Born in 1892, his father was a long-standing and loyal member of the ASE. The young Walter was imprisoned for conscientious objection, from 1916-19.
Holmes had been directly involved in working with Sylvia Pankhurst during the early years of the First World War. In a tribute to her after her death in 1960 he said: “What she aroused in the East End was a mass movement. Not only an enthusiastic following of young working class women joined in her franchise campaign… young workers came with them… They filled the streets with their marching. The Red Flag and The Internationale resounded under the dim lights of 1914-15… Sylvia Pankhurst contributed a powerful opposition to the imperialist war.”
Holmes was close to George Lansbury and was a `Guild Socialist’, or `Guild Communist’ at first, that is to say a supporter of workers’ control via specialist craft associations. But he became a founder member of the Communist Party.
Walter Holmes was a journalist on the Daily Herald during the early 1920s and become an important figure in the hearts of British Communists. Whilst he was at the Herald, he met and later married the then librarian of that newspaper, Dona Torr (see separate entry), who was also a Communist.
After Bill Paul gave it up, he was editor of the Sunday Worker until the appearance of the Daily Worker in 1930, when he became its roving correspondent. From here on,Walter played a particularly key role on the Daily Worker throughout his life. Whilst he fulfilled a wide variety of roles as a journalist for the paper, he was especially noted for his `Workers Notebook’ column, which appeared early in the first year of the paper’s existence, from April 1st 1930, until the very last edition before re-branding as the Morning Star in 1966.
In the early 1930s, he was posted to the Soviet Union and visited Manchuria to cover the Japanese attacks on China, which he recounted in Eyewitness in Manchuria. As correspondent for the Daily Workd Manchuria er, Holmes was the only journalist who stayed in Abyssinia throughout the Italian invasion there and his dispatches proved an invaluable source of information to the Labour Movement.
He organised the “Industrial and General Information Service when the Daily Worker was banned in 1941.
He was the Daily Worker’s correspondent during the Nuremberg trials and was Chair of the Communist Party Committee at the paper for a long time.
Sources: various including Daily Worker October 29th 1952 – below: Walter's own unique by-line in the Daily Worker