Is My Black Shirt Ironed, Dear?

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Well, I am proud of myself. I read a genuine fascist book last night and did not throw it into the fire, though I was tempted. I must be maturing.

The book – ” the Battle of London ” – was apparently printed in 1923 in Great Britain by a firm called Herbert Jenkins. The back of the book lists some of their other publications and a mixed lot they are, too. They range from 7/6 novels to 3/6 poplars. One of the latter is P. G. Wodehouse’s * ” The Inimitable Jeeves “. You can even get down to 2/6 potboilers. I would imagine the difference in the prices is, to some extent, due to bindings and paper.

” The Battle Of London ” is cheap enough in itself – the sort of light card and cloth binding that signals the era – a book to be found on the shelves of a boarding house in a seaside resort. In my case I found it in a secondhand bookstore in Margaret River – odd enough location for any reader but a surprising treasure trove.

Well, to put it simply, the author called himself Hugh Addison but was really Harry Collison Owen – a sometime British Army officer and editor of a soldier’s paper in the Balkans in the 14/18. Couldn’t tell you what Mr. Owen liked, but I can tell you what he disliked; communism, labour unions, soviet Russia, and postwar Germany. He also disliked Bolsheviks, Jews, Asiatics, and Germans.

Rather surprisingly he liked Italian fascists and possibly Americans, though that might be a misreading of one of his characters.

The novel told of a communist plot to take over England in the 1920’s and the battle to stop it – centred chiefly around London. I suspect Mr Owen was enamoured of the German freikorps of the time as well, though he came to mentioning them and similar paramilitary groups on the continent only as introduction to his own invention – the ” Liberty League ” and the ” Iron Division “. British freikorps.

He set the plot going, then spun it out in the most melodramatic of boy’s adventure scenes. He let the forces of Red Terror advance and succeed and then beat them back with his own heroes. In the end he latched onto the interwar fear of aerial bombing and destroyed Westminster and Berlin with German and British triplanes respectively. All it took was one air raid on each city – I suspect Owen either could not think how to conduct an air war or just ran out of paper.

The most illuminating part of the book was the way Owen wrote about Asiatics and Jews – I’ll not repeat the insults and epithets, the slurs and calumnies. He was contemptuous of Germans and Russians to start with but settled that shortly by saying they were misled by ” other races”.  He did write an American character into the story and managed to attach a general racist attitude to him, but it was chiefly to sew together the English-speaking nations against those he considered lesser breeds.

Well, it was just a book, and a cheap one at that – I cannot see this having got over the 3/6 mark. And it was a long time ago and events have long since proved it to be false, but it was still a damnable thing. I wonder if it, and others like it, were the food that nourished Mosley. Did it fuel hatreds in other people?

Still, I read it through, and that is saying something. I’ll lend it to a friend with a warning, but I don’t suppose it will do him any harm. I would not lend it to susceptible people, however, any more than I would press the Protocols of Zion or Mein Kampf on them. I have no desire to start them out on freikorps re-enactment in 2019…no need for New Guards.

  • P.G Wodehouse. Now there was a staunch Englishman who would never have fascist sympathies………………..
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