Monday, November 14, 2011

Willesden - Spanish Civil War Heroes

Willesden welcomes back its heroes

March 1939

Charlie Pottins

Brent Trades Union Council in north-west London has invited Dave Chapple, from Bridgwater, to come and speak to us about Kilburn-born Howard Andrews, who died aged 101 in Taunton in May this year. A lifelong trade unionist and socialist, Howard - known to friends as 'Andy' - was one of the first to go from Willesden area (now part of Brent) to help the fight against fascism in Spain. He served in a frontline medical unit.

Hearing that Dave was interviewing and writing about Andy, someone anonymously sent him a photocopy of a little programme produced for the event which Willesden Borough Labour Party, Trades Council, and Spanish Aid Committee held in Pound Lane School on Saturday, March 18, 1939. to welcome home local members of the British Battalion in the International Brigade.

Howard is listed as Keith Andrews - he had used his brother's name - and there were also George Cornwallis, John Ducksbury, Morgan Havard, Harold Horne, Charlie Hunt, J.Russel, Alec Unthank, Danny Doyle and A.Moulton - who was to reply on the Brigaders' behalf to the welcome from deputy mayor Alderrman WH Ryde, in the chair.

The Hendon Left Singers were to perform, and also billed were MP Sydney Silverman, nurse Lillian Urmston, and Maurice Orbach, then a London County Councillor, later MP for Willesden East.

The event was to finish with the Spanish national anthem and the Internationale.

The programme also had a roll of honour, remembering Ben Murray, trade unionist, killed on the Aragon front; Sam Pearson, a Cambridge graduate, mentioned in despatches, who fell on the Ebro; John Unthank, killed in the battle of Jarama; John Stevens, a young trade unionist captured by Moorish troops at Jarama and shot; and Robert Blair, also mentioned in dispatches, whose fate was not known since he had been cut off behind enemy lines on the Aragon front.

Those were desperate times, and they were courageous men, and whatever we might think of the kind of political leadership to whose banner they were tied, we can only hope that a fraction of their spirit lives on, especially in these days of economic crisis and fascism again rearing its head.



Robert "Bob" Cooper Blair killed April 1938 Gandesa

James Jones communist party member from Harrow (and Aberaman) Killed Ebro July 1938

William Francis Durston Wembley killed September 1938 Sierra Caballs

Sam Pearson (probably Henry C H Pearson Communist Party member and Cambridge student killed July 1938 Ebro)

John Unthank Middlesborough communist party member killed Jarama February 1937

John Stevens, an engineer and communist party member killed Jarama February 1937 shot while prisoner

Ben Murray

W.H.McCullough, Workers’ Republic May 1938
By the death of Ben Murray, killed in Spain in defence of Democracy, the Communist Party of Ireland and the working class of Belfast, have lost one if its best fighters. 

Ben, a native of Armagh, came to our Movement in 1934. Prior to that he had been for a number of years in Canada and had soldiered in a crack Canadian Cavalry Regiment during the Great War. He was a gifted speaker and was always sure of an attentive audience when speaking at Custom House steps or elsewhere in Belfast on behalf of the Communist Party of the unemployed. 

As a salesman of Party literature, Ben had no rival. He readily recognised that this form of propaganda was easily the most effective and his enthusiasm for this type of work was simply terrific. He did not simply talk about it but spent hours and days going from door to door on the Shankill and Falls Roads, canvassing and selling the 'Irish Workers Voice', the 'Daily Worker'. and other Left papers. The results he obtained were a sure indication of the enthusiasm he put into his work as, where previously comrades on this class of work thought they were doing well when they sold a few dozen copes, Ben was selling in numbers of 20 dozen. 

Unfortunately the program of 1935 interfered with this class of work and Ben began to get restless at the restricted activity and he asked permission of the Party in Belfast, to go to England. He was a big loss to our Party but a very big gain to the British Party as his work there on behalf of the Daily Worker proved. 

I had not known that Ben had gone to Spain until one day I read in the Daily Worker of three members of the International brigade planting a flag in 'no man's' land to commemorate the anniversary of the Spanish Republic and one of them was Ben Murray.
Ben is dead and I believe that he would not have wished to die any other way. He once informed me in private conversation that his life did not really commence until he joined the Communist Party and that he had an interest now that was worth living and dying for.

