Oswald Mosley

May 7, 2008

Oswald Mosley must rank among the most controversial figures in 20th century British politics. His radical views forced him out of the Labour party in 1930 and soon after he formed his own political party, the New Party, whose policies mirrored his own extremist beliefs.

Heavily influenced by Mussolini’s National Fascist Party in Italy, in 1932, the New Party was subsumed by the British Union of Fascists (BUF). BUF members wore black uniforms earning them the nickname ‘The Blackshirts’. The BUF’s policies were ostensibly isolationist. Although the party was not officially anti-Semitic, many of its members were openly anti-Semitic.

In October 1936 Mosley and the BUF planned to march through the East End of London, then noted for its large Jewish population. Hearing of the march, anti-fascist groups erected barriers in an attempt to prevent it taking place. This resulted in a series of running battles between anti-fascists and police.

The Battle of Cable Street, as the event was later called, resulted in the passing of the 1936 Public Order Act, to control extremist political movements. The event is commemorated by a red plaque in nearby Dock Street.

During World War Two, like most active fascists in Britain, Mosley was interned. After the war he formed the Union Movement, whose policies, compared to the BUF, were more democratic, encompassing European unity, rather than total isolationism. Mosley died in 1980.

The man who ardently opposed mass immigration can be found within the findmypast.com passenger lists.

Here is Mosley, alongside his first wife Lady Cynthia Curzon, on board the Majestic, bound for New York in 1926:

Passenger Lists - Oswald and Cynthia Mosley

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Their marriage in 1920, attended by many branches of European Royalty, was, for many, the high society event of the year. During the marriage it is rumoured Mosley embarked on an affair with his wife’s younger sister Lady Alexandra Metcalfe, and also the sisters’ stepmother, Grace Curzon.

Here is Lady Alexandra Metcalfe, onboard the Olympic, also heading for New York, in December 1928:

Passenger Lists - Alexandra Metcalfe

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In 1936, three years after Lady Curzon’s death, Mosley married Diana Guinness, née Mitford, one of the famous Mitford sisters.

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Ten Pound Poms

March 31, 2008

The phrase ‘Ten Pound Poms’ derived from the Britons who emigrated to Australia following World War Two on the Australian government’s assisted passage scheme.

The purpose of this scheme was to enlarge Australia’s population whilst supplying workers for the country’s growing economy and industry.

Britons were offered a way out of the rationing and deprivation of post-war life, shown visions of glorious sunshine and boundless possibility by a government desperate for an influx of labour.

They were offered the dramatically reduced fee for their passage only on the condition that they stay in Australia for a minimum of two years, or pay the full £120 fare back. This fee was prohibitively expensive for most.

The scale of the migration was such that some former troop ships were converted and dedicated to carrying Britons to their new home, such as the S S New Australia, formerly the Monarch of Bermuda.

As well as searching by name, it is possible to search the Passenger Lists by ship

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One of the most high-profile participants in the scheme was Albert Grassby, who emigrated in 1960 and went on to serve as Australian Minister for Immigration.

Grassby can be found in the new decade of the now completed Passenger Lists;

Passenger Lists - Albert Grassby

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One family that took advantage of the scheme was the Gibb family, from Didsbury, Manchester. The brothers Barry, Maurice and Robin would go on to find fame as The Bee Gees.

Passenger Lists - Gibb family

Another notable emigrant to Australia in the new decade was Carol Jones, formerly of Glamorgan in Wales. She married Ron Minogue and in 1968 gave birth to a daughter, Kylie, who would go on to become one of modern Australia’s most successful entertainers.

Passenger Lists - Jones family

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Carol Jones and her family can be found in the last decade of the Passenger Lists on ancestorsonboard.

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Arandora Star

February 13, 2008

On 2 July 1940 the Arandora Star was hit by a German torpedo and sunk off the coast of Donegal, Ireland. The ship was transporting 1,500 German and Italian men to interment camps in Canada. Over 800 people died in the sinking, a figure exacerbated by inadequate lifeboat provision.

The Arandora Star was built in 1927 and intially sailed under the name Arandora. The Arandora’s maiden voyage was on 22 June 1927 to Buenos Aires, and can be found in the exclusive Passenger Lists on ancestorsonboard.com.

Passenger Lists - Arandora maiden voyage

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Rebuilt and renamed in 1929, the Arandora Star continued to sail as a luxury cruise ship. Records from it can be seen in our Passenger Lists, by searching under ship name.

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An example of the journies undertaken in peacetime by the Arandora Star can be seen below, from a cruise made in March 1939:

Passenger Lists - Arandora Star Cruise

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The captain of the fateful journey in July 1940 was Edgar Wallace Moulton. He can be seen sailing her in 1939, in the Passenger Lists on ancestorsonboard:

Passenger Lists - Edgar Wallace Moulton

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A Canadian destroyer, HMCS Laurent, arrived to attempt a rescue mission, but it proved largely fruitless. Some of the scant lifeboats on board had been damaged by the torpedo, whilst others were unusable. Those internees that survived the sinking were still deported, sent on other ships as soon as possible to Australia.


Jewish refugees

February 11, 2008

As the Nazi Party’s anti-Semitic agenda became clearer and more brutal, thousands of Jews fled Germany and its neighbouring countries. Following Kristallnacht in November 1938, the need to emigrate in order to avoid persecution became more urgent.

The 1940s Passenger Lists contain many Jewish individuals fleeing Europe for America and Australia. One example is a voyage made by the Brittanic on 3 May 1940 to New York. The ‘alien’ section of the Passenger List reveals a large number of Jewish passengers, many of them merchants. Most are from Germany and Austria.

Passenger Lists - Jewish refugees

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Some of the passengers are described as having their last UK address as the Council for German Jewry’s Kitchener Camp, in Richborough, Kent:

Passenger Lists - Kitchener Camp

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The Kitchener Camp provided accommodation for almost 15,000 Jewish men, despite it having been designed to house only a fifth of that number. The camp was disbanded in June 1940 as, following the evacuation of Dunkirk, German and Austrian nationals were viewed as ‘enemy aliens’ and were subject to internment.

8,000 of the ‘enemy aliens’ were deported to Australia and Canada as the threat of German invasion increased, to ensure that they couldn’t pose any threat to national security.


War Brides

February 1, 2008

Thousands of British women found love during the Second World War. American and Canadian troops stationed in Britain during the War gained a reputation as being ‘overpaid, overfed, oversexed and over here’.

British women married these servicemen in huge numbers, with approximately 100,000 wedding Americans and a further 45,000 marrying Canadians. Once the war was over and peace secured the women faced a new challenge.

These women, who often had young children, had to travel with their new husbands back to America or Canada to begin their married life, away from the unreal wartime existence that they had been enduring.

The relocation of thousands of British women was a cause of controversy, not least because they were seen by some as taking the valuable places of homesick servicemen on board ships.

The first ship used for transporting the so-called ‘war brides’ was the S.S. Argentina. 452 war brides made the journey to America aboard her, and can now be seen in the exclusive 1940s Passenger Lists live on ancestorsonboard.

In the Passenger Lists you can find an exceptional level of detail, including the U.K address of the women and the name and address of the American serviceman of whom they were a dependant. Below is an image from the S.S. Argentina List.

Passenger Lists - War Brides

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Conditions on board were deeply unpleasant, many of the women and children had caught a ‘camp fever’ during their stay at an assembly point before sailing. The arduous journey was only the beginning of the adventure for the new brides, and their children.

A long standing legal wrangle in Canada has recently been making headlines, as children of war brides seek to be recognised as Canadian citizens, a right denied them through a change of legislation.