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Fred Ward

Fred Ward joined the Communist Party in 1937, when he stared at Folland’s aircraft works at Hamble and joined the factory branch there. There were eleven members in the branch; most of the AEU shop stewards were members, Fred, a storeman in the GMWU was responsible for literature sales. They had a daily sale of 48 copies of the Daily Worker together with similar sales of the New Propeller and Labour Monthly.

When the Fall of France occurred in 1940 Fred addressed a factory meeting about it for which he was arrested and sacked. He was jailed for three days for holding a meeting in a protected place. Apparently the branch disbanded soon after this.

After his sacking, Fred had a brief spell at the Atlantic Gulf West Indian Oil Corporation’s refinery at Fawley before going to work at the Eastleigh works of Pirelli. Whilst in Eastleigh he became secretary of the town branch of the Party (there were two branches in Eastleigh then, a residential branch and the Rails Branch, based on the Southern Railway’s Locomotive Works).

During the 1945 General Election they organised factory gate meetings outside Pirelli’s to support the Labour candidate. Eastleigh at that time was part of the Winchester division and in 1945 for the first time ever and since, Winchester returned a Labour MP.

In late 1945 Fred moved back to the Esso refinery at Fawley and established the Fawley branch of the Party. In name it was a residential branch but practice made it a workplace branch. Virtually all of its members being employed by Esso, four process workers, or Foster Wheeler, the building contractor engaged in the massive expansion of the petro-chemical plant, twelve of which were in the branch.

Fred had joined the ETU now and subsequently became chairman of shop stewards’ committee. Trade union density both among the process workers and the building workers was high, which was reflected in the high rates of pay being earned. The ETU branch sent Fred as their delegate to the local Labour Party General Management Committee. Apparently the local Labour Party was happy enough but the national Party sent down a Lord Shepherd to enforce Party rules and have Fred thrown off.

Predictably, when the construction work finished and the building workers moved on, Party membership slumped. Although it did have something of a renaissance when the Waterside Liasion Committee for the Defence of Trade Unions was set up in 1968/69, getting involved in industrial action on the refinery site, in one instance felling trees across roads to deny petrol tankers access or egress.

Sources: Adrian Weir, `The Minority Movement and After: a South Hants Perspective’, Our History, New Series No 6, July 2007