James Jones communist party member from Harrow (and Aberaman) Killed Ebro July 1938

William Francis Durston - Wembley killed September 1938 Ebro

The Storming of the Savoy - 14th September 1940

When Max Levitas Stormed the Savoy

November 3, 2011
by Matthew Sweet

On the day of publication of Matthew Sweet’s The West End Front, we present this extract from his account of when East End Communists occupied the Savoy Hotel in 1940.

There were forty of them. There were eighty. There were a hundred. They marched. They sauntered. They were angry. They were bewildered. They came with two dogs and they came with none. Theirs was a daring act that saved thousands of lives. Or it was a pretty piece of propaganda, gift-wrapped for the Führer. What happened beneath the Savoy Hotel on 14th September 1940, the eighth night of the Blitz, depended on the position of the observer: whether she or he was Red or anti-Red; East Ender or West Ender; dreaming of revolution or restoration. That Saturday night, when those forty or eighty or a hundred arrived at the doors of the hotel – with their dogs, or dogless – a small army of journalists was on the premises for a briefing by the Ministry of Information. Few, however, wrote about their uninvited fellow guests until the war was safely over. The government also maintained a public silence on the story, despite the urgent Cabinet discussion held the following Monday morning – a discussion with sinister undertones. But old comrades, years later, made that West End outing into a famous victory, a second Battle of Cable Street. It worked its way into plays and novels, into the mythology of the British Left. And though no horses charged and no batons swung, the Savoy Hotel invasion was the most serious political demonstration of the war – and dramatic evidence that conflict with Germany did not bring the class war to an end.

Max Levitas has spent most of his long life on the front line of that conflict. He was part of the famous human barricade that halted the Blackshirts’ progress through the East End in October 1936. He stood his ground at Brady Mansions during a twenty-one-week rent strike – brought to an end only by the government’s decision to freeze rents for the duration of the war. He was one of the dozen Communist councillors elected to the Borough of Stepney in 1945, during that giddy moment when the electorate could still see the avuncular side of Joe Stalin. He was there in 1991 when the Communist Party of Great Britain voted for dissolution and secured victory in the long war of attrition against itself. He was there, too, on that Blitz- struck Saturday night in 1940, shouldering the red banner of the Stepney Young Communist League as his group of demon- strators marched from the Embankment towards the silvered canopy of the Savoy. They marched for better air-raid shelters in the East End. They marched against the myth that the Luftwaffe had brought equality of suffering to Britain. And they received their marching orders from a series of urgent editorials in the Communist newspaper, the Daily Worker: ‘If you live in the Savoy Hotel you are called by telephone when the sirens sound and then tucked into bed by servants in a luxury bomb-proof shelter,’ the newspaper asserted. ‘But if you live in Paradise Court you may find yourself without a refuge of any kind.’ And above these words, in thick bold print: ‘The people must act.’

Max Levitas nods in agreement when I read the article back to him. ‘The surface shelters protected you from shrapnel, from flak, but not much else,’ he reflects. ‘If a bomb fell on one of those it would collapse and kill everybody in it. The Communist Party argued for deep shelters. But the National Government wouldn’t listen. They wouldn’t even open the Underground. It was easy to ignore that message if you were sitting in the basement of a very nice hotel. So we decided to march on one.’ I ask him why they chose the Savoy. Max Levitas smiles a tolerant smile. ‘It was the nearest.’

