Plans are underway to commemorate ‘The Battle of Holbeck Moor’ when Holbeck saw off Hitler’s friends in 1936.
Beeston resident Sam Kirk, who is leading the drive to have a Leeds Civic Trust Blue Plaque installed on behalf of Leeds Stand Up To Racism, explained the events:
On the 27 September 1936, on Holbeck Moor a historic event took place that helped prevent the rise of fascism in Britain.
This event is important not just to the people of Holbeck, but the Jewish community of Leeds and beyond. It played a part in the defeat of Oswald Mosley’s attempt to from an organisation modelled on Hitler’s Nazi party (The British Union of Fascists). Mosley was also an admirer and in contact with Mussolini in Italy.
In the 1930’s the Jewish community of Leeds had many of its members living in the Leylands, near North Street and Sheepscar interchange. Oswald Mosley’s Blackshirts had intended to intimidate the community and march through that area. This was prohibited by the Leeds Watch Committee. The ban however only prevented him and his followers from marching in that area.
On the night of 26 September Nazi symbols (swastikas) and slogans were painted on Jewish owned shops in the Leylands. This event has been likened to Kristallnacht (Night of broken glass) which took place two years later, where Jewish owned businesses were attacked and smashed up in Germany by Hitler’s Nazis.
On 27 September, Mosley assembled about 1,000 supporters in Calverley Street in the city centre. They marched from there down Briggate, along Meadow Lane, Dewsbury Road, Trentham Street, Tempest Road and finally Beeston Road to Holbeck Moor, the side nearest to St Matthew’s school, which stood on the corner of the moor across from St Matthew’s church (now community centre).
However, a much larger crowd of anti-fascists were waiting on Holbeck Moor, 30,000 in fact.
Mosley stood on a van to address his supporters, but the anti-fascists sang The Red Flag to drown him out.
Such were the numbers of people opposing him that Mosley and his Blackshirts had to leave the area under a hail of stones.
Two weeks later a more famous event took place in the East End of London. ‘The Battle of Cable Street’ saw the Jewish community, anti-fascists, trades unionists and Communist Party activists again came out to show Mosley and his Blackshirts that they were not welcome. The 30,000 people that attended the Leeds event were successful in preventing Mosley from having a successful rally in our city. It no doubt inspired those in London to protect the Jewish area around Cable Street.
Mosley did not attempt to hold a rally and march in Leeds again He was imprisoned in 1940 and his organisation, the British Union of Fascists, was banned.
Commenting on the plans, Sam Kirk said:
“The Battle of Holbeck is a really important part of our history – both Holbeck’s and the city of Leeds. We must never forget the dangers of fascism and the role our community played in stopping its spread in Britain. A Blue Plaque will honour that history and inspire a new generation to oppose racism whenever it raises its head.”
The plans have already received support from:
- Holbeck Together
- Beeston Forum
- Holbeck Moor FC women’s coach and men’s coach
- Slung Low
- Lord Mayor of Leeds, Cllr Al Garthwaite
- Beeston & Holbeck Councillors – Andrew Scopes, Annie Malony and Gohar Almass (Labour)
- Hunslet & Riverside councillors – Mohammed Iqbal, Paul Wray (Labour) and Ed Carlisle (Green)
- Leeds NEU (National Education Union)
- Leeds RMT (National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers)
- Leeds Teaching Hospitals Unison branch
A public meeting is being planned to build further support in the community. The plaque is likely to be unveiled later this year.
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