Tuesday, January 23, 2007

AYLES, Walter Henry

Born at 26 Thorne Street, Wandsworth Road, Lambeth, London on 24th March 1879, Walter H Ayles was one of the five children of a railway porter Percy Walter Ayles and his wife Elizabeth (nee Little), whose wages were 18’s week. At the age of 13, having passed the seventh standard, he went o work at a cardboard-box factory, but was afterwards apprenticed at the engineering works of the London & South-Western Railway. When the men were locked out, young Ayles, then 18, being unwilling to blackleg, put in his notice.

After six months' unemployment, he got a job in a newsagent's shop, and in March1899 went to Birmingham and resumed his trade as an Engineer. He was for three years Birmingham district secretary of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers (AEU), and afterwards, when living at Bristol, was treasurer until 1921 of four local branches of that union. His AEU officership lasted 17 years


In 1904 he joined the Independent Labour Party (ILP) and as a Labour candidate was elected to the Birmingham Board of Guardians (Aston) 1904-1907,

In 1910 Ayles moved to Bristol to become Bristol ILP branch full time General Secretary

During the first 18 months from his appointment the branch quadrupled its activities and greatly increased its membership.

In 1912 he was elected for Easton ward of Bristol City Council, a seat he retained until 1922. In his first year on the council he wrote a pamphlet "Bristols Next Step" and in 1923 (relected 1923-, Ayles wrote an ILP booklet on “What a Socialist Town Council Would Do”

Ayles elected to the National Council of the I.L.P 1912-1927. He has also been for the last nine years chairman of the Bristol Labour Party.

Walter Ayles persistently and energetically opposed the World War One as he had the Boer War. Arrested as a conscientious objector, he remained in the hands of the military and prison authorities for two-and-a-half years, and was confined in seven different jails. He held office in the No-Conscription Fellowship and the Fellowship of Reconciliation. In 1920 he helped found the No More War Movement (NMWM)

He was a local preacher for 20 years among the Methodists and Congregationalists, but after the war he joined the Society of Friends (Quakers). He has been for many years an active Rechabite.

Ayles stood for the parliamentary seat of Bristol East in 1918 but did not stand as he was in Prison and the ILP was short of funds. He stood for Bristol North in 1922 and was elected as Member of Parliament for Bristol North in 1923. Mr. Ayles was reputed the most effective speaker in the West of England. Election meetings at Bristol North have been described as occasions of an almost religious fervour. On the morning of polling day an ex-soldier slipped into the candidate's pocket a horseshoe which he had carried in his knapsack all through the war—and he had never received a scratch. When the numbers went up the soldier swore the horseshoe had done it. " No," said the new M.P., " it was the huge crowd of ex-Service men who worked for me."

He was Labour Member of Parliament for Bristol North 1923-1924 and 1929 1931

He fought Bristol North for a sventh time in 1935 and after defeat accepted that it was time to move on

He moved to Orpington near London and was soon elected as a Urban District Councillor in 1937

Elected 1945 for the parliamentary seat of Southall (which included Hayes) during a campaign which included attacks on Winston Churchill pre War record and calling for wide scale nationalisation.

Member of Parliament for Hayes & Harlington 1950- 1953

He retired to his house in Southall but planned to move to Scotland

His son was killed on active service during World War 2 (1943)

his first wife was Bertha Winifred Batt (m 1904) a Bristol ILP and Womens Freedom League member
His second wife was Jean Ogilvie Middleton (m1944)

Died 6 July 1953 at his home Kingussie, Invernesshire,Scotland

Walter Ayles was selected as the Uxbridge Divisional Labour candidate in April 1937 beating Humbert Beaumont (nominated by Hayes Labour Party), Ernest Hamblin (ASLEF) and James Eldridge (an Engineer). Beaumont went on to be MP for Sunderland. Ayles was nominated by Uxbridge Labour Party.

Ayles links to Hayes, went back many years, in fact to 1915, when he helped the local Labour Party during the Hayes UDC election, I take it this contact had been through
his Engineering union contacts