I meet Max Levitas at the Idea Store, that gleaming cultural institution planted in the East End to compensate locals for the assimilation of their much-loved public library into the Whitechapel Art Gallery. He is a small, cloth-capped nonagenarian, wrapped tightly in a raincoat and muffler. Standing on the studded purple rubber floor of the foyer, he looks like a preserved fragment of the old Stepney. It is a chilling morning in February, and he can spare me an hour before he goes for his Turkish bath – a weekly ritual since the 1920s, when his father took him to the long-vanished Schewik steam rooms on Brick Lane. We catch the lift to the top-floor café, secure two cups of tea and a table with a view of the bristling City skyline, and he tells the story of his association with the area: how his parents fled the Lithuanian pogroms in 1912 and made landfall in Dublin, where Max was born three years later; how his father took the family first to Glasgow, and finally to Stepney, where work could be found among a supportive community of Jewish exiles. History radicalised those members of the Levitas clan it did not destroy: Max’s Aunt Sara and her family were burned to death in the synagogue of the Lithuanian shtetl of Akmian; Max’s father became a leading member of the distinctly Semitic, distinctly Red-tinged International Tailors and Pressers’ Union; Max’s elder brother, Maurice, fought against Franco’s forces in the Spanish Civil War; Max gave his youth to the Communist Party of Great Britain and was name-checked by Oswald Mosley in a speech denouncing the enemies of British Fascism.

The organisers of the Savoy invasion shared a similar ideological background: they were all revolutionaries. ‘And they’re all dead,’ Max sighs. ‘Some were clothing workers. Some were bootmakers. Some were dockers.’ It is an inventory of lost trades. The first names he sifts from his memory are two stevedores, Ted Jones and Jack Murphy, veterans of pre-war campaigns for unemployment relief. The rest comprise a knot of men from the Stepney Tenants’ Defence League, which organised rent strikes against slum landlords in the East End: George Rosen, its bullish secretary, known as ‘Tubby’; Solly Klotnick, a furrier and a veteran of the Battle of Cable Street; Solomon Frankel, a clothing worker who took a bullet in Spain that robbed him of the use of his right hand. Michael Shapiro, a wiry young academic from the London School of Economics. At the head of the group stood Phil Piratin, Communist councillor for Spitalfields, chief spokesperson of the invaders, and the author of the most widely read account of their night at the Savoy. His memoir Our Flag Stays Red (1948) puts seventy in the hotel lobby, among them a number of children and pregnant women. Max’s memories are different. ‘There were forty of us,’ he affirms. ‘I’m sure of that.’ I ask if there were any dogs. He shakes his head. ‘No dogs,’ he says. ‘It was the Savoy.’


During the early days of the Blitz the Government controlled media tried to show that life in London was carrying on as normal, and there was much coverage in the press of people going to parties, dining out and clubbing in the West End.

This sham, was at great odds with the experience of the people in the Working Class areas of London, who were now being systematically bombed into oblivion.

To highlight the plight of the people of Stepney, the Stepney Communist councillor Phil Piratin took on Saturday 14th September 1940, some fifetyworkers, including a group of what Time magazine called “ill-clad children" from Stepney and burst into the Savoy Hotel.

Within minutes and with the help of sympat
hetic waiters the group had invaded and occupied the Savoy Hotel shelter, stating “ if it was good enough for the rich it was good enough for the Stepney workers and their families”.

During the confusion an air raid alert, (all to helpfully), was sounded, and the Savoy Hotel manager realising that that could not be seen to send the "invaders"out into danger was forced to allow them to remain until the "all clear" siren was sounded.

The group soon settled down and after an element of negotiations the catering staff agreed to provide silver trays laden with pots of tea, bread and butter and for the children.

The next day the press was full of stories about the audacious occupation of the Savoy Hotel shelter and the terrible conditions of the shelters in Stepney. The Communist Party had succeeded in its objective.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Hayes - Roll of Honour WW1





Listed are the brave men of Hayes, West
Middlesex who gave their lives during World War One.

Addition information is based upon an initial cross reference with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Many were young, they had their lives ahead of them and they gave their lives for what they believed was a just War, many to defend the "honour" of Belgium. We can call it an "Imperialist War" a "Capitalist War", we can blame the folly of their leaders like Earl Haig and Winston Churchill (Galopilli).

But we must never forget they gave their lives for what they believed was an "honourable" and "just" cause, many were young working class men and far from being caught up in the "jingoism" of the ruling class believed it right to fight for the liberation of Belgium.

This view was no doubt reinforced by the Belgium refugees who streamed into the munition factories of Hayes during War.


