Robert Saunders Papers

Ref: MS 119

Title: Robert Saunders Papers

The administrative files of the Dorset West District of the British Union of Fascists and of the Dorchester Constituency of Union Movement, and other correspondence of Robert Saunders, mainly 1935 to 1952; together with some books and pamphlets.

Dates: 1934 (Nov) - 1970; (with a few documents dated 1933-34)
Level: Fonds
Extent: 44 files; 20 books and 69 pamphlets
Name of creator: Robert Saunders; British Union of Fascists; Union Movement

Administrative / biographical history:

In the extent of its coverage this collection appears to be a unique survival: it includes the almost complete administrative files (at least for the period 1935 to 1952) of a District of Sir Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists and of its post-World War II successor Union Movement. Files relate both to pre-war and post-war administration in the Dorset West District of the BUF, later the Dorchester Constituency of Union Movement, and include correspondence both with the local membership and with the National Headquarters administration. There is also a file of personal correspondence between Mosley and Saunders. The person responsible for ensuring the survival of the documents was Robert Saunders, District Treasurer for Dorset West before he became District Officer in 1936, and who, as a farmer, was particularly concerned about the depressed state of agriculture in the Depression. There is also documentation relating to the Defence Regulation 18B internment period after May 1940: in common with many other leading members of British Union Saunders was interned for a period during World War II. The file for "correspondence received" during the months from June 1938 to March 1939, which is missing, may have been removed by Special Branch at the time of his arrest and not returned, though this is not certain. Post-war, in line with Saunders' agricultural concerns and Britain's seeming inability to feed itself he joined the independent Rural Reconstruction Association, and also played a prominent part in the formation of UM agricultural policy, summarised in the pamphlet None Need Starve, issued in 1952. At the end of 1951 Saunders resigned as local constituency organiser of UM, though continuing to serve as UM Agricultural Group Organiser during 1952, in order to devote more time to wider agricultural and local community matters, taking up office in the National Farmers' Union for example. However, although giving up public involvement in local UM activities, and formally resigning from UM in 1963, he continued to maintain a close interest in Union Movement, advising and corresponding with Mosley and other National Headquarters officials, mainly on agricultural and food policy matters, until 1970.

The collection includes Saunders' autobiographical memoir A Tiller of several soils, as well as his collection of political books and pamphlets.

  • Related collections: John Beckett Collection; Blackshirts in Kingston Project; British Union Collection; Cooper Collection; Fascism in Great Britain Collection; Joyce Papers; Peroni Scrapbooks
  • Source: Bequeathed by Robert Saunders. Received 1987
  • System of arrangement: As received
  • Subjects: Fascism - Great Britain
  • Names: British Union of Fascists - West Dorset Branch; Jenks, Jorian; Mosley, Sir, Oswald Ernald, 1896-1980; Union Movement - Dorchester Constituency; Saunders, Robert, 1910-1993
  • Conditions of access: Available to all researchers, by appointment
  • Restrictions: None
  • Copyright: Variously according to document
  • Finding aids: Listed