Friday, February 29, 2008

National Union of Railwaymen

The Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants (ASRS), later National Union of Railwaymen now called Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) was established on the 26th August 1871 by a group of railwaymen who meet in Leeds, within a further two weeks meetings were held in London which enthusiastically endorsed the launching of the union. On March 2nd 1872 its rules were finally registered with the Registrar of Friendly Societies.

Its first Annual General Meeting was held on June 24th, 1872 in the Sussex Hotel, Bouverie Street, London and within twelve months of formation had 17,000 members.

The first railwaymen to join in West Middlesex were platelayers (Platelayers Union) in West Middlesex were those working as platelayers between Acton and Slough along the Great Western Railway track earning in 1889 just 18 shillings a week. (photo rail track workers 1908)

Mr W.J. O’Brien of Acton stated they were engaged as platelayers on the line and “upon their skill depended the security of travelers and the rolling stock of the company”, and they demanded 21 shillings per week.

As early as 1897 branches of the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants (ASRS) had been established in Southall and Barnes, which meet on occasions together. (Southall Platelayers Union active from 1889).

At a meeting in November 1897 at the Coffee Tavern, Brentford, Mr Kates of Barnes ASRS introduced a Mr F. Kitley who explained about the principles of trade unionism and congratulated them on such a large attendance. He also referred to the treatment of staff working for the L&SW Railway when they had approached management, he said “the time had come for a united movement of all grades of railwaymen through the ASRS”.

At the same meeting Mr J. Mitchell Platelayers delegate to the recent Birmingham conference gave a resume of the proceedings , he said they had passed a resolution instructing the general secretary of the ASRS to write to several railway companies offering arbitration upon the national programme, meanwhile notices were to be prepared and signed by the men, with a view to handing them in to the companies of favourable replies were not forthcoming by a given date.

A Mr G.B. Whitby proposed the following resolution “That this meeting consisting of all grades of railway men employed on the line running into Brentford having heard the decision of the Birmingham conference pledge itself to support the ASRS.

In 1898 the Amalgamated Society of Railway servants meet at the De Burgh arms in West Drayton

(Picture ASRS Rickmondsworth,Hertfordshire 1912 first banner ASRS Neasden)


During the 18th -19th August 1911 transport strike, over 200,000 railwaymen were on strike, paralysing West Middlesex.

Members in Southall, like all other branches of the
union received the following telegram “Your liberty at stake all railwaymen must strike at once, loyalty to each

other means victory” signed by four rail union General Secretary’s J.E. Williams (ASRS), Fox, Louth and Chorlton.

According to the local Gazette the cry “they’re out “ the words flew from mouth to mouth

The local leader of the railwaymen was the imposing Councillor James Culley of Southall

The Southall railwaymens strike headquarters was at the Co-operative Hall, Kings Street, Southall at which a meeting of over one hundred assembled at 8:00 to discuss the strike but by 7:45 th

en already most men were on strike (I believe this was the evening of 17th August). According to the local paper the meeting was full of enthusiasm and determination was writ large on the face of each of the hundred or more men present. One of the local rail union leaders stated

“They recognised the responsibility the immense amount of

inconvience and suffering to women and children that would happen should the strike be prolonged. But the companies and the autocratic methods and the non-recognition of their societies were responsible entirely for the present state of affairs. All kinds pf obstacles had been placed in the way to prevent the working of the Consolidation Boards”.

The meeting of Southall railwaymen carried the following resolution unanimously “That this meeting of railwaymen representing all grades heartily appreciates the action of our Executives in calling upon us at last to secure recognition of our Societies and pledge ourselves to faithfully abide by the decisions of those said Executives”

Before the meeting broke up the leaders appealed to the men not to do anything disorderly they had said the picket secretary had a reputation to uphold and wished to keep their hands clean, if the solders were called in they were to treat them as brothers.