E.J. Arnold (Not found)

S.P. Aird (Not Found)

H. Balls(Possible Match)
Herbert Frederick Balls, 20 Royal Fusiliers died 20/07/1916 ??????

F. Bamforth (possible match)
Francis Bamforth, 8th Bat Royal Fusilers died 07/07/1916 ??

Prvate Richard Edward Oliver Bates of Son of Annie Bates"Ivydene," Hayes End, 11th battalion, Middlesex Regiment died 09/04/1917

S.C. Bennett (Not Found)

D.C. Blyth (Not Found)

C. V. Bowgett (CONFIRMED)
Charles Victor Bowgett age33 Son of George and Fanny Eliza Bowgett; husband of Emily Bowgett, of 10, Rosedale Avenue, Hayes End, Hayes, Middx.
Rifleman 3rd Battalion Rifle Brigade died 20/10/1914

C.W Bray (Not Found)

William Henry Calf, Gunner 196th Siege Bty. Royal Garrison Artillery Son of Frederick and Kate Eugenie Calf, "Acacia", High Rd, Hayes ., died 05/04/1917 CEMETERYANZIN-ST. AUBIN

Robert Noel Calf, age 20 Private 13th Battalion, Royal FusilersSon of Frederick and Kate Eugenie Calf, Acacia", High Rd., cemetery Humercamps

C.Castle (CONFIRMED) Sergeant C. Castle age 27 Son of William G. and Sarah Castle, of 4, Railway Cottages, Hayes, Middlesex. Native of Iver, Bucks. 9th Bat Royal Fusiliers died 28/06/1918 Gezaincourt Cemetery

E.L Chambers (Not found)

A. Charlesworth (Not found)

J Chinnery (CONFIRMED)
Private James Chinnery, 9th Bat Royal Fusiliers 21 years old Son of Mr. and Mrs. Chinnery, of 49, Rosedale Avenue, Hayes End, Middlesex. 04/04/1916

P.Chitty (Not found)

J. Churchill (CONFIRMED) Private John Churchill aged 17 Son of Ena Elizabeth Churchill, of 39, Rosedale Avenue, Hayes, Middx 18/09/1916 Philosophe British, Mazingarbe.

R.E. Coleman (Not found)

Private John Gatwood Cook age 39 husband of Ellen Cook of 13 Austin Road, Hayes, Brother Colour Sergeant Cook. 13th Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, died 13th July 1917 at Baddow campa, Essex buried St Mary's Hayes.

H.Court (Possible match)
HARRY ROBERT COURT 12th Middlesex Reg Husband of Phoebe Rebecca Court, of 19, Montague Avenue, Hanwell, Middx. ????? 10/01/1917 ?????

W.Curtis (Not Found)
Private George Druce, aged 18, Son of Mr. and Mrs. George Druce, of 5, Church Walk, Hayes, Middx.9th Battalion Royal Fusiliers,20/10/1915 Noeux-les-Mines cemetery

R. Egerton (CONFIRMED)
RALPH EGERTON1st Essex Regiment age 35 06/08/1915 Son of the late Serjt. James Coleman (Connaught Rangers) and Mrs. Coleman, of Attleborough, Norfolk; husband of Harriett Elizabeth Coleman, of 25, Rosedale Avenue, Hayes End, Middx. Helles memorial

T.D. Elderidge (Not found

Private W. J. Emmett age 18 Son of Charles J. and Emma Emmett, of Hayes, Middx. 2nd Battalion London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers) died 01/07/1918 CONTAY BRITISH CEMETERY,

George Charles Ensby (CONFIRMED) George Charles Ensby Private No2 Coy 12th battalion, Royal Fusiliers killed 31 July 1917 son of George Ensby (brick maker?) 10 Rigby’s Cottage Dawley Hayes Ypres Menin Gate Memorial

G.Gates (CONFIRMED) George Gates age 30 Son of Mary Ann Gates, of Walnut Tree Cottage, Yeading, Hayes End, Middlesex. 2nd Bat Middlesex Reg 31/07/1917 - Ypers Menim Gate memorial

B.St J. Glanfield (Not found)

Private Henry Gohm 4th battalion Royal Fusiliers died 25/09/1915 Sanctuary Wood cemetery

T.W. Gregory (CONFIRMED)
Thomas williamage 26 Son of Thomas and Sarah Gregory, of 16, Angel Lane, Hayes End, Middx.C" Coy. 7th Bn.Royal Fusiliers died 06/02/1917 Thiepval cemetery

