The Battle of Cable Street, London – 4th October 1936
Cable Street in Shadwell in the East End of London is a main thoroughfare of the area between Commercial Road and the River Thames, a working class area populated at the time by many Jewish families including members of our Ottolangui family, dockers and labourers from many different ethnic and religious backgrounds.
On this day in 1936 the East End was targeted for a demonstration by the British Union of Fascists lead by Sir Oswald Mosely (1896 –1980) 6th Baronet and former Member of Parliament for Harrow from 1918-1924, first as a Conservative, then an Independent, before joining the Labour Party. At the General Election in 1924 he stood in Ladywood, Birmingham, against Neville Chamberlain, the future Prime Minister and lost by 100 votes. Later he was elected MP for Smethwick in the West Midlands and was at one time a prospective candidate for Prime Minister in the Labour Party but he resigned over the party’s unemployment policy and then formed his own political party the “New Party” which became the British Union of Fascists.
After the death of his first wife, Mosely in 1936 married his mistress Diana Guinness née Mitford, in secret in the Berlin home of Germany’s Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda Dr. Josef Goebbels. His hero, Adolf Hitler, was their guest of honour.
When Mosely’s plans for his 3,000 strong black-shirt Fascist army wearing Nazi style uniforms and insignia to march through the East End became known,
the Home Secretary John Simon was petitioned by around 100,000 citizens to ban the march. He not only declined the request but instructed 6,000 officers from the Metropolitan Police to protect the marchers.
A confrontation took place at Gardiners’ Corner near Aldgate East Tube Station at the junction of Aldgate High Street, Whitechapel Road and Commercial Road, where about 20,000 demonstrators turned out to face the marchers and their 6,000 strong police escort which included mounted units. The demonstrators fought back with sticks, rocks, chair legs and other improvised weapons. Rubbish, rotten vegetables and the contents of chamber pots were thrown at the marchers by women in houses along the street.
At the junction of Christian Street and Cable Street, the demonstrators, Jews, Irish labourers and Christian dockers built barricades and a series of running battles ensued. Local children tossed marbles on the ground in front of the horses of the advancing mounted police preventing them from approaching the demonstrators.
Mosley was forced to abandon the march fearing the serious defeat of his Fascist black-shirts and was escorted by the police to Hyde Park where the Fascists dispersed in disarray.
The event is commemorated by this plaque –
and by this mural painted on the wall of St. George’s Town Hall in Shadwell
An eyewitness account in a video interview of Louis Frosh, one of the “marble tossing” children can be viewed here –