All but two signalmen in Southall came out on strike, the two signalmen were place in two signal boxes one in the east signal box and one in west. The pickets furious at the “scabs” entered the box and turned off the lights preventing the men from working, the signalmen refused to move and the strikers with no desire to use violence, endeavored to persuade signalmen to strike (picture signal box 1911 strike sStockinford)

The pickets then established picket lines at various entrances to Southall station and sheds and large numbers of people assembled on the Southall railway bridge and also the iron bridge to look for “scab trains”. Scab workers often being reward not only in generous payments from management but also donations from passengers estimated at £10 a time to drive/work trains.

A movement was a foot to raise a special volunteer (a forerunner of the 1926 strike breaking Organisation for the Maintenance of Supplies -OMS) force to take duty on the railway lines in the immediate neighborhood.

Amongst the loco drivers (ASLEF) the strike was also solid , one striker stating “I am a socialist and proud of it ”15 working out of 570 between Slough only two and Paddington.

Southall was described by the local paper as being in a great sense of excitement and ferment, with other local employers voluntarily raising wages as the strike wave swept London, outside the epicenter of Transport.

The local Uxbridge paper reported tat “A well known local factory owner had an unpleasant experience on Friday, he had driven in a motor car to a certain strike infested area of South East London to collect certain articles loaned but the crowd which gathered made such a dire threats about overturning the car if he persisted in his businesses he drove off “.

In Southall it was stated the police were are taking all necessary precautions against untoward events and for this purpose about 100-150 specials” constables have been raised in Uxbridge.

Police were placed on guard and several stationed on the Southall bridges and the local paper claimed “possible” incendiary devices were discovered at Southall and attributed to the strikers.

Elsewhere, in the country there was also turmoil, In Llanelli, South Wales two innocent young men, namely Leonard Worsell and John John, who were shot down by soldiers on 18th August 1911 during the Railway Riots in Llanelli 17th and 18th August 1911.

Meanwhile in Liverpool gunboats were anchored in the Mersey and 3,000 troops and several hundred police swamped the city during the 72 day City wide Transport strike. Two more innocent strikers Michael Prendergast and John Sutcliffe were killed by soldiers on the 15th August

Meanwhile in Liverpool during the 72 day City wide Transport strike (including 15,000 railwaymen) which started on 5th August, two more innocent strikers Michael Prendergast and John Sutcliffe had been killed on the 15th August by soldiers.

The deaths murder of innocent strikers could not sway one prominent local resident, the Vicar of Harefield the Rev A.A. Harland stated in August 1911 that “All these strikes had been ruthlessly conducted against law and order….. The police, the custodians of public safety had been cruelly maltreated by rioting mobs of so called hooligans and the solders who had suddenly been called out to protect life and property and assist the police in the discharge pf their duties had been compelled much against their will to fire upon the more violent and savage wrongdoers”

Despite the railway companies being well prepared and confident prior to the strike and direct government intervention with the extensive use of the army and police. The Railway Companies were forced into meeting union representatives, the first great rail strike being terminated on the 19th August 1911. The outcome was a new Conciliation Scheme and union recognition.

One legacy of the strike was the move towards the amalgamation of rail unions. The three main “general” unions, the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants, The United Pointsmen & Signalmen’s Society and the General Railway Workers Union agreing to amalgamate and this was completed on the 23rd August 1913 becoming the National Union of Railwaymen (NUR) and by 1915 the new union had 267,611 members.


The second national Railwaymen’s strike took place at midnight on the 26th September 1919 primarily over the issue consolidation of war bonuses of 33 shillings. The strike being settled with the intervention of Downing Street on the 5th October 1919 (pictiure Soldier at Slough 1919)

When the Hayes branch established 1922, a Mr W.T. Pollard of Hayes recalled he had walked many miles to attend branch meetings and that he had been a member since March 1900 “They had to fight in the dark and dare not come out into the open but they got things done”

A Southall Railway Women’s Guild was established by wives of husbands in the NUR by B (Barbara?) A. Chard the wife of a Southall signalman, also involved in the Women’s Railway Guild was Mrs Nottingham. (pictire WW1 women rail worker)


