Arthur Essex Edgeworth Reade was a barrister and journalist involved in the early days of the Communist Party from its foundation. Arising from having been involved in distributing Party leaflets to the army with Douglas Springhall in the 1920s, he was the subject of fairly intense security force scrutiny from early in 1925 and for much of the rest of his life thereafter.
This was despite his having later left the Party and subsequently standing as a Labour candidate in national elections. There are a number of security force files on him now deposited in the National Archives dating from 1920 to 1951. (Surveillance records later than this have not been released.)
During the Second World War he several times sought employment in various branches of the intelligence services, but was consistently blocked by The Security Service, until he was eventually accepted by the Special Operations Executive. In his early attempts to gain entry to the intelligence services, he enlisted the support of several influential figures to vouch for him.
There is a letter in the archive files, for example, from Harold Stannard of the Royal Institute for International Affairs, enclosing one from Reade, to a certain `Kell’, stating that Reade was "completely cured" of Communism and supporting his appointment. But Reade was repeatedly turned down (eventually enlisting Harold Nicholson MP to speak for him), and the files convey the unease the Security Service felt about continuing to reject his applications when he had so many of the great and good siding with him.
Reade was eventually transferred to the Intelligence Corps, and from there was recruited to Special Operations Executive, where his Balkan experience was seen as being of value. However, when he was sent home with adverse reports by SOE in 1944, he again found his applications (this time to the Political Warfare Executive) being blocked. He eventually returned to the Intelligence Corps in July 1944, and at the end of the war moved on to the Judge Advocate General’s department.
When post-war complaints about his treatment came to be considered, an intensive Security Service review of the case admitted that the continual blocking of his requests may not have been justified, but argued that his Communist past made it hard for any other course to have been followed.
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