Sunday, December 26, 2010

Hamish Henderson - D Day Dodgers

It is often wrong stated that Tory Lady Astor was the first women elected to Parliament, radical historians will know that
Constance Markievicz was elected at the same election as a Sinn fein MP but refused to take her seat.

Lady Astor, well known anti catholic, anti Semitic, anti communist and therefore a supporter of German appeasement
and supporter of the "Cliveden Set. She later attacked British troops in Burma and famously in Italy suggesting they had opted to fight in Italy to avoid the impending D Day landings - The Forces fighting hard against the Germans in Italy. wrote a number of songs in response attacking Lady Astor. the most famous of which was collected and publicised by Hamish Henderson.

The D-Day Dodgers

(Words: Anonymous; compiled and edited by Hamish Henderson.
Tune: Lili Marlene.
Recorded, Ewan MacColl, Folkways (British Army Songs)

We're the D-Day Dodgers, way off in Italy
Always on the vino, always on the spree;
Eighth Army scroungers and their tanks,
We live in Rome, among the Yanks.
We are the D-Day Dodgers, way out in Italy;(2X)

We landed in Salerno, a holiday with pay,
The Jerries brought the bands out to greet us on the way.
Showed us the sights and gave us tea,
We all sang songs, the beer was free
To welcome D-Day Dodgers to sunny Italy.

Naples and Casino were taken in our stride,
We didn't go to fight there, we went just for the ride.
Anzio and Sangro were just names,
We only went to look for dames
The artful D-Day Dodgers, way out in Italy.

Dear Lady Astor, you think you're mighty hot,
Standing on the platform, talking tommyrot.
You're England's sweetheart and her pride
We think your mouth's too bleeding wide.
We are the D-Day Dodgers, in sunny Italy.

Look around the mountains, in the mud and rain,
You'll find the scattered crosses, some that have no name.
Heartbreak and toil and suffering gone,
The boys beneath them slumber on.
They are the D-Day Dodgers who stay in Italy.

Hamish Henderson

Henderson was attached during WWII to the 8th Army, prior to the invasion
of Sicily in June 1943, and his intelligence operations revealed that there
were no German troops manning the strategic Sicilian beaches, only autonomous
Italian troops who, he suggested, would "melt away into the landscape", which
was exactly what happened. Not only did he personally intercept and arrest
the German paratroop commander in Sicily, Major Guenther, but it was under
Captain Henderson’s personal supervision that Marshall Graziani, the war
minister in Mussolini’s last government, drew up the Italian surrender order
on 29 April, 1945, the first major surrender of an Axis army in the West.

Folklorist, poet and songwriter
Born: 11 November, 1919, in Blairgowrie, Perthshire
Died: 9 March, 2002, in an Edinburgh nursing home, aged 82

GENERALLY acknowledged as the father of the Scottish folk revival, Hamish Henderson, poet, cultural and political activist, singer-songwriter and folklorist, received his initiation into folk studies literally at his mother’s knee.

As he once recalled: "My mother could sing in Gaelic, Scots and French - French because she had been a nurse in the First World War. One of my earliest memories is of her marching through the house singing the Marseillaise. At the age of seven, I asked her about a song she was singing. We had a book of songs in the house. I asked her where that song was in the book. She said: ‘Some of the songs we sing are not in books.’ That started me off as a folklorist and collector."

Educated as a scholarship pupil at Dulwich College in London and at Cambridge University, where he studied languages (and spoke in debates in defence of the Spanish Republic), Henderson became a "temporary honorary research fellow" at the newly-founded School of Scottish Studies at Edinburgh University in 1951. His work was championed by the renowned collector Calum MacLean (brother of the poet Sorley), and, in 1954, he was offered a permanent post. A native Gaelic speaker, he often referred to his Perthshire Gaelic proudly, though not without irony, as "tinker Gaelic".