The third national rail strike took place during the General Strike in 1926 (3rd-12th May 1926)


The next (fourth) national rail strike was not called until thirty six years later in 1962, when faced with the Beeching Plans proposals to the closure of large sections of the rail network, stations and workshops. The NUR organised 189 meetings opposing the proposals and organised a strike on the 3rd October 1962, This strike secured widespread public support. The union winning a number of concessions to the redundancy agreements


In 1968 the National Union of railwaymen opted for a work to rule which was conducted between the 24th June and5th July 1968 over the issue of pay.


The National Union of Railway under the excellent leadership of Jimmy Knapp conducted a series of six one day strikes in July/July 1989 which secured high levels of public support.



Councillor Mrs B (Barbara) A Chard came to Southall in 1898, helped found the Women’s Co-operative Guild and the Women’s Railway (Union) Guild.

During the World War 1 she helped women munitions workers, in groups of up to eighty to find accommodation in Hayes and

Southall area.

Elected as Southall Labour Councillor in 1919 and onto the Board of Guardians, became Chairman of Southall Urban District Council in 1926

Mr Albert J Chard was her husband, also a Labour JP a railway guard

Positive this is Barbara Chard born in 1872 at Cardigan, Wales
aged 29 at 1901 census


Hayes National Union of Railwaymen's branch established in 1922. At Hayes their was a railway estate built for workers on the Great Western Railway and a Mr Doubbley was the leader of the West Drayton/Uxbridge National Union of Railwaymen who played a key role during the 1926 General strike. In the 1940’s a Mr Slade was the active in Hayes Trades Council

In January 1929 a Rail Minority Movement (Communist Party) was established with branches from Perth, Glasgow, Liverpool, Manchester, Derby, Keig

hley, Birmingham, London and Exeter represented. Soon prominent members of the RMM were elected into senior branch roles in Birmingham, Nottingham, Derby and Leytonstone. The RMM also had an important group as Stratford, London's largest rail cleaning and repair depot.

Mr W.C. Loeber (NUR) being important leader of rank and file railwaymen, he was a carriage cleaner from Hornsey. He joined the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants in 1912 and by 1924 was Chairman of the Wood Green & Hornsey branch of the NUR. NUR Executive member 1938-1940. Close friend of Harry Pollitt, Loeber was a Communist Party member and national executive member. He retired from the Railway's aged 65 in 1956. "He saw the Minority Movement as the only way to prevent a decline in working class conditions, and the Communist Party as the only way to bring Socialism nearer (The Railway Vigilant September 1932)

Newsletters included "The Signal (Manchester), Hornsey Star, The LMS Rebel and Kings Cross Star.

The Railway Minority Movement merged with the Railway Vigilance Movement (named after the Vigilance Committee's established during WW1. (and various Railway Vigilance Committees had continued after the war)

At the first conference of the Railway Vigilance Committee held on 3rd December 1932 with 35 NUR branches, 31 ASLEF and 18 Depot committees represented

The objective of the Railway Vigilance Committee was....."a movement organised in the local depots and branches and embracing all workers irrespective of grade or union division.....(which)..... can be a most powerful means of defeating the wage cuts demands of the companies

Its newspaper "The Railway Vigilant" appeared in November in November 1932 and circulation peaked at around 12,000

