Neil Francis Hawkins
|Neil Francis Hawkins|
|Died||25 December 1950|
|Known for||fascist politician and writer|
|Title||Director-General of Organisation|
|British Union of Fascists, Union Movement|
A salesman of surgical instruments by trade, Francis Hawkins, a homosexual, was a descendant of the sailor John Hawkins. Francis Hawkins joined the British Fascisti (BF) around the time of its inception and became a member of the three man Headquarters Committee, being seen by many of the male members as a preferable leader to Rotha Lintorn-Orman. Under the influence of Francis Hawkins and his close ally E.G. Mandeville Roe the BF, which despite its name had been fairly conservative in nature, moved towards a more genuinely fascist position by emphasising the corporate state and anti-Semitism.
British Union of Fascists
He split the organisation in 1932 after a quarrel with Lintorn-Orman and took the bulk of the membership with him into Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists Francis Hawkins had met with both Mosley and Robert Forgan and had been so impressed with their set-up that he split the British Fascists in order to join them. Appointed National Defence Force Adjutant upon joining the party, he rose quickly through the ranks, holding the posts of Officer in Charge of the London Area and Chief Administrative Officer before being appointed Director-General of Organisation, a post that made him effectively second in command behind Mosley.
As the leading member of the movement after Mosley, it was Francis Hawkins who developed the notion of BUF members wearing a black shirt under an ordinary suit, an important step for the movement to retain its identity following the banning of uniforms in the Public Order Act 1936. A firm believer in militarism, Francis Hawkins led the military faction within the BUF that successfully resisted the attempts of the likes of John Beckett, Bill Risdon and F.M. Box to convert the BUF into a more normal political party. His power was consolidated by his appointment as Director-General in 1936, a newly created post that gave him power both the political and administrative aspects of the BUF. He advocated a membership based on unmarried men, like himself, arguing that they would give the most fanatical devotion to the movement. He gained a reputation as a workaholic at BUF HQ and he was equally noted for his personal loyalty to Mosley, although he also had a strong influence over his leader and was identified by Special Branch as being responsible, along with William Joyce, for convincing Mosley to embrace anti-Semitism. Mosley would later describe him as "a man of outstanding character and ability".
In 1936 F.M. Box, who had been deputy leader and Francis Hawkins' main rival, left the movement due to the growing influence of the militarists on Mosley. This decision left Francis Hawkins in effective control of the organisation of the BUF. His power ensured he undertook a reorganisation of the structure of the BUF, setting up training programmes for local election agents whilst also adding a more intellectual party organ Action alongside the existing, and more lowbrow, Blackshirt, in an attempt to attract more middle class party members.
During the war
Immediately after the outbreak of war he met with the leaders of other groups such as the Nordic League, the Right Club, The Link and the British Peoples Party in a failed attempt to organise a united front under Mosley. Although he volunteered for war service  Francis Hawkins was arrested along with Mosley and others under the first wave of Defence Regulation 18B swoops in 1940. Held in internment in Stafford and Brixton prisons for much of the war, he was released in 1944 and concentrated on his business interests.
Involved in the foundation of the Union Movement in an organisational capacity, Hawkins did not take a leading role due to his failing health. He died from bronchial asthma on Christmas Day 1950 aged 47.
- Robert Benewick, Political Violence and Public Order, London: Allan Lane, 1969, p. 112
- Dorril, p. 246
- S. Dorril, Blackshirt – Sir Oswald Mosley and British Fascism, London: Penguin, 2007, p. 200
- Benewick, p. 36
- Richard Griffiths, Fellow Travellers on the Right, Oxford University Press, 1983, pp. 90-91
- Benewick, p. 36
- Richard Griffiths, Fellow Travellers on the Right, Oxford University Press, 1983, p. 91
- Benewick, p. 116
- Benewick, p. 245
- Benweick, p. 273
- Benewick, p. 274
- Martin Pugh, Hurrah for the Blackshirts: Fascists and Fascism in Britain Between the Wars, Pimlico, 2006, p. 129
- Dorril, p. 246
- Dorrill, p. 366
- Dorril, p. 306
- O. Mosley, My Life, London: Nelson, 1970, p. 332
- Pugh, p. 221
- Pugh, p. 223
- Dorril, p. 471
- Dorril, p. 501
- Benewick, p. 294
- Biography at Friends of Oswald Mosley site