Prior to his university post, Henderson had acted as a "native guide" to the American folklorist and ethnomusicologist, Alan Lomax, on his visit to Scotland in 1951. In his collected essays, Alias MacAlias (1992), Henderson was to pinpoint this visit as the beginning of the folk revival. But Henderson had already begun to write and collect, and had published Ballads of World War II, a bawdy and vituperative collection of soldiers’ songs, which included some of his own very fine war-time compositions, most notably Ballad of the D-Day Dodgers and Highland Division’s Farewell to Sicily.

In order to evade the censor, it was published "privately" under the auspices of the fictitious "Lili Marlene Club (Glasgow)", but the book earned him the self-righteous wrath of Lord Reith and associates at the BBC, and he was prevented from making a series of programmes on ballad-making. In fact, he was kept off state radio for ten years because of this publication and because (as an ex-intelligence officer) he had been "ranting red revolution", as he once put it.

Ironically, sweet revenge was to be his when he publicly turned down an OBE award in 1983 in protest at the Thatcher government’s nuclear arms policy and was, as a result, voted Scot of the Year by listeners to Radio Scotland.

A life-long socialist, Henderson introduced the name of Antonio Gramsci to the Scottish Left (as well as to Hugh MacDiarmid). Described by Eric Hobsbawm as "probably the most original communist thinker of the 20th century in Western Europe", Gramsci’s influence on Henderson was profound, one of his favourite quotations from the Italian philosopher being: "That which distinguishes folksong in the framework of a nation and its culture is neither the artistic fact nor the historic origin; it is a separate and distinct way of perceiving life and the world, as opposed to that of ‘official’ society."

Henderson first heard of Gramsci from the mainly communist Italian Partisans, to whom he was attached during the Italian campaign in the Second World War. He was sent the first edition of Gramsci’s Lettere dal Carcere when it appeared in 1947, and he set about translating it. Prison Letters did not, however, make it into print until 1974, when the translation first appeared in two special editions of the New Edinburgh Review, and subsequently in book form in 1988.

Henderson’s war experiences, in the Desert campaign, in Sicily and Italy (evocatively captured in his personal documentary for BBC Scotland, The Dead, the Innocent in 1980), also inspired his Elegies for the Dead in Cyrenaica (1948), a book of poems for which he received the Somerset Maugham Award, as well as the following note of praise - and warning - from the eminent historian EP Thompson: "You must never let yourself ... be driven into the arms of the ‘culture boys’ who ‘appreciate’ pretentiousness and posturing. They would kill your writing, because you, more than any other poet I know, are an instrument through which thousands of others can become articulate. And you must not forget that your songs and ballads are not trivialities - they are quite as important as the Elegies."

In fact, although he was a very fine poet (and arguably one of the most significant poetic voices of the Second World War), it was the songs and the ballads that were to attract him both as writer and collector; and Thompson’s description of him as "an instrument through which thousands of others can become articulate" proved genuinely prophetic.

In the words of the singer/song-writer Adam McNaughton (writing in Chapman magazine in 1985): "Three strands are distinguishable in the Scottish folksong revival: the academic, the club/festival movement and the traditional. Perhaps the only person who has striven to intertwine the three has been Dr Henderson ... Henderson’s collecting style is obvious on listening to any of his recordings. He is never the fly on the wall, trying to efface himself altogether. The collecting occasion is a ceilidh in which he is sharing and his voice rings out in choruses or in responsive laughter. Perhaps a more controversial aspect is his now well-known carrying of songs from one singer to another, who in his opinion could make good use of it. Henderson wastes no anxiety on ‘intruding’ with a tape-recorder into the oral tradition. The last thing he wishes is to record museum pieces; he wants a tradition that is fermenting and creative ... Hamish Henderson has always valued and encouraged young singers and story-tellers within the tradition."

Henderson lived for months at a time with the travelling people of Scotland, collecting songs, classical ballads and stories which had been passed along "the carrying stream", the travellers having a strong oral tradition, overlooked or ignored (sometimes for purely snobbish reasons) by previous collectors. His work in this area is often regarded as his greatest achievement. He showed the world, particularly the academic world, that Scottish traditional culture was still vigorous and fermenting, and then he went one step further: he brought the travellers’ wealth of oral culture to the public’s attention.

