R. B. D. Blakeney

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Brigadier-General Robert Byron Drury Blakeney, generally known as R.B.D. Blakeney, (1872–1952) was a British Army general and fascist politician. After a career with the Royal Engineers Blakeney went on to serve as President of the British Fascists.

Military and Empire service[edit]

Although he obtained the rank of Brigadier-General in the British Army Blakeney had only limited involvement in combat. As a lieutenant with the Royal Engineers he was involved in the 1898 Battle of Omdurman.[1] He had been one of six subalterns working on the Sudan Military Railway under Percy Girouard.[2] During the Second Boer War he commanded the 3rd Balloon Section of the Royal Engineers in one of the later examples of the use of military ballooning.[3]

Following his service with the Royal Engineers Blakeney followed a career in railway administration. In 1906 he was appointed deputy general manager of the Egyptian State Railways and was promoted to full manager in 1919, a role he held until 1923.[4]

British Fascists[edit]

An early member of the British Fascisti, Blakeney succeeded Leopold Ernest Stratford George Canning, 4th Baron Garvagh as president of the movement in 1924, and at the same time was made editor of their journal The Fascist Week.[4] In his role as President he developed a rigid military style structure for the BF, whilst also ensuring that it altered its name from the Italian "Fascisti" to the more English "Fascists".[5] He insisted that the BF be run in "the spirit of intelligent patriotism" and sought to build links with mainstream right-wing pressure groups such as the Anti-Socialist Union.[6]

Despite his role as President Blakeney's knowledge of fascism as an ideology has been portrayed as somewhat sketchy.[7] For Blakeney the BF were the adult version of the Scout movement, arguing that they shared such values as fraternity, duty and service.[8] He felt that the main enemy of the BF was communism.[9] Indeed Blakeney believed that one of the main duties of the BF was to be prepared to defend established society in the event that "the swarms from the slums" came out in revolution.[3] He also argued that the "Italian methods pure and simple" could not be applied to Britain in the same manner as in Italy as he felt the British were less prone to communism and more prone to apathy when compared to the Italians.[10]

Along with his close ally Rear-Admiral A. E. Armstrong supported BF involvement with the Organisation for the Maintenance of Supplies and accepted government terms that the movement should, at least temporarily, abandon references to fascism in order to participate in the government-backed group. He was opposed in this by BF founder Rotha Lintorn-Orman and the BF Grand Council opposed Blakeney's position 40–32. Unperturbed Blakeney and his supporters split from the BF to form a group called the Loyalists and this group was absorbed by the OMS immediately following the outbreak of the 1926 General Strike.[11] The Earl of Glasgow and Lord Ernest Hamilton, like Armstrong two influential BF members, also endorsed Blakeney's approach and followed him into the Loyalists.[12]

Later activities[edit]

Following his involvement in the OMS Blakeney became associated with the Imperial Fascist League and spoke at a number of their events.[13] At one such engagement in November 1933 Blakeney, along with League leader Arnold Leese, was beaten up by supporters of the British Union of Fascists (BUF) at a time when this movement was striking out at its rivals on the far-right.[14] Despite this Blakeney would later take a minor role in the BUF and contributed a number of articles to their Action and Blackshirt journals.[15]

As well as political parties Blakeney was also involved in the semi-clandestine far-right elite societies active in interbellum Britain. During the 1920s he became a member of the Britons[16] and later he would also serve with the equally exclusive Nordic League.[17] However unlike many of his contemporaries in British fascism Blakeney was not interned during the Second World War but rather served with the Home Guard.[18]

Religious beliefs[edit]

Blakeney was a strong believer in Christianity and was also noted for his somewhat prudish attitudes towards what he dubbed "nasty sex nonsense" amongst the young, which he largely blamed on left-wing subversives attempting to destroy the moral rectitude of the British Empire, views he largely shared with BF ideologue Nesta Webster.[19] Strongly interested in Theosophy, Blakeney was a member of the Liberal Catholic Church and close friend of Edith Starr Miller.[18]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Sudan Despatches
  2. ^ A.H.M. Kirk-Greene, "Canada in Africa: Sir Percy Girouard, Neglected Colonial Governor", p. 215
  3. ^ a b Anne Perkins, A Very British Strike: 3 – 12 May 1926, Macmillan, 2006, p. 30
  4. ^ a b Robert Benewick, Political Violence and Public Order, Allan Lane, 1969, p. 32
  5. ^ Richard Thurlow, Fascism in Britain: A History, 1918-1985, Basil Blackwell, 1987, p. 53
  6. ^ Stephen Dorril, Blackshirt: Sir Oswald Mosley & British Fascism, Penguin Books, 2007, p. 196
  7. ^ Thomas P. Linehan, British Fascism, 1918-39: Parties, Ideology and Culture, Manchester University Press, 2000, p. 63
  8. ^ Benewick, Political Violence and Public Order, p. 29
  9. ^ Benewick, Political Violence and Public Order, pp. 29-30
  10. ^ Martin Pugh, Hurrah for the Blackshirts: Fascists and Fascism in Britain Between the Wars, Pimlico, 2006, p. 55
  11. ^ Benewick, Political Violence and Public Order, p. 35
  12. ^ Martin Pugh, "Hurrah for the Blackshirts!" - Fascists and Fascism in Britain Between the Wars', Pimlico, 2006, p. 66
  13. ^ Benewick, Political Violence and Public Order, p. 45
  14. ^ Thurlow, Fascism in Britain, p. 97
  15. ^ Benewick, Political Violence and Public Order, p. 123
  16. ^ Thurlow, Fascism in Britain, p. 69
  17. ^ Benewick, Political Violence and Public Order, p. 289
  18. ^ a b Edith Starr Miller
  19. ^ Linehan, British Fascism, 1918-39, pp. 234-235