Saturday, February 23, 2008

London County Council (LCC) Progressive Party

The London Progressive Party

The Progressive Party in London was formed in 1888 by Liberal’s , Trade Unionists, Fabians and Socialists. It contested the first London County Council (LCC) election’s in 1889 and secured around 70 of the 118 seats.
It was also successful at following the 1892 election, Eventually winning six elections in a row before losing control in 1907 to the Municipal Reform Party (run effectively by the Conservative Party) who controlled the council until 1934.
The growth and consolidation of the Progressive Party in East and South London is undoubtedly linked to the rise of the “New Unionism” movement, which evolved from the London Dock strike of August 1889.
However, according to Harry Gosling first real attempt to get Labour men elected to the London County Council was in 1895.
The Labour Group on the London County Council after the 1898 election consisted of
H.R.Taylor, W.C Steadman (Barge builders union) Harry Gosling (Riverboat lighter man) George Dew (Carpenter) John Burns(engineer), Charles Freak (Bootmaker), Will Crooks (Cooper), C. W Bowerman, Ben Cooper (Cigar makers union)

Above picture of Labour Progressive councillors elected in 1892

Harry Gosling stated of the Progressive Party on the LCC, that ....
“The early propaganda of the progressive Party in the London County Council both before my time and in the early years of my membership was as good as anything the Labour Party has been able to do”
“The Progressive Party stood then in municipal matters exactly where the Labour Party does today”
“It had vigor, vision and enthusiasm it believed in a fine and healthily London with fine thorough fares and fine bridges".
“The Progressives were citizens who were honestly progressive in their ideas and did the utmost to put them into practice”
Harry Gosling “Up and Down Stream” 1927
Labour secured control of the London County Council at the elcetion held on 8th March 1934. Labour winning 69 councillors and 11 Aldermen compared to Municiple Reform/Tories 55 Councillors and 9 Aldermen (total membership of LCC 144)

Labour elected Lord Snell as the Chairman of the Council and Mr E. G Culpin as Vice Chairman
Education Chairman Evelyn Lowe, Health Chairman Dr Somerville Hastings
General Purposes Chairman Miss Agnes Dawson,Public Improvements Chairman G Russell-Strauss, Fire Brigade Chairman Mr E. Cruse,Town Planning Chairman H. Berry,Finance Chairman Charles Latham, Parks Chairman R. Coppock
Labour won a by election in Wandsworth Central held on 27th June 1935 taking its councillors to 70 and its majority to 18

Such was the sucess of the Labour administration that Labour never lost control again. In 1965 the London County Council was consumed into the large Greater London Council in 1965 until outrageously abolished by the Tories 1986, it is now the Greater London Assembly.
London County Council (LCC) 1892 elected Progressive/Labour Councillors
Bannerman, J - Hackney South
Barrs, H.H.H. - Clapham
Bassett--Hopkins, A - Newington
Baum, F.C. - Kensington North
Bayley, E - Southwark
Benn, J.W. - Finsbury East
Bott, W.G - Newington
Branch, J - Bethnal Green South West
Bruce, W.W, - Bow & Bromley (Labour Progressive)
Burns, J - Battersea ( John Burns later labour)
Catmur, T - Whitechapel
Charrington, F.N - Mile End
Collins, W.J. - St Pancras West
Cornwall, E, - Fulham
Costelloe, B.F.C. -Chelsea
Crooks, W - Poplar (Will Crooks later Labour)
Dickinson, W.H. - Wandsworth (Deputy Chairman LCC)
Doubleday, W.B - Norwood
Downes, A.W. - Fulham
Earl Roseberry - (Chairman LCC)
Ford, C - Lambeth North
Freak, C - Bethnal Green (Charles Freak Labour Progressive)
Goodman, W - Islington West
Grigsby, W.E. - Islington North
Grosvenor,R - Kennington
Harris,H - Brixton
Harrison,C - Bethnal Green South West
Harvey, G.A. - Lewisham
Hollington, A.J - Mile End
Holmes, G.B - Hackney South
Hubbard, N.W, - Norwood
Hunter, T - Soutwark (Labour Progressive)
Hutton, J - St Pancras South (Vice Chairman LCC)
Jackson, R.S. - Greenwich
Jolly, J.R. - Woolwich (Ind Progressive)
Jones, E - Peckham
Keylock, H -Deptford
Lidgett, G - Greenwich
Lloyd, J - Kensington North
Lord Carrington - St Pacras West
Lord Monkswell - Camberwell
Lyon,R - Peckham
Marsland, J. - Walworth
McCall, J - Hackney North
McDougall, J - Poplar
Mercer, A - St Georges East (Labour Progressive)
Moss,N - Hoxton
Orsman, W.J. - Haggerston
Parkinson,W,C, - Islington North
Pearce, W - Limehouse
Pickersgill. E.H. - Hackney Central
Ponsonby, A.G. - Finsbury Central
Roberts, R - Islington South
Robinson, N - St Pancras East
Rowlands, E.B. - Finsbury Central
Sauders, W - Walworth
Sears, J.T - Camberwell
Smith, F.S - Lambeth North
Smith, W.A. - Chelsea
Steadman,W.C. - Stepney (Later Labour)
Stevens, L - Rotherhithe
Stockbridge, W - Kennington
Tarling, C - Whitechapel
Taylor, S.S. - Brixton
Thornton, J - Bermondsey
Tims, J - Battersea
Torr, J.F - Bethnal Green
Torrance, A.M - Islington East
Ward, H - Hoxton
Webb, S. - Deptford (Sidney Webb- Fabian)
Weir, J.G. - Islington East
Williams, T.H. - St Pancras North
Wood, T.M - Hackney Central

