Battle of Cable Street

Coordinates: 51°30′39″N 0°03′08″W / 51.5109°N 0.0521°W / 51.5109; -0.0521
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Battle of Cable Street
Flyer distributed by the London branch of the Communist Party of Great Britain
Date4 October 1936
Cable Street, Whitechapel, London, United Kingdom

51°30′39″N 0°03′08″W / 51.5109°N 0.0521°W / 51.5109; -0.0521
Caused byOpposition to a fascist march through East London
Lead figures



The Battle of Cable Street was a series of clashes that took place at several locations in the East End of London, most notably Cable Street, on Sunday 4 October 1936. It was a clash between the Metropolitan Police, sent to protect a march by members of the British Union of Fascists[1] led by Sir Oswald Mosley, and various anti-fascist demonstrators including local trade unionists, communists, anarchists, British Jews, and socialist groups.[2][3][4] The anti-fascist counter-demonstration included both organised and unaffiliated participants.


The British Union of Fascists (BUF) had advertised a march to take place on Sunday 4 October 1936, the fourth anniversary of their organisation. Thousands of BUF followers, dressed in their Blackshirt uniform, intended to march through the heart of the East End, an area which then had a large Jewish population.[5]

The BUF would march from Tower Hill and divide into four columns, each heading for one of four open air public meetings where Mosley and other speakers, including William Joyce, John Beckett, Tommy Moran and Alexander Raven Thomson, would address gatherings of BUF supporters:[6][7][8]

The Jewish People's Council organised a petition, calling for the march to be banned, which gathered the signature of 100,000 East Londoners, including the Mayors of the five East London Boroughs (Hackney, Shoreditch, Stepney, Bethnal Green and Poplar)[9][10] in two days.[11] Home Secretary John Simon denied the request to outlaw the march.[12]

Numbers involved[edit]

Very large numbers of people took part in the events, in part due to the good weather, but estimates of the numbers of participants vary enormously:

  • Estimates of Fascist participants range from 2,000 to 3,000, up to 5,000.[7][13] The Fascists had a casualty dressing station at their Tower Hill assembly point.[7]
  • There were 6,000–7,000 policemen, including the whole of the Metropolitan Police Mounted Division.[7][13][14] The Police had wireless vans and a spotter plane[7] sending updates on crowd numbers and movements to Sir Philip Game's HQ, established on a side street by Tower Hill.[7]
  • Estimates of the number of anti-fascist counter-demonstrators range from 100,000[7][15] to 250,000,[16] 300,000,[17] 310,000[18] or more.[19] The Independent Labour Party and Communists, like the Fascists, set up medical stations to treat their injured.[7]


Tower Hill[edit]

The fascists began to gather at Tower Hill from approximately 2:00 p.m. There were clashes between fascists and anti-fascists at Tower Hill and Mansell Street as they did so, while the anti-fascists also temporarily occupied the Minories.[7]

Aldgate and its approaches[edit]

The largest confrontation took place around Aldgate, where the conflict was between those seeking to block the BUF march, and the Metropolitan Police who were trying to clear a route for the march to proceed along. The streets around Aldgate were broad, and impossible to effectively barricade, except by blocking them with large crowds of determined people. These efforts were helped when a number of tram cars were abandoned in the road by their drivers, possibly deliberately.[20]

Dense crowds gathered from Aldgate Pump, along Aldgate High Street and Whitechapel High Street to St Mary Matfelon Church (now Altab Ali Park) and some way along Whitechapel Road. The adjacent side streets, most notably Minories and Leman Street—roads leading from Tower Hill to Aldgate, also became congested. The greatest concentration of people was at Gardiner's Corner; the junction of Whitechapel High Street with Leman Street, Commercial Street and Commercial Road (the junction of Commercial Road and Whitechapel High Street has since moved east by 100 metres).[21][22][8]

The public were requested to gather in the area at 2pm, but people began arriving long before then. At 11:30, a column of the largely Jewish Ex-Servicemen's Movement Against Fascism marched along Whitechapel Road, wearing their WWI medals and carrying their Royal British Legion standard before them. On finding their progress to Aldgate blocked by police they demanded the right to march on the streets of their own borough, the same right granted to the fascists who were heading to the area. They were attacked by mounted police, and in the ensuing fighting the police captured their standard, tore it to pieces and smashed the flag pole to pieces.[8]

By 1:30 Aldgate, and in particular Gardiner's Corner, was solidly blocked by a mass of people who had already endured a series of baton and mounted charges by Police. The Police continued to try to secure a route through Gardiner's Corner, but also tried to secure alternative routes that the BUF marchers might resort to instead.[8]

At around 1:40 a large group broke off from the main body and headed into the Minories which leads to Tower Hill. At around 2:15 individuals were making their way through the Aldgate crowds shouting "All to Cable Street", encouraging people to join the defence of the Cable Street\Leman Street junction near Tower Hill.[22]

Cable Street[edit]

Protesters built a number of barricades on narrow Cable Street and its side streets. The main barricade was by the junction with Christian Street, about 300 metres along Cable Street in the St George in the East area of Wapping. Just west of the main barricade, another barricade was erected on Back Church Lane; the barrier was erected under the railway bridge, just north of the junction with Cable Street.[23]

The Police attempts to take and remove the barricades were resisted in hand-to-hand fighting and also by missiles, including rubbish, rotten vegetables and the contents of chamber pots thrown at the police by women in houses along the street.[24]

Decision at Tower Hill[edit]

Mosley arrived in an open topped black sports car, escorted by Blackshirt motorcyclists, just before 3:30.[25] By this time, his force had formed up in Royal Mint Street and neighbouring streets into a column nearly half a mile long, and was ready to proceed.[25]

However, the police, fearing more severe disorder if the march and meetings went ahead, instructed Mosley to leave the East End, though the BUF were permitted to march in the West End instead.[11] The BUF event finished in Hyde Park.[26]


About 150 demonstrators were arrested, with the majority of them being anti-fascists, although some escaped with the help of other demonstrators. Around 175 people were injured including police, women and children.[27][28]


The anti-fascists celebrated the community's united response, in which large numbers of East-Enders of all backgrounds; Protestants, Catholics and Jews successfully resisted Mosley and his followers. There were few Muslims in London at the time, so organisers were also delighted when Muslim Somali seamen joined the anti-fascist crowds.[29]

The event is frequently cited by modern Antifa movements as "...the moment at which British fascism was decisively defeated".[3][30] The Fascists presented themselves as the law-abiding party who were denied free speech by a weak government and police force in the face of mob violence. After the event the BUF experienced an increase in membership, although their activity in Britain was severely limited.[31][3]

Following the battle, the Public Order Act 1936 outlawed the wearing of political uniforms and forced organisers of large meetings and demonstrations to obtain police permission. Many of the arrested demonstrators reported harsh treatment at the hands of the police.[32]

Sir Oswald Mosley subsequently held a series of rallies around London, and the BUF increased its membership in the capital city.[33]

Notable participants[edit]

British Union of Fascists[edit]

Metropolitan Police[edit]


Many leading British communists were present at the Battle of Cable Street, some of whom partially credited the battle for shaping their political beliefs. Some examples include:


Between 1979 and 1983, a large mural depicting the battle was painted on the side of St George's Town Hall. It stands in Cable Street, about 350 metres east of the main barricade that stood by the junction with Christian Street. A red plaque in Dock Street (just south of the Royal Mint Street, Leman Street, Cable Street, Dock Street junction) also commemorates the incident.[42]

Numerous events were planned in East London for the battle's 75th anniversary in October 2011, including music[43] and a march,[44] and the mural was once again restored. In 2016, to mark the battle's 80th anniversary, a march took place from Altab Ali Park to Cable Street.[45] The march was attended by some of those who were originally involved.[46]

In popular culture[edit]

Commemorative plaque in Dock Street


  • British folk punk band The Men They Couldn't Hang relate the battle in their 1986 song "Ghosts of Cable Street".[47]
  • The song "Cable Street" by English folk trio The Young'uns tells the story of the confrontation from the perspective of a young anti-fascist fighter.[48]
  • The song "Cable Street Again" by the Scottish black metal band Ashenspire references the Battle of Cable Street in its title and lyrics.[49]
  • The Scottish anarcho-punk band Oi Polloi refers the event in several of their songs, most prominently in "Let The Boots Do The Talking".[50]
  • German melodic death metal band Heaven Shall Burn refer to this event in the song "They Shall Not Pass" on their 2016 album Wanderer.[51][52]




  • In the 15 February 2019 episode of EastEnders, Dr Harold Legg and Dot Branning watch a documentary about the battle on DVD and Dr Legg recounts the events of the battle to Dot before dying. He explains that it was at the Battle of Cable Street that he met his wife Judith.[58]
  • The 2010 BBC revival of the Upstairs Downstairs series devotes an episode to the Battle of Cable Street.[59]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Cable Street: 'Solidarity stopped Mosley's fascists'". BBC News. 4 October 2011. Retrieved 13 October 2015.
  2. ^ Barling, Kurt (4 October 2011). "Why remember Battle of Cable Street?". BBC News. Retrieved 16 May 2018.
  3. ^ a b c Philpot, Robert. "The true history behind London's much-lauded anti-fascist Battle of Cable Street". Retrieved 4 February 2021.
  4. ^ "The Battle of Cable Street". Archived from the original on 9 June 2016. Retrieved 4 February 2021.
  5. ^ "The Battle of Cable Street". Archived from the original on 27 May 2018. Retrieved 16 May 2018.
  6. ^ "Cable Street". History Workshop. 8 January 2011. Retrieved 16 June 2022. Website shows the original BUF leaflet including exact locations and times
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Lewis, Jon E. (2008). London, The Autobiography. Constable. p. 401. ISBN 978-1-84529-875-3. Lewis uses the East London Advertiser as primary source, and also provides editorial commentary. This source only gives the districts where the meetings would take place, not times or the exact locations.
  8. ^ a b c d Rosenburg, David (2011). The Battle for the East End. Five Leaves Publications. p. Chapter 8. ISBN 978-1-907869-18-1.
  9. ^ "Sir Oswald Mosley". Jewish Chronicle. 9 October 1936.
  10. ^ "ILP souvenir leaflet". Retrieved 16 June 2022.
  11. ^ a b c d Game, Philip, Sir. "'No pasarán': the Battle of Cable Street". National Archives. Retrieved 18 April 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  12. ^ Piratin, Phil (2006). Our Flag Stays Red. Lawrence & Wishart. p. 19. ISBN 978-1-905007-28-8. cited by Smith, Lottie Olivia (July 2021). Exploring Anti-Fascism in Britain Through Autobiography from 1930 to 1936 (PDF) (MRes). Bournemouth University. p. 72.
  13. ^ a b Jones, Nigel, Mosley, Haus, 2004, p. 114
  14. ^ Ramsey, Winston G. (1997). The East End, Then and Now. Battle of Britain Prints International Limited. pp. 381–389. ISBN 0 900913 99 1.
  15. ^ Marr, Andrew (2009). The Making of Modern Britain. Macmillan. pp. 317–318. ISBN 978-0-230-70942-3.
  16. ^ "The official interpretation board at the Cable Street mural". Retrieved 17 June 2022.
  17. ^ "Independent Labour Party leaflet". Retrieved 17 June 2022.
  18. ^ "Daily Chronicle, cited in a TUC Book on Cable Street" (PDF). pp. 11–12. Retrieved 17 June 2022.
  19. ^ "TUC Book on Cable Street" (PDF). pp. 11–12. Retrieved 17 June 2022. It makes reference to contemporary estimates as high as half a million, but does not give a primary source.
  20. ^ "Fascists and police routed: the battle of Cable Street - Reg Weston". Retrieved 18 January 2023.
  21. ^ Miller, Andrew (2007). The Earl of Petticoat Lane. Arrow. p. 117. ISBN 978-0-900913-99-0.
  22. ^ a b Ramsey, Winston (1997). The East End. Then and Now. Battle of Britain Prints Limited. pp. 384–389. ISBN 978-0-09-947873-7.
  23. ^ "Recollections and sketches of James Boswell". Retrieved 18 January 2023.
  24. ^ Abel, Ariel, Rabbi (30 April 2021). "Torah For Today: The Battle of Cable Street". Jewish News. Retrieved 2 November 2022.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  25. ^ a b c "Fascist march stopped after disorderly scenes". Guardian newspaper. 5 October 1936. Retrieved 18 April 2022.
  26. ^ "Eight decades after the Battle of Cable Street, east London is still united". The Guardian. 16 April 2018. Retrieved 2 November 2022.
  27. ^ Brooke, Mike (30 December 2014). "Historian Bill Fishman, witness to 1936 Battle of Cable Street, dies at 93". News. London. Hackney Gazette. Archived from the original on 17 September 2016. Retrieved 28 April 2016.
  28. ^ Levine, Joshua (2017). Dunkirk : the history behind the major motion picture. London. p. 46. ISBN 978-0-00-825893-1. OCLC 964378409.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  29. ^ Wadsworth-Boyle, Morgan. "The Battle of Cable Street". Retrieved 11 September 2023.
  30. ^ Penny, Daniel (22 August 2017). "An Intimate History of Antifa". The New Yorker. Retrieved 26 August 2017.
  31. ^ Webber, G.C. (1984). "Patterns of Membership and Support for the British Union of Fascists". Journal of Contemporary History. 19 (4). Sage Publications Inc.: 575–606. doi:10.1177/002200948401900401. JSTOR 260327. S2CID 159618633. Retrieved 2 December 2021.
  32. ^ Kushner, Anthony and Valman, Nadia (2000) Remembering Cable Street: fascism and anti-fascism in British society. Vallentine Mitchell, p. 182. ISBN 0-85303-361-7
  33. ^ "The true history behind London's much-lauded anti-fascist Battle of Cable Street". The Times of Israel. Retrieved 1 April 2024.
  34. ^ "Obituary: Phil Piratin". The Independent. 18 December 1995. Retrieved 25 April 2022.
  35. ^ a b c d Meddick, Simon; Payne, Simon; Katz, Phil (2020). Red Lives: Communists and the Struggle for Socialism. UK: Manifesto Press Cooperative Limited. p. 119. ISBN 978-1-907464-45-4.
  36. ^ "Jack Spot : the 'Einstein of crime'". The Jewish Chronicle. 20 April 2017. Retrieved 6 July 2022.
  37. ^ "St John Beverley Groser (1890-1966) and Michael Groser (1918-2009)". St George in the East. Retrieved 18 April 2022.
  38. ^ Davis, Mary (16 November 2018). "Remembering Max Levitas – Jewish Communist and last survivor of the Battle of Cable Street". The Morning Star. Retrieved 17 April 2021.
  39. ^ Carrier, Dan (14 August 2008). "Betty Papworth". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 8 December 2023.
  40. ^ Carrier, Dan (15 August 2008). "Betty Papworth". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 November 2022.
  41. ^ Meddick, Simon; Katz, Phil; Payne, Liz (2020). Red Lives: Communists and the Struggle for Socialism. UK: Manifesto Press Cooperative Limited. p. 97. ISBN 978-1-907464-45-4.
  42. ^ "Battle of Cable Street - Dock Street". London Remembers. Retrieved 16 May 2018.
  43. ^ Katz, Phil. "Communist Party – Communist Party". Retrieved 13 October 2015.
  44. ^ Cable Street 75. "Cable Street 75". Retrieved 13 October 2015.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  45. ^ Brooke, Mike. "'They Shall Not Pass' message from the past for Battle of Cable Street 80th anniversary". East London Advertiser. Archived from the original on 4 April 2017. Retrieved 3 April 2017.
  46. ^ McPhee, Rod (1 October 2016). "'We still haven't learned the lesson of the Battle of Cable Street 80 years on'". Daily Mirror. Retrieved 8 September 2017.
  47. ^ "Ghosts of Cable Street". Song Lyrics. Retrieved 23 May 2021.
  48. ^ "Cable Street" – via
  49. ^ "Cable Street Again, by Ashenspire". Ashenspire. Retrieved 7 September 2022.
  50. ^ "Let the Boots do the Talking". Genius. Retrieved 4 October 2023.
  51. ^ "Heaven Shall Burn: "Wir weichen keinen Fußbreit!"". Abendzeitung München (in German). 16 September 2016. Retrieved 13 April 2024.
  52. ^ "Wanderer - They Shall Not Pass". metal archives. Retrieved 13 April 2024.
  53. ^ "Chicken Soup with Barley, Royal Court, London". The Independent. 9 June 2011. Retrieved 5 May 2017.
  54. ^ "The Merchant of Venice". Retrieved 7 October 2023.
  55. ^ "Cable Street". Retrieved 17 January 2024.
  56. ^ Follett, Ken (2012). Winter of the World. Penguin Books. ISBN 978-1-5098-4852-2.
  57. ^ "Mark Reads 'Night Watch': Part 15". Mark Reads. Retrieved 23 May 2021.
  58. ^ Sugarman, Daniel (18 February 2019). "Jewish character dies on EastEnders". Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 29 May 2023.
  59. ^ "Upstairs Downstairs – episode synopses". BBC. Retrieved 23 May 2021.

External links[edit]