At the People’s Festival Ceilidhs in Edinburgh in the early Fifties, he provided the first public platforms bringing together traditional and revivalist singers. He supported the new folksong clubs (starting, in particular, the Edinburgh University Folk Song Society along with Stuart MacGregor), and became a stalwart of the Traditional Music and Song Association, acting as its president until 1983.

Henderson was particularly proud of his discovery of Jeannie Robertson, once described by AL Lloyd as "a singer, sweet and heroic". In fact, it would be no exaggeration to say that he was prouder of having "discovered" and promoted Jeannie Robertson than of any other achievement. Like many of the travellers (and other tradition bearers such as the Border shepherd, Willie Scott), Jeannie became a close friend. (Henderson’s return to the north-east, where he did much of his initial collecting, was ably captured in Grampian Television’s 1992 Journey to a Kingdom , directed by Timothy Neat). In later years, looking back, Henderson often spoke of his discovery of Jeannie in terms of the "justification" of his life’s work.

His contribution to the folk revival was, in fact, much greater and further-reaching than this. Working closely with enlightened teachers such as Morris Blythman ("Thurso Berwick") and Norman Buchan (later the Labour MP), he helped inspire a new generation of singers, including the likes of Jean Redpath, Jimmie Macgregor and Josh McCrae. At the School of Scottish Studies he operated a covert "open door" policy, giving many vital access to materials though they were not matriculated students, and he went on to inspire other revivalist singers, among them Dick Gaughan.

Many of his own songs have passed into the tradition, including, perhaps most notably, The Freedom Come All Ye, which has now achieved a status akin to that of an unofficial national anthem in some circles, and The John MacLean March. The latter tribute to the Red Clydesider was first sung by Willie Noble at a commemorative meeting organised by Henderson and Morris Blythman under the auspices of the Scotland-USSR Society in Glasgow in 1948. With 2,000 people in attendance, Blythman later described the singing of Henderson’s composition as "the first swallow of the folk revival".

That the song’s choral phrase "great John MacLean" derives from a poem by Sorley MacLean (Clan MacLean) is but one small instance of the cross-fertilisation which has always taken place in Scotland between "folk" and "literature" - a cross-fertilisation which Henderson not only embodied but also championed. And championed so vociferously in his famous "flyting" with Hugh MacDiarmid in the letters pages of The Scotsman in 1964, where he not only accused the enfant terrible of Scottish letters of "a kind of spiritual apartheid" but also argued that "by denigrating Scots popular poetry now, Mr MacDiarmid is trying to kick away from under his feet one of the ladders on which he rose to greatness".

The source of the dispute was MacDiarmid’s thrawn dismissal of folk-song sources as "spring-boards for significant work". Only, in this instance, the Langholm Byspale perhaps more than met his match. While Henderson tirelessly championed MacDiarmid’s own work (and on occasion provided him with more than moral support), he baulked at the great poet’s "arty" attitude to politics and, in particular, his cultural elitism. For at bottom, Henderson was humanitarian in everything he did, and said, and always held the field for the "democratic intellect". He saw no other way, and his life’s work, his very motivation, could perhaps be best described by that telling phrase of George Elder Davie’s.

As a visiting student in pre-war Nazi Germany, Henderson acted as a courier for an organisation set up by the Society of Friends (the Quakers), "sending on certain communications to their rightful destinations", the contents of which he never examined. He was, in fact, part of a clandestine network working to help those in danger in the Third Reich and, although ultimately he did not share their pacifist principles, he maintained a deep respect for the Quakers throughout his life. He was followed. He was questioned, but he was never caught out, his excellent German coming in handy (as later would his Italian).

He told me that on one occasion he stood within yards of the Fuehrer as he passed, standing in an open car during one of the interminable Nazi parades. He described the atmosphere as one almost of "sexual hysteria", with young women (and some not so young) screaming and crying "rather like a Beatles concert", though he thought the diminutive dictator an "unprepossessing" figure, returning the Nazi salutes with a "foppish" wave.

