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The 1945 split in British anarchism

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on May 15, 2022 at 3:42:21 am

Special Branch describe divide as between moderates and militants, moderates 'feared they might be implicated in illegalities'


This chronology is an attempt to get us as close as we can to the sequence of events that led to the 1945 split within the ranks of those British anarchists centered in or around the Anarchist Federation (AF). I think we can assume that the Freedom Press Group (FPG) broke away from the Anarchist Federation in January 1945 as a result of ongoing tensions within the Anarchist Federation, after which actions and arguments took place over who owned what of the Federation’s possessions. The Anarchist Federation (London Group) Bulletin appeared in March 1945 and appears to the first formal publication of those opposed to the FPG and their actions.. The first issue of “Direct Action” appeared in May 1945 and sometime after this the opponents of the FPG re-named the Anarchist Federation, the Anarchist Federation of Britain (AFB) with that name appearing above the banner of the June 1945 “Direct Action”. ' War Commentary" became "Freedom Through Anarchism" on the 28th August 1945. The first National Conference of the Anarchist Federation of Britain took place in Glasgow in September 1945.The first conference of The London Anarchist Group was in June 1945.( briefing paper of the LAG to the March 1946 Conference) and The Union of Anarchist Groups was founded at a Congress on the 1-2 December 1945 in Glasgow.  ( "Freedom through Anarchism" 15 December 1945). Both of these latter organizations were supportive of the FPG. Finally, a letter was sent out to interested comrades from the Anarchist Federation of Britain in April 1949 proposing the formation of the Syndicalist Workers’ Federation and the landscape of British anarchism that would last for some decades was created.


The chronology, then, covers events before January 1945 that led up to the split and, to some degree, events that took place after the split. We have consulted substantial primary source material from both sides of the split – Freedom Press and the newly named AFB – and have used this to compile an admittedly rough chronology of events. This material is located in the Kate Sharpley Library as well as the Vernon Richards Papers housed at IISH in Amsterdam, and the Public Records Office in London. For whatever reason the circumstances of the split appear not to have been published in “War Commentary” with only Guy Aldred’s “The Word” in April and  May 1945 giving it publicity during and after the trial of the editors of “War Commentary” in April 1945. Because of this the primary documents have taken on an added importance. We should be wary however. These primary documents cannot tell us everything. Personalities and personal tensions often disappear in minutes and reports and can be important drivers of events. It is also quite possible that there are other documents somewhere waiting to be found. We have also consulted the written memories of people who were centrally or peripherally involved in events and are compared them to what the primary source documents tell us. These memories were written and recounted between thirty and seventy years after the split took place and differ greatly in their interpretations of events. Whatever conclusions we arrive at may never be definitive ones. After all there are letters in 1944-45 from people throughout the UK asking what is going on with regard to tensions in the movement. If they could not work out what was happening it is unlikely that we will be able to build a complete picture of events and feelings. All we can try to do is get a little nearer to what occurred during those strange wartime years. After all this split created a landscape for British anarchism that would last for at least fifty years if not longer.


Some points and questions that might help the reader or, at the very least, provide some material for discussion:


The Anarchist Federation that was formed in April 1940 appears to have had three primary areas of support namely London, Glasgow and Kingston Upon Thames. There were some supporters in Bristol and numerous other individuals around the country. Numbers are hard to determine but one source cites the newspaper “War Commentary” (often described by some anarchists of the time as the paper of the Anarchist Federation) as having a circulation of around 2,000 and the Workers in Uniform bulletin having a circulation of twice that. (see “I Couldn’t Paint Golden Angels”. P.95.) Special Branch, in early 1945, suggested circulation had never risen above 5,000 at any time.( HO-46-25554-004.KSL).The list of subscribers we have in the KSL appears somewhat smaller but this list may well be a subset of a larger one. Not all of the subscribers would have been in the Anarchist Federation of course. In " Revived 45" Philip Sansom suggests that around 200 people in the armed forces subscribed to " War Commentary". It might also be useful at this juncture to mention that the split affected some anarchists who were not in the Federation.


Many of the accounts listed below lay stress and emphasis on some events and miss some others out entirely. One event in particular in the primary sources we have, that appeared to have left bad feelings among members of the Federation which may have fueled later tensions, was the affair of Desmond Fenwick who was allegedly caught stealing money sent in by subscribers and supporters to the Freedom Press office from May 1942 onwards. Albert Meltzer mentions Fenwick ( see  " I Couldn't Paint Golden Angelspp 156-158) in passing  but as far as we can tell no one else does. The case of Fenwick and the aftermath of his expulsion from the Anarchist Federation was cited by Marie-Louise as being a prime cause of unpleasantness within the Federation and was one of her reasons for her resigning from the organization in 1944.


It has proved quite difficult in trying to pin down the relationship of the Freedom Press Group (FPG) to the Anarchist Federation. At times, in the documents we have, they appear as a group within the London Anarchist Federation and were keen to be seen as such,  but there remains considerable uncertainty as to the consistency of this relationship with the organization and whether or not people at the time saw “War Commentary" as the organ of the Anarchist Federation and, therefore, essentially owned by the Federation rather than owned by the Freedom Press Group.In an April 1947 letter to a Mrs M Oppenheimer Ken Hawkes, by then secretary of the Anarchist Federation of Britain, describes Freedom Press as being the " publishing house of the Anarchist Federation" .We know that the FPG published “War Commentary” and various books and pamphlets under their own name. We also know that they regularly appealed for money to publish “War Commentary” and, after the bombing of the Freedom Press premises in May 1941, created a Reconstruction fund. The FPG also formed the Friends of Freedom Press in September 1941 with one of its purposes being the providing of finance to help publish Freedom Press publications.A later draft  letter to " contacts  from the FPG ( early 1942??) urged them to join both the FPG and the Anarchist Federation situating the FPG as a group within the Federation.Albert also wrote a draft letter on similar lines which, presumably, was to be merged into the FPG letter. Whether this letter was sent is still to be verified.The FPG, apparently, scrupulously published each donation that was received for “War Commentary” or the Reconstruction fund etc in the paper but it appears that some (Tom Brown etc.) were unsure of where the money actually went and suspected  that Vero and Marie-Louise, for example, were using it to live off the movement. Albert Meltzer, however, in “The Anarchists in London, 1935-1955” states that only John Hewetson and Marie-Louise Berneri were full time workers at “War Commentary” (unpaid?) It would appear that for some of the war Vero worked as an engineer for London Underground and the British rail network (see his obituaries in “The Times” of 12/12/2001 and “The Guardian” of 4th February 2002, the latter written by Colin Ward). We should also add that for some people who would go on to form the AFB " War Commentary" was constantly lacking in industrial and agitational news and this perception may well be just as important as the undeniable personal animosities and suspicions that were part of the movement.




The role played by some Spanish anarchists in the split needs to be considered carefully and more work does need to be done on the effect they had on the British movement. It appears that some of the Spanish exiles apparently felt that the FPG had not been welcoming to them. This feeling may have partially come about because the FPG did not provide space in the FPG offices for Spanish anarchists to work after being asked if that was possible but it may well have been more than that. The AF was vehemently anti-war and anti-militarist. In their “Aims and Principles” (1943) we can read that “We oppose the war as the outcome of the clashing interests of rival imperialisms”. Some of the Spanish anarchists who became members of the Federation supported the war effort of the Allies in the hope that the defeat of Hitler would lead to the defeat of Franco. Such an attitude was one of the reasons why Albert Meltzer resigned from the AF claiming that the Federation had different principles from the one he had joined.

There were also fierce arguments taking place in the UK exile movement at this time between those who felt that the newly formed MLE based in Toulouse should be guiding the movement and those who argued that the CNT still present in Spain should be the guide as to how exile anarchists should respond to ongoing situations in the country and the world of exile..

We do know that, after the split became formalized, only a minority of the Spanish comrades (five, according to Special Branch) allied themselves with the FPG and the London Anarchist Group.These appeared to be those  who disagreed with the role taken by the Toulouse based grouping of the CNT in exile.


Two other points we would make that both reflect the difficulties we have faced in creating this chronology.


In “A Beautiful Idea” (p77) Clifford Holden is reported as putting a gun to Marie-Louise Berneri’s head and marching her down to a bank to cash a cheque on the evening of January 30th 1946. According to the briefing paper presented at the March 30th 1946 meeting at Kingsway Hall the people who entered the flat of Berneri and Richards that morning to re-claim the money for a duplicator were Ken Hawkes, Tom Brown (both from London) and Bill Borland and Tom Reilly from Glasgow. No attempt was made to cash the cheque for a few days and the attempt to cash the check led to another major incident. George Woodcock in “Half A Life of Editing” suggests that some of the people (the men from Glasgow presumably) were IRA members or close to them. If nothing else this story reflects how easy it is for myths to grow unchecked and appear to be a “fact” once published.


Secondly an apparently key player – George Woodcock – is missing from much of the documentation we have. Concerns about the funding of his magazine “Now” that appear in both Albert Meltzer’s work and are mentioned in Woodcock’s own writings are not reflected in the contemporary documents we have found. It is Richards and Hewetson who appear to attract the ire of those opposed to the FPG and it is Richards who is keen to press the FPG’s case with the Glasgow Group of the AF for instance, where he was supported by Albert Meltzer. Woodcock is rather absent as a target of criticism or support, or as a presence at meetings, as are Peta Edsall and Woodcock’s partner, Ingeborg Roskelly, who were also in the FPG. He does, however feature in Special Branch reports, as do Edsall and Roskelly.


Oral memories and various accounts of the events that took place can be found in: ( in chronological order)


Philip Sansom        " Vernon Richards"   " Freedom" December 26th 1964. Vol.25. No 4


Colin Ward “Witness for the Prosecution” in “Wildcat Inside story” No 1:London, 1974


Vernon Richards, Philip Sansom          Remembrances of John Olday in  " Tribute To John Olday "  "Freedom's" Anarchist Review, 2nd September 1977.


Nicolas Walter          " Lilian Wolfe"        " Freedom" 25th May 1974( included in ; Nicolas Walter  " The Anarchist Past"  Nottingham: Five Leaves Press,2007.)A


Albert Meltzer “The Anarchists in London, 1935-1955”. Sanday: Cienfuegos Press, 1976


Albert Meltzer “The Anarchists in London, 1935-1955” London: Freedom Press, 2018 (this edition has a two-page epilogue written in 2018 by Freedom Press)


Charlie Baird Transcript of interview. http://libcom.org/history/anarchism-1940s-glasgow. 1977


Pete Grafton    " You, You and You" The People Out of Step with World War Two"  London: Pluto Press, 1981

Unexpurgated version  recently ( 2020) released here https://petegrafton.com/you-you-you-re-issue/


George Woodcock “Half A Life of Editing” in “The Sewanee Review”, Vol 89,No.3. Summer 1981.


John Hewetson     "Gaol"    British Medical Journal    Vol 285   25th September 1982


George Woodcock “Letter To The Past”. Toronto: Fitzhenry and Whiteside, 1982.


Vernon Richards.   "Premises We Have Had" in " Freedom/A Hundred Years". London: Freedom Press, 1986.


Philip Sansom “Freedom Press and the Anarchist Movement in the 50s and 60s” in “Freedom / A Hundred Years”. London: Freedom Press, 1986.


Charlie Baird snr, Mollie Baird, John Taylor Caldwell, Babs Raeside, Jimmy Raeside etc     "Anarchism In Glasgow"  transcript of interview 14/8./87   http://libcom.org/history/anarchism-1940s-glasgow


Farquhar Mclay.        " Workers City".  Clydeside Press: Glasgow, 1988


Mark Shipway            " Anti-Parliamentary Communism: The Movement For Workers' Councils in Britain, 1917-1945.     Macmillan Press: London,1988


Philip Sansom “Revived 45: Anarchists Against the Army” in “The Raven Anarchist Quarterly” No. 29 : Freedom Press London, 1995.


Colin Ward  " Witness for the Prosecution"  in ' The Raven Anarchist Quarterly" No 29: Freedom Press, 1995.


Albert Meltzer “I Couldn’t Paint Golden Angels: Sixty Years of Commonplace Life and Anarchist Agitation”. Edinburgh, London and San Francisco : AK Press/Kate Sharpley Library. 1996.


