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The General Strike


Graham Davies
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I've just spent a very interesting weekend in South Wales, visiting one of my last surviving relatives in the Rhondda Valley, an aunt who has reached the grand old age of 94. I learned something new from her that shed new light on my past.

When I left university on the 1960s I wanted to get into the Diplomatic Corps, so I applied for admission to what was then called then Administrative Grade. I passed the written examination and passed two days of tests at the Civil Service Commission, and I got through to the final interview. The final interview panel consisted of three civil servants, one of whom was a softly-spoken Welsh knight. The Welsh knight looked at my application form and then looked at me, saying, "Your father's name was Gomer, wasn't it? Now there's a typical Rhondda name. Old Testament, isn't it?" I nodded politely, adding that I also had a great-uncle Moses and a great-uncle Lot. The Welsh knight continued, "So your father was from Maerdy? We used to call Maerdy Little Moscow". My heart sank. He obviously knew that my father's family were committed Socialists - and so did I, of course - but until this weekend I was not really aware of just how deep their commitment was.

According to my aunt, my grandfather Sam Davies was a close associate of Arthur Horner, a well-known Communist agitator in Maerdy, who later became President of the National Union of Mineworkers. Sam Davies was very active during the years immediately before and after the General Strike, working with Arthur Horner and eventually getting himself and his three miner sons locked out from the pits. That's how my father ended up in Kent, working not as a miner but as a male nurse.

I have only just found out all the details, but the spooks had obviously done their research back in the 1960s! I tried for a couple of other jobs in the Civil Service, but I couldn’t get in. That’s how I ended up as a teacher.

I guess Arthur Horner is pretty well known to historians, isn’t he? And I guess the spooks were pretty active when he was alive.

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I've just spent a very interesting weekend in South Wales, visiting one of my last surviving relatives in the Rhondda Valley, an aunt who has reached the grand old age of 94. I learned something new from her that shed new light on my past.

When I left university on the 1960s I wanted to get into the Diplomatic Corps, so I applied for admission to what was then called then Administrative Grade. I passed the written examination and passed two days of tests at the Civil Service Commission, and I got through to the final interview. The final interview panel consisted of three civil servants, one of whom was a softly-spoken Welsh knight. The Welsh knight looked at my application form and then looked at me, saying, "Your father's name was Gomer, wasn't it? Now there's a typical Rhondda name. Old Testament, isn't it?" I nodded politely, adding that I also had a great-uncle Moses and a great-uncle Lot. The Welsh knight continued, "So your father was from Maerdy? We used to call Maerdy Little Moscow". My heart sank. He obviously knew that my father's family were committed Socialists - and so did I, of course - but until this weekend I was not really aware of just how deep their commitment was.

According to my aunt, my grandfather Sam Davies was a close associate of Arthur Horner, a well-known Communist agitator in Maerdy, who later became President of the National Union of Mineworkers. Sam Davies was very active during the years immediately before and after the General Strike, working with Arthur Horner and eventually getting himself and his three miner sons locked out from the pits. That's how my father ended up in Kent, working not as a miner but as a male nurse.

I have only just found out all the details, but the spooks had obviously done their research back in the 1960s! I tried for a couple of other jobs in the Civil Service, but I couldn’t get in. That’s how I ended up as a teacher.

I guess Arthur Horner is pretty well known to historians, isn’t he? And I guess the spooks were pretty active when he was alive.

Interesting story Graham. The main reason for this was a man called Maxwell Knight. In 1924 Knight joined the British Fascisti (BF), an organization established to counter the growing powers of the Labour Party and the Trade Union movement. Its leader, Rotha Lintorn-Orman, explained why she established the group in 1923: "I saw the need for an organization of disinterested patriots, composed of all classes and all Christian creeds, who would be ready to serve their country in any emergency." Members of the British Fascists had been horrified by the Russian Revolution. However, they had gained inspiration from what Benito Mussolini had done it Italy.

Linton-Orman was impressed by Knight and soon after he joined the British Fascists he was appointed as the organization's Director of Intelligence. In this role he had responsibility for compiling intelligence dossiers on its enemies; for planning counter-espionage and for establishing and supervising fascist cells operating in the trade union movement.

Knight's work as Director of Intelligence for the British Fascists brought him to the attention of Vernon Kell, Director of the Home Section of the Secret Service Bureau. This government organization had responsibility of investigating espionage, sabotage and subversion in Britain and was also known as MI5.

In 1925 Kell recruited Knight to work for the Secret Service Bureau. Knight played a significant role in helping to defeat the General Strike in 1926 and by the early 1930s was placed in charge of B5b, a unit that conducted the monitoring of political subversion.

Knight and B5b were particularly concerned with miners who they saw as the likely vanguard of the communist revolution. Union activists were monitored. They were also blacklisted and they found it almost impossible to find work outside of their own communities. It would seem that your case suggests that the families of those blacklisted were also monitored. All members of the Communist Party were also monitored and had files on them. So also were people who had letters published in the Daily Worker.

In the 1950s and 1960s files were opened on people who were active in CND. It recently emerged that MI5 were involved in recording car number plates of people who attended CND meetings. Student activists were also targeted. Ironically, Jack Straw and Charles Clarke, were two people who entered the MI5 database.

It is this collection of data for political reasons that worries so many people about the introduction of Identity Cards. I for one, will only be in favour of this measure if people have the right to see everything that ends up on the government computer.

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/SSknightM.htm

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Arthur Horner was certainly monitored closely by MI5, and I guess they knew all about my grandfather too. The Maerdy (also spelt Mardy) Lodge of the NUM was very militant and at one time was expelled from the South Wales Miners' Federation.

A museum that is well worth a visit is the Rhondda Heritage Park, Trehafod, just outside Porth: http://www.rhonddaheritagepark.com

It's built on the site of the winding house of a former colliery. Retired miners conduct visitors around the site, which includes a short trip underground (actually a mock-up just a few feet below the surface, but it's very convincing). Be prepared for a slightly left-of-centre commentary on the history of the mines in South Wales <_<

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