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Illingworth House: Chance Child - Part One: 77 - Street Violence

John Illingworth finds himself surrounded by a fascist mob.

John Waddington-Feather continues his story which revolves around a Yorkshire mill-owning dynasty.

To read earlier chapters please visit http://www.openwriting.com/archives/illingworth_house/

Over the next few years, John's hatred for his father mellowed as he realised his father was growing old. He felt sorry for him, too, when he saw how he was being up-staged at work by Harry Clemence and taken for a ride by Grimstone, yet the old man couldn't see it until it was too late, and by that time he had been ousted from the top job at Illingworth's.

When John saw what the effect was on his father he began going home more often, though his affair with Rosemary waned. After she had a second child, a daughter, he stopped sleeping with her and she despaired. Both her marriage and their affair were dead. She had other short-lived affairs but she never ceased to love him, nor did his father ever give up hope that he would return to Keighworth permanently one day.

There was also his son, whom he saw regularly, as well as Sydney Goldstein's son on whom he doted. There were occasions when he and Sydney flew together as war clouds loomed and the RAF went into overdrive. Both were fighter pilots and were training with scores of other squadrons as Germany expanded its Luftwaffe aerial armada.

By 1938 Nazism was rife across Europe and Hitler had his supporters in Britain. On one occasion, John and Sydney got caught up in a fascist rally near Leeds, when he was staying with the Goldsteins prior to a posting to Prague as an air attache. He had gone out for a meal with Sydney and his two sisters the other side of Leeds. On their return, they found their way blocked by a noisy crowd, holding a rally. A little man on a makeshift stage was shouting the odds in favour of Hitler, and the crowd around him, supporters and opposition alike, spilled across the road, forcing all traffic to slow down. Soon the crowd became so dense they had to halt.

They were close enough by now to see a bodyguard of thugs surrounding the speaker and mingling with the crowd. Suddenly the barracking and shouting flared into violence, and they were trapped. John wound down the window and asked what was going on. It was a rally organised by the supporters of Oswald Mosley the British fascist leader, he was told, and they had no option but to sit tight until the police came and cleared the road.

They couldn't see who was speaking at first, but they could hear him over a loudspeaker. He was rabidly anti-Jewish and was urging the crowd to support Hitler's efforts to clean up Europe. It was the only way if Britain was to survive a Jewish take-over. His opponents were incensed and fighting broke out. The bodyguards, who wore black shirts and swastika armbands, began beating up anyone who protested and raised a black banner with a red lightning flash, the logo of the Mosleyites.

At first, the speaker was too far away for them to see, but as they nudged forward and saw him raise his arm in a Nazi salute, they recognised him at once. It was Major Kingham-Jones. Almost at the same time, he recognised them and began screaming about Jewish parasites and urging his thugs to attack the car. They surrounded it and began hammering on the roof and bonnet, screaming obscenities and spitting on the windows.

Terrified, the sisters huddled on the back seat, while John pushed grimly forward, sounding his horn to force a way through. Then someone hurled a brick, shattering the rear window and showering the sisters with glass. As they screamed, John put his foot on the accelerator scattering the mob in front as fighting broke out everywhere. It distracted those attacking the car and gave him chance to get clear and reach a troop of mounted police trying to bring order.

"You all right, sir?" asked the sergeant leaning from his horse. John said yes, and the police forced a way through the fracas to get them out. Once clear, John speeded away and didn't stop till they safely home, shaken but unharmed.

It left them numbed, hardly believing what had happened. John stayed the night at Illingworth House and told his father all that had happened. Ironically, it did much to heal the rift between them. The meteoric rise of Hitler, Mussolini and Franco alarmed both Sir Abe and John and gave them common ground to talk over.

They had always discussed politics seriously even though they sometimes disagreed, but this time they were as one. When Sir Abe saw his son's
damaged car, he was shocked. He wouldn't have believed such a thing would have happened within a hundred miles of Keighworth, but here it was, on his doorstep. And he was even more irate when he found out that his erstwhile brother-in-law was responsible.

He knew from old Goldstein what was happening to Jews in Germany and elsewhere. The Reichfuhrer of the Schultzstaffel, the S.S., had built a network of labour camps across Germany to house the victims of his racial cleaning programme and had set up an informer system. Now, it seemed, the same thing was about to happen in Britain, with traitors like Kingham-Jones taking the lead.

He sat, grim-faced, as John described what had happened. It was the very first time he and his father had chatted seriously for years. When they had eaten, they retired for coffee to the lounge, looking across the garden through the open French windows. It was warm and the autumn was well set, its vivid tints splashing the trees and shrubbery. It all looked so serene, so English, it was difficult to imagine what had happened a few miles away that afternoon.

"I always said it would come," said Sir Abe, sipping his coffee thoughtfully. "We should never have disarmed they way we did after the first show. Churchill's right, we should be building up our forces not cutting them back. I can only think Chamberlain's playing for time with his damned appeasement business."

They sat drinking coffee and brandy into a twilight which drained the garden of all its colour, and the old man put his country and the world to rights. Johnson joined them, hovering around the room pretending to do this or that, happy to see his master and John together once more, chatting earnestly as they had done in the old days. Watching the nightfall and the moon creep over the horizon, none of them guessed that another night, a darker, longer night was beginning for them all.


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