Henderson crossed from Germany into Holland on 27 August, 1939, a few days before war was declared. He volunteered but was turned down because of his eyesight. Called up the following year, he joined the Pioneer Corps and spent the winter of 1940-41 building defences along the Sussex beaches, working alongside Jewish refugees from Germany (this regiment being the only one which admitted them). In the spring of 1941, he volunteered as an intelligence officer and was soon shipped out to North Africa, holding to the belief that this "was a war that had to be won", while later dedicating his Elegies "to the dead of both sides". In the final analysis. he saw all war as "human civil war".

He was attached to the 8th Army, prior to the invasion of Sicily in June 1943, and his intelligence operations revealed that there were no German troops manning the strategic Sicilian beaches, only autonomous Italian troops who, he suggested, would "melt away into the landscape", which was exactly what happened. Not only did he personally intercept and arrest the German paratroop commander in Sicily, Major Guenther, but it was under Captain Henderson’s personal supervision that Marshall Graziani, the war minister in Mussolini’s last government, drew up the Italian surrender order on 29 April, 1945, the first major surrender of an Axis army in the West.

After the liberation of Rome on 5 June, 1945, Henderson also paid a visit to the city’s former SS commander, Lieutenant Colonel Kappler, in jail. It was Kappler who, after a Partisan attack in Rome, had been directly responsible for the retaliatory massacre of 335 civilian hostages in the Ardeatine caves on the outskirts of the city in March 1944. The Scottish soldier wanted to see for himself what kind of man could commit such an atrocity. He found him to be "a stiffly correct, rather prosaic German". Kappler was described by his own men as "an ice cold, ambitious fanatic", and Henderson always thought of him as "the carrier of a deadly disease".

On a return visit to Italy in 1950, Henderson was expelled by the right-wing government of the day for speaking on behalf of the Partisans of Peace, and he did not return to the country until the making of The Dead, The Innocent, though he was a frequent visitor thereafter. The singer-songwriter (often referred to fondly and mischievously by Sorley MacLean as "Comrade Captain") was also a founder member of, and tireless campaigner for, CND and the Anti-Apartheid Movement. His song, The Men of Rivonia (Free Mandela), written to a Spanish Republican tune was, he was told, actually sung on Robben Island when Mandela was imprisoned there. I once witnessed Henderson singing it to (or, more precisely, at) a South African diplomat during an Edinburgh International Folk Festival ceilidh in the early Eighties. The man left early.

Henderson also believed that he was the target of two assassination attempts by people whom he could only assume were MI5/MI6 personnel operating in cahouts with BOSS, the South African security services. This was not something he spoke about lightly or often. He described to me one of these hit-and-run attempts on an Edinburgh street in clear detail.

An Old Labour man and a veteran home-ruler, Henderson was also involved in many and various post-war home-rule campaigns and organisations, as well as the John MacLean Society. He also played his part in the setting up of the short-lived Scottish Labour Party of the Seventies.

Although he spoke often of his mother, he rarely spoke of his father or his father’s family. He told me that he was, in fact, an illegitimate son of a cousin to the Dukes of Atholl, and was a direct descendant of Robert II. Bill Shankly’s famous description of Jock Stein as "a man with the blood of Bruce in his veins" was literally true in Henderson’s case. The reason he did not speak publicly about his parentage had nothing to do with any sense of shame about being illegitimate. He simply did not think that any public knowledge of his aristocratic links would benefit him in the work he did.

He was very proud of, and close to, his two daughters, Janet and Christine, and to his German wife, Katzel. But it was no secret to anyone who knew him that Hamish was bisexual and he spoke and wrote openly on such matters long before it was fashionable (or safe) to "come out". (He also intensely disliked the word "gay").

He spoke often of his Perthshire childhood, recalling once how, at the age of five, he was evicted along with his mother from their cottage because she could not afford to pay the rent. He knew, first hand as he once put it, "what the Clearances meant". He was brought up in the Episcopalian tradition, looked upon the Episcopal Church as, historically, "the Scottish church", and was proud of its links with the Jacobites. He had little or no fondness for Presbyterianism, and often attacked the Church of Scotland for its role in the Clearances.

