Born in 1905 in Renton, Dumbartonshire John Gibbons spent his early years in Ireland. After probably being involved in the IRA, albeit at a very young age, he was in charge of the "anti-militaristic" department, that is to say work amongst the armed forces, in the British Communist Party’s central office during the 1920s.
He returned to Scotland, where he worked in Brown’s shipyards on the Clyde. He later came south, after victimisation for Communist activity, and worked in Portsmouth, where he organised Daily Worker sales.
He was accepted into the International Lenin School in Moscow from 1930, at which he was known as John Ross.
He settled more formally in Moscow in 1933 with his wife Vicky Harvey (who was the Deptford Communist Dora Hart) and their children (Tommy and Jess, who became Soviet citizens). He worked for a period first in the Comintern, then as an editor in the foreign languages publishing house.
His brother was Danny Gibbons (see separate entry), an ex-officer of the British Battalion in Spain during the 1936-39 war against fascism. Indeed, John was one of an outstanding family of Communist fighters; not only Danny but also brothers Joe and Tommy fought with the International Brigade in Spain, where Tommy was killed at the battle of Brunete.
By 1938 John Gibbons was head of the English Section of the international broadcasting service (Inoradio) of Radio Moscow, and his wife Vicky worked for him.
During the Second World War, with German troops advancing on the capital and reaching the gates of the city, despite the danger of occupation, John Gibbons volunteered, to stay and ensure continuation of the English language broadcast.
When he became Daily Worker correspondent, his outstanding war reports were an inspiration to readers of the paper during the titanic struggle which ended with the liberation of the USSR and Eastern Europe from Nazi occupation. Among his notable dispatches, his report of the liberation of Kiev and the discovery of the notorious Babi Yar camp where the Nazis murdered tens of thousands of Jews and Soviet prisoners of war made a profound impression.
John Gibbons was an outstanding working-lass journalist who was able to pithily convey to his readers the full horror of what he had seen. After the war, he worked on the English edition of `For a People's Democracy for a Lasting Peace’ first in 'Belgrade and then in Bucharest. Then he worked in Prague as the British Communist Party’s representative on the English edition of `World Marxist Review’.
In the post-war period, John and Vicky Gibson’s son, also a Tommy, was a student at Moscow University and a member of the Komsomol (Soviet Young Communist League) bureau. Tommy was untimely killed in an accident in 1956, while helping to bring in the harvest as a student volunteer in the then virgin agricultural lands of Kazakhstan.
Vicky and John’s daughter became a lecturer at the Patrice Lumumba University in Moscow.
Sources: Morning Star September 13th 1985; October 1st 1985