Clifford Holden “Work In Progress” 2006 (See http://www.cliffholden.co.uk/documents_1999_10.shtml)


Donald Rooum “A Short History of Freedom Press” in “Freedom” Nov 2011- March 2012 (5 issues).


Mark Antliff       "Pacifism, Violence and Aesthetics: George Woodcock's Anarchist Sojourn 1940-1950" in " Anarchist Studies" Vol 23. No 1. Spring 2015


Carissa Honeywell “Anarchism and the Warfare State: The Prosecution of the ‘War Commentary’ Anarchists.” in International Review of Social History vol 60,issue 2, August 2015. https://libcom.org/history/anarchism-british-warfare-state-prosecution-war-commentary-anarchists-1945


Rob Ray “A Beautiful Ideal: History of the Freedom Press Anarchists”. London: Freedom Press, 2018.


David Goodway, “Introduction” in Vernon Richards “Lesson of the Spanish Revolution, 1936-39”. Oakland and London: PM Press/Freedom Press, 2019.


Jack Saundrs        " Freedom Press and the MI5 Vendetta"            https://freedomnews.org.uk/2021/04/17/freedom-press-and-the-mi5-vendetta/     April 2021.



Many of these references are autobiographical memories but Honeywell and Ray have attempted to write historical narratives that discuss and explain some of the events that took place in 1944 and 1945 often drawing on the sources outlined above.


Sharp eyed readers will also notice that there are numerous references to Albert Meltzer throughout the chronology. We hope that this will inform a separate work that will re-consider Albert’s life and writings so we took the opportunity of attempting to kill two birds with one chronology.


Any corrections /added information/ general comments would be more than welcome. Apart from constantly reviewing the chronology  our next steps will be to provide a biographical directory which will include many of the people involved in the split, however peripherally as well as the various groupings and organizations involved.


Chronology of a split


December 1939.  Freedom Press Distributors begin the publication of " War Commentary"


January 1940    "War Commentary" carries advert from Freedom Press selling old and new anarchist material. By January 1941 Freedom Press Distributors have published Read's "Philosophy of Anarchism". F.A.Ridley's ' Roman Catholic Church and the Modern Age" and Kropotkin's  " Revolutionary Government" the first two under the imprint " Freedom Press" the latter as " Freedom Press Distributors"


April 28th 1940. Second Anarchist Federation formed “or at least its clandestine existence was recognized” (“The Anarchists in London”, p.45) at a conference at the Workers Circle Hall, New Cavendish Street, London.


August 1940 issue of “War Commentary” has an article by “Libertarian” (Vernon Richards) entitled “Tribunals and Political Objectors”. It features a lengthy extract from Albert’s recent address to the Fulham Tribunal which began “Support for this war, and service in any capacity whether military or non-combatant would be […] a radical betrayal of the international working class”. Albert’s case was rejected as the Tribunals are just pacifist tribunals (not anti-militarist or democratic ones), Libertarian writes. [https://www.katesharpleylibrary.net/hx3gzf]


1940/1941 Albert was the secretary of the AF but gave it up to work on “Workers In Uniform” where he took on the editing and correspondence (“The Anarchists in London” (p49). In “I Couldn’t Paint Golden Angels” (p95) Albert claims that “Workers In Uniform” at its height had a circulation of 4,000. Twice as much as “War Commentary”. Both the AF and WIU “were kept a secret in case of repression” (ICPGA. p95) However there is an advert in the May 1940 issue of “War Commentary” that advertises a May Day social on behalf of “War Commentary” and the Anarchist Federation.


November 1940. “War Commentary” mentions the Freedom Bookshop in Red Lion Passage. This was eventually run by Albert for a short time


4 May 1941. Large  May Day Rally at Conway Hall at 6-30pm.Speakers: Tom Brown, John Hewetson, Frederick Lohr, Ethel Mannin, F.A. Ridley and Reginald Reynolds. 350 in attendance according to Special Branch.


10th May 1941. The premises and stock at Red Lion Passage are destroyed in a bombing raid. (“War Commentary” June 1941) In a letter to the Vanguard Group in New York ( 17 May 1941) the FPG state that they lost around 25,000 pamphlets in the raid.


June 1941. A full-page appeal detailing the destruction of anarchist pamphlets and newspapers in the bombing raid of May 10th appears in the June 1941 “War Commentary” under the heading “Freedom Press Reconstruction”. Essentially it is an appeal for funds from readers to enable new pamphlets to be produced. The appeal is signed by the “Freedom Press Group”. Is this the first use of that name during this period? A postwar report (“We cannot plan without your solidarity”, “Freedom through Anarchism” 2 November 1946) says that almost £500 was received for the reconstruction fund in the 12 months after the bombing.


June 1941  FPG leases premises at 27 Belsize Road. 


September 1941. The September 1941 “War Commentary” announces the formation of the “Friends of Freedom Press”. “The Friends of Freedom Press is, as the title implies, an association of people in sympathy with our work and eager as friends to lend a helping hand”. The announcement calls for the creation of discussion groups to analyze and discuss the ideas in “War Commentary” and Freedom Press pamphlets. It calls for these groups to organize public meetings also. A critical part of their work would be the distribution of Freedom Press publications. The Friends of Freedom Press will also help to ensure that Freedom Press have the financial, and other means to carry on with their publications.Throughout late 1941 and early 1942 Friends of Freedom Press are  formed in Huddersfield, Glasgow, Kingston, Oxford, Cheltenham and various London areas.These are advertised in " War Commentary" as holding meetings and organizing  paper sales.


September 28th 1941. Meeting in Conway Hall to launch “Friends of Freedom Press” (September “War Commentary”). Herbert Read is a speaker.

October 1941 “War Commentary” publishes a one page “What Anarchism Stands For”. Many of the topics and some of the exact wording will later appear in “Anarchist Federation: Aims and Principles” in the May 1943 “War Commentary”.


October 1941?   Freedom Press publish the eight page pamphlet "Freedom Press, 1886-1941" to celebrate the 75th year of its existence.The pamphlet covers the history of Freedom Press and describes " War Commentary" as a Freedom Press publication ( page 5). The pamphlets goes on to advertise the Friends of Freedom Press describing it in similar terms to the announcement made in the September " War Commentary". It states that the Friends of Freedom Press had been formed " in response to numerous requests from readers of ' War Commentary"(7).The  pamphlet also asserts that " Freedom Press will continue to be a voluntary organisation; no one connected with its work will receive any remuneration for his  or her services" ( 8) Interested readers are urged to fill in and return the enclosed membership form for the Friends of Freedom Press.Membership is five shillings a year  with payment by installments available. There are various activities volunteers are asked to choose from that will help the Press grow. "Freedom Press, 1886-1941" Pamphlet. Friends of Freedom Press membership form.


November 1941 “War Commentary” published the speech “Bedlam Politics” given by Herbert Read at the Friends of Freedom Press meeting of September 28th.


December 3rd 1941. Meeting of Anarchist Federation decides to bring the organization into the open.

                                ( letter from Freedom Press Group to Anarchist Federation- 22-10-1944)


April 1942. Express Printers plant at 84a Whitechapel High St becomes available for purchase

Freedom Press Group raise 24% of cost

FP (VR crossed out!) by means of loans raise 55% of costs

Comrades of Anarchist Federation raise 15% of costs

Comrades not in AF raise 4% of costs.

Total cost = 500 pounds (cost identified by VR in “Freedom: A Hundred Years” p29) Buyers cited in briefing by London Anarchist Group (LAG) in 1946 for Conference discussing the split. In his “A Short History of Freedom Press, Part Two” (December 2011) Donald Rooum suggests that a rival printer lent some money on condition he could have the Hebrew type. This is repeated in Rob Ray’s “A Beautiful Idea”.In his appreciation of Richards ( on the occasion of Richards retiring from the editorship of "Freedom" at the end of 1964) Philip Sansom writes that money to aid the purchase came from Richards' family, in the form of a loan.( "Freedom" December 26th 1964. Vol 25.No 40) At two meetings in February 1948 it was argued by AFB member Raymond Upton that much of the money to purchase Express Printers had in fact come from Spanish anarchists.


May 3rd 1942. May Day Rally at Conway Hall, London at 6-30pm. No mention of the Anarchist Federation but exhortation to read " War Commentary ". Advertised speakers: Tom Brown, Bill Gape, Mat Kavanagh, Frederick Lohr and Frank Soden. ( https://www.katesharpleylibrary.net/70s080 )


May 1942 onwards. According to an undated statement from the Freedom Press Group (FPG) regular stealing takes place from the Freedom Press offices. Suspicion falls on Desmond Fenwick, a volunteer from Oxford who is staying with John Hewetson and Peta Edsall.


July 8th 1942. Fenwick meets with Marie-Louise Berneri, Vero [Vernon Richards] and Albert Meltzer and a decision is made to lay facts of the matter before the AF (of which Fenwick is a member). [See Freedom Press Group account here http://katesharpleylibrary.pbworks.com/w/file/140285787/Desmond%20Fenwick.pdf]


July 25th 1942. John Hewetson sentenced to six months imprisonment for refusing to undergo a medical examination for possible military service. 


September 12 1942 John Hewetson is released from prison after having agreed to full-time work in a hospital ( "The Word" October 1942. )


Mid-October 1942 "War Commentary" advertises Tom Brown's " Trades Unions or Syndicalism" as " just out" and published by Freedom Press.


December 1942 “War Commentary” p.15 in a box advert advertising “Now” – “Freedom Press have undertaken the publication of a series of occasional volumes of social and literary writings under the title “Now”. Its orientation as reflected in the social contributions is towards anarchism. The literary contributions, however, have been chosen on their merit and no writer has been excluded because his opinions differ from those of the editors”. Can be ordered from Freedom Press, 27 Belsize Rd.


February 1943 “Now No 1” is reviewed by Frederick Lohr in " War Commentary". The price is 1/6d. That said there is a note apologizing for the delay in production of both " Now" and " Kropotkin: Selections From His Writings" as the printers are finding difficulty in getting the works bound.


January/February 1943. Letter to Frank Leech from John Hewetson with a handwritten amendment “To the comrades of the Anarchist Federation in Glasgow” The letter expresses concern about the understanding of the Fenwick affair in Glasgow. Hewetson claims that Fenwick has suggested other comrades may be guilty of the stealing and Bill Gape has adopted his cause. The two attempted to convince the Kingston branch of their innocence. An attached letter to Frank Leech from the Kingston branch dated January 31st 1943 provides further allegations of Fenwick stealing from a comrade there while he was out on bail for stealing books (he was eventually placed on probation). Gape resigned from the AF after accusing Marie-Louise Berneri, Vernon Richards, John Hewetson and Tom Brown of trying to sabotage the movement. The FPG are concerned that Gape and Fenwick tried to cause trouble between the FPG and Mat Kavanagh and Gape and Fenwick had suggested that Frederick Lohr had been expelled while in fact he had resigned from the AF while still offering his support to the organization. FPG were dismayed to learn that Fenwick had recently spoken from a Glasgow AF platform. See letter from Hewetson and letter from Kingston Branch AF here: http://katesharpleylibrary.pbworks.com/w/file/140271825/Fenwick%2C%20Glasgow.pdf


April 1943   "War Commentary" has large advert for " Now" and " Kropotkin: Selections From His Writings"



May 1943. First appearance of “Anarchist Federation: Aims and Principles” in “War Commentary” May 1943 (Vol 4.No 13). A 4pp pamphlet with the same title and content is published shortly after. [https://www.katesharpleylibrary.net/t1g3bg]


June 27th 1943. Meeting held at 27 Belsize Road between the Anarchist Federation and the Libertarian Anarchist Movement ( secretary Kitty Lamb) with the LAM bringing proposals for how to improve the way anarchists could work together.


