Howard Biggs Papers

Ref: MS 435

Title: Howard Biggs Papers

Scope: Papers from the life of Howard Biggs (1917-1994), mainly from the years of his schooldays, to just after the Second World War. The material consists of letters (some with transcriptions), diaries, scrapbooks, newspaper cuttings and leaflets; there are also items from and about members of his family from previous generations.

Dates: late 19th century to mid 20th century
Level: Fonds
Extent: 10 boxes
Name of creator: Howard Biggs, 1917-1994; some notes by Ron Stilwell; transcriptions of letters by Frank Love

Administrative / biographical history:
Thomas Howard Ashford Biggs was born on 28th March 1917. His father was a musician, working with the Central London Choral and Orchestral Society. Biggs spent three years as a pupil at Stone House School, in Kent, and attended two other public schools before going to Oxford University (Lincoln College) in 1936, to study Law. Biggs joined the British Union, and while at Oxford, he became heavily involved in Fascist activities. During his first term, he held the post of Secretary of the Oxford University Fascist Association (OUFA) for Lincoln College, eventually becoming District Leader of the OUFA - a post which he resigned from in March 1939 to become Assistant District Leader of the Combined English Universities District of the British Union.

Biggs made two trips abroad in the late 1930s, and there are diaries in the Papers from both of these trips. During his trip to Heidelberg in 1936, he attended a Nazi rally held in the Thingstätte (open-air amphitheatre) at midsummer; his diary gives a full description of this event. In the summer of 1939, Biggs went on a European tour with his aunt Ethel Bright Ashford; this was organised by the pro-Nazi Anglo-German organisation called The Link.

Biggs left Oxford in 1939, without a degree. In June 1940, he was detained under Defence Regulation 18B (1A); spending time as an internee in various prisons and camps, including on the Isle of Man. His Order of Detention was suspended in January 1942 (though he still had to comply with conditions regarding residence and work); the Order was finally revoked in January 1944. On his release from internment, Biggs tried to find work. He had medical examinations under the National Service (Armed Forces) Act, but was assessed as unfit for military service. It is clear from his letters that he was often in poor health. Eventually he went to work on a farm belonging to Derek and Sally Stuckey (Biggs had met Derek Stuckey while he was at Oxford), sending letters home from there; later letters were sent from North Devon and Somerset. From January to December 1944 Biggs worked as a teacher at Kingwell Court School, Wiltshire, eventually obtaining a teaching post in January 1945 at his old school Stone House. There is no finishing date for his employment at Stone House, but it is probable that he worked there for many years.

Biggs clearly had aspirations to be a writer. As a young man he produced diaries, started an autobiography, and while he was at Oxford, wrote speeches and articles. In the letters sent to his parents during his internment, Biggs mentioned spending time writing. There is also an account of something he called “The legion of the seekers after true life”. Biggs had manuscripts rejected by various publishers, but he did eventually became a published writer. In 1957 he married Lola Hussey, a former Wren, but there is little information in the Papers about Biggs’ wife, and few details of his own life and beliefs after the 1940s. Howard Biggs died in 1994; Lola Biggs died in 2004.

The final sections of the Papers contain material relating to Biggs’ father (Edgar Arnold Biggs, 1887-1943), his aunt (Ethel Bright Ashford, 1883-1980), grandparents (including his paternal grandfather Sir Arthur Worthington Biggs, 1846-1928), and even a great-grandfather (William Biggs, 1805-1881).

  • Related collections: British Union Collection; Defence Regulation 18B Research Papers
  • Source: Purchased in 2013
  • System of arrangement: By category
  • Subjects: Fascism - Great Britain; World War, 1939-1945 - Prisoners and prisons, British; Great Britain – History - 19th century; Great Britain – History - 20th century; Family history
  • Names: Biggs, Howard; Ashford, Ethel Bright; Biggs, Arthur Worthington, Sir; Stuckey, Derek; British Union of Fascists
  • Conditions of access: Academic researchers by appointment
  • Restrictions: None
  • Copyright: According to document
  • Finding aids: Listed