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Pinner Prisoners - Suffregetes


Pinner Prisoners

At the May 1912 meeting of the Pinner (Harrow) Women’s Social & Political Union (WSPU) it was reported that Pinner presently had two suffragette prisoners in jail.

The Pinner Prisoners were Mrs Janie Torrero and Madame de Roxe

Mrs Janie Terrero, Secretary of Pinner WSPU of Rockstone House, Pinner (who’s husband was at the Pinner WSPU meeting) had written from her Holloway prison cell a letter to the local WSPU branch detailing “the horrors of the hunger strikes and force feeding” in terms both dramatic and affecting according to the local newspaper.

At the same meeting the speaker Mrs Penn Gaskell stated

“The Clarion call of Christabel (Pankhurst) and others like it was in their ears and she hoped they were awakened and revolting at last”. The other speaker being Miss Wyley recently released from Aylesbury prison

At Uxbridge the WSPU organiser was Miss Clara Giveen

A meeting of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) was held at Hayes on Sunday 21st February 1912 at 3:00pm the speaker being Miss Phyllis Ayrton. At Hayes the leading suffragette was Marion Cunningham of Oakdene, Hayes, who’s house in 1912 was searched by police looking for Christabel Pankhurst.

A letter from Marion Cunningham to Mrs Pankhurst was found in the house of Miss Annie Kenney’s house was read out at during an Old Bailey case

“I applaud your courage and perfectly believe in militancy. Nothing else can succeed but many of your union cannot agree with you…..Isolated cases involve much agony to the perpetrators and little or no damage to the government. Whatever is done now must be something big, something done by all members, some careful night attack where all women get off scot free if possible. Why not a gigantic raid on pillar-boxes with specially made Indian rubber bags filled with staining acids – say sulphuric hydrogen, I am a volunteer for that

The WSPU also organised a huge suffragette meeting with Mrs Emmeline Pethwick Lawrence as speaker at Uxbridge town hall on Tuesday 27th February 1912 suffragette and president of Esperance girls club and Esperance co-operative dress making society

“It was not the Government who brought about great reforms. Neither the liberal or the conservative government would have given old age pensions or workmen’s compensation, unless the people had exacted it for themselves

they did not care for the few propertied women but they did care and were working for the great masses of women who were earning their own livings. Was it reasonable to suppose that they would spend their time, lives and money and make all the sacrifices they did for the sake of a few propertied women. No, their one great aim was to see that the women in the industrial world..."

Also active locally was the non violent National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) headed by Miss Katherine Raleigh,

The Watling street section (one of six) of the great NUWSS , Women’s Suffrage Pilgrimage went through Uxbridge on the way to great demonstration on July 26th 1912 at 7pm on Thursday the 24th July.