F.D. Gregory (CONFIRMED)
Corporal Frederick David Gregory age 30 Husband of Ida May Gregory, of 37, Rosedale Avenue, Hayes End, Hayes, Middx. 2nd Batallion Grenadier Guards 31/07/1917 Artillery wood

A. Gray

Charles Gye 1st Royal Fusiliers Son of Robert and Caroline Gye, of 33, Rosedale Avenue, Hayes, Middlesex 17/11/1915

F.Halford (Possible match)
Private F. Halford 4th middx reg 23/08/1914 St Symphorien Military ?????

S. Hambridge (Possible Match)
Sidney John Hambridge 2nd bat Grenadier Guards Grenadier Guards24/05/1918 ??????

G. Hammond (CONFIRMED)
Private George age 22 Son of Mr. G. Hammond, of 4, Melior Cottages, Yeading Lane, Hayes, Middx. 8th Bat Middx Reg died 19/05/1917 1st/ Aaras

J.W. Hart (not found)

A. Hawkins (Not found)

A. Haynes (not found)

Lieutenant F.A. Hewens 16/07/1918 RAF buried St Mary's Hayes

Arthur HiggsS on of Mrs. J. Higgs, of 4, White Row, Yeading, Hayes, Middx. 2nd bat Royal Fusiliers died 01/07/1916 Hawthorn ridge

A.W. Higgs (Possible match)
Albert William Higgs 2nd Battalion Middlesex Regiment 24/04/1918 ?? 90% sure

E. Higgins (CONFIRMED)
E. Higgins 32 Son of Mr. E. Higgins, of 7, Pillions Cottages, Hayes End Rd., Hayes, Middx. bat Royal Fusiliers died 19/06/1917 DICKEBUSCH NEW MILITARY CEMETERY

A. Howard (not found0

G.F. Hunnisett (CONFIRMED)
Private Frederick George Hunnisett "Sunnyside", Yeading, Hayes, Middx. 01/04/1918 Queen's Own Oxfordshire Hussars - Pozieres Memorial

W.E. Hunt (Possible match)
Son of Henry James and Elisabeth Sarah Hunt, of 12, Elthorne Park Rd., Hanwell. Born at Hanwell. Air Mechanic 2nd Class RAF 06/04/1918 Hanwell cemetery ??

E. Jermie (Jermy) (CONFIRMED)
Lance Corporal Ernest William Jermy age 21 son of William and Annie Maria Jermy of 3 Brown's Cottage, Hayes End, Middx 1st Battalion Royal Fusiliers died 25/03/1918 Pozieres Memorial

M.R. Johnson

F. Joyce (not found)

Private Albert Alfred Knight age 22 Son of mrs Alice Clark 61 Albert Road, Yiewsley, Middx 1st/8th Bat Middlesex Reg died 30/04/1915 Ypres cemetary

G. Langley (CONFIRMED)
Lance Cororal George Langley 21,Son of James and Ada Langley, of 19 Mellor Cottages, Yeading, Middx. 1/8th Bat Middlesex Regiment 16/08/1917 Tyne Cot cemetery

H. Langley
Private Harry Langley age 27 Son of James and Ada Langley, of 19, Melior Cottages, Yeading, Hayes, Middx. 17th Battalion, Middlesex Regiment died 28/04/1917 Aaras cemetray

W. Leather (not found)

A. Lovett (CONFIRMED) Private Arthur Samuel Lovett aged 19 1st east Surrey regiment Son of Arthur George and Ada Lovett, of 35, Clayton Rd., Hayes, Middx. 24/09/1916 Thieva

F. Merchant (Not found)

B. Matthews (Not found)

G.F. Mattingley (CONFIRMED)
George Francis Mattingley, age 25 , Son of James and Annie Mattingley, of Yeading, Hayes, Middx Yeading. 20 Bat Kings Royal Rifles16/07/1916

G.W. Meads (Not found)

W.H. New (Not found)

E.C. Nice (Possible Match)
Edward Charles Albert Nice10th Bat Essex Regiment 26/09/1916 Thiepval ???

