative in traditional left-right terms, but which aim to break with prevailing institutions and practices. The radical right does not have a clear straightforward structure, but rather consists of overlapping subcultures with diverse styles of rhetoric, dress and symbolism whose cohesion comes from the use of alternative system of communications.

Sharon Ebanks

Sharon Elizabeth Ebanks (born 1967 or 1968) is a former member of the British National Party and one of the founder members of the New Nationalist Party. In 2006, she was wrongly declared elected to Birmingham City Council.

The Link (UK organization)

The Link was established in July 1937 as an 'independent non-party organisation to promote Anglo-German friendship'. It generally operated as a cultural organisation, although its journal, the Anglo-German Review, reflected the pro-Nazi views of Barry Domvile, and particularly in London it attracted a number of anti-semites and pro-Nazis. At its height the membership numbered around 4,300.

The Link was opposed to war between Britain and Germany, and because of this attracted the support of some British pacifists. When The Link and the Anglo-German Review were included among a number of peace organisations across the political spectrum in the Peace Service Handbook (a publication put out by the Peace Pledge Union), the Daily Telegraph and The News Chronicle published articles accusing the PPU of supporting Nazism. In response, PPU member Stuart Morris wrote to the papers stating there was no connection between the PPU and The Link, and that the former organisation did not support the German demand for colonies or peace at the expense of smaller nations. The PPU also sent a letter to its group leaders dissociating The Link from the PPU, and ceased publishing the Peace Service Handbook.The organisation was investigated by Maxwell Knight, head of counter-subversion in MI5 and future role model for James Bond's boss M. The organisation closed shortly after the start of World War II in 1939.

Barry Domvile was interned in 1940 as someone who might "endanger the safety of the realm".According to Anthony Masters, the Link was allegedly resurrected in 1940 by Ian Fleming, then working in the Department of Naval Intelligence, in order to successfully lure Rudolf Hess (deputy party leader and third in leadership of Germany, after Adolf Hitler and Hermann Göring) to Britain in May 1941.

Union Movement

The Union Movement (UM) was a far-right political party founded in Britain by Oswald Mosley. Where Mosley had been associated with a peculiarly British form of fascism, the Union Movement attempted to redefine the concept by stressing the importance of developing a European nationalism rather than narrower country-based nationalisms. The UM has therefore been characterised as an attempt by Mosley to start again in his political life by embracing more democratic and international policies, than those with which he had previously been associated. The UM has been described as post-fascist by former members such as Robert Edwards, the founder of the pro-Mosley European Action UK pressure group.

Victor Burgess

Victor Cecil Burgess was a British fascist who was one of the principal figures in the British League of Ex-Servicemen and Women (BLESMAW).

Pre-1945 groups
post-1945 groups
Active groups
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Post-1945 people
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