Organisation for the Maintenance of Supplies

Organisation for the Maintenance of Supplies

Organisation for the Maintenance of Supplies was a British right-wing movement established in 1925 to provide volunteers in the event of a general strike. During the General Strike of 1926 the OMS was taken over by the government and was used to provide vital services such as transport and communications.



The OMS had its origins in the letters page of The Times where many were calling for the formation of a volunteer organisation intended to take over the jobs of striking workers in the event of a general strike, which was widely feared amongst the conservative establishment at the time as part of a 'communist plot'. The same letters page was used on 25 September 1925 by Home Secretary William Joynson-Hicks to announce the formation of just such a group, with the ltter announcing the new OMS name.[1]

The organisation, to be run by a committee chaired by Lord Hardinge, was to have branches in every city and to recruit volunteers in five classes, four of which were based on the men's fitness and age and the fifth of which was for women who were to be set to work only in places where they could avoid any "rough handling".[1] Lord Jellicoe and other top military men sat on the committee, both to give the OMS a military discipline and to instill public confidence in the group that such important figures were involved.[2]


Whilst the scheme was enthusiastically supported by the highly conservative Daily Mail it was denounced as a form of fascism not only by the Communist Party of Great Britain but also by the otherwise anti-communist Daily Express, which compared the OMS to the Ku Klux Klan and the Blackshirts.[3] An early speech by one of the group's leaders was deemed unfit for broadcast by the BBC who feared that it would compromise their impartiality.[4] Brigadier-General William Horwood, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police also refused to work with what he believed to be a fascist organisation and by the end of 1925 the government had informed General Sir Robert McCalmont that in the event of any general strike the OMS would be disbanded and their membership taken over entirely by the government.[4] Nonetheless the OMS did have the confidence of some provincial police forces and branches of the Conservative Party despite its inauspicious start.[4]

General Strike

Following the outbreak of the 1926 General Strike and the introduction by the government of emergency powers the OMS turned its membership lists over to the newly appointed government civil commissioners and thus became a state organisation.[5] Although the OMS name continued to be used any notion of independence was abandoned with the OMS an arm of government.[6] The group had some 100,000 members registered at the commencement of the strike, although the middle class status of many of these volunteers meant that they often proved wholly unsuited to the manual work of running the railways and ports.[7] The group did manage to produce the British Gazette, a pro-government newspaper published during the strike.[8]

The OMS and fascism

The British Fascisti (BF), which maintained transport and communications units to be used in the event of a strike, provided an organisational structure for the OMS although there was uncertainty at government level about allowing BF members to join the OMS given fears about their potentially revolutionary nature.[9] Ultimately the BF was allowed to join only if it agreed to renounce fascism and the BF name, a proposal rejected by the majority of the group's controlling committee under Rotha Lintorn-Orman. The minority faction, led by Brigadier-General R.B.D. Blakeney and Rear-Admiral A.E. Armstrong, split to form a new group known as the Loyalists (as well as the Scottis Loyalists under the Earl of Glasgow) and this group was subsumed into the OMS as soon as the strike began.[10]

Despite this individual fascists obtained high rank within the OMS. BF member and later co-founder of the National Fascisti Colonel Ralph Bingham worked along with Peter Howard, who had published a magazine for fascists in the Ukraine and who was later a member of the New Party, running an OMS depot during the strike.[11] The BF's Neil Francis Hawkins, later a leading figure within both the British Union of Fascists and the Union Movement, was also important in the OMS during the strike.[12]

Later organisations

The OMS can in some ways be compared[according to whom?] to 1970s movements such as Civil Assistance, which played on widespread public fear of trade union militancy.[citation needed]


  • Robert Benewick, Political Violence and Public Order, Allan Lane, 1969
  • Stephen Dorril, Blackshirt: Sir Oswald Mosley & British Fascism, Penguin Books, 2007
  • Anne Perkins, A Very British Strike: 3 May - 12 May 1926, Macmillan, 2006
  • Patrick Renshaw, The General Strike, Taylor & Francis, 1975


  1. ^ a b Perkins, p. 70
  2. ^ Renshaw, pp. 130-131
  3. ^ Perkins, pp. 70-71
  4. ^ a b c Perkins, p. 71
  5. ^ Perkins, p. 114
  6. ^ Renshaw, p. 131
  7. ^ Renshaw, p. 132-133
  8. ^ The Cabinet Papers Glossary - O from The National Archives website
  9. ^ Dorril, p. 198
  10. ^ Benewick, p. 35
  11. ^ Dorril, p. 184
  12. ^ Dorril, p. 200

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