A. Norwood (CONFIRMED)
Corporal Alfred Norwood age 40 Son of Charlie and Helen Norwood, of 17, Cowley Mill Rd., Uxbridge; husband of Emily Norwood, of 18, New Windsor St., Uxbridge, Middx. 12th bat Royal Fusiliers 15/06/1917 Ypes

W. Palmer (Not found)
(Might be William Plamer - Candaian son of Henry Palmer

A. Penn (not found)

R.C. Pickering

W,H. Pomeroy
12 Bat Suffolk Regiment 05/05/1917 ?????

Lance Corporal Harry Powell age 31 son of Stephen William and Ellen Powell of 5 Mill's Cottages, Wood End Green, Hayes End. Middx died 15/10/1918 Duhallow ADS cemetery

H.M. Prince (Not found)

Private Eric Norman Rayner age 24 Son of Mrs M Rayner of 35 Angel Lane, Hayes End, Middlesex 13th Battalion Royal Fusiliers 5/10/1917 Tyne Cot Cemetery

W. Rayner (Not found)

W, Redden (not found)

T. Renton (Not found)

W. Richardson (Not found)

Frederick Frederick John Sadler, 2nd Middlesex Reg ,Thiepval 01/07/1916 ????

Private Thomas Henry Salter age 19 Son of Silas and Emma Salter, of 1, Park Lane, Hayes End, Middx. Royal Fusiliers 02/10/1915 Loos

W. Sargood (Possible Match)
1st Bat Royal Fusiliers 17/01/1916 ??

C. Sherwood (Not found)

C.Sherwood (CONFIRMED)
Private Charles William Sherwood 8th Battalion Royal FusiliersSon of Emma Sherwood, of 8, Town Field Rd., Hayes, and the late Thomas Sherwood; husband of Maud Elizabeth Sherwood, of 1, Grainges Yard, Uxbridge, Middx age 35 05/10/1916 Thiepval

J. Smith (Not found)

H. Stacey (Not found)

A. J. Stonestreet (Possible Match)
Private Alfred John Stonestreet age 22 Son of Benjamin John and Sarah Emily Stonestreet, of Myrtle Cottage, High Rd., Southall, Middx.13th Kensington Bn, London Reg. died 01/07/1916 COUIN BRITISH CEMETERY

W. Sullivan (Not found)

W. Syred Lance (CONFIRMED)
Corporal William Arthur Syred Son of the late William Arthur Syred and of Betsy Witherly (formerly Syred), of 33, Blyth Rd., Hayes, Middx. 25/09/1915 Ypres 5th Bat Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry

W.C. Tapping (Not found)

W.H. Taylor (Not found)

A. Tripp (Possible Match)
Albert Tripp, Rifleman Rifle Brigade 16/12/1914 Ploegsteert ?????

W.T. Turner (Not Found)


Henry Albert Turner, aged 35 Husband of Florence Fearnley Turner, of "Claverley," Cromwell Rd., Hayes End, Middx. Born at Hayes End. 6th Battalion Queen's Own (Royal West Kent Regiment) died 09/04/1918BOUZINCOURT RIDGE

H. Tyrell (Possible match)

P. Tyrell (Possible match)

W. Vaughan.(Not found)

J. Watts G. West (not found)

W.T. Williams (Not found)


The Palmer Brothers from Hayes (sons of Hayes Labour Party founder and Councillor Henry Palmer) They died fighting in the Canadian Army.

William Alfred Palmer, Eastern Ontario Reg (Killed 26 th April 1916 buried Woods Cemetery, Belgium).

Lieutenant Henry Arthur Palmer, Central Ontario Reg (killed 30th September 1918 buried Cantimpre Canadian
Cemetery, Nord France)


L "Leonard" W. Spencer was born in Guildford 29th July 1889, educated at Collegete School at Reading, He was the son of Mr. T. B. Spencer, of 66, Kidmore Road, Caversham, Reading.

Aged just 17, he left home to open a business in Uxbridge, living later at Belmont Road, Uxbridge. Leonard Spencer went on to helped establish and became the first secretary of the Uxbridge Chamber of Commerce, while also participating in the establishment of a local parliament (debating society).

