Here is my painting of the rally outside St George’s Town Hall that marked the 60th anniversary of the Battle of Cable Street in October 1936. That’s Charlie Goodman with his bald head and glasses among the Cable Street veterans at the bottom left hand corner of the picture. In the Town Hall that evening Charlie told me about his involvement in the Battle of Cable Street and other battles.
On October 4 1936 16 year old Charlie came to Aldgate from his home in Eagle Street, Stepney. He joined the massive crowd that had assembled to block the road to stop Sir Oswald Mosley’s Blackshirts from marching through the East End. Thousands were chanting “No pasaran!” and “Fascists out!” Charlie had climbed up a lamp post to cheer on the crowd as the Police tried to disperse them and push them back. “Come on, you yellow bellies,” he shouted, “push!” He was pulled down by the Police and arrested. There is an iconic photograph of Charlie being dragged along Leman Street, accompanied by six mounted police. Charlie told me he was one of dozens of demonstrators who were arrested that day and sent to prison. He said he was beaten unconscious in the Police Station, planted up with a knife, charged with possession of an offensive weapon and jailed for four months in Wormwood Scrubs.
As soon as he was free he went to Dover and bought a day ticket on the ferry over to Calais. With little money and no passport he made his way across France, over the Pyrenees and, lying about his age, managed to join up with the Tom Mann (Grupo Ingles) Contingent of the Thaelman Battalion of the International Brigade fighting Franco in the Defence of Madrid. He was wounded with a bullet in his leg, caught typhoid and almost died. Outside St George’s Town Hall Charlie showed me the small brass plaque in honour of more than 70 Tower Hamlets volunteers who joined the International Brigade. Nearly a quarter of them never returned.
Charlie joined the Army and went over to France in 1940 with the British Expeditionary Force to fight Hitler. In the Battle of Dunkirk he was wounded with a bullet in the head that was to stay there for the rest of his life.
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