Flash and Circle symbol
c. 1935 —

Flash and Circle


The symbol was first used by Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists (BUF) in 1935 and later by a number of successor groups including the Union Movement and the National Party of Europe. The BUF were nicknamed ‘the flash in the pan’ by left-wing opponents, and the symbol fell out of use during the war as support for fascist ideas declined in the UK and the BUF was banned outright by the government.1


Designed by Eric H. Piercy, commander of the paramilitary Fascist Defence Force, to replace the fasces symbol initially adopted as the symbol of Mosely’s organisation.2 It was often depicted on a red background suggestive of the Nazi flag and likely inspired by the fascist iconography of Germany and Italy.


The lightning bolt was intended to symbolise direct action, with the circle suggesting unity.2 The BUF were clearly drawing on an understood ‘fascist aesthetic’ — black uniforms for their supporters, the use of one-handed salutes, etc. — so it is possible that the symbol's design was informed by the so-called 'SS bolts' used by the Nazi Schutzstaffel from 1933, which were themselves inspired by a character from the runic alphabet.3


A recent variation of the symbol was adopted by the neo-Nazi group National Action. Visually and ideologically linked to the original, it was seen at a number of protests from 2013 onwards. In 2016, as with the BUF previously, the group was banned by the authorities and membership deemed a criminal offence.4 A strikingly similar design is also used by the People's Action Party (PAP) in Singapore, although the PAP's origins as a left-wing movement suggest no ideological link with Oswald's fascists.

Schutzstaffel (SS) Insignia
People's Action Party symbol'
National Action symbol