A local branch of the Womens Tax Resistance League (linked to the WSPU on the principle of "No vote - No tax"). was established with Miss Katherine Raleigh and, Mrs Budding, Mrs Parkes and Miss Lees, who’s meeting at West Drayton village green in 1912 was attacked by thugs as was another Suffragette meeting at Harefield.

Michael Walker

London Carmen's Trade Union

London Carmens Trade Union was established in 1888 during the famous London dock strike (the union should nott to be confused with the London Cab Drivers Trade Union) , it represented carters in the East End of London who drove horse drawn vehicles for the London docks and warehouses . The union was highly influenced by the syndicalist strand of British trade unionism, promoted best by the union’s own organiser Edward “Ted” Leggatt. The union was prominent force in the August 1911 London strike wave that hit the capital. However it lost half it’s membership during the disastrous Transport strike of 1912. In 1913 the union changed it's name to the National Union of Vehicle Workers with about 4,000 members and later joined the TGWU on Amalgamation on January 1st 1922.
ed by Samuel “Sam” March, its General Secretary from 1895.

The Uxbridge branch of the London Carmen’s Union was established in November 1910 and meet on Monday nights at the Three Tons Public House, Uxbridge. The Unions leading official Ted Leggatt addressed the meeting as did Will Godfrey” General organiser, visiting branches in attendance at the inaugural meeting were Southall, Brentford, Ealing and Bro C. Tanner of Bermondsey branch.

Ted Leggatt reported on benefits of the union, including presently 34 on the sick list receiving 10 shillings a week

At a later meeting in 1910 Ted Leggatt wished that “he employers could be made to realise how very essential it was that their men should protect themselves,, how much easier it would be for the wives and sick during the time they are away from their work” another speaker was Will Godfrey General Organiser of the union who taught them about “ true fellowship, comradeship and unity, single handed the workers is practically helpless but united effort the unions is powerful and effective.

Will Godfrey stated the union stood for “bettering the working conditions of those who are engaged as wealth producers, better house accommodation, good nourishing food and opportunity for recreation and amusement”

Carmen wishing to join the London Carman’s Union were told to write to Mr J.W. Boakes care of the Three Tuns public House, Uxbridge, Middlesex.

The Southall branch of the House, Southall Carmen’s Union was established in November 1905 and meet at the Waggon and Horses Public

In 1911 the Uxbridge branch of The London Carmens Trade Union held a concert on behalf of the widow and young children of Mr John Whyte of Harefield Road, Uxbridge, one of the first men to join the branch and who had died after a short illness. Raised in excess of seven three shillings and ten pence

Union representatives from Southall, Walthamstow were present as was Ted Leggatt and Acton Councillor Mr Shillitoe the delegate for the West London District branch of the London Carmen’s trade union (who was also active in the West london Independant Labour Party ILP).

Donations were received from Acton, Southall and Hampstead branches of the union

Uxbridge ILP Councillor L.W Spencer of Uxbridge referred to the low wages paid to carters by Uxbridge District Council of twenty two shillings for a 66 hour week. A “scandalous” while Leggatt referred to some Councils paying 30s a week

“the Carmen work long hours, in all weathers, taking their lives in their hands when driving through the congested traffic of London


Edward “Ted” Leggatt was an official of the London Carmen’s Trade Union, he was a committed anarcho-syndicalist and strong anti-parliamentary who traditionally began his speeches with the phrase “I’m Ted Leggatt the Anarchist”. Ben Tillett recorded his role in the strike as that of “rebel agitator par excellence…..a militant with reckless courage….time has hardly mellowed his hatred of class control and government. (Ted Leggatt in the top row in the bowler hat

Samuel March

Samuel “Sam” March (1861-1935) was born in Romford, his father was an agricultural labourer victimised for joining Joseph Arch’s union. Aged nine Sam became a farm labourer, later he worker in a bakery, a milk delievery boy in Holburn and aged 18 became a cabman in Poplar, where he was “he wielded the whip for sixteen years” 1895 became general secretary of the London Carmen's trade Union. He joined the Poplar Labour League and helped in the election of Will Crooks.

