John Mansfield was born 1920 in the Regents Park area of Camden Town, London. He was the son of a former World War One military and later railway policeman. John moved to Hayes in 1932 aged 12 and attended the local Townfield school. After leaving school he became a toolmaker at the local aircraft builders factory, Fairey Aviation, Hayes, and soon became active in the Amalgamated Engineering Union (AEU – the engineering union).
Once at Fairey aviation, John soon became involved as did many others at Fairy’s, were with the influential journal the “Propeller” the “progressive” aviation workers journal. (See pic.) It was after hearing a speaker at his local AEU union branch meeting at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936, that he first heard of the despite plight of the "Republican cause" and how they as skilled engineers could assists by building and recondition motorbike ambulances to assist the Medical Aid to Spain campaign.
John soon began work on building motorbike ambulances for Spain, working alongside Sidney Bennett (a fellow apprentice at Fairey). This work was carried out both at Sidney Bennett’s shed and also at the Hayes Labour Hall in Pump Lane. John finally joined the Communist Party in 1942, later stating he had done so “on the back of the Red Army’s war efforts, and the lessons learnt from it”. However, not everyone was happy at his decision, his father a policeman was not and later told him in no uncertain terms that “your membership could have cost me my job”.
John’s mentor, was his work colleague and leading Hayes Communist, Frank Foster, AEU activist and convenor at Faireys, other Communist Party members at Fairey included Wally Roberts (vehicle builders union) and at some point Dickie Bond CP member and ETU (Electricians Union) activist from Uxbridge.
The Daily Worker was openly sold at Fairey’s, primarily from Johns work bench, John explained that "the lads would pop in and leave the money and take a copy". John also sold Daily Worker in Hayes town or as he stated “in the gutter” at Hayes railway bridge, in the gutter because to avoid being arrested they had to stand in the gutter.
The Communist Party played a key role in improving production at Fairey aviation through the Works Committee during the Second World War. Many years later, John recalled with great pride his involvement in a major Communist Party workers’ pageant in central London, possibly held as part of the second front campaign, entitled: "An agreement with the peoples". The Pageant was held on 20 June 1942, it is believed at the Empress Stadium. John attended in his “clean” overalls to represent aviation workers. He also recalled with pride how the Communist Party and the unions at Fairey had “turned over” management to improve “productivity” during a critical period in the War.
John became Branch Chairman of the Communist Party in Hayes with Frank Foster as District Secretary, the other key figure was Robert Good of the Brass and Mechanics union, the Convenor at EMI.
The Communist Party in Hayes initially met during the war at Len’s cafe (Len Frampton was a Communist Party member) but later at the Communist party offices at East Walk, Hayes and also at the Communist Parties Thames Bookshop at 83 Station Road, Hayes. Later the Communist Party office would be consolidated at Southall and remained open well into the 1980s.
The West Middlesex District of the Communist Party (which covered mainly engineering factories from Slough to Acton) was established in 1950 covering Hayes, Southall, Greenford, Uxbridge, Yiewsley, Ruislip, Northwood, Sudbury, Acton, Chiswick, Ealing, Isleworth, Twickenham, Feltham, Heston, Staines, Slough with fifteen borough branches and sixty branches with a combined membership of 1,744
Other Communist Party factory groups were at EMI, Firestones, Gillette, Tecalemit, McLeans, AEC , Napier (Napier’s at Acton had 150 CP members at one point), Hoover, Park Royal vehicles, Electronics, Old Oak Common rail depot, Chiswick & Fulwell London Transport depot. Initially, Abe Lazarus (see separate entry) was the West Middlesex District secretary – a "slave driver" according to Joyce Mansfield!
John was a regular contributor to the Hayes News. This weekly publication, which while owned by a prominent local Hayes Labour Party activist, Ernest Harding, was seen by the local Labour Party as pro Communist Party, not least because local Communist party activists Jack Maling, who worked at EMI had a regular column which he used to great local effect under his initials, JJM.
John stood as Communist Party council and parliamentary candidate on a number of occasions, but was for the most part content with being a thorn in the Hayes Labour Members of Parliament side, particularly right wing Labour MP’s, such as Arthur Skeffington and Neville Sandleson (who later defected to the SDP). (John is pictured right in the local paper as a Communist candidate.)
John, as a council tenant was active in Hayes and then Hillingdon Trades council, heavily involved in the Tenants Movement in Hayes and sat on the Hillingdon Borough committee well into the 1990’s.
John lived with his devoted wife Joyce (see pic below) at 80 Attlee Road, Hayes (on the Barnhill council estate) for over 40 years. Joyce Mansfield was born in 1919 at Cambridge, then her family moved to Oxford. until the age of 13. she joined the Communist Party in 1943. She worked at local Hayes co-op store,Uxbridge Road store for 11 years and was a member of USDAW, the shop workers union.
John was softly but forceful spoken; a very approachable man, who did not suffer fools gladly, he was one of the most determined, committed and important members of the West Middlesex Communist Party. John Mansfield remained a committed Communist to the end but both he and Joyce were huge supporters of Peter Fagan and John McDonnell, as Hayes’ Labour parliamentary candidates for the constituency. At all parliamentary elections, the Mansfield‘s house was used as a Labour Barnhill ward committee room.
In later years John’s opinions were sought after by many and he was held in esteem which ensure he being labelled on more than one occasion “Mr Hayes”. John Mansfield died in 2004 and local Hayes MP John McDonnell gave the oration at his funeral, Joyce never recovered from the death of John and died soon after.