Jewish street-fighters reminisced about their East End battles with Oswald Mosley’s blackshirted supporters at an emotional gathering in Hampstead Garden Suburb on Sunday.
They were among 200 people, Including family members, at the final reunion of 43 Group, founded by ex-servicemen to fight the rising tide of British Fascism. Now mostly in their 80s, they were glad of the opportunity of a last meeting with former comrades.
John Wimbourne joined the 43s after returning to Britain from service in the Merchant Navy. He recalled feeling compelled to combat Mosley’s organisation.
“I was shocked to come back and see what was going on. A few of the boys I knew were of the same mind. We decided we would not stand for it.”
Their activities often led to run-ins with police — and a real risk of prison. Mr Wimbourne “ran the intelligence section and one night [co-founder] Gerry Flamberg and I were in our HQ in Bayswater. It was late and we decided we’d go to a club.
“That night John Preen, Mosley’s right-hand man, told police he had been shot. He gave them the registration of a car that Gerry was renting and the police pulled us in.” Preen identified Mr Wimbourne and he was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder. “I was 21 so they sent me to Wormwood Scrubs, which was an interesting experience. When we came up again in court, there was a good witness who proved it would not have been possible for a shot to be fired as Preen claimed, so we were off the hook.”
Cyril Sherbourne maintains to this day that without the 43 Group, the Fascists would have flourished.
“Mosley used to be on top of a van giving speeches about the Jews controlling the world. If there had been no opposition who knows what would have happened? They could have been in power by now.
“We may not look the part anymore, but back then we were in our 20s. Fighting went on almost every week. The tough ones were in front and the weaker ones went behind. I’m proud of what we did.”
Opening the event, Ajex chaplain Rev Malcolm Weisman highlighted the group’s role in countering antisemitism.