In some ways there was as much of the Jacobite in him as there was of the Jacobin. He was also a man who did a great many private kindnesses for a myriad of folk. Though never a rich man, he helped many people in financial need over the years, and gave of his time and talent, not least to Scotland’s small literary magazines, generously.

Once, walking with him from the School of Studies in George Square, Edinburgh, to his favourite howff, Sandy Bell’s in Forrest Road, we saw approaching us in Middle Meadow Walk the kenspeckle figure of Father Anthony Ross, then rector of Edinburgh University. Hamish remarked: "Look, here comes Father Anthony. That man’s heart could float a battleship."

Surely a fitting epitaph for Hamish Henderson himself.


(A Canadian Nursing Sister stationed at Canadian hospital in England Roberta MacAdams was the second woman elected to the Legislative Assembly of Alberta in 1917)

Clarion Movement - Football not Cannonballs

Dickie Bond (Hillingdon) Workers Olympics - British Workers' Sports Federation team at the Red Workers' Spartakiade in Moscow in 1928

(Think Dickie is front row 3rd on right ??)

Me refers to Bill Hill

Photo Melvyn Hirst

Football Not Cannonballs

Tom Groom famous for his role in establishing the "Socialist" Clarion Cycling club had by the 1920's devoted himself to promoting the International workers sports movement (International Union for Workers' Physical Education & Sport).

Its objective was to encourage socialist youth of both sexes who were fighting capitalism, and that it aimed to develop in them the taste for, and the practice of, physical education, sports, gymnastics, cycle racing and cycle touring

At the same time they advocated the use of the Esperanto language to reinforce progress towards breaking down misunderstanding between people of different countries and "Killing the war spirit

Tom Groom set about raising the necessary money to bring a football team from the Labour Sports Federation in France to the 1921 Clarion Cycling Club meet at Chester (Chester FC's ground) to play a Clarion team. The ceremonial kick off was performed by veteran socialist H.M. Hyndman wearing his famous top hat.

In 1922 the Clarion Football team played a return fixture in Paris, at Clarion the Easter meet in London 1923 a french team played a Clarion team, the French team winning 2-1.

These matches were promoted under the slogan "Footballs not Cannonballs" as part of what was described in the Clarion as a new movement towards international peace by substituting sport for militarism


With the Clarion Cycling Club In Paris & Brussels, June 1922

In 1922 the Clarion C.C. were invited, to send athletes to compete in various events in Paris and Brussels, against teams selected from members of the "International Workers Sports Federation". The Clarion Cycling Club at that time, was the only organisation, affiliated to the I.W.S.F., in this country, so the members of the various branches of the Clarion Fellowship subscribed to a Sports Fund and it became possible to send Cyclists, Footballers and Swimmers in June 1922. A tour had been arranged so that anyone who wished, could travel with the Teams, and as about fifty people had arranged their holidays to come with us, we were promised some vocal support. We duly arrived in Paris, and were met by an enthusiastic crowd. Some of them were old friends, who had competed against us previously and it was all vary nice to see them again. Greetings over, we were taken to the Co-op Hall where a Banquet awaited us. It would be impossible for me to pronounce the various courses, there would be about twelve of them, also several sorts of wines, but after about two hours of feasting and being toasted and generally having a good time, we were taken to our hotel where we were glad to get to bed.

The following day, Sunday, June 5th.1922, was the Sports Day, so we were taken to St. Denis on the outskirts of Paris, to the football field, A gymnastic display was being given when we arrived, by a team of girls from Czechoslovakia and what a fine team they were.

The Football Match was the next event, and so we had to get stripped as soon as possible. The footballers were given a great ovation, the band played us on to the field to the tune of the "Internationale", the Clarion Captain was presented with a bouquet of flowers and then we kicked off before a crowd of about 10,000 people who had come to watch 22 "working lads" battle with a football instead of cannon balls!

