Two men taken to hospital . . . Thousands see police intervene . . . Communist "Hooliganism" blamed by Black Shirts

THIS is from The Northern Echo of September 11, 1933, reporting on the incidents of the previous day in Stockton High Street - what is now known as "the Battle of Stockton", as featured in my column in this morning's Echo (Oct 15, 2012).

During a meeting of the Black Shirts near the Town Hall a scuffle started and a number of men received black eyes and bruises.

According to the Black Shirts one of their number was hit on the head with a stick. He was taken to hospital, where he had five stitches inserted.

Another man went to hospital with a cut head.

The Black Shirt members had marched from Thornaby to the town and had begun a meeting near the Town Hall. It was when Capt. Colliers, a leader, was speaking that the scuffle started and Black Shirt members were seen to be exchanging blows with members of the crowd. The fighters surged over towards a Stockton Corporation bus, where the police attempted to separate the combatants.

Police Intervene

Fisticuffs continued, and then the Black Shirts returned to the crowd. The meeting continued with interruptions for a few moments longer and then the police decided that to prevent any further breach of the peace it had better close.

The Fascists lined up and marched through the town, and it was as they were returned towards Middlesbrough that it was seen that several of them were carrying one of their members. A nasty situation might have developed as the Black Shirts were wanting to retaliate in sympathy with the injured man and a certain section of the crowd were shouting abuse at them in return.

Ultimately, escorted by the police, the body, which was about 60 strong, proceeded to Thornaby, where they waited for some of their members to board the Newcastle bus, and then the remainder waited for three buses which took them to various parts of the country. Speaking to a Northern Echo reporter, one of the injured men said that he saw a scuffle begin in the crowd and went towards it, when someone aimed a blow at his face. He struck back, and it was as he was striking that he felt a blow on the back of his head.

Thousands Watch

Traffic was considerably disorganised by the parade, and a crowd of several thousands watched the meeting and about 1,000 followed the Black Shirts to Thornaby, where they demonstrated against them as they were waiting for their buses.

Capt. Collier told a Northern Echo reporter that the Fascists were determined to obey law and order and help the police as much as possible. It was necessary for a blow to be struck at them before they would retaliate. They merely wished to state their case to the Stockton crowd, that was the case of Fascism, and he said they were determined not to be browbeaten by hooliganism such as had been demonstrated against him by the Communists on another occasion.

The action referred to was one when Capt. Collier attempted to speak at the Market Cross by himself. He was not allowed to by interrupters and it was allegeed that one of the crowd on that occasion continually spat at Capt. Collier. He later had to abandon his meeting, and the police saw that he was not interfered with when he left the crowd.

The two men taken to hospital and treated for cut heads last night were John Frank Rushford, aged 20, of Grey Tower, Durham, and Edmund Warburton, aged 21, of Castle-road, Unsworth, Bury.

The Echo came from a Liberal pacifist tradition - in 1899 it had not supported the Boer War on a principal which initially lost it revenue from advertisers and readers alike. It had, though, supported the First World War and by 1939, it was resigned and supportive of fighting for freedom. It never, as the Daily Mail did a few months later in July 1934, trumpeted: "Hurrah for the Blackshirts."

Perhaps I'm trying to read too much into it. Perhaps the Echo was struggling to get a feel for fascism which had suddenly exploded within its area - the riot caught the police by surprise so perhaps the politics caught the Echo by surprise. And although the paper says that its own reporter caught a few words with Capt Collier, the lack of detail suggests the reporter was such a long way from the heat of the action as to not to have been there.

Unlike the Gazette's man: "A Gazette reporter, who was in the midst of the worst disturbance, saw a man brandishing a heavy pole run a distance of 80 yards and strike down a young Fascist who, at the time, was facing in the opposite direction."

The following day, the Echo reported on the "Anti-Nazi rally at Stockton" in which the Labour and Co-operative movements joined with the Jewish community and local churches. The report, with a sub-head of "Nipping it in the bud", is unequivocally one-sided.

It says: "The chief speaker was Rabbi Miller, Middlesbrough, who emphasised the danger in which England stood to-day through the jeopardising of liberty and freedom by Fascism or Hitlerism."

That seems to be the end of the incident. I had a quick flick through the pages of September 1933 and couldn't see any further mention.

I would love to know if anyone has any family stories connected to the Battle of Stockton; I would love to know what happened to the injured John Frank Rushford of Grey Tower, Durham.

And I wonder if we'd get away with that headline about an industrial accident which is next to the one about the anti-Nazi rally: "Man killed by shafting."