William (Bill) Savage was the Editor of the Communist Party’s Essex-based publication, the `Rural Crusader’. In June 1946, its first edition was launched and it soon achieved a circulation of 2,500 copies.
The Rural Crusader had a rather unique (for the left) mix of village gossip, horticultural news, a Miss Essex competition, sports, politics, trade union advice, attacks on local US bases, but also included developments in the “socialist world”.
Its objective, according to the editorial in the first edition, was: “A paper that intends to voice the needs and desires of the ordinary village folk….The Crusader is intended to help drive to improve the conditions in the villages; it will turn a searchlight on every injustice that comes to it’s notice.”
Given the limited resources (each copy cost 3d) at William Savage’s disposal, this was a very professionally produced and readable publication.
The origins of the Rural Crusader, according to Savage, was his defeat as a communist candidate in a local council seat in Wethersfield, Essex in 1946 (losing to a Mr Barron, a local farmer, by 119 votes) “I had run for the Rural District Council and not having succeeded at the first attempt decided to do what I could to get some of the shocking things that I had found during canvassing put right. So, out came the Crusader.”
The Crusader, while under the sphere of influence of the CP, supported not only Communist councillors such as Harold Quinton, on Braintree Urban District Council, but also local left wing Labour councillors such as Stanley Wilson a pro Soviet Labour councillor since 1929 in Saffon Walden, and George Lowe “a crippled cobbler” councillor in Dunmow 1930-1950) and the infamous Rev Jack Putterill of Thaxted, who also wrote regularly for the Rural Crusader including in August 1946 the following statement “The Tories failed to oppose Hitler, and took a chance he would spend himself fighting and destroying the Soviet Union”.
While Cllr Stanley Wilson stated on the 29th anniversary of the Soviet revolution in the Rural Crusader that “Soviet communism has come to stay, and will certainly spread until one day becomes world wide” and that he “saluted the Red Army who at the greatest crisis in world history defeated fascism”.
The Crusader also backed local Labour member of Parliament, Tom Drieberg, MP for Maldon.
The Rural Crusade carried information on agricultural workers’ evictions, sackings such as that of Councillor A. V. Royce and NUAW branch secretary at Maldon, evicted from his tied cottage because of his politics.
It reported, in 1948, on the dismissal in 1949 of Mr McLeod Davies, a tutor at Mid Essex Technical College because he had lived in Russia, News on the sacking of 500 agricultural workers in East Anglia in 1947 due to poor harvests and the 1947 squatters’ movement at Marks Hall RAF base, Rectory Army Camp at Sible Hedingham and Great Saling.
Savage and the Rural Crusader were banned from covering Braintree Rurual District Council business in February 1950, in an attempt to gag him.
Spin off local editions of the journal occurred at Harlow, Bishop’s Stortford and Dunmow under the title `Clarion’ and an Association of Crusaders paying 1s per annum was also established.
Around 1950 the Rural Crusader adopted the title `County Standard’ and disappeared into that title soon after, Savage writing occasionally on rural issues for the Country Standard from then on.
Savage lived for a number of years at Cut Hedge, Shalford, Braintree, Essex, moving in 1949 to Little Bentley, Colchester.
William Savage stated that his paternal grandparents were Josiah & Elizabeth Savage of Hundon, Suffolk and he was descended on his mother’s side from James Lamb (his grandfather), a committed old radical from Huntingdon who hated the landed gentry.