The Clarion team were soon in trouble, "Bob" Boddy, our goalie was injured, when he collided with an opponent, and although we covered him as well as we could, the French team beat him three times with high shots, which he was unable to reach, owing to his injuries.

I felt sorry for 'Bob' for he was a real good goalie, and he was beat with shots which he could have stopped without much trouble normally. However it was the luck of the game. At half time we were all being treated for various aches and pains, due mostly to the hard sun-baked ground, which was like rough concrete, and very different from the soft muddy grounds we were used to playing on. In the second half we put all we knew into the game, but although we had more of the play and did more attacking, we could not get past the French goalie who was like 'a cat on hot bricks' for agility and so we were beaten, but not disgraced.

After the football match we all went off to see the swimming events, which were being held in a branch of a canal close by the cyclists had already gone off on their 50 Kilometer road race, which was run in the Continental style, with a massed start. We had four riders in the event, but we had to wait until the riders came back before we knew the story of the race.

Our swimmers soon gave us something to shout about. with the Scott family from Atherton very prominent. The three Clarion ladies won the team event for us. Then, Pa Scott and his son Tommy, along with George Harrison from Oldham, (the last named had played football previously) won the gents team race. Then Tommy Scott won the 500 meters free style event in as glorious a race anyone could wish to see.

Did we shout? most of the people were past it by now, they had used their lungs to such purpose that they could only whisper to each other. Tommy Scott was the hero, a lad of about 16 years, who walked about dry land like a sailor would, who had not stepped ashore for about 12 months, but in the water, fishes crawled under stones, when they saw him, and 'tucked their heads underneath their fins';, ashamed of themselves. It was a good job for Tommy that his sister was there to look after his bouquets. At the conclusion of the swimming events, we got word that Harry Williamson had won the cycle race for us, and another Clarion rider came in third, after being off the course. The other two riders had trouble, so we did very well in this event, although it had not been possible for us to give our riders our vocal support during the race, After the Sports we were entertained to another banquet, Speeches were made, various people got up and said something, we did not know what, we only knew it was something about Peace through Sport, and we all agreed with that, We were toasted, and the International Workers Sports Federation was toasted. Tom Groom, our National President should have replied, but thanks to Tommy Scott and our swimmers, his voice had gone, and so he just could not do it,

The following day we all went to Versailles and roamed about the Palace Grounds. We saw the Hall of Mirrors, where the Peace Treaty was signed in 1919, and other places of French historical interest. On our way back from Versailles, a halt was called at a wayside Beer Garden, where welcome drinks were served to us in large glasses, and then back to Paris.

On Tuesday we were left to do as we liked, it being our last day in Paris, so we split up into small groups and roamed about the city, visiting the various noted show places and boulevards which make Paris so famous, The Clarion football team and supporters left Paris, for Brussels,

On the Wednesday morning, and we were given a good send off by our French comrades, The journey to Brussels was very tiring, the sun was hot, the train was very slow, and to make matters worse, there was not a dining car on the train. We had taken a wrong train. However we had to make the best of it.

After several hours of crawling along with numerous short stops, we eventually reached the Frontier. It seemed to take us hours to get through, first the French customs, and then the Belgian customs, then we got going at last, but there were no prospects of food or drink until we got to Brussels.

We did have a little interlude to break the monotony of the journey. At one of the small stations where we stopped for a few minutes, there was a hawker selling fruit. Joe Atherton, 'one of the Bolton boys' jumped down to purchase enough for our carriage, and gave the man a coin about the value of two shillings. 'Joe' expected some change, the train began to move. Joe had been in the Army, so he knew a few words, and he used them grabbed some more fruit and jumped into the train as it was gathering speed "Leave it to Joe".

