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The Vintage Guide To London | December 18, 2017

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Famous Londoners: Diana and Unity Mitford – The Fascist Sisters


Rebecca McWattie continues her series on Diana Mitford, the third of the notorious Mitford Sisters, and details her rise to one of Britain’s most well known fascists.

In 1934 Diana accompanied her younger sister Unity who was to stay with an elderly Baroness in Munich in order to learn German. Unity was happy in Munich, even her Blackshirt uniform and BUF badge didn’t provoke any comment. Once she had mastered the language, she lost no time in finding out where she might see Hitler.

Unity discovered that Hitler was a regular of the Osteria Bavaria, a small local restaurant. He would normally arrive around 2.30pm surrounded by henchmen such as Hess and Goebbels. Unity obsessively read the newspapers in order to find out if Hitler was currently in Munich. She would also talk familiarly with the guards at the Brown House – the Nazi headquarters in Munich, where she would often glean information. 

Unity, knowing his favourite table, would make sure he would have to walk past her seat. Her perseverance paid off, Hitler noticed this young English woman sitting on her own and started to nod politely to her as he passed her table. 

Meanwhile the BUF was gathering steam in London with large rallies at Hyde Park and in April 1934 an audience of 10,000 at the Royal Albert Hall. As Mosley entered, everyone rose to their feet chanting ‘Mosley! Mosley! Mosley!’.  As BUF membership grew, so did inevitable opposition. A meeting at Olympia, hailed as the ‘largest indoor meeting ever held in Britain’ ended in fighting in the streets between the BUF supporters and the anti-fascists. 

Diana was now learning to speak German and had been taking Berlitz courses in London. She joined Unity again to attend the 1934 Parteitag.  50,000 men and women watched as the Fuhrer arrived to a fanfare of trumpets. God-like, bright lights shone down on Hitler and lit up the swastikas as he raised his right arm in salute, and 50,000 people all raised their right arm in response.

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