Sam March stood unsuccessfully for Poplar Council in 1900, but was later elected to the Council 1903-1927, Sam March was a councillor (and Mayor) during the great Poplar rebellion against the poor law and as such received six weeks in Brixton prison in 1921. He was later elected to thhe London County Council 1919-1925 representing South Poplar. finally becoming Labour Member of Parliament for South Poplar 1922-1931. He was the first Labour Party Justice of the Peace in the East End

In 1922 Sam March was appointed national secretary of commercial road transport section of the new Transport & General Workers Union” Samuel March MP died in 1933

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Struggle of the Spanish People
Dress Rehearsal for World War

By Harry Pollitt
World News & Views August 1958

Much of what has been written in this series of memories about Spain, appeared at the actual time of my visits to that country in the "Daily Worker", and thanks are due to the Editor for permission to reprint them in the edited form in which they now appear.

Unfortunately the whole situation which ended with the temporary defeat of the Spanish Republican Government at the hands of Franco, Mussolini and Hitler, fully backed by the policy of the Chamberlain Government in particular, turned out quite differently from what I anticipated when some of the articles were written. Nevertheless, nothing can ever dim the heroism and sacrifice of the Republican and democratic people of Spain or the magnificent support they received from the International Brigade and all democratic and peace-loving mankind.

The events in Spain from 1936 to 1938 were meant by Hitler and Mussolini, to be a dress rehearsal for their organisation and carrying through of the Second World War. British and French reaction hoped fervently that by supporting Franco, they would save Britain and France from being involved in direct war with the two fascist gangsters. Hitler and Mussolini.

We know only too well now how the actual events turned out, and what a terrible price had to be paid by the peoples of France and Britain for this pro-fascist policy.

Few events in our lifetime have evoked such a splendid international support and response as was the case during the Spanish war. I personally have never known public feeling to be so roused as it was in Britain at that time. The meetings of all kinds were very successful. The work of collecting money and goods and medical supplies for Spain received tremendous support, and this support came from all sections of the community who were deeply aroused by the magnificent fight of the Spanish people and their own fears and hatred of fascism.

Outstanding was the epic struggle and sacrifice of the British Battalion of the International Brigade. It is a story that ought never to be forgotten by the Labour movement in particular, and it certainly did more to restore the honour of Britain than any other event of the Spanish war.

The British Battalion

The Battalion took part in many battles and won for itself the proudest name in the International Brigade and it was an everlasting honour to have been connected in any way with it. I refrain from mentioning the names of comrades because it would be invidious now to single out names from this gallant company, but we will never cease to pay our tribute to all who formed the British Battalion of the International Brigade, won for it such glorious laurels in battle, endured hardships, and shared its successes and defeats alike. The orrganisation of the British Battalion, getting its members to Spain, supporting the dependants of the comrades, was a truly gigantic task. Small wonder that some misunderstandings and mistakes took place. But these were nothing to the work as a whole that the British Battalion did while it was in Spain.

Its memory will live for ever and provide one of the noblest pages in the history of the British Labour movement.

I went to visit the British Battalion five times and visited every part of Spain its members were in—at the battle front, behind the lines, in training camps and in hospitals, and it was a great honour and privilege to meet the comrades in all these varied circumstances as I did.

It is true that the democratic people and government of Spain were defeated. but never has the struggle against Franco ceased for a single day.. The deeds of the Spanish people who have taken part in this activity, and particularly those of the Communist Party of Spain, will never be forgotten and one day it will all prove successful. Franco will become completely defeated and the cause of the Spanish people will again triumph for ever.

