Born William Lewer Warman into a working class family in South Norwood on 9th March 1908, (then in Surrey), he became an apprenticed sheet-metal worker at the age of 16 but was sacked at the end of his apprenticeship and only worked sporadically until 1939.
He first joined a union at Hawker’s aviation factory in Kingston and moved to Coventry in late 20s. Bill was elected as the youngest member of the Coventry committee of the National Unemployed Workers Movement in 1931 and worked closely with the local Communist Party all during the 1930s, although he did not formally join, preferring to study Marxism first.
Chair of the Coventry Trades Council from 1938-41, he finally joined the Party in November 1939 (some sources have said 1938 but this date came direct from Bill). Clearly, his talent and leadership potential came before him, since he was elected a member of the Midlands District Committee in 1940 and its Chairman by 1942, a post he kept until as late as 1973.
He worked in close association with Jack Jones of the T&G in Coventry when the latter was its District Secretary. Warman Chair of the shop stewards' committee at Standard Motors from 1944-58, he was intimately involved in the major strike there against redundancies in 1956. He became a member of the Executive Committee of the Communist Party in the 1950s, staying on for eight years until he became a full-time official for the Birmingham & Midlands Sheet-metal Workers Union.
He stood several times as the Party’s candidate in Coventry local elections.
In the late 1970s, he took the independent Birmingham & Midlands Sheet-metal Workers Union into the National Union of Sheetmetal Workers, Coppersmiths and Domestic Heating Engineers, of which he was lay National President.
Retiring after 16 years full-time union work, he became a lecturer for the Workers Educational Association handling shop stewards’ courses.
A member of the Management Committee of the Morning Star in the 1970s, he supported the paper in the conflict with CPGB EC in the 1980s but maintained his membership of the Party until his dying day.
Both of his marriages were to active Communists; firstly, to Hilda, a Czechoslovak who stayed in Coventry, in the 1940s. His second marriage was to Lorna Bridges in his late years, with whom he established a Coventry branch of Pensioners and Trade Union Action. He died just two weeks before his 80th birthday and left his body to medical science.
Sources: Morning Star 29th February 1988, March 28th 1988; “Communist Politics and Shop Stewards in Engineering 1935-46”, Richard Croucher, University of Warwick thesis – April 1977; and GS personal knowledge
Be the first to comment