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British Union of Fascists

Last modified: 2015-05-20 by rob raeside
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[The flags of the British Union of Fascists were discussed by Lucien Philippe in an article in Flagmaster years ago (Lucien Philippe: "Movements of the extreme right in the United Kingdom and some Commonwealth countries. Part 1," Flagmaster, No. 44, 1984). Philippe's article is accompanied by illustrations of two flags.]

British Union of Fascists - 1932 to 1935

[British Union of Fascists] Image by Jan Oskar Engene

The British Union of Fascists (BUF) was founded on 1 October 1932 simply by a name change. Mosley, the party's leader, had founded the New Party on 1 May 1932 and this party changed name to British Union of Fascists in late 1932. BUF's emblem was the one used by Italian fascists and by other fascist movements, the fasces.
In the flag, according to Philippe, the fasces was white placed over a blue disk [but see note on colour] on a red field. Judging by a photograph in Ernst Nolte: Der Faschismus. Von Mussolini zu Hitler. Texte, Bilder und Dokumente (Munich: Verlag Kurt Desch, 1968, p 201), showing Mosley with the flag at BUF London HQ, there are some darker elements to the fasces emblem. Maybe this particular flag had some silver elements, but I am now guessing.
Jan Oskar Engene, 18 April 2002

Note on colour: I'm sure the colours should be as shown [above - using a black disk]. These are the colours of Oswald Mosley's earlier 'New Party', there is evidence that these colours were used for a short time after the founding of the B.U.F. in 1932. I have stated the above in my book 'Mosley's Men in Black' (Uniforms, flags and insignia of the B.U.F.), which was published in December 2004.
John Millican, 17 June 2005

British Union of Fascists and National Socialists - 1935 to 1940

[British Union of Fascists] Image by Jan Oskar Engene

In 1935 another name change occurred, the party's name now being British Union of Fascists and National Socialists. Along with the name change also appeared a new emblem, the lightening flash, and a new flag sporting the emblem and the flag colours of the United Kingdom. Again according to Philippe, the flash was white, set on a blue disk edged in white. All this appeared in the centre of a red field. This flag was used until the party was dissolved in 1940, but the flash emblem reappeared after the war as the symbol of another of Mosley's parties.
Jan Oskar Engene, 18 April 2002

Guy Walters' The Leader (ISBN:0-7553-0058-0) is an alternate history novel set in a time line branched from ours after British King Edward VIII decided not to abdicate in late 1936, which eventually lead Oswald Mosley to the Cabinet. In real world was Oswald Mosley indeed leader of the British Union of Fascists. The artwork in the cover of this book shows this flag, but with the symbol in black, not blue. In the prologue of this book, A Day to Remember, British and (contemporary) German flags play a central role. Throughout the novel, the BUFNS party flag and its symbol, on pins and armbands, are mentioned many times.
António Martins-Tuválkin, 2 September 2005

Discussion about the flag of the British Union of Fascists

I'm fairly certain that it was a black lightning-flash on a white circle on a red field (like the Nazi flag). They wore black shirts, like the Italian fascisti, and were generally more influenced by Fascist Italy than by Nazi Germany.
Vincent Morley, 8 May 1999

The flag used a black device within a white circle on a red ground, same proportions as that of Germany 1935-45. There was a TV programme Thursday 2 November, 2000, ITV 10 pm Britain at War IN COLOUR which showed a BUF march with Sir Oswald Mosley leading, in the early months of the war - he was later detained/arrested/interned 'for the duration' (I think). The 'device' if I remember it was like a black circle but split into 2, with diameters
Michael Hutchings, 5 November 2000

According to "Los Fascismos Desconocidos 1919-1945" [Unknown Fascisms], Carlos Caballero, Editorial Huguin 1984, Barcelona, the British Union of Fascists used two symbols. From its foundation in October 1932 up to 1935, a fasces. In 1935 the movement is renamed "British Union of Fascists and National Socialists" and the fasces is replaced by a bolt of lightning (similar to a Sieg rune) within a circle. There is a photograph of Sir Oswald Mosley reviewing a troop of Blackshirts but only a group of Union Flags are visible.
Santiago Dotor, 6 July 1999

This one is quite known from the SS "logo", where it shows doubled. Did the book refer to the colors of those flags? Was the second flag red with black symbol (on white disc) or the other way around?
António Martins, 7 July 1999

There is no mentions of colours at all. In the picture where Sir Oswald Mosley is reviewing the troop he is wearing a black (well the picture is b&w so it could be red! - but I am assuming black from the fact they wore black shirts) German-officer-like cap with a small, clear metal, vertical fasces on it. But that does obviously not imply the earlier flag was black with a white/grey vertical fasces...
Volume 1 (or is it 2?) of "Uniforms, Organisation and History of the Foreign Legions of the Third Reich" from Roger James Bender, which I do not have, includes a chapter on the "Britisches Freikorps der SS". Though not very much related, it may happen that there is information on the BUF there. I do have volumes 3 and 4 and most countries treated include rich information on local Fascist and/or Nationalsocialist prewar and wartime organisations.
Santiago Dotor, 8 July 1999

The lightning device was actually blue in keeping with the national red/white/ blue of the union flag. There is a representation of the BUF device on
Neil Spall, 17 April 2002

I have found evidence that there was a British flag with a swastika used at rallies in the 1930's. This photograph of the flag in use is from the cover of a book on the British fascists.
Rick Prohaska, 4 September 2005

[Editorial Note: Rick most likely refers here to the flag of the Imperial Fascist League, a rival fascist movement started by Arnold Spencer Leese in 1928 and active until 1939.]

I don't have any special information about the history and development of BUF flag designs, but I have come across this Web page, which is described as containing the "official" Fascist version of [the Battle of Cable Street] from the Friends of Mosley site'). On that page, you can see a modern version of the BUF symbol using a blue disc overlaid with a white/silvery blue lightning bolt and ring on a red ground. The blue used that I see on my monitor is a lighter shade than used in the UK's Union flag (the flag usually called the `Union Jack'). There are also some photographs on the page, apparently taken of BUF meetings during the 1930s. The image at is black and white, so can't tell us much except that at the time the photograph was taken the BUF device included a lightning bolt inside a ring, both elements being white or a very light shade.
The image at shows BUF banners in colour: the red ground is clearly visible, along with a light coloured flash and ring which look white to me. The reproduced colour of what's supposedly a blue disc in the centre is harder to make out. It looks black to my eyes. I've examined some pixels in what's supposed to be the blue disc with a graphics package and found that they're stored as very dark yellow pixels. That must be an artifact of the reproduction process, since whatever colour the disc was, it certainly wasn't yellow. The same test on the black appearing police uniforms which were navy blue in real life showed that the pixels I examined are stored in the graphics file as very dark green. But that graphics file has had its colour messed up several ways: firstly, by capturing onto 1930s colour photographic film, then probably transferring onto colour print paper (but the site authors might have got hold of a negative or slide), decades of aging, then by scanning in to a computer, and finally by displaying on a monitor.  If the BUF used the same blue as the blue used in British flags, that might explain the black appearance of the blue element in the photograph: that particular blue is a reasonably a deep shade, and I recall hearing that early photographic film was often not very good at reproducing blue. So maybe it's not surprising that a part of the flag that couldn't really be anything but blue[1] hasn't had its colour faithfully rendered.
From what I can see, it looks as if whatever designs might have been used for the BUF flag, at one point at least it had certainly developed into the red, white, and blue device described above.
[1] Unless it's black - but red, white, and blue are British[1] colours and it was the *British* Union of Fascists...
[2] And French, and Dutch, and American, and...
Rowland McDonnell, 13 March 2006

There was an article in Flagmaster entitled 'Our Blackshirt Legions' by Brian Leigh Davis. Part 1 (issue 61, Autumn 1988, [pp1-4]) dealt with pre-1945 organisations. In it, he describes several badges, armbands and flags in his collection, and all use a white lightning flash and circle on blue.
Ian Sumner, 16 March 2006