On the first occasion it was decided that I should go to visit the British Battalion in January 1937, we had just had news that it had been in its first big battle at Jarama. I went to the headquarters of the International Brigade, where I met comrades from many countries who were on the staff, and they got me in touch

with Peter Kerrigan, who was in Valencia. They sent for Peter, and the next morning we set off for Morata to see the British Battalion.

Appeal for unity

Following that first visit, I addressed a meeting in the Friends Meeting House in March 1937, and the following are extracts from the speech I made at that meeting. . ,

"Is it possible to have a civil war for a matter of eight months without that posing the most urgent questions with relation to economic, political and now military situations in the world? Especially since Spain is predominantly agricultural, with no great basis of heavy industry which can allow it to produce its own munitions of war.

"It is this which adds to the gravity of the decisions which the international conference, meeting in London tomorrow and on Thursday, will have to take. believe that the leaders of that international conference, especially the leaders of the British Labour movement, stand in an unenviable position; because they have had the power that could long ago have brought complete victory to

Republican Spain. Westminster, demanding that the Conference repudiate non-intervention, strengthen the International Brigade, and demand the right for the Spanish Government to obtain arms.

"Every one of you should do this, and then 2,000 telegrams or postcards will go to the Central Hall, where the Conference is being held; it will have a tremendous political effect upon that Conference. Telegram boys will be mobilised to take telegrams all day to the Central Hall."Our boys are doing their bit. Our British Battalion of over 600 strong is now no more than 200. The rest of the comrades are either killed or wounded.

"Last Saturday morning the boys had a rest out of the firing line. These 200 got together in a little church, and I stood in what might have been meant for the pulpit, and I addressed these comrades.

"There wasn't a whine, a word of reproach. Not a comrade who said he would like to get back. There was a feeling of pride that they had been chosen to have held the most important sector of the fight that has saved Madrid.

"They have done it with heavy losses. Our Party has lost some of its best fighting men in the struggle. But they will never die. Their names will live for ever.

They represent the flower of the British people. They represent a people whohave redeemed the honour of the British Labour movement, who have removed from it that stain placed on its name by the Citrines and the Bevins.

"Those men are great men. They have done things the like of which has never been heard of before. "The boys, after two weeks', fighting, with all the losses they had sustained, were brought out of the firing line for a rest. The word came that Franco had launched a counter-attack. The British Battalion was asked would it go, in spite of its losses, back into the line. Would it re-form its ranks and try to hold that counter-attack?

"Those 200 boys went back into the fighting line and prevented the counterattack from being successful.

"Everybody in authority in the Spanish Government and the International Brigade pays the highest tribute to them. "Not a man who went there was promised a penny. I give the lie to the abominable slanders appearing in the capitalist press. They knew that they faced death in Spain. Not a man was promised any financial award: everyone was a genuine volunteer and understood what he was going out to "These boys, when they come back, will be leaders of our movement. Theywill not be content with disunity.

In the hospital

"At two o'clock on Sunday morning I went through a great hospital. I walked right through ward after ward, and at one ward I thought I recognised one of the comrades sleeping.

"I turned back the cover and saw a man whose face I knew, a Labour Party comrade from West London who had thrown up a very good job to go out. "He woke up and saw me standing there. 'I'm alright' he said. I asked him, 'What's the matter with you?' 'Oh, nothing's the matter'. But I turned down the cover and saw that his arms had been shot off from the shoulder.

"Another chap, a member of the Y.C.L. in Dundee, was obviously dying. He asked me for a pencil and paper, and wrote this little note: 'Please send my watch to my mother. Long Live the Y.C.L.!'

"And in another bed was the then leader of the Communist Party in London. A bullet had gone through his cheek. I shook him, and when he awoke, the first words he said were 'Gawd blimey! Is it you? What's the result of the L.C.C. Elections?'

"How can they say we are not sincere when we have sent our best comrades out to the International Brigade? "If they can have unity there, on the battlefields, why can't we have it here? Do you think they would stand for this? Their lives are consecrated now to unity. Because if there had not been unity in Spain, Spain would already have been a fascist colony."