The Battle of Cable Street
Date Written: 05/10/2016
Year Published: 2016
Resource Type: Article
Cx Number: CX20043
Eighty years ago this week, anti-fascists in East London confronted Oswald Mosley's Blackshirts as they tried to march though what was then a largely Jewish area. Mosley's British Union of Fascists was notorious for using marches and rallies as cover for vicious attacks on Jews. The confrontation has gone down in folklore as 'The Battle of Cable Street'.
In Stepney we heard a rumour that Mosley intended organizing a mass march of uniformed Fascists through the heart of the Jewish areas. In fact, the Blackshirt carried a notice saying full information about a proposed march and meetings would appear next week. The next week's issue announced a march ending in four meetings, at Aske Street, Shoreditch, Salmons Lane, Limehouse, at 5pm in Stafford Road, Bow and at 6pm at Victoria Park Square, Bethnal Green. Before these announcements, the air was full of foreboding. Speculation was mounting. Rumours multiplied. The immediate response was that this could not be allowed to happen and that if it did, the outcome would be disastrous
By mid-morning the crowds coming to Aldgate were already so big that Gardiners Corner, a big road junction made up of Whitechapel Road, Whitechapel High Street, Commercial Road, Commercial Street and Leman Street, was blocked and traffic was coming to a standstill. Around midday, the police were beginning to show their hand. There were skirmishes going on all over the place. I was told that down in Cable Street, which is quite a narrow street, it was already impossible to pass. By about one oclock there was a tram stuck on the rails, right in the middle of the road junction at Gardiners Corner. Young people were perched on all the lamp posts and any other vantage point, displaying posters and directing the crowd towards the weak spots in the front with the police. The crowds were roaring 'They shall not pass'.