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John Mason, always known as `Johnnie’, was a shop steward and in the small town of Mexborough, near to Doncaster. When he was employed by the English Steel Corporation, Mason had helped to form the Mexborough Trades Council and was still its secretary in the period of the outbreak of the war, when he joined the Communist Party, of which he remained a life-long member.
He was ushered into prominence after being imprisoned on 15th July 1940 under the Defence of the Realm Act Regulations 18b, which gave the Home Secretary the right to imprison without trial anybody he believed likely to "endanger the safety of the realm". It was said that Mason’s only crime was that “he recruited 200 members to the AUBTW from a building job in Staffordshire". Mason was accused of "actively obstructing measures to increase production". Official protests over the case by the Executive Council of the Amalgamated Engineering Unionwere ignored by the government.
The New Propeller, published by the Engineering and Allied Trades Shop Stewards National Council, launched a massive campaign for his release, with a dedicate "Mason Defence Committee" but he would spend eleven months in an internment camp, never being brought to trial. The front page of New Propeller for 15 February, 1941carried an article criticising `industrial conscription' and highlighting the imprisonment of Johnnie Mason. It noted that the whole point of Regulation 18b had been pointed to with the first arrests made under it of Oswald Mosley and other members of the British Union of Fascists.
Johnnie Mason was, however, finally released on 12 June 1941, with no charge.
In the post-war era, he was a regular candidate for the Communist Party in the West Mexborough ward. He is pictured above (in a rust damaged photo) as a candidate in 1946. He was also Area Secretyary for a long period (see right).
Sources: History of the Communist Party 1927-41 by Noreen Branson;