Tom Wintringham: Revolutionary Patriot: Hugh Purcell Tells the Story of the Man Who Inspired the Home Guard, Taught It Guerrilla Warfare and Paid a Price for His Political Beliefs

By Purcell, Hugh | History Today, October 2004 | Go to article overview

Tom Wintringham: Revolutionary Patriot: Hugh Purcell Tells the Story of the Man Who Inspired the Home Guard, Taught It Guerrilla Warfare and Paid a Price for His Political Beliefs


Purcell, Hugh, History Today


IN THE SUMMER OF 1940, after the Low Countries and France had surrendered in the face of the Nazi blitzkrieg and the British Army had been evacuated from Dunkirk, Britons awaited their fate, sure that Hitler would order an invasion across the Channel. Prime Minister Winston Churchill roused the nation with BBC broadcasts of stirring defiance that were listened to by two out of every three adults. He was followed on the airwaves by the writer J.B. Priestley, whose homely Yorkshire voice extolling the British way of life was listened to by one out of three adults. Then there was Tom Wintringham with his huge readership of several million from weekly articles in the Picture Post and Daily Mirror; his BBC talks, his columns in Tribune and the New Statesman and his popular books New Ways of War and Armies of Freemen that together sold well over 100,000 copies in a few months. If Churchill's patriotic oratory called to mind an aged Henry V and Priestley was compared to that 'honester and true-hearted man Falstatt", then Wintringham's persona was his hero, the Leveller John Lilburne. He called the nation to arms with his slogan in the Daily Mirror 'An Aroused People, An Angry People, An Armed People', and, in New Ways of War, he pledged an equal sacrifice for a better Britain:

   Knowing that science and the riches
   of the earth make possible an
   abundance of material things for all,
   and trusting our fellows and ourselves
   to achieve that abundance after we
   have won, we are willing to throw
   everything we now possess into the
   common lot, to win this fight. We will
   allow no personal considerations of
   rights, privileges, property, income,
   family or friendship to stand in our
   way. Whatever the future may hold we
   will continue our war for liberty.

Few people today know of Tom Wintringham (1898-1949), though he does exist as a footnote in standard British histories of the first half of the twentieth century. He is mentioned first as one of the Communist leaders imprisoned for 'sedition' before the General Strike of 1926. Then he is identified, and rightly so, as a pioneer of the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War and the commander of the British Battalion in the blood-drenched Battle of Jarama in February 1937.

Histories of the Second World War call him the 'the inspirer' of the Home Guard in 1940 and finally the 'co-founder of Common Wealth', the political party that won over 100,000 votes in the 1945 General Election.

Now he is about to receive his proper due. In the newly published Dictionary of National Biography he makes his entry as 'a uniquely English revolutionary' and in my own biography I call him 'the last English revolutionary'. I hope this will elevate him from a footnote to the main text of British history. He was a remarkable man of ideas; the foremost Marxist expert on warfare, a published poet, a brilliant propagandist and the author of one of the few works of literature to come out of the Spanish Civil war in English, English Captain. He was also a man of action who believed that few things in life could be achieved unless you were prepared to fight for them. This he did, as revolutionary, soldier and politician. Above all, and despite an absent-minded professorial air, he had the rare skill of inventing organisations that worked: 'people's armies', a political party, a national daily newspaper the Daily Worker (which he set up in 1930). That unstable summer of 1940, when invasion, surrender and resistance seemed a likely scenario, was his own 'finest hour'.

In October 1937 Wintringham had been invalided home from Spain. Though still a Marxist he was disillusioned with the British Communist Party (CPGB) because of its subservience to Stalin's foreign policy. in June 1938 he was expelled from the Party for refusing to leave his lover whom he later married, the American journalist Kitty Bowler. She had been found guilty in Spain of being a Trotskyite spy, a travesty of the truth but a familiar verdict at the height of Stalin's reign of terror.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Tom Wintringham: Revolutionary Patriot: Hugh Purcell Tells the Story of the Man Who Inspired the Home Guard, Taught It Guerrilla Warfare and Paid a Price for His Political Beliefs
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.