As an early motor cyclist enthusiast he was reported to be the first person to have ever successfully motorcycle up Snowdon, he also toured Norway and Iceland as a young man.

Spencer had been a keen supporter of Mr Edmund Dene
Morel (later Labour MP for Dundee and married to Mary Richardson) agitation over the brutal rule of King Leopold in the Belgium Congo (Now the Democratic republic of Congo).

Spencer became a Christian Socialist believing "that there was no incompatibility but rather the fullest harmony between Christianity and socialism".

He went on to become the founding Secretary of the Uxbridge Independent Labour Party (ILP) and in 1910 he had been elected to Uxbridge Council as a Labour candidate along with Edwin Westcott. While on the council he was involved in the plan to build some of the first Uxbridge Council houses and it was stated that these "were definitely a monument to the energies and the eloquence of Mr Spencer".

When World War 1 broke he
considered it his Christain duty to serve and he was one of the first to enlist as a Cyclist Orderly in the (London Cycling Regiment) later 13th Kensington Battalion in order to defend the sovereignty of "little countries overseas".

He wrote home stating "he would not come home for the world until victory was won" and encouraging others to follow him and enlist.

At Ypres, during the Battle of Neuve Chapel during March and April 1915, A battle which represented the first large scale organised attack undertaken by the British army during the war. Spencer's Battalion took major losses, he underwent a terrible ordeal, suffering from hunger, thirst and sleepless nights. He only took off his clothes to wash and slept every night with his motorcycle by his side (probably providing a vital courier service). He served without respite for seven months.

The Regimental History of the Kensington's Regiment describes their experiences during Neuve Chapelle. C Company was involved on the first day, and advanced at 9 a.m. to the village cemetery, where they had to take cover amidst churned-up graves. On the 12th of March, their C.O. (Lieutenant-Colonel Lewis) noted that by 12.25 p.m. the German bombardment of their positions (in the old front line) was "Perfect Hell".

It seems that this "perfect hell" had finally undermined Leonard Spencer's fundamental Christian beliefs, it was stated later that he had rediscovered his beliefs before his untimely death, shot through the head by a German snipper on the 1st September 1915.

Private (and Comrade) L.W. Spencer is buried at Longuenesse St Omer, France.

United Kingdom Private 2024London Regiment01/09/1915 Age: 26 II. A. 23.

International Brigade Banner on TV Englnad V Spain

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Great War - Emergency Plans in case of invasion

The Lord Lieutenant of Buckinghamshire, Lord Lincolnshire attended the July meeting of Buckinghamshire County Council and made a speech full of suggestions as to what the country would be expected to do in the event of hostile landing on the East Coast.

1. Posting and distribution of emergency notices

2. Reception, the care of and passing on of refugees from the East
3. Receiving and passing westwards cattle driven from the East
4. Arranging rest and food camps for cattle driven westwards
5. Hospital arrangements at specified places for sick and wounded removed from the Eastern counties
6. Reserving and keeping free from traffic certain main roads required for military use
7. Arrangements for registration and branding cattle in the county
8.Arranging and equipping stations for live stock in the county
9. Removal or destruction of the same if specifically ordered
10. Arrangements for removal and destruction of boats, launches etc on the River Thames, in accordance with the scheme prepared by the Thames Conservancy.
11 Precautions against hostile aircraft and signals for giving warning of their approach
12. Collection of motors, bicycles, carts, carriages, horses and harness, petrol etc
13. Removal or destruction of same if ordered
14. Removal or destruction of food supplies if ordered
15. Collection of tools, picks, shovels etc required by the military
16. Collection of working parties in charge of foremen, the policy of the Government being to encourage ever able bodied man to task his part in the defence of the Realm
17. A general census of all the above is the hands of police, together with lists of flour mills and granaries etc
18. Reservation of certain roads for ordinary traffic and of other roads for driving cattle.
19. Generally to advice the civil population in Buckinghamshire to remain cool in the their homes and to pursue their ordinary avocation, and with regard to owners of local cattle, to register with the police, obtain brands and await orders. It is anticipated that local cattle will not be removed

Uxbridge Advertiser
July 23rd 1915

Sunday, November 06, 2011

ICA: The Military Wing of the Irish Trade Unions

"An armed organisation of the Irish working class is a phenomenon in Ireland. Hitherto the workers of Ireland have fought as parts of the armies led by their masters, never as a member of any army officered, trained and inspired by men of their own class. Now, with arms in their hands, they propose to steer their own course, to carve their own future."

(James Connolly, Workers' Republic 30 October 1915)

The Irish Citizen Army (Arm Cathartha na hÉireann) or ICA, was the armed wing of the Irish trade unions established in Dublin in 1913, Ireland for the defence of worker’s demonstrations from police attacks.

The Irish Citizen Army took part in the Easter Uprising of 1916 and in response the British army destroyed their headquarters at liberty Hall

The Blantyre Explosion Scandal - Never Foget - Never Forgive

The Blantyre Explosion (Scotland)

by Jimmy Connell

image of Mine Gas Explosion

22nd October 1877

At this time High Blantyre was ‘a maze of dirty and intricate ways and byways’ with a mine slightly to the south of the village. It had five pits and was producing an extraordinary 900,000 tons of coal.

The mine was known to be very gassy but complaints by miners a few days before the disaster were fobbed off by the foreman, Joseph Gilmour. He told the miners, “There'll not be a man fall in this pit, I'll guarantee that”.

Explosion, 8.45am

On the fateful day the shifts went down the mine as normal at 5.30am. There was nothing unusual as the men carried out their backbreaking work in the low tunnels or ’stoopings’. At 8:45am the history of Blantyre changed as there was a loud explosion and flames shot from No. 3 and No. 5 pit shafts.

Women and off-duty miners hurried to the scene and soon 7 bodies were hoisted from No. 2 pit but it was No. 3 pit that concerned them. At midday the mines inspector went into the pit and found roof falls and a clear smell of firedamp.

The main shaft had to be cleared and men worked in teams until they broke through at 10pm. Four miners were found but they were so seriously injured that they died later.

“... bodies and body parts were intermingled with all sorts of debris and strewn all around. Pit props had been blown away and stoppings blasted out, everywhere were bricks, smashed timbers and sleepers, twisted rails and hutches smashed and piled together making progress through the mine extremely difficult. At the end of No. 3 some survivors were emerging, some terribly injured, most badly burned and all deep in shock. ” Eye-witness


Work continued throughout the night and into the next day and despite very poor weather, sightseers arrived from Glasgow and Hamilton. The crowd around the pithead was so large that a hundred police were on duty to control it.

It was to take a week before the bodies were removed entirely from the mine which caused great distress for the families and incensed the villagers. Eventually it was revealed that there was a death toll of 207 resulting in High Blantyre having 92 widows and 250 fatherless children.

Blantyre entered the history books as having the worst ever Scottish mining disaster. The inquiry into the disaster failed to identify the precise cause but it was likely due to a sudden release of methane gas from a small roof fall being ignited by a naked flame.

Widows, and their treatment

image of Explosion

Six months after the explosion, thirty four widows, whose husbands had been killed in the disaster, appeared at Hamilton Sheriff Court.

They had previously received letters from the colliery, owners informing them that they must leave their tied cottages. Having failed to do so, William Dixon Limited had raised summonses against them.

When asked by the Sheriff why they had not vacated their homes, the Sheriff asked, “Are you not getting enough money from the relief fund?” Each widow replied “I have not the means to pay a rent with. ”

The Sheriff stated that it was out of kindness that the company had allowed them to remain in their houses for so long.

One widow claimed that they had a cruel way of showing their kindness and that the firm should have carried out the evictions on the day of the explosion as the public would have taken her by the hand.

Eviction of Widows

The Sheriff stated that he could scarcely agree with her and suggested that both the firm and the public had been extremely kind and generous. He then decreed that the thirty-four widows and their children should be removed from their homes in two weeks later, on 28th May 1878.

The evictions were carried out and replacement miners were allocated their homes. No-one knows what became of these unfortunate widows and their children.

In all probability they had to seek accommodation in the Poor House. The ejection of the Blantyre widows was a sad and disgraceful end to the tragic story of the Blantyre explosion.