We got to Brussels at last, in time for Supper, having been without food since breakfast time. The Belgian people took us to a hotel close to the station, and we were soon enjoying our supper. Then off to bed, for we were all very weary. The next day we were conducted round Brussels. First we went on to the roof of the Co-operative Hall to see the Panorama of Brussels. The most prominent building was the Cathedral, S.S.Michel et Gudule, which towered over the city like a sentinel. I am afraid most of us were not in the right mood for sight seeing, being stiff and sore after the long train journey of the day before, but I was certainly impressed by the beautiful carving and statues on the Cathedral, when I got a closer view of it. It surely must rank as one of the finest buildings of its kind in the world.

As we had to play football the following day it was thought advisable for the team to rest as much as possible and concentrate on getting as fit as we could. We wanted to win this match, and we had been told that the Belgians were a better team than the French. We got another great reception from a crowd of about 6,000. The Continental people do, like to see an English football team. We marched on to the field arm in arm with the Belgians, whilst the band played the "Internationale". The game started, and the Clarion team were soon in trouble, Joe Atherton with a thigh injury and I with a sprained ankle - 'Souvenirs from, Paris is'. The hard ground which we had again to play on-had soon found our weak spots, and two of us were virtually passengers for the rest of the game. Under the circumstances it was no surprise, when we were again beaten, but only by the odd goal, after one of the sternest battles of football I have ever experienced. The Belgians were very fast and vigorous, and although our defense stood up to them very well, our forwards, with two cripples, could not work up any successful attack. However, although the Clarion had lost both football matches, we had given a good account of ourselves in other events, and after all what does it matter who wins, the game was played in a sporting manner. "Peace through Sport" is our Motto, and if we have through our visit, sown a few seeds, which will produce in the future International Peace, and Co-operation throughout the world, it will have been well worth our efforts.

May 1937 Bolton CCC Journal

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

HONOUR - Franc Tireurs et Partisans

The first and finest French Resistance Movement in Occupied France during World War II.

This great Resistance Army, included
Henri Rol-Tanguy who lead the famous Battle of Paris
, 19 August 1944 until the surrender of the occupying German garrison on the 25 of August 1944.

À chacun son boche
('Let everybody kill a German')

Franc Tireurs et Partisans

Monday, December 20, 2010

Bermondsey Labour Insitute

On the night of 18th September 1940 a German parachute land mine landed on the Bermondsey Institute ( 10:40pm) and totally destroyed the Institute and surrounding buildings.

The Labour Institute had been a ARP Wardens' post and when the building collapsed, the Post Warden was buried beneath the debris. when the rescue workers reached him, he was found to be alive and standing upright on a billiard table. The rescuers got his head and shoulders clear and all seemed well, when calamity came, The unsupported 40ft side wall of the adjoining destroyed chapel was suddenly seen to be swaying in the bomb blasts and over it crashed.

Two of the rescue workers John Bradley and Ernest Playford , made of themselves a living arch over the trapped Warden in an endeavour to shield him from the falling masonry. Despite their brave efforts the Warden was killed. Bradley and Playford received the George Medal for bravery

Bermondsey ILP Bakery

At ten past eight on the evening of 18th S
eptember 1940, a distinctive co-operative venture ended when a bomb destroyed the Bermondsey Labour Co-operative Bakery, killing four bakery workers.

The bakery had been the brain-child of John Dhonau, a baker with his own business who joined the Independent Labour Party (ILP) in 1912. Following a practice common to the time, the ILP branch sold tea, tobacco and groceries to its members
to raise funds. Dhonau proposed to Dr Alfred Salter, the ILP branch secretary and Bermondsey's Labour MP from 1922-1945, that his Keeton's Road bakery should be taken over and run as a co-operative.

ILP members saw the offer as an opportunity to extend their trading operations by manufacturing and selling bread, using the profits for more branch activities.

The scheme was publicised in c
irculars in 1913, a paid canvasser engaged and in nine weeks 600 new customers were gained. Facilities in John Dhonau's former premises were quickly outgrown. Fortunately, a few years earlier the ILP branch had agreed to purchase Fort Road Institute which, after over 30 years as a working-men's club and institution, had declined because of poor management. Behind the building was ground used for open air meetings, dances and garden parties.