September 1943. The Mid-September "War Commentary" advertises the Syndicalist Programme of the Anarchist Federation as one for a penny, 50 for a shilling and 100 for one shilling and sixpence. [Read it at https://www.katesharpleylibrary.net/2bvrj4]


November 1943. Special Branch officers call in at the Freedom Press offices in Belsize Road, looking for Cliff Holden who has deserted. During that visit they mention that Freedom Press is not registered under the Registry of Business Act, 1916 and there are severe penalties for non-registration. Richards, Berneri, Hewetson and Tom Brown discuss the matter and decide to register Freedom Press in JH’s name and Express Printers in VR’s name. The date of registration was Dec 3 1943.( Special Branch have the date as 6/12/43) The Anarchist Federation was informed and no objections were raised. (All from statement of LAG for 1946 conference.) We should note that at the trial of the “War Commentary” editors it was stated that Express Printers was registered to Richards on the 3rd December and Freedom Press registered to Hewetson on the 6th December. (National Archives HO-45-25554, image 044, KSL)


27 November 1943. John Olday deserts from Pioneer Corps ( according to Special Branch)


According to the background statement of the London Anarchist Group for the March 1946 conference on the split, until the summer of 1944 decisions were taken after discussion in the AF only if there was unanimous agreement. Tom Brown and Ken Hawkes (allegedly) began to argue for a majority vote as a means of taking decisions.


January 1944 Copies of the leaflets " Anarchist Federation: Aims and Principles" and a " Syndicalist Programme" appear in the Bristol Aircraft Company Works


28 March 1944.   Letter sent out from " Friends of Freedom Press" to supporters in the Forces


May 19th 1944. Letter from Tom Brown to secretary of the Anarchist Federation giving his apologies for the meeting the next day as he is working. He goes on to raise three matters. It was agreed to have informal discussions with the Spanish anarchists with regard to possible collaboration with them “without violating our principles.” This turned from an informal meeting to a formal meeting of the AF and votes were taken etc. Brown believes this meeting should not be minuted but the topic should be discussed again at tomorrow’s meeting. Need a statement from the Commission (presumably a reference to the Commission of the CNT in Britain) representing the views of the Spanish comrades as a whole. Brown suggests that “until the CNT in the UK declare themselves against the war I will remain opposed to collaboration with the Commission” but will work with those Spanish comrades who “at the very least share the AF’s position against the War”.


Brown then goes on to address the role of the chair at AF meetings. He feels the chair should be neutral and not allow personal bias to affect the handling of meetings. At the meeting with the Spaniards the chair was not neutral and their bitterness and irrelevant remarks had been picked up by the Spaniards present.

Finally Brown suggests there is hostility between members of the AF. There is hostility by some comrades towards himself and others and we should know why. Internal hostility is not good for the AF, and Brown points out that hostility at the time of the Fenwick-Gape affair affected the functioning of the AF.


July 1944  Article  in " War Commentary" entitled" How Wars End" written by Michael Peterson ( John Olday) arouses the interest and concern of Special Branch


July 1944 Marie-Louise Berneri writes her letter of resignation to the AF. “I am resigning as a protest against what I consider to be a lack of revolutionary morals in the AF.” She goes on to cite the behavior of some comrades (especially Bill Gape) over the Desmond Fenwick affair and the behavior of some of the Spanish exiles who appear to believe that those around FP do not want to collaborate with them (this could a reference to the rejection by the FPG of a request by the Spanish anarchists to have space at the Freedom premises). She is also bothered by the equivocal attitude of the Spanish anarchists to the war. Both Ken Hawkes and Tom Brown are singled out for criticism and she ends up saying that “gossip with persons foreign to the movement do not improve relations within the movement.”of " War Commentary" She also resigns from the Editorial Board of " War Commentary" (The letter is at: http://katesharpleylibrary.pbworks.com/w/file/139485561/Letter%20from%20Berneri%20resigning%20from%20AF.pdf )


July 25th 1944. (After her resignation from the AF) There is a letter from Marie-Louise Berneri to TWB of the Anarchist Federation. She states that at their meeting the Spanish exiles complained about her and Vero. She dismisses all the complaints (perhaps the main one being that it is Vero and MLB who had prevented friendly relations between the Spanish movement and the FPG) as “blatant lies”: and responds to each issue raised. One mentions Albert – “Pradas (CNT) at our joint meeting declared that he was opposed to the war and attacked Albert for doubting it. Now he says he wants the defeat of Germany…”


The letter is asking the AF for “elementary solidarity” over these matters.


She writes again on 13.10.44 saying there has been no response to her letter. A handwritten note on this letter says a reply was made on 12.12.44.


1st and 15 October 1944. Two contentious meetings of AF held – I presume these were to do with the relationship of Freedom Press to the movement as well as other matter regarding the structure of the AF. As yet we are unable to find any minutes.


20 October 1944. Response to these meetings in a letter from the FPG decrying attacks on those who in 1936 “began to build up anarchist propaganda on the ruins of the past”. They mention publishing 13,000 copies of TB’s “Trade Union or Syndicalism”. They talk about building up the circulation of “War Commentary” by selling it outside the gates of Hyde Park etc. They cannot ever remember Tom Brown helping with paper selling. They refer to themselves, sarcastically, as “egoists” – a reference to a statement made by Tom Brown at the meeting of the 15th who said of them “They were all egoists who wanted their own way”. They stress they are not opposed to a revolutionary labour movement. Their allegiance is not just to the AF – “a handful of members (ignoring those who have no right to speak as Anarchists) but to the Anarchist movement as a whole – AF Glasgow, WHY group of NY, Man group of Los Angeles and to isolated groups and individuals in Australia and Africa.”

It’s signed by the FPG – Albert’s initials are not there. (FA, PE, JH, VR, PS, GW and LGW. MLB also).


21.10.44. Note from C.E. Palmer (East Mosely) to the secretary of the AFGB proposing that the group adopts the following motion at its meeting on Sunday 29th October:

“That this meeting of the AFGB declares itself ready to reorganize and reconstitute itself on the basis of some form differing from the old, to be decided by a majority vote of those present at the meeting that will be called on the subject. It further declares that whatever form the organization and constitution shall take, as a consequence of the majority vote of the members at that meeting, all the properties, goods furniture, rights of publication or other rights, privileges or holdings, now controlled by virtue of their power of majority vote shall remain the properties of the federation under its new title if such there be, and in its reorganized and reconstituted form.”


22 October 1944. Further letter from FPG to the AF in response to the previous two meetings (1st and 15th October). The letter discusses the nature of the constitution of the AF, which is divided into three parts. In 1941 there was agreement that a probationary period was necessary for new members. The third part of the constitution of the AF was fully discussed in 1942. Brown and Hawkes were present and everything in the constitution was agreed unanimously. (According to the London Anarchist Group’s background statement the third part of the AF Constitution or Programme – they use the words inter-changeably – meant that Freedom Press was in no way committed to accept any control by the AF. Any change of position for FP was to be submitted to the General Congress of the AF. This never happened they claim). The letter also discusses proposals made by RA and CH ( Cliff Holden?) Our handwritten draft copy proposes, among other things, the decentralization of the AF into a Federations of Anarchist Groups, the creation of Syndicalist Propaganda Groups and the suggestion that " the policy and editorial composition of the Freedom Press be decided by the federated groups of London" The statement sent out by the FPG addresses that matter also.

[See scans, FPG reponse http://katesharpleylibrary.pbworks.com/w/file/141409770/FPG%20response.pdf and RA and CH draft proposals http://katesharpleylibrary.pbworks.com/w/file/141409779/RAandCH%20draft%20proposals.pdf


24 October 1944. Albert resigns from the AF – “in view of the altered basis and principles of the A.F.”




25th October 1944 Freedom Press send out a circular letter to contacts in the forces asking them to search out new subscribers to "War Commentary". There is also a suggestion that discussion groups could form around " War Commentary" on the part of those in the forces and perhaps could lead to the formation of soldier, sailor etc councils. Supporters are urged to uphold anarchist ideas in these discussions.This circular letter is the prompt - together with some articles in " War Commentary" on plans for demobilisation etc- that will lead to some forces personnel having property searched and the raid on the FPG offices on December 12 1944.


29th October 1944. Special Meeting of the AF, 11-00am, Belsize Road. – which may have been the meeting that the FPG walked out of.It appears that C.E Palmer's motion may have been passed favouring a majority decision making process for the AF rather than the process of needing unanimous support for any action to be carried out.Such a policy appears to have undermined the FPG position in the AF as does the proposal  by RA and CH  that there would be control over the policy and editorial composition of the FPG by " federated groups of London" ( see 22nd October)


ist November. First article in the three part series " All Power to the Soviets" written by Michael Peterson ( John Olday) appears in " War Commentary". The other two articles appear in the editions of 11th November and 25th November, respectively.





17th November 1944. Albert sends letter (to someone in the AF) giving his reasons for resignation letter of the 24th October. You get people at AF meetings you never see at any other time, people do not do the grunt work (Tom Brown singled out here) and what he sees as an elitist attitude in the likes of Brown, Hawkes and Holden. The latter is singled out for his failure to speak at a meeting, meaning Albert has to do extra work. The movement exists on “the energies of a few people”. Has a dig at Sonia Clements’ behavior in the earlier Anarcho-Syndicalist Union and questions her re-appearance. Mentions meeting where FPG left and only six people then revised the AF principles. Albert was away speaking at the time. Disparaging mention of some Spanish anarchists re. support for WW2. (The letter is at: http://katesharpleylibrary.pbworks.com/w/file/139485270/AlbertResignation1944.pdf )


17th November 1944. John Olday is arrested on charges of desertion


Late November 1944 (after meeting of the AFB on November 26th). Letter sent by Eve Rosenberg to editorial board of “War Commentary” (addressed to “Dear Comrade Secretary”). At the meeting on November 26th Albert’s letter of 17th November was read out. She suggests that “at its best was the action of a petulant child, and at worst a demonstration of a lack of self-discipline and organizational responsibility”. She wants to know why Albert’s article “Anarchism To-day” was published in “War Commentary”. She has no objections to bringing in independent contributors but considers it a bad mistake on the part of the editorial board to publish an article by someone the board knew had resigned and was in general disagreement with the AF. At the bottom of the letter John Hewetson has written in pencil “we thought it was a good article”, AM was a “good anarchist with a very good record in the movement”.


Undated (late 44?) five page statement from John Hewetson – “To The Comrades of the AF.” Claims allegations against him and others (he later mentions Vernon Richards and Marie-Louise Berneri); Disappointed that although allegations about him “were in the first instance from outside the English movement” they were now being repeated by comrades in the AF. He claims that the behavior of the FPG has been described as Stalinist and a “dereliction of anarchist principles”. Tom Brown suggests that JH is operating with ulterior motives apparently. He goes on to attack the charge (uncritically repeated by the AF) that the English movement has failed to extend solidarity to the Spanish anarchists in the past and made them feel unwelcome. Says that is ridiculous. Richards and Berneri supported the exiles by arranging food and lodging for 30 Spanish comrades for some months and for some ten of them a year. That latter group included Pradas (who, one presumes, is vocal in his criticism of Richards and Berneri). They even printed the pamphlet “Three Years of Struggle In Spain” for the Spanish anarchists, even though they disagreed with what was in it. (John Hewetson, To the comrades of the A.F. scan here: http://katesharpleylibrary.pbworks.com/w/file/139860039/Hewetson%20statement.pdf


December 12th 1944. Freedom Press offices at 27, Belsize Road were raided by the Special Branch and others (Inspector Whitehead with eight police officers). The houses of the editors and sympathizers were also searched under Defence Regulation 39b which stated that no person should seduce members of the armed forces from their duty- raids were carried out at the homes of Hewetson, Richards and Berneri, Olday and Sansom and Simon Watson-Taylor. The seized material was taken under Defence Regulation 88a as evidence of such an offence. They obtain documents that will be used against the FPG in their April 1945 trial. As a result of this raid they were apparently served with one month’s notice to quit by their landlord – leaving in fact on December 20th

However, in a letter to the Secretary of the Anarchist Federation,  John Hewetson writing on behalf of the FPG on 2nd December says " it transpires that there is a clause in the lease prohibiting prohibiting the premises from being let for any kind of business undertaking.This clause was withheld from us at the time we leased the premises in June 1941". He goes on to confirm that December 20th is the date of departure from the premises.Date of raid from: Michael Remy “Surrealism In Britain”. London: Lund Humphries Publisher Ltd, 2001. The date is  also confirmed by Special Branch files HO-46-25554006.( given the date of Hewetson's letter I wonder if the landlord was evicting them before the raid took place?.) The raid is reported in “War Commentary” 30 December 1944


December 20th 1944. FPG leave 27 Belsize Road.




December 1944?/ early January 1945? As a result of the raid on the Freedom Press offices a delegation from Glasgow come to see what the situation is. (Jimmy Raeside and JB) The FPG and the AF meet and the latter are told that the FPG are sorting it out and it is none of the AF’s business (C. Holden letter to unknown 17th January 1945). (The letter is at http://katesharpleylibrary.pbworks.com/w/file/139485309/Holden%20letterCut.pdf )


December 1944/ early January 1945. Freedom Press group begin to use Express printers in Angel Alley as a temporary office/publishing address until February 1945. In 1944 the FPG had opened a bookshop at 132 Cheltenham Road, Bristol and mail order for literature was diverted there. All this as a result of having to leave Belsize Road.


End of December 1944. Various soldiers’ belongings searched for subversive literature, including Colin Ward’s in Orkney.


January 6th 1945 Letter from FPG to AF – States that in the “interests of the movement which have been, as always, the guide to our decision” they can see no useful purpose to associate with the AF. They accept that legally they own stuff but have always accepted the disadvantages of this position, “as the events of the last three weeks have shown” (a reference to the raid) They make some suggestions:

“War Commentary”, The FPG recognize it would be difficult for the AF to start a new paper now so for the duration of the war suggest an editorial group of 3 from FPG and 3 from AF – if the AF takes responsibility for selling a minimum of 600 copies of the paper. Other suggestions – FPG can print your stuff for you if they agree with it, or the AF can do it themselves. The AF can use the printing equipment – giving them the same rights as the Glasgow anarchists. They can have FPG pamphlets at two thirds cost and “War Commentary” at 25% off. This appears to be the first formal notice of the split. ("Letter from Freedom Press Group to the Anarchist Federation" scan here: http://katesharpleylibrary.pbworks.com/w/file/139860099/FP%20breakaway.pdf)


January 7th 1945. AF met in response to the FPG letter and decided that " the suggestion of FPG that it was for the AF to collaborate with it on these or any other terms is unacceptable.It is for individuals and small groups to collaborate with the movement"  ( Clifford Holden- Tom Carlile misdated as January 17th 1944- should be 1945)


January 8th 1945 (a Monday evening). This from a statement by Jack Wade and Lilian Wolfe: Tom Brown, Cliff Holden and Ken Hawkes arrive at FP. Argument occurs over duplicator. They claim it belongs to the CNT. Richards denies this – bought it for 20 quid. Brown bottles Hewetson and a melee breaks out. Brown then threatens Richards with a blunt knife. Richards tells them to take the duplicator. Some discussion about property belonging to the movement and of the FPG proposals to the AF group took place! Albert arrived after the AF group left with the duplicator. Apparently the visitors believed that the duplicator belonged to Sonia Clements. In fact VR had bought it from Manuel Salgado for twenty pounds according to the statement of the witnesses. The statement is here: Jack Wade's witness statement on events of January 8th 1945 http://katesharpleylibrary.pbworks.com/w/file/140317110/Jack%20Wade%27s%20witness%20statement.pdf.

Special Branch report (fortnightly summary no.102 for the period ended 1.2.45) gives this reason for the division which ‘came to a head’ on the 8th of January: ‘They are divided into two factions which can be designated as “moderates” and “militants”. […]

‘The trouble arose when the “moderates” realised they had been kept ignorant of activities going on behind the scenes and feared they might be implicated in illegalities committed without their knowledge. […] prominent among the “moderates” are Tom BROWN, Clifford HOLDEN, Kenneth HAWKES, Sonia CLEMENTS (nee EDELMAN) and Mat. KAVANAGH.

‘Freedom Press and Express Printers remain under the control of the leading militants, Vernon and Mrs M.L. RICHARDS, John HEWETSON, Lilian WOLFE, Jack WADE, Philip SANSOM, Albert MELTZER, Ronald AVERY and C.B. HARDING’

[File in National Archives, Home Office files HO/25553 (023)]


January 10 1945. Letter to FPG signed with the initials RA ( Ronald Avery), AM ( Albert  Melter ) and CBH ( Charles B. Harding ) condemning the attacks on the 8th January. If Richards and Hewetson decide to step down to reduce accusations of monopoly the three signatories volunteer to take their place on the editorial team


January 11th 1945 Ken Hawkes and Cliff Holden go to Glasgow and meet with the Glasgow group of the AF to explain their concerns about the FPG. At this meeting the Glasgow Anarchist Federation passed the resolution: “that the Freedom Press Group as a gesture of good faith hand over the publication of “War Commentary” to the Anarchist Federation of Great Britain; that a National Congress be held as soon as possible to reconsider the entire basis of organization” (Holden letter of 17 January 1945 to unknown) (Letter is at http://katesharpleylibrary.pbworks.com/w/file/139485309/Holden%20letterCut.pdf )


January 13 1945. Meeting at 58, Crediton Hill, London N.W.3 ( the home of Ronald Avery) between Avery, Philip Sansom and Jimmy Raeside and Joe Brown from Glasgow


January 16th 1945. John Olday was sentenced to one year imprisonment for " stealing by finding". He served his sentence in Brixton prison


January 17th 1945 Vero and Albert go to Glasgow and discuss the situation with the Glasgow group. What follows is from the minutes of the meeting written by Vero –probably!!

Vero outlined positions of factions in London and the financial situation of “War Commentary” “Everything put forward by VR so far as one could tell accepted by everybody present”

Albert “pointed out dangers re: domination by CNT Commission” No doubt in the meeting that the Spanish Refugee Commission was pro-War (I presume this is a reference to the CNT Commission). Some anger that three of them were members of the AF. Meeting felt that Brown, Hawkes and Holden had been led astray by the Spanish faction. Jimmy Raeside felt that the three should be allowed to work their passage back into the movement and this was generally accepted, but they (Glagow AF) couldn’t entertain any official dealings with the London AF. Raeside was very outspoken on this and comrades endorsed these proposals. Raeside considered Pradas to be particularly dangerous.

“Assurances were given that it was our intention to hand FP to the movement”.

Discussion on paid voluntary labour (not quite sure what the meeting meant by this. Perhaps it was supposed to read “unpaid”??) working on the paper and there was an agreement to organize a National AF Congress. Something on this to go in “War Commentary” suggesting FPG and Glasgow Anarchist Federation had agreed to re-organize the AF. FPG received a general vote of confidence.



February 1945.Glasgow Anarchist Federation published the pamphlet " The Struggle In The Factory: The History of a Royal Ordnance Factory" by " Equity".


February 13 1945. Letter from Tom Brown to Richards demanding money owed. 11 pounds to help purchase Express Printers and various amounts to Press fund. Richards sends him a cheque.


February 22nd 1945. Richards, Berneri and Hewetson arrested . Philip Sansom was " jumped on" later at a friends flat where he was hiding out." Someone had squealed that I was staying there".It was suspected that he was informed on by CP members but it was never proven. ( " You, You and You" p.138 ) Charged with the dissemination of 3 issues of “War Commentary” – namely the editions of 1st, 11th and 25th November 1944 – that were considered causes of disaffection under Defence Regulation 39A


February 25th 1945. Meeting at Holborn Hall under the auspices of the Friends of Freedom Press. Speaker is Ernest Silverman on " British Justice". According to Special Branch Hewetson was in attendance( ?) as was MLB and Joseph Moravek. The meeting was chaired by Ronald Avery. About 35 in attendance. ( Special Branch)


March 1945 FPG move to 27 Red Lion St, London WC1.


Early March 1945. Ken Hawkes writes on behalf of the AFB asking if the ARB could send a delegate(s) to the Freedom Press Committee


March 3rd 1945. Open letter put together by George Orwell and Herbert Read condemning the impending charges on the “War Commentary” anarchists was circulated and appeared in “New Statesman”. Other signatories included T.S. Eliot, E.M. Forster and Stephen Spender.


March 4th 1945. Glasgow anarchists Frank Leech and Eddie Shaw hold two meetings under the auspices of the Friends of Freedom 

Press. The first is at Hyde Park, the second in the evening at Holborn Hall. ( according to Special Branch)


March 10th 1945. The four “War Commentary” defendants are arraigned – “having conspired together and with other persons unknown to endeavor to seduce from their duty persons in His Majesty’s Service and to cause among such persons disaffection likely to lead to breach of their duty”.


March 12th 1945. Ethel Mannin Secretary of the Freedom Press Defence Committee replies to Ken Hawkes' request (see above in early March 1945) for AFB representation on the Freedom Press Defence Committee saying she thinks the AFB should be represented and will show his request to VR and MLB. See card: http://katesharpleylibrary.pbworks.com/w/file/141484611/Mannin%20reply%201.pdf


March 15th 1945. The first issue of the Anarchist Federation (London Group) Newsletter, edited by Ken Hawkes appears. It covers national industrial news (“to be issued from time to time by our Group”) as well as activities of the “Organized Syndicalist Movement abroad”. It calls for support for the “War Commentary” defendants but is clearly the first publication by those opposed to the FPG.


March 17th 1945. Ethel Mannin again writes to Ken Hawkes, this time on Freedom Press Defence Committee headed paper stating that VR does not want to be defended by the AFB and this is also the wish of the other defendants. Mannin goes on to write that " I should not want to be defended by anyone who has hit me-or a comrade and friend of mine-over the head with a bottle, drunk or sober" See letter: http://katesharpleylibrary.pbworks.com/w/file/141484614/Mannin%20reply%202.pdf


March 31st 1945. As a result of the letter circulated by Orwell and Read the “Freedom Press Defence Committee”  ,comprising literary and intellectual luminaries. Letter to this effect published in “New Statesman”.It had existed before this date.! (Check)


April 1945 . The April issue of " The Word"  published letters critical of FPG by Tom Brown and Ken Hawkes. Brown's letter stated that the finances of the FPG had not been submitted to the movement and thus there was a lack of accountability on their part hen it came to money.It suggested that the FPG has misappropriated their paper ration and there was criticism of Marie-Louise Berneri's " juvenile comments on the social problem"


April 17th 1945. War Commentary trial begins. Throughout the trial the defendants (Richards, Hewetson and Sansom) strenuously deny any attempts to cause disaffection. Berneri does not give evidence, her defence being that, legally, a wife cannot conspire with her husband. The defense causes consternation in some anarchist circles – for instance those around Guy Aldred and “The Word”.


April 21st 1945. " War Commentary" publishes a statement from the Glasgow Anarchist Group " affirming our complete solidarity with our comrades at Freedom Press" in response to Brown's letter. The letter of the Glasgow Anarchist Group is endorsed by Mat Kavanagh, Ron Avery, Charles Harding, P. Edsall, George Woodcock, Jack Wade, Lilian Wolfe, Tom Earley, S. Watson Taylor, Albert Meltzer, Philip Sansom, Frederick Lohr, Laurie Hislam, Preston Clements, Robert Blum.


April 22nd 1945. Glasgow Freedom Defence Committee hold a protest meeting in the Cosmo Cinema, Glasgow. Jimmy Raeside reported in "War Commentary": "The speakers, Frank A. Ridley (I.L.P.) Roy Tearse (R.C.P.), Ernest Silverman, John Hewetson and Marie Louise Berneri, Eddie Shaw (A.F.) with Sir Hugh Robertson (Orpheus Choir) in the Chair, stressed the need for all sections of the working class movement to prevent any further inroads into what little liberty remained in this country. The two accused comrades present, Marie Louise Berneri and John Hewetson, in fighting and defiant speeches indicated that they were determined to stand firmly by what they had written irrespective of the consequences and would not detract one word or go back one inch in surrender to the dictatorial forces of the State." https://freedomnews.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/War-Commentary-1945-05-05.pdf


April 23rd-26th 1945. Trial continues. (from the pamphlet “Freedom Is It A Crime?” published June 1945.)


April 26th 1945. VR, JH and PS are found guilty.Richards and Hewetson are found guilty on each charge while Sansom  is found guilty on two charges: of conspiracy and possessing the circular letter to the Forces. Richards is acquitted of possessing a leaflet, the dissemination of which would contravene Defence Regulation 39A (1) (a). Each  are sentenced to 9 months on each charge (National Archives HO-45-25554, Image 026, KSL)


May 1945. According to the statement drawn up by Tom Earley for the March 30 1946 Conference at Kingsway Hall the first meeting of the London Anarchist Group took place in May 1945. It was unanimously agreed at this meeting that Freedom Press should not be controlled by the anarchist movement.


May 1945. First issue of “Direct Action” which is published by the London Group of the Anarchist Federation. According to Speccial Branch it was two pages. Read it at the Sparrows' Nest http://www.thesparrowsnest.org.uk/collections/public_archive/4401.pdf

“The Word” publishes details of the “War Commentary” trial and letters criticizing the FPG for their behavior in the movement generally. One is by Adolfo Caltabiano. The April 1945 edition of “The Word” had also published letters critical of FPG by Tom Brown and Ken Hawkes. Brown's letter stated that the finances of the FPG had not been submitted to the movement.


13th May 1945. Defence Rally in supp:ort of the imprisoned " War Commentary" anarchists at Holborn Hall, London. Chaired by Ethel Mannin, the speakers were Marie-Louise Berneri, Fenner Brockway, Herbert Read, Frederick Lohr, Eddie Shaw, Geoffrey Pittock Buss and Ernest Silverman.


23rd May 1945. Letter from Freedom Press Group to Glasgow Anarchist Group querying the nature of the planned Congress (presumably they had received a circular/letter from the Glasgow Anarchist Group). The FPG had presumed that the Congress would implement the decisions of the 17th January meeting between the Glasgow Anarchist Group and VR and AM. They state that since that meeting Tom Brown and Ken Hawkes had sent letters to “The Word” which, from the factual evidence presented to the GAG at the January meeting, they know to be lies. The FPG also suggest that, with his public allegation that the FPG have received a double paper ration, Brown wishes to involve the police. The London group of the AF will not collaborate with that group again. They had hoped that the planned Congress would discuss how we could form a national organization and have a press controlled by the movement. Therefore the Congress can only be attended by people who intend to be in one organization. (From names mentioned one presumes that the GAG had suggested a Conference including Brown, Hawkes and, apparently, even Aldred). It is likely that at this conference( date still to be determined but late May-early June?)  the Anarchist Federation became the Anarchist Federation of Britain

They also inform the GAG of the planned name change from “War Commentary” to “Freedom”


May 27th 1945. Meeting at Kingsley Hall, Bristol-" Free The Press Campaign.In Solidarity With Imprisoned Anarchists". Sponsored by the Anarchist Federation, The Independent Labour Party, Common Wealth and the Peace Pledge Union under the aegis of the Bristol Freedom Press Defence Committee. Ethel Mannin chair with two speakers- M.L.Berneri and E.Silverman


June 1945. The June 1945 issue of “Direct Action” has the words “Issued by the Anarchist Federation of Britain” above the banner.


June 1945. Frank Leech, Eddie Shaw and Jimmy Raeside leave the Glasgow Anarchist Federation and form the group “Syndicate of Anarchists” that supports Freedom Press. Ken Hawkes as Sec’y of London AF to Wm Cairns, 30.12.46).


June 17th 1945  Meeting at Holborn Hall to consider the continuation of the Freedom Press Defence Committee. According to Special Branch only twelve people attended the meeting.The three speakers were Ronald Avery, Preston Clements and Mat Kavanagh. Clements spoke as Treasurer of the Freedom Press Defence Committee while both Avery and Kavanagh, according to the Special Branch report, were very critical of Special Branch!!


June 17th 1945. Freedom Press Defense Committee meeting in Glasgow with Berneri and George Woodcock in attendance.After the meeting they talk to the GAF, according to Special Branch.It is this private meeting she describes in her letter to Richards on the 22nd June ( see below). Special Branch state that there was no agreement in the FPG and GAF working together.Obviously Berneri felt otherwise.


June 22nd 1945. Marie Louise Berneri writes to Vernon/ Vero Richards about her visit to Glasgow. “I returned yesterday from Glasgow and felt like writing to you straight away to tAfter the meeting both spell you all about my trip. In my last letter I told you that I felt a bit nervous about going up there but all my fears were unjustified. I think the visit was a success and it certainly gave me a lot of encouragement. What stands out most is the friendliness of our comrades which was really wonderful.
“After the meeting we met all the comrades together and had a discussion till about 2 in the morning (they never seem to go to bed in Glasgow). Parts of the discussion were a bit unpleasant as they revealed fundamental differences in outlook, but on the whole the atmosphere was friendly and the conclusion arrived at was that although we differed on certain points there was no reason why we should not be working together." From "Marie Louise Berneri 1918–1949. A Tribute" http://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/various-authors-marie-louise-berneri-1918-1949-a-tribute


June 23rd 1945. Meeting at Trade Union Club, 12 Newport St., London of the Friends of Freedom Press. The meeting is to decide upon the meeting of a new anarchist association and its relation to Freedom Press. No name is agreed upon but shortly after in June (no clear date yet known)  the London Anarchist Group is formed. Nineteen people attend this meeting that is chaired by George Woodcock, including Albert. One of them is probably a Special Branch agent. The meeting turns down a proposal from Frederick Lohr and Laurie Hislam that the new organization will be a purely pacifist grouping. Unanimously decided that the new grouping would be devoted mainly to the dissemination of anti-militarist propaganda and opposition to conscription. MLB “stated that Freedom Press would remain a privately controlled concern.”  Others in attendance were Simon Watson-Taylor Herbert Read, Kitty Lamb, Mat Kavanagh, Preston Clements and Derek Holmes.(National Archives Special Branch report HO-45-25554, Image 167, KSL)


June 1945. First meeting of the London Anarchist Group ( briefing document from LAG for the March 1946 conference


July 1945. Bulletin of the Freedom Defence Committee is published. The Committee has been formed to " uphold the essential liberty of individuals and organizations and to defend those who are persecuted for exercising their rights of freedom of speech, writing and action." It campaigns for the end of conscription and for an amnesty for those imprisoned in protest against the war.


July 14 1945. War Commentary refer to Aldred's attacks in The Word, saying that the paper "has specialised in dishonest attacks on Freedom Press and some of its supporters and contributors. Emma Goldman was a favourite target of vile attacks, which were later turned on Herbert Read. Now the attacks are particularly directed against the four comrades who recently stood for trial –  Aldred and his friends have proved willing accomplices of Inspector Whitehead and Sir Donald Somervell in attempting to sabotage the anarchist movement."


July 19th 1945. Commemoration meeting of the Spanish Revolution organized by the Anarchist Federation at Holborn Hall, London. Speakers: J. Garcia Pradas (ex- Editor “CNT” Madrid), Jimmy Dick (AF Glasgow), Tom Brown (AF London) and Ken Hawkes (AF London) [Flier for this meeting is at: https://www.katesharpleylibrary.net/gxd3qm]


August 17th 1945 Special Branch report states that at a recent meeting the Freedom Press anarchists etc adopted the name of the London Anarchist Group. The majority of the Spanish anarchists went with the Anarchist Federation but six went to the LAG and are named. (National Archives HO-45-25554, image 164, KSL)


28th August 1945. “War Commentary” becomes “Freedom through anarchism”.




September 1945. First National Congress of the AFB in Glasgow (Hawkes to Cairns, 30.12.46) The Conference draws up the Aims and Principles of the organization.


September 1945  ' The Word" ." Guy Aldred, in the article "The "Anarchist" Trial Examined", sums up his critique of the defence strategy of the " War Commentary" defendants describing  that it was a " defence of paid irresponsibility"


September 1945. Albert Meltzer arrested.



14th September 1945. Albert in court. Sentenced to three weeks for failing to notify of a change of address. Sentence served in Brixton. Then sent to Prestatyn camp


24th September 1945. John Olday released from Brixton prison. Immediately re-arrested and taken to Prestatyn camp.Sentenced to two years for desertion.


24 October 1945. Albert court martialled. Conducted his own defence. Sentenced to one year for being absent without leave. Sent to Stakehill Military Detention camp.


29 November 1945. London Anarchist Group have a fundraising social and dance to celebrate the release from prison of Hewetson, Richards and Sansom. (Report in “Freedom through Anarchism” 15 December 1945)


1 and 2 December 1945. Congress of British Anarchists in Glasgow sets up the Union of Anarchist Groups, autonomous group united in a federal manner. Delegates come from Glasgow, London, Bristol, Newcastle, Paisley and Ayr with fraternal greetings sent from groups in Liverpool and Nottingham. Speakers include Preston Clements, John Hewetson, Philip Sansom, Vernon Richards, Marie Louise Berneri, Eddie Shaw, William Bryce, Tom Carlisle, Jimmy Raeside. (Report in “Freedom through Anarchism” 15 December 1945)


26 January 1946 Note in “Freedom through Anarchism” on “Conditions in detention camps” reports that John Olday and Albert Meltzer have been moved “from the notorious Stakehill Detention Camp to Sowerby Bridge in Yorkshire.”


January 30th 1946 (Wednesday) 9am. Brown, Hawkes (London) Bill Borland and Tom Reilly (both from Glasgow) force their way into VR and MLB’s flat at the point of a gun. Demand money for the publication of “Direct Action”. A cheque was made out for twenty-five quid. BB endorsed and cashed the cheque and was photographed on Friday 1st February as he left the bank.


February 2nd 1946. Same four as above plus three others went into Freedom Press and broke up type. They apparently believed that the photograph taken at the bank would be published in the next issue of “Freedom” (9th February 1946). Richards arrived and was assaulted and coat torn to shreds. Onlooker called the police who were told they were not needed by Richards.


Sometime after Special Branch arrived at FP to warn them that another attack was planned for the 22nd February. Members of the FPG warned the AF who denied any knowledge of the planned attack and made assurances that not further attacks were in preparation.


(A constant rumour often apparently passed on by TB – his name is always mentioned with it – was that VR and MLB’s flat was purchased with movement money.)


March 30th 1946. 2:30pm Kingsway Hall, London. Conference called by FPG and the London Anarchist Group and is attended by members of the AFB, and the Union of Anarchist Groups as well as anarchists who belong to no organization. “The purpose of the conference is to discuss the situation existing between the two organizations” (Hawkes – Acracio Ruiz, asking Ruiz to attend the Conference as it will be attended “by people who have been given a completely false picture of the attitude of the Spanish comrades in this country”) Tony Gibson is chair. There is a long statement delivered by Tom Earley that covers the history of the tension, as the LAG see it.

Dealing with the charge of VR obtaining money from the movement it claims that the balance sheets show VR was not in receipt of any money from the movement.

No balance sheet is available for 1944 due to the police raid of December 1944. (The statement by the LAG is at: http://katesharpleylibrary.pbworks.com/w/file/139485351/Conference%20summing%20up%20of%20affairs-LAG.pdf )


April 1st 1946. Letter from Hawkes ( Sec’y, London Group, AFB – Sec. Manchester Regional Group, AFB) With regard to the conference on the 30th March, Hawkes wrote “Comrade Brown put the case of the Federation, but, as expected no result was achieved. The clique controlling the Freedom Press, supported by the so-called London Anarchist Group, both held the view that the press should not be controlled by the movement. The only useful purpose served was to clarify the issue in some people’s minds”.


20 April 1946. Issue of “Freedom through Anarchism” reports release of John Olday from Stakehill, and under “Freedom Press and Bookshop” states “NO-ONE MAKES A LIVING OUT OF FREEDOM PRESS” (but that the printers, and the full-time managers of the bookshops in London and Bristol are paid).


15 June 1946 A pamphlet-  "The Aims and Principles of The Union of Anarchist Groups" authored by the London Anarchist Group and printed by Freedom Press is announced in "Freedom through Anarchism". The aims and principles reflect the influence of the "Aims and Principles of the Anarchist Federation" from 1943. (Read the pamphlet here: http://katesharpleylibrary.pbworks.com/w/file/139850667/The%20Aims%20and%20principles%20of%20the%20Union%20of%20Anarchist%20Groups.pdf)

The announcement reads (in part): Many readers have asked if the "Aims and Principles of the Union Of Anarchist Groups" were going to be printed in pamphlet form. We are very pleased to announce that an attractive folder has now been produced in ideal form for introducing these aims and principles to new contacts. Since it was first printed in "Freedom" last December this concise statement has been published or quoted in various other countries.
We want local groups and individuals to give this folder wide publicity so that they may benefit from its distribution[. Arrangements have been made whereby any local address may be printed on it for contact in that particular area. Special rates are being offered for quantities and any group or individual ordering over 500 copies may have their local address printed instead of or as well as the London address. [...] The special rates for distribution will ensure that although the folder nominally sells at 1d., a proportion can be given away without financial loss to the distributor. They are as follows: Single copies 1d. (post 1d.)
100 copies 5/- (post free)
500 copies 20/- (post free)
1000 copies 30/- (post free). Image here http://katesharpleylibrary.pbworks.com/w/file/139932891/UAGpamphletannounce.jpg


?June 1946 Albert released (reported in “Freedom Through Anarchism” 29 June 1946).


