1953 – Chris B, National Treasurer

Organiser for the 5th World Festival of Youth and Students in Warsaw in 1955 and British representative to the World Federation of Democratic Youth headquarters. West of England YCL.

My mother gave my wife Betty and me £1,000 towards a mortgage, which cost £5,000. The house is now worth about two million!

I was national treasurer of the YCL, so I attended meetings of the national committee but without a vote.

In 1955 I was sent to Warsaw to help organise the fifth World Festival of Youth and Students, and thence to Budapest as British representative on the secretariat of the WFDY.

My wife and our very young son Frank came with me. The working language of the Federation was French, so that was difficult but we both had a little French.

Both my wife and I had been heavily involved with the Aid to Spanish Youth Committee. Betty was chair.

MI5 had files on us with regard to that, which have been released to the National Archives at Kew but other files relating to us have not been released, it ‘not being in the national interest to do so’.

Our son Frank had been due on Stalin’s birthday, 21 December, but Frank was late. I wrote to Uncle Joe, and asked him if he could use his influence to get me a visa to visit the USSR, as I had read the Dean of Canterbury’s book, The Socialist Sixth of the Sixth of the World, had been greatly impressed, and wanted to see for myself.

The bastard never replied.

I have been swabbed for COVID-19. Result: positive. Betty is already in hospital, fighting for her life. We don’t yet know if she will survive or die.*

Ages ago I went with a National Union of Journalists’ team to Yugoslavia to help build a road from Zagreb to Belgrade. We got up at about 4am when it was cool, and carried wheel-barrows of earth or gravel to where the road was going to be.

When it began to get hot, we went back our camp to rest. After two weeks, we were given a holiday by the seaside.

Back in England, I was secretary of the Student Branch of the Communist Party at Bristol university, and represented the party and YCL on the West of England district committee.

Later, in London, I worked for just over a year as a sub on the Morning Star. John Haylett was a colleague.

When Tony Chater, Morning Star editor, cut the ties with the party, I left the paper and worked at party HQ. I never met Harry Pollitt but saw him frequently and heard him speak but I got to know all the other party leaders and became friends with some of them, including Bill Brooks and John Moss, who were successively YCL national secretaries.

Also Gordon McLennan, party general secretary and his wife Mary.

I was treasurer of the fund set up for the South Bank memorial to those from the UK who went to fight fascism in Spain and never came back.

I am gay and very happily married to a straight woman.


*Ed – as of March 2021 Betty is recuperating at home.