Stallard Trevor

Trevor Stallard

Stallard was the leader of the Southampton dockers in the 1950s and 1960s and a member of the TGWU and a member of the Communist Party, along with other leading dockers at Southampton such as Harold Smith.

He first went to work in Southampton Docks from Weymouth Quay, both owned by the Southern Railway Co. Previous to being a docker he had gone down the pit in the Rhondda with his father on leaving school and subsequently become a professional footballer, having spells with West Bromwich Albion, Bristol Rovers and Aberdare.

He joined the Communist Party when it was reformed in Southampton and was put in the Docks Cell. Their first activity was the formation of a reception committee for the Hunger Marchers coming from Plymouth and the West Country on their way to London.

Fred Thompson of the Transport Workers’ Minority Movement and London dockers’ leader was sent down from London to assist the local branch get it started.

The Reception Committee raised money from and gained the assistance of the Labour Party, trade unions and sympathetic individuals as well as gifts of provisions from local shops and traders. The Reception Committee met the marchers on Millbrook Road and marched with them up Commercial Road to the Morris Hall where they were fed and put up for the night.

In this early period the Party town branch organised a Friends of the Soviet Union branch, with Dan Huxstep taking on the job as secretary. The branch held regular open meetings and organised the sale of Russia Today and the Moscow Daily News.

In the summer, of 1932, the International Anti-War Congress sponsored by Henri Barbusse, Maxim Gorky and Romain Rolland was held in Amsterdam. The local FSU open meeting held to elect a Southampton delegate, turned down the Party nominee and sent a local docker who, upon his return, refused to report back at a series of arranged meetings. The FSU later sent a different docker, John Buchannon, to the Soviet Union who upon his return spoke to the Trades Council and some half dozen union branches. Buchannon’s standing as union branch chair and trades council delegate ensured the meetings were well attended and he later joined the Party.

As with the FSU, the town Party branch started to organise the local National Unemployed Workers’ Movement, Wally Cooper and Fred New doing most of the work, assisted by John Gibbons, a full time Party worker whom Southampton shared with Portsmouth. Initially the organisation made little headway, the transient nature of the unemployed in the area probably accounting for that. Dockers, shipyard workers and seamen could all be unemployed one day and employed the next.

The Southampton Unemployed Workers’ Committee was active in organising meetings outside Labour Exchanges with national speakers like Sid Elias and E Llewellyn and creating steady sales of the Daily Worker. John Gibbons with Ted Daly, Reg Case, Fred Prinn, A MacDonald, B McKeeret and F Fippard were active in organising deputations to the town council; demonstrations to local Task Work Centres and ensuring the unemployed had NUWM representation at hearings of the Unemployment Assistance Board. The Unemployed Workers’ Committee organised contingents from the area on three occasions to march to London together with workers from Scotland, Liverpool and elsewhere at the time of the National Hunger Marches.

Southampton Communists also organised their own mass march from Southampton to Eastleigh, which local dockers supported under the slogan ‘We Want Bread’.  

Trevor Stallard’s recollections were that the Communists active in the docks became the acknowledged leaders of the dockers perhaps partly since union organisation was somewhat restricted, with there being only half a dozen shop stewards. Although the Southern Railway owned the docks, there were numerous companies inside who actually employed the stevedores.

Party activists were prominent throughout the 1930s fighting against reduced manning, victimisation, overloading and for better wages and conditions. Trevor also held many a dock gate meeting with Tom Mann. The role of Communists as unofficial spokesmen became crystallized in 1939 when Trevor Stallard was elected to the T&G Biennial Delegate Conference.

Communist dockers in Southampton were active in support of the Republican cause during the Spanish civil war; they sold milk tokens to the dockers and got the union branch to make donations to the Republican side. They played a leading role in the evacuation of 4,000 Basque children who were brought through Southampton Docks and housed in a camp at Moorgreen. It was this campaign that first brought about joint activity with the local Labour Party. Mowbray King, who later became a Labour MP, was particularly prominent.

The Party cell was engaged in activity against fascism and was instrumental in organising 6,000 people when Oswald Mosley arrived in Southampton to speak at an open-air rally on the Common. The result was that Mosley was literally run out of town.

The ‘Hands Off China Campaign’ was well supported by the dockers under Trevor’s leadership. After the Japanese invaded Manchuria in 1931, a state of war effectively emerged between Japan and China. By the end of 1937, Japan was allied to the fascist states of Germany and Italy and had captured the Chinese capital of Nanking

The Duchess of Richmond incident stands out where, following the invasion of China by Japan in 1937, the dockers blacked all Japanese cargo. The Duchess of Richmond docked in Southampton, all her cargo was discharged with the exception of the Japanese goods which were left on board marked ‘Cargo Refused by Southampton Dockers.’

Trevor was deeply involved with the Haruna Maru campaign (see Arthur Clegg entry), when dockers throughout Britain in January 1938 refused to load a cargo of scrap iron and steel on to the Japanese boat Haruna Maru. Trevor was even called to speak at London mass meetings on the China question in the East End at Canning Town Town Hall.

It was a result of the blacking of the Duchess of Richmond that Trevor and two other Party dockers were sacked in 1938 by the Southern Railway (they held preference tallies) and no other stevedoring firms would take them on. Trevor believed that this was done in collusion with the full time officials as they (the officials) periodically reviewed the tallies and after twelve years Trevor, and his two comrades, were found to be unsatisfactory workers.

The local press never gave the incident a large amount of coverage but one paragraph was perhaps pertinent: “An embargo against the handling of Japanese goods has been declared by Southampton stevedores who are members of the Transport & General Workers’ Union… As a result, they refused to discharge 200 tons of Japanese cargo which arrived at Southampton in the Canadian Pacific liner Duchess of Richmond later on Thursday night, and today the liner left to return to Canada with the goods still on board. The decision to impose an embargo, which was taken by the men at a dockside meeting, will … be recommended to members of the Transport & General Workers’ Union at every port in the country.”

The next edition of the paper reported how the union officials had responded: “The action of the Southampton stevedores … in refusing to unload Japanese goods on Saturday was unofficial, it was ascertained by a reporter on inquiry at Transport House, Westminster, headquarters of the union, today. The stevedores are stated to be trying to induce other port workers to follow their example in refusing to handle Japanese goods. If they succeed the question will probably have to be considered by the National Executive of the union as one of policy. Officials of the union realise that an embarrassing situation may be created.”  The local officials subsequently sabotaged a strike in support of the three. Trevor later spoke to the T&G District Committee. He wanted to know why they were being kept out of work, but the DC never moved from the officials’ position.

Stallard was actually sacked in February 1938 after the refusal to unload the Berengaria and only re-employed in 1939. His most treasured possession was a thank you letter from the Chines embassy.

When the Molotov-Ribbentrov Non Aggression Pact was signed. Trevor felt this led to a slight decline in the Party’s influence in the docks, but only one of the ten Party members in the workplace branch left the Party over it.

When the War started in 1939 and Southampton Docks closed as a commercial port Trevor moved to Coventry, first to the Daimler works where he was chairman of the shops stewards’ committee and later to the Standard II works where he became convenor of shop stewards. The aspect of Coventry that most impressed Trevor was the shop stewards’ committees. It was a lesson he took back with him when the war was over.

In Southampton, the few dock shop stewards there never met as a committee and so, on his return to the docks in 1945 and subsequent election as shop steward Trevor set up the first dockers’ shop stewards’ committee in the country. This was against the wishes of Deakin, General Secretary of the T&G, but the employers eventually recognised the Committee which later gained the support of the young, up and coming official, Jack Jones.

Shortly after the War ended, the Docks Party Branch, which had been suspended during the wartime closure, was re-established as the Party Stevedores’ Branch. By 1948, Trevor was on the T&G District Committee and then the union’s national Executive. Deakin tried to expel him because, when addressing a meeting of Liverpool dockers, Trevor told them which way individual EC members had voted over the acceptance of Stafford Cripps’ pay policy.

When Communists were proscribed from holding office in the T&G, Trevor was removed from all committees but, the Southampton dockers refused to let Trevor and two other Party members, John Bonnin and Bill Taylor, be forced off the shop stewards’ committee, and they were even backed by the local officials. The port employers initially refused to recognise the Committee with Communist Party members on it but, since they wouldn’t meet them without Trevor and the others, they were forced to accept the situation.

Decasualisation was the most important post-war issue facing the dockers. Even when the ownership of the docks was nationalised, the operators were still private, employing labour on a casual basis. In Southampton, two union officials were seconded to ensure the work was shared out on an equal basis and to this end they managed to secure a limited right to disclosure of information from the employers. One of the union’s aims was to reduce the number of port employers, which by 1948 had been brought down to three at Southampton.

Trevor later went on to represent Southampton on the Devlin Committee. In 1966, he was quoted as stating: "Every time there is a real crisis or an artificial crisis…….the worker rather than the employer classes have to suffer…”

Sources: Michael Walker; Adrian Weir, `The Minority Movement and After: a South Hants Perspective’, Our History, New Series No 6