31 August to 1 September 1946 London Anarchist Group-organised Anarchist Summer School. (Ad in “Freedom through Anarchism” of 27 July 1946, Report in that of 7 September 1946. Speakers mentioned: George Woodcock, Mat Kavanagh, Jimmy Raeside, Eddie Shaw.)


2nd April 1949. Letter sent out suggesting the formation of the Syndicalist Workers Federation with a separate " Draft Proposals For The Formation Of A Syndicalist Workers Federation". It stated that a preliminary meeting for those interested would be held at 25 Amberley Road, London W9 at 3pm on April 17th 1949. PDF here: http://katesharpleylibrary.pbworks.com/w/file/140142444/SWF%20letter%20and%20proposal..pdf


'August-September' 1949. "Resistance" in New York prints a correction: "Note: In the June Resistance, Freedom was incorrectly identified as published by the Union of Anarchist Groups of Great Britain. The Freedom Press group has sole responsibility for the paper. - R" ("Anarchism: Further Comments" in "Resistance", vol.8, No.2 August-September 1949 page 8)


3 June 1950. Ken Hawkes (for National Committee of the AFB) and Frank Rowe (Secretary of the London Group) send a letter with proposals, the first being that "The AFB should transform itself into an organisation which will concern itself solely with syndicalist propaganda and action." Read the letter with proposals http://katesharpleylibrary.pbworks.com/w/file/140448762/RON01996-7becomingSWF1950.pdf


August 6th 1950. At a Special Conference of the AFB it is agreed that the AFB should be dissolved and the Syndicalist Workers Federation should be created,with " Direct Action" as its newspaper.


Biographical Directory
Guy Aldred 1886-1963. London-born anarchist-cum-independent-socialist based in Glasgow. Member of the United Socialist Movement and editor of “The Word” (1939-1965). Firmly opposed to the war Aldred was for a time Chair of the Glasgow and West of Scotland No-Conscription League and gave advice to prospective COs ( including Eddie Shaw) about the best way to argue their individual cases. In the April 1945 " The Word" Aldred published letters from Tom Brown and Ken Hawkes that were critical of the FPG. The July 14th 1945 " War Commentary" attacked Aldred's attitude to the  ' War Commentary" defendants  and their supporters, including Herbert Read, claiming that Aldred specialized in attacking  Freedom press and their supporters.In reply Aldred wrote two article in the August and 1945 "The Word" aggressively criticizing the " War Commentary" defendants.He stated that there was tension between himself and " Freedom" going back to 1909 and that the " War Commentary" defendants were guilty of abandoning anarchism by recognizing the court, accepting defence lawyers and pleading not guilty to the charges of causing disaffection. He was noticeably critical of  Marie-Louise Berneri's failure to give evidence because she was married to Richards.In " The Word' for December 1945 a letter from veteran anarchist Clara Cole  called for the lessening of tensions between anarchists and a coming together of the two factions. Part of Aldred's reply stated that " our sympathies are with " Direct Action" and the Anarchist Federation"

Ronald (Ron) Avery. London anarchist and member of the Anarchist Federation. His undated letter of resignation ( late 1944-early 1945?) refers to himself as temporary Secretary of the Federation at his time of resignation. His primary reason for resigning appears to be the amount of discord between members hindering, he feels,effective work.He supported the Central London lectures which involved Albert Meltzer  Avery spoke at Freedom Press lectures in February and April 1945. In 1944 , according to Vernon Richards, Avery produced drawings for War Commentary under John Olday's name so the authorities would not link the arrested Olday to the paper. (At this juncture Olday was refusing to give any information after his arrest to the authorities.)  Special Branch reports have Avery attending the " War Commentary" trial and in the April 21st " War Commentary" he, with others, endorses the letter from the Glasgow Anarchist Group defending the Freedom Press Group from the criticisms of Tom Brown that had been published in " The Word" of April 1945.On the 11th February 1945 he gave a talk at the newly created Freedom Press Lectures at Holborn Hall on " The Social Functions of Art". He chaired a meeting at Holborn Hall on the 25 February 1945 under the auspices of the Freedom Press Defence Committee.Avery was not identified by Special Branch as being at the June 23rd 1945 meeting discussing the creation of a new anarchist association.Avery contributed articles to " War Commentary" on anarchism and education in January 1945.He was a speaker at the June 17th 1945 meeting at Holborn Hall to discuss extending the work of the Freedom Press Defense Committee.After the split his home at 58 Crediton Hill, London N.W.3 was the venue for various meetings.

Charlie Baird Glasgow anarchist

Marie-Louise Berneri 1918-1949 Key figure in Freedom Press Group. “War Commentary” trial defendant.Until July 1944 she was on the Editorial Board of " War Commentary".According to Special Branch (!) she was registered at the Ministry of Labour as being the Manageress of Express Printers.( This is the only reference to her holding that position that I have found)

Tom Brown 1900-1974 London anarchist (though originally from Tyneside). Member of Anarchist Federation and  the initial “War Commentary” editorial board. Later a key figure in the Anarchist Federation of Britain.A reserved occupation engineer throughout the War Brown wrote regularly for " War Commentary" on industrial and social matters and was a regular speaker at events in England and Scotland. He supported the case against Desmond Fenwick for stealing from the FPG offices.By the summer of 1944 he, Ken Hawkes and others was arguing for decisions in the Anarchist Federation to be made by  majority vote and not by unanimous decision-the latter policy being favoured by the FPG.He was signaled out for criticism in Berneri's resignation letter from the Federation ( July 1944) as well as in Albert Meltzer's November 1944 written explanation as to why he resigned from the Federation. After the  resignation of the FPG from the Anarchist Federation on January 6th 1945 Brown became much more antagonistic in his criticism of them over their control of the money and property that he believed belonged to the Federation and not the FPG.On January 8th 1945 he first physically attacked John Hewetson at the the Freedom Press premises in an argument over the ownership of a duplicator and then went on to threaten Vernon Richards with a blunt knife.A letter from Brown appeared in the April 1945 " The Word" edited by Guy Aldred accusing the FPG of a lack of financial, and other, accountability and also suggesting that the FPG had misappropriated their paper ration.Brown was a member of the editorial board of " Direct Action" which appeared in May 1945 and by June 1945 carrying " Issued by The Anarchist Federation of Britain" above its banner.On January 30 1946 Brown with three others entered the apartment of Berneri and Richards at gunpoint demanding money for the publication of " Direct Action". On 2nd February 1946 the same group entered the premises of Freedom Press and broke up printing type and attacked Richards.At a conference of various anarchist groups at Kingsway Hall in London on March 30th 1946, Brown put the Anarchist Federation's case against the FPG. During this period Brown had three pamphlets published: " Trade Union Or Syndicalism" London, Freedom Press 1942 ( excerpts appearing in "War Commentary" ( December 1940-February 1941) with an initial print run of 13,000 ; "British General Strike" London: Freedom Press, 1943, first appearing in " War Commentary" November-December 1942) and " The Social General Strike " London: AFB, 1946?) Brown's articles on British Army mutinies at the end of the first world war apparently alarmed Special Branch. 'Pages of Revolutionary History: Mutiny in the British Army' https://www.katesharpleylibrary.net/1g1m48 'Pages of Revolutionary History: British Mutinies in France' https://www.katesharpleylibrary.net/hhmjch

Adolfo Caltabiano 1897-? Anti-fascist exile who was forced to leave Italy in 1930 because of his anti-fascist activities. He, apparently  joined the Spanish Republican Navy for a short time in 1936-37. He appears to have arrived in the UK around 1940 and was allegedly interned for some time. He was interned 20 June 1940 and released 4 December 1940. Reinterned 26 April 1941, released 2 December 1941. (UK, World War II Alien Internees, 1939-1945). From the end of 1941 onwards he was secretary, for a time, of the Italian Anti-Fascist Action Committee. ( letter to The Word,February 1946) Author or co-author of three pamphlets published in London by the Italian Anti-Fascist Action Committee: "We Must Reconquer Italy : Open Letter to My Countrymen In Italy and Abroad" (1942), "What I Stand For" with Ignazio Silone (1943?) and "Peoples and Charlatans" (1944). An article under his name -"Unconditional Surrender: Himmler's Fourth Front" appeared in the "War Commentary" of 10 February 1945. He wrote a letter protesting about the raid on Freedom Press (in "The Tribune", mentioned in "Truth" Friday 23 March 1945).  He was noted as attending the " War Commentary" trial by Special Branch in April 1945 while his letter accusing the FPG of using the movement's money for their own enjoyment was published in "The Word" of May 1945. A letter from Caltabiano in "Freedom though Anarchism" on November 17 1945 details his arrest at Hyde Park (on the 23 September) for "obstruction" while selling literature, his trial and 8 days in Wandsworth prison. See also "An attack on Freedom" in "Freedom through Anarchism" December 1 1945, reporting the trial of Caltabiano and four others (trial on 19 November; Caltabiano Selling "Direct Action", Leah Downes (Leah Feldman) selling Freedom, Clare Annesley and Mrs Murphy selling "The Word" and P. Rawlings selling "Direct Action").

Caltabiano was certified insane 17 December 1945. (the case of Caltabiano by D. James, Socialist Appeal Feb 1946)

“Freedom through Anarchism” 1946-02-23 reported a protest against him being certified insane. He had been arrested five times for selling anarchist literature at Hyde Park( the last time on December 8th 1945) and refused to pay any fines.

He was declared insane on December 18 [?] 1945. He wrote a 2pp broadsheet " To My Gaolers and Torturers: The Labour (!) Government"  while he was "under mental observation" that was published by the AFB which campaigned for his release which took place [by April] 1946 when he was released into the care of friends. See A. Caltabiano: certification of insanity, Socialist Appeal May 1946

Sonia Clements (née Edelman) American-born London anarchist

Jimmy Dick Glagow Anarchist Federation


Tom Earley (1911-1998)

Thomas Powell Earley, born September 11th 1911 at Mountain Ash, Cynon Valley,Wales. Son of a pithead blacksmith. Educated at Trinity College, Carmarthen. Worked as a teacher at St. Dunstan's College, Catford, 1945-1971. Went from Labour to CP and then associated with anarchist movement. A lifelong pacifist, member of the PPU from 1937.  Served a prison sentence during WW2 as a conscientious objector. Arrested for obstruction for selling Freedom in Hyde Park in 1945. Later involved in C100 and CND and Plaid Cymru. Died 30th October 1998. Wrote and had published 4 books of poetry. ( Thanks to Nick Heath for this bio)


Dorothy 'Peta" Edsall

Desmond Fenwick. Member of the Anarchist Federation. In October 1941 he is noted as being a regular speaker at the noon meetings at outdoor pitches at Lincoln's Inn and Tower Hill. He organized  talks on behalf of the Friends of Freedom Press in Oxford in February and March 1942. He appears to have moved to London ( or back to London) shortly afterwards where he lived with John Hewetson and Peta Edsall of the FPG and volunteered at the Freedom Press offices.On 12 June 1942 he spoke, at the Freedom Press rooms in London, on "The Counter-Revolution in Spain". From May 1942 money ( donations/subscriptions etc) had begun to go missing from the Freedom office.Suspicion fell on Fenwick and on July 8th 1942 he met with MLB, VR and Albert Meltzer. It was decided to put the facts of the matter to the Anarchist Federation. In October 1942 ( Check!!!!) Fenwick and Bill Gape created an organization called the Libertarian Action Movement, formerly called, variously, Libertarian Youth, Proletarian Youth or Radical Youth, which was founded in August 1942. Interestingly Special Branch at this time refer to Fenwick as a " one time fascist"On at least one meeting (December 13th 1942) at the Conway Hall the leaflet advertising the meeting claimed affiliation to the FPG and the AF which, by that time, was not the case.There is also at least one example of the organization booking a meeting in the name of the FPG and pulling out of the meeting, leaving the FPG with the bill.He also appears to have spoken on the Glasgow Anarchist Federation platform between July 1942 and January 1943.

Fenwick appears to have left the AF sometime before January 1943.In February 1943 Now living in Bristol, was held in custody for a week for stealing books.( Western Daily Press, February 1943). In July 1943 he spoke at Hyde Park on the LAM platform. On 13 July 1943 he was arrested for using language likely to cause a brach of the peace and fined Nineteen shillings.An issue of " Freedom" ( April 2nd 1977) identifies Fenwick as chair of the Islington branch of the National Front and leader of the National Front's Election Department.

Bill Gape 1900?-June 1966. Bill Gape was a tramp from around 1914-1930 traveling around the UK,Canada, USA and South America until his return to the Britain in 1930. His autobiography " Half A Million Tramps" was published by Routledge in 1936. During this period he helped organize various tramps' organizations having been influenced by his experiences with the IWW while riding the rails in Canada.  A member of the Anarchist Federation he spoke at various anarchist meetings on the situation of tramps in the UK and, also the IWW and made occasional contributions to " War Commentary". .In late 1941 and early 1942 he was prominent in the formation of a West London anarchist group.In the July 1942 "War Commentary" there is an advertisement for the  West London Freedom Club with Gape as its Secretary and Mat Kavanagh as the President.In May 1942 he debated with the SPGB on anarchism. He spoke at the Indian Freedom Rally on August 23 1942 at Conway Hall where he was described as "IWW and Organizer of the Tramps Union".He strongly supported Desmond Fenwick against charges of stealing money from the "Freedom" office and is cited in Marie-Louise Berneri's July 1944 letter of resignation from the AF as being particularly insulting to her and others over the affair A letter to Frank Leech from the Kingston Branch of the AF, dated 31st January 1943, states that Gape resigned from the AF after accusing Berneri, Richards, Hewetson and Tom Brown of trying to sabotage the movement. It would appear that between then and January 1943 Gape and Desmond Fenwick created an organization called, variously, Libertarian Youth, Proletarian Youth or Radical Youth.On at least one meeting (December 13th 1942) at the Conway Hall the leaflet advertising the meeting claimed affiliation to the FPG and the AF which, by that time, was not the case.There is also at least one example of the organization booking a meeting in the name of the FPG and pulling out of the meeting, leaving the FPG with the bill.He was noted by Special Branch as attending the trial of the " War Commentary" defendants in April 1945.


Ken Hawkes Journalist. Member of Anarchist Federation and then a key figure in the Anarchist Federation of Britain.

John Hewetson 1913-1990 Medical doctor "War Commentary" trial defendant. Came into the anarchist movement from the Forward Group of the Peace Pledge Union alongside his partner, Peta Edsall, Frederick Lohr and others.Member of the editorial board of " War Commentary" and a regular contributor to the paper, often on, contemporary, historical or health and welfare matters.Albert Meltzer in " The Anarchists in London, 1935-1955" and Clarissa Honeywell both suggest that Hewetson and Marie-Louise Berneri both worked, at least for some of the war, as full time ( unpaid?) workers on " War Commentary" and Freedom Press.Tom Earley's statement written for  the  anarchist conference on 30th March 1946 states that Hewetson joined the editorial board of the FPG in 1940.At other times Hewetson appears to have been working as a doctor at Paddington Hospital in London.In 1940 he was imprisoned for seven days for selling a "working class paper"outside Hyde Park and refusing to pay the resultant fine (WC 10th March 1945).In 1942 he was sentenced to six months imprisonment for refusing to undergo a medical examination for military service and appears to have been released on September 12 1942 having agreed to full-time work in a hospital. ( "The Word", October 1942)  .By 1945 he was registered as a CO.He was listed as being the Proprietor of Freedom Press at the "War Commentary" trial. Alongside the other defendants in the trial Hewetson was sentenced to nine months imprisonment under Defence Regulation 39A and was released in November 1945 after serving seven months. Beside his contributions to War Commentary he also published, during this period, " Italy After Mussolini". London: Freedom Press,1944; " Ill Health, Poverty and the State". London: Freedom Press, 1946; " Mutual Aid and Social Evolution". London: Freedom Press, 1946.According to Special Branch( 23. 2 44)  Hewetson was also the lessee of the Freedom Book Shop, 132 Cheltenham Road, Bristol.

Clifford Holden 1919-2020 Member of Anarchist Federation

Mat Kavanagh 1876-1954 Irish anarchist, co-founder of London Anarchist Group. Member of Union of Anarchist Groups

Kitty Lamb.( 1901-1992) In June 1943 she was secretary of the Libertarian Anarchist Movement which held a joint meeting with the Anarchist Federation on 27th June 1943-at the latter's request.Covering a LAM meeting  on 2nd May 1943chaired by Kitty Lamb Special Branch describe her as recently out of prison for refusing to fire-fight.She attended the meeting on 23rd June 1945 at the National Trade Union Club that was convened to discuss the creation of a new anarchist organization and its relationship to the FPG.On 26th August 1945 she spoke to an audience of around fifty at Hyde Park ( according to Special Branch ) where she explained the work of the Freedom Defence Committee.

Frank Leech. 1900-1953 Glasgow anarchist  and one of the founder members of the Glasgow Anarchist Group- part of the Anarchist Federation- in 1940.Leech had worked, quite closely, with some of the FPG  on their paper " Spain and The World" (1936-39)  and its successor " Revolt" ( 1939) and maintained good relations with them.His wife, Mary, also worked on the latter. In late July 1940, together with Frank Dorans, James Kennedy and Eddie Shaw, Leech was charged under the Defence Regulations for helping Conscientious objectors to prepare for the military tribunals they would have to face.The other three defendants were also charged with holding mock tribunals to help conscientious objectors prepare for the real thing.The case went to court on September 4th 1940 and the charges against the men were dropped.On November 11th 1943 Leech was summoned to the Sheriff's Court for refusal to register for fire-watching.Sentenced to a 25 pound fine or 60 days imprisonment he chose the latter.He then went on hunger strike for 17 days and was only released when friends paid his fine.Leech was a regular contributor to " War Commentary" usually on Scottish industrial matters.He was also a regular speaker at meetings-inside and out- and also outside factory gates. During the war he had a newsagent shop in Netherton Road, Glasgow.Special Branch report him as being in attendance at the "War Commentary" trial. He left the Anarchist Federation in solidarity with the FPG breakaway and in June 1945 formed the Syndicate of Anarchists together with Jimmy Raeside and Eddie Shaw.Often the FPG wrote to the Glasgow Anarchist Federation through Leech rather than Charlie Baird, the secretary of the group.

Frederick Lohr ( -d.1961 )

Lohr came into the anarchist movement from the Forward Group of the Peace Pledge Union alongside John Hewetson, Peta Edsall and others in the early months of the War. Lohr was a regular speaker at meetings and  at Hyde Park. In the early months of the war he served a three month sentence having been arrested at Hyde Park for using language likely to cause a breach of the peace. (  the August 1940 "War Commentary" )  refers to him has having recently been given  the three month sentence) He was arrested again at Hyde Park on the same charge for speaking on India in the spring of 1942 but these charges were dropped. His 68pp. self published pamphlet " Anarchism- A Philosophy of Freedom " (1942) was reviewed in the November 1942 " War Commentary" by George Woodcock.He was a member of the AF and resigned in March 1942 although still remaining supportive. In 1944-45 he organized a series of meetings under the auspices of " Forum".He was noted by Special Branch as being in the Press box during the trial of the " War Commentary" defendants in April, 1945.  His long letter in support of the FPG is printed in the August 1945 " The Word" in which he attacks Aldred for the personal nature of his comments about the " War Commentary" defendants and he accuses Caltabiano ( whose letter, attacking the FPG anarchists and accusing them of  using movement money for their own enjoyment, was  published in the May " The Word") of being a liar (" I have already publicly to his face called him a liar" ) He goes on to vouch for the honesty and moral integrity of those under attack. He attended the 23 June 1945 meeting at the Trade Union Club which was called to decide on a name for a new anarchist association and its relationship to the FPG. At the meeting,,with Laurie Hislam, he presented a motion that the new association would be a purely pacifist one. The motion was defeated. He was a regular contributor to " War Commentary" and active for some time in the Freedom Press Defence Committee.Articles by Lohr also appeared in " The Word" and " Why" ( New York). He was, in 1941-2 a regular speaker at Hyde Park..In  July 1945 he was still speaking from the Freedom Press platform there.


Juan Lopez Sanchez ( Juan Lopez) 1900-1972

An early member of the CNT who Lopez was jailed between 1920-1928 for his activities with the movement.Later he served on the National Committee of the CNT.Primarily a syndicalist he signed the declaration of the Treintistas and was consequently expelled from the CNT returning in 1936.During that year he became Minister of Trade and continued to speak regularly.Arriving in the UK in exile he soon became a member of the Secretariat of the Commission of Spanish CNT Refugees in England and was actively involved in fundraising for the exiles.He and others were ousted from the Secretariat in 1943 by a group involving Pradas who would go on to support the Toulouse MLE in exile whereas Lopez and others felt that it was the CNT still in Spain ( the Interior)  who should be directing the movement not the " irresponsible half wits..in exile".( from a statement written to Spanish anarchists based in the UK by Lopez and the ousted Secretariat members ).He appears to have been close to Marie-Louise Berneri and Vernon Richards and stayed with the Freedom Press Group after the split in 1945. He appears to have held a rather low opinion of Pradas. He would eventually abandon anarcho-syndicalism  for his earlier syndicalism.


Ethel Mannin 1900-1984 London anarchist and writer (of Irish ancestry)

Albert Meltzer 1920-1996 London anarchist and member of the Anarchist Federation until 1944. On the founding editorial board of " War Commentary" alongside Berneri, Brown and Richards.Helped at the Freedom Bookshop in Red Lion Passage.( a 25 April 1941 Special Branch report says he was " seen daily at the shop") For a time he was secretary of the Anarchist Federation but left the role to work on the " Workers In Uniform" bulletin as editor and correspondence secretary.Sometime in 1940 ( before August ) he had applied for conscientious status on the basis of his political beliefs. His application was denied. He  appears to have given up any editorial roles when he became a writer for comedians at various music hall shows and revues which meant he was out of London for some time during the years 1941-43. That said he was a regular contributor and donor to ' "War Commentary" .Throughout the period of the split he was close to the Freedom Press Group helping them with the case of Desmond Fenwick. In July 1942.He, together with Berneri and Richards met with Fenwick in July 1942 and decided to put the facts of the matter before the Anarchist Federation. He also went with Richards in January 1945 to put FPG's case to the Glasgow Anarchist Federation with regard to their split from the Anarchist Federation.. A regular speaker at meetings he resigned from the Anarchist Federation in October 1944 " in view of the altered basis and principles of the AF" More specific reasons are given in a scathing letter he sent on 17th November 1944.He was eventually arrested in September 1945.He was initially sentenced to three weeks imprisonment for failing to notify of a change of address- a sentence served in Brixton after which he was sent to Prestatyn Camp where , on October 24th was court-martialed  and sentenced to a year inside for being absent without leave. He was sent to Stakehill Military Detention Camp to serve his sentence. John Olday was also there. The 26th January 1946 Freedom announced that Albert and Olday had been moved from Stakehill to Sowerby Bridge.(FIRST DRAFT)

John Olday 1905-1977.( born Arthur William Oldag). According to Special Branch he used the aliases Willi Freimann and Michael Peterson in 'War Commentary', and also 'Frank Allen' (possibly the name on the identity card he used?) Olday arrived in England from Germany in 1938 after being involved in anti-Nazi activities in Germany, primarily as a member of the Spartacist Group. He, apparently was involved in anti-Nazi activity while based in London.His cartoons were first published in " War Commentary" in 1942, as XXX. He regularly contributed cartoons and a column " From The Ranks" and also wrote a forces Newsletter that was sent to any interested servicemen or women.By then he was a deserter from the British army. He had been called up to the Pioneer Corp in July 1941 and deserted in 27th November 1943 ( according to Special Branch". Olday was believed  by Special Branch to have written articles under the pseudonym Michael Peterson in " War Commentary"that added to their growing concern about the the possibilities of radical action as the War drew to an end.These articles were " How Wars End" ( July 1944 ) and a series of three articles entitled " All Power To The Soviets" (  Ist November, 11th November and 25th November 1944).He was arrested on the 17th November 1944 ( according to Special Branch).After his arrest he refused to provide his real name  for some time and the War Commentary editorial team deliberately did not take up his case as they felt that might reveal his true identity.( He was eventually identified by a Special Branch officer.) Consequently drawings under his name and his regular column continued to appear in the paper, the drawings being the work of Ronald Avery.  In January 1945 Olday was sentenced to one years imprisonment for " stealing by finding". He served eight months and was immediately arrested on his release and was taken to Prestatyn Camp and charged with desertion. He was sentenced to two years.At the end of 1945 Olday was in Stakehill Detention Centre, together with Albert Meltzer. Freedom of january 26th 1946 announced that he and Albert had been moved to Sowerby Bridge. announced that he and Albert had been transferred to Sowerby Bridge. Publications during this period: " The March To Death".London :Freedom Press, May 1943, " The Life We Live, the death we die" London: Freedom press, 1944 (still rough)

George Orwell 1903-1950 Socialist writer. Supporter of the "War Commentary" defendants.

C.E. Palmer

Pablo Partos Polgare (real name Paul Partos) 1911-1964 MLE in exile (London).

J. Garcia Pradas 1910-1988 MLE in exile (London). Member of the FAI and the CNT ( joining the latter in  February 1936)  and journalist.During the Spanish Revolution Pradas had been involved in the running of the Madrid based anarchist newspapers "CNT" and " Frente Libertario"  and fought in Guadalajara and around Madrid. He left Spain on the 30th March 1939 and spent many years living in exile in the UK.A  member of the Anarchist Federation, he appears to have supported the Allies in World War 2 and was seen by some as an unpleasant influence in the Federation.He is mentioned in the July 1944 resignation letter of Marie-Louise Berneri as claiming that the FPG did not wish to collaborate with the Spanish exiles. Pradas was a member of the Liaison Committee of the CNT in England- an organization that is suggested, in Berneri's resignation letter , as being less than honourable in its dealings with the AF and FPG with regard to its attitude towards the War.At the meeting of the Glasgow Anarchist Federation with Albert Meltzer and Vernon Richards in January 1945 Jimmy Raeside suggested Pradas was a particularly dangerous influence and had influenced Brown, Hawkes and Holden for the worse with regard to the tensions between the two factions in the AF. Pradas went on to work with the newly formed AFB and spoke  at their public meetings about Spanish matters. A prolific author of books and pamphlets he contributed articles regularly to numerous anarchist papers in Europe and America, including " Revolt". He was expelled from the CNT in 1951 with the suggestion that he had moved away from revolutionary anarchism.


Jimmy Raeside. Glasgow Stirnerite anarchist and member of the Glasgow Anarchist Federation. He was a regular speaker and debater  at both indoor and outdoor meetings- for instance on 8th November 1942 he debated with the SPGB at a meeting in Central Hall, Glasgow, which was in aid of the Anarchist Prisoner Fund. At a meeting of the Glasgow Anarchist Group with Vernon Richards and Albert Meltzer on 17th January 1945 he is on record as seeing Brown, Hawkes and Holden et al. as being manipulated by the "Spanish faction" in the AF into taking an antagonistic attitude to the FPG. He suggests that Pradas is particularly insidious.On January 16th 1945 he spoke at a " Withdraw From Greece" rally at St. Andrew's Hall, Glasgow where he called for industrial action to force the withdrawal of British troops.The 5 May 1945 " War Commentary" identifies him as Secretary of the Glasgow Freedom Press Defence Committee.Together with Frank Leech and Eddie Shaw he left the Glasgow Anarchist Federation to form the " Syndicate of Anarchists Group"in June 1945. This group took the side of the FPG.


Herbert Read 1893-1968 anarchist writer. Member of Freedom Press Defence Committee.


Vernon Richards (Vero Recchioni) 1915-2001. Changed his name by deed poll from Vero Benvenuto Costantino Recchioni. A member of the Freedom Press Group which was part of the Anarchist Federation until January 1945.He registered as a conscientious objector and spent some of the war working in the reserved occupation of railway engineer. A 25 April 1941 Special Branch report has him working as an engineer for the Reading based firm of Mott, Hay and Anderson on a salary of 400 pounds a year. Closely involved in the Desmond Fenwick affair. In April 1942 he put forward 55% of the money to purchase the Express Printers plant at 84a Whitechapel Hight St.In November 1943 Express Printers was registered in Richards' name. In January 1945 he had visited Glasgow with Albert Meltzer to meet with the Glasgow Anarchist Federation and discuss the FPG split from the AF.Arrested in February 1945 alongside Berneri, Hewetson and Sansom on the charge of causing disaffection.In April 1945 he, together with Hewetson and Sansom, was found guilty and sentenced to nine months imprisonment.Released in November 1945 he was the subject of two physical attacks by members of the Anarchist Federation. The first took place in the flat he lived in with Berneri on January 30 1945, the second at Freedom Press on February 2 1945. Both attacks  were apparently driven by the belief that Richards, and others in the FPG?, had taken money and equipment meant for the  Anarchist Federation. He appears to have had a rather tense relationship with some of the exiled Spanish anarchists.On the editorial board of " War Commentary" was an occasional contributor to the paper under his own name or the pseudonym " Libertarian". It is quite probable he wrote some of the unsigned editorials for the paper as well as the regular. business news concerning Freedom Press that occurred in most issues. Married to Marie-Louise Berneri.


Eve Rosenberg


Ingeborg Roskelly (Ingeborg Linzer, Ingeborg Woodcock, 1917-2003, partner of George Woodcock). German refugee and member of the Peace Pledge Union. In court during the Freedom Press trial and present at the June 23rd 1945 meeting at Trade Union Club, 12 Newport St (see her Special Branch biography https://www.katesharpleylibrary.net/4b8j26). Became a member of the FPG editorial group in 1945, according to the statement drafted by Tom Earley for the March 30th 1946 anarchist Conference. Her article 'The state of Germany' was published in Freedom 23 August 1947.


Acracio Ruiz = Jose Molina Ortega (1909-1994) Movimiento Libertario Español in exile (London).Served as a commissar with the 77th Mixed Brigade. Worked with Cipriano Mera on the Center Regions Defence Junta and together with Mera helped the coup led by Casado against Negrin and the Communists. By the mid-1940s he was secretary of the CNT in Exile in the UK. He was a contributor to " Reconstruccion" the paper of the MLE in exile in the UK.Like the majority of the Spanish exiles he remained in the Anarchist Federation after the FPG split in January 1945. In 1962 , still in London, he was a member of the  Defensa Interior leadership set up by the CNT at their 1961 conference in Limoges Some extant correspondence suggests he was  close to Vernon Richards and Marie-Louise Berneri but he did not, apparently support the FPG over the split from the Federation.


Manuel Salgado Moreira 1899-1967 Movimiento Libertario Español in exile (London)


Philip Sansom 1916-1999 Artist, “War Commentary” trial defendant.


Eddie Shaw Glasgow Stirnerite anarchist and member of the Glasgow Anarchist Federation who worked as a sheet metal worker.Shaw was a prolific speaker and debater at both indoor and outdoor meetings.In late July 1940, together with Frank Dorans, Frank Leech and James Kennedy,Shaw was charged under the Defence Regulations for helping Conscientious objectors to prepare for the military tribunals they would have to face. Shaw, Dorans and Kennedy  were also charged with holding mock tribunals to help conscientious objectors prepare for the real thing.The case went to court on September 4th 1940 and the charges against the men were dropped. In September 1942 he lost his appeal to serve no more than seven days in Barlinnie prison for failing to undergo a medical examination under the National Service ( Armed Forces) Act. Shaw was an occasional contributor to "War Commentary" and spoke at several Scottish meetings in support of the " War Commentary" defendants.Together with Frank Leech and Jimmy Raeside he left the Glasgow Anarchist Federation to form the " Syndicate of Anarchists Group"in June 1945. This group sided with the FPG after the split. 


Frank Soden. Member of the Kingston branch of the Anarchist Federation and active among bus workers.He was Kingston branch delegate of the National Passenger Workers Union. On 27th July 1941 at the biennial conference of the union he presented a motion arguing that the union should re-constitute itself on anarcho-syndicalist lines.The motion was defeated by a heavy majority. ( "War Commentary" August 1941) Soden wrote  occasional articles in " War Commentary" on disputes within the sector as well as a theoretical piece on anarcho-syndicalism and the busmen ( " War Commentary" July 1941). On May 3 1942 he spoke at a Mayday rally at Conway Hall (alonside Tom Brown, Bill Gape, Mat Kavanagh and Frederick Lohr with Jim Barker in the chair). On August 23 1942 he spoke at the Indian Freedom Rally at Conway Hall. Soden spoke at the regular Friday night meetings at the Freedom Press rooms on " Direct Action in the Class Struggle" on 25th September 1942.He was a signatory of a letter on January 31st 1943  from the Kingston branch of the AF to Frank Leech of the Glasgow AF that condemned the behaviour of Desmond Fenwick and Bill Gape.


Jack Wade. Member of the FPG. Initially active in the Welwyn Garden City Anarchist Group Wade moved to London in 1941 where he worked as a market gardener.In January 1943 he was sentenced to 12 months in prison for refusing a medical examination under the National Service ( Armed Forces ) Act.Released early, he gave a talk on his prison experiences at a meeting of the Kingston Anarchist Federation on October 10th 1943.He was an occasional contributor to " War Commentary" and provided a written witness statement on the events of the evening of January 8th 1945.On February 2nd 1945 he spoke on " The Future of Cities" at the newly constituted Freedom Press lectures at Holborn Hall.


Colin Ward 1924-2010


Lilian Wolfe 1875-1974. Veteran anarchist and volunteer with Freedom Press.Until 1943 Wolfe had managed a health food shop in Stroud, Gloucestershire living in the nearby Whiteway Colony since the early nineteen twenties. From 1928 she was joined there full-time by her partner Tom Keell who, in 1927, had stopped regular production of the "Freedom" newspaper. She volunteered at the "War Commentary" offices at weekends and in 1943 moved permanently to London. She then became the de facto office manager of the operation dealing with subscriptions and correspondence- still as a volunteer. She was present at the Freedom Press offices on January 8th 1945 when Hewetson was attacked by Tom Brown signing a statement as witness to the events that took place.


George Woodcock 1912-1995 Canadian-born London anarchist. Woodcock was granted CO status early in the War and during the Autumn or Winter of 1941 he was introduced to some of the FPG by Herbert Read.He had already produced seven issues of a literary journal " Now". By December 1942 "War Commentary" was advertising the first number of the second series of "Now" published by Freedom Press, more overtly anarchist than the first series as well as being far more professionally produced. ."Now 2" it was published by George Woodcock c/o Freedom Press and was distributed by Freedom Press.Later copies of the journal would list Woodcock's address as  24 Highgate West Hill, London N6.There appears to be little contemporary discussions about the financial relationship between the FPG and " Now" in the various collection of papers we have seen. His first contribution to " War Commentary" appeared in November 1941 and he went on to write regularly for the paper on historical, literary and social matters. He also spoke quite regularly at meetings on a variety of topics.After the imprisonment of Hewetson, Richards and Sansom in April 1945 Woodcock, together with Berneri, Peta Edsall and Ingeborg Roskelly ( Woodcock's partner), kept " War Commentary " going, although he was not recorded by Special Branch as being at their trial.His publications during this period include: : "New Life To The Land." London:Freedom Press, 1942; Railways and Society; For Workers' Control of the Railways." London: Freedom Press, 1943; ' Homes or Hovels; the housing problem and its solution."London: Freedom Press, 1944; " Anarchy Or Chaos." London: Freedom Press, 1944 and " Anarchism and Morality." London: Freedom Press, 1945.

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