Money was raised from ILP members, a mortgage obtained
and the bold decision taken to build a new bakery on the ground, with John Dhonau as manager. The building was opened by Keir Hardie and Ramsay MacDonald on 4th July 1914 and the business went from strength to strength, although not without controversy.

In the Great War, for instance, it made donations to the anti-war movement and found jobs for conscientious objectors, including a concert pianist, a professional flautist and a stained glass artist. The cause was close to the heart of Dr Salter, a Quaker and a pacifist, but it appealed less to the Bermondsey Town Clerk, who told the
Committee on Work of bakery is chiefly run by Socialists and opponents of the Nation's present military requirements, and . . . has become a refuge for Conscientious Objectors from all parts of the country."

After the war shops were reopened, further extensions
made to the bakery, new plant installed, a confectionery department started, and mortgages and loans paid off. Bread delivery rounds were gradually extended to other parts of South East London, including newly developing estates in places such as Downham, to which many Bermondsey people were being moved by the London County Council. However, plans to start milk deliveries were dropped under pressure from the RACS. At its height it had 10,000 members

Help was given to scores of strikers .involved in post-war labour struggles, while after work the bakery's vans were used to help in Labour Party election activity. For the workers there were conditions well in advance of those generally common, and all could be closely involved in the way the business was run.

Of course, it was not all plain sailing. On three occasions the Master Bakers' Association sent deputations asking for the bakery prices to be increased. They also tried to influence millers to cut-off flour supplies: the millers resisted as the bakery bought large quantities of flour for cash.

Then, in 1936, John Dhonau died and there were difficulties in filling his place. After the bombing on 8th September, 1940, the final blow was the destruction by a land mine of the Labour Institute ten days later.

But the Bermondsey Labour Co-operative Bakery had been a success. The conditions it gave its workers, the all round value it gave its members and customers, the assistance it gave to striking workers and other journeymen bakers in their campaign against night baking, and the contribution it 'was able to make to raising political awareness and activity through the "monthly Bermondsey Labour Magazine (distributed free to houses in parts of Bermondsey) gave the ( lie to local critics who had said' What do you Socialists know about business? You couldn't run an apple stall, much less a business undertaking".

The bakery had a banner which could be seen on demonstrations. One line of a verse on it read: "Yet, 'tis bread we fight for, but we fight for' roses too"

That line challenges us to match the confidence of those few who took the decision in difficult circumstances to show that socialist co-operation is a practical possibility.

Edwin DareGeorge Francis Sims
Central Labour Colleges Secretary and lecturer 1909-1914
Plebs League Secretary 1909-1914
Editor Plebs Magazine 1909-1914

Student at Ruskin College 1908-1909

Secretary Bermondsey & Rotherhithe Trades & Labour Council 1904-1907

Other Trades Councils locally
Camberwell Trades & Labour Council established 1903
Southwark Trades & Labour Council established 1903

Southwark and Camberwell merged in 1969

Reverend John Scott-Lidgett (1884-1953), Wesleyan minister and warden of Bermondsey Settlement, Farncombe Street, Bermondsey .
The Settlement was established in 1891 and clsoed in 1969

Scott-Lidgett was also the Progressive (Lib-Lab) leader on the London County Council

The Labour Mayor of Bermondsey refused to participate in the Royal Jubilee of 1935 (following Nelson and Burnley Council)


Also West Ham Socialist Bakery

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Why ? Lick The Feet That Kick You !

Will you cheer for "more work and less pay"....Will you cheer to be taunted that your want of work at such times means "you won't work" ? Will you cheer for all manner of insult and abuse, when, in distress, you approach those who are in authority ? Cheer these things and you lick the feet that kick you.

(Extract from a leaflet entitled "Anti-Humbug". distributed in the Haymarket, Bristol in 1888 when the Freedom of the City was confer
red on Prince Albert)

Picture 1831 Bristol Reform Riots
Bristol Reform Riots of 1831 - 130 (maybe more) killed by troops, hundreds injured by sabres, 88 transported, four hung

Christopher Davies, John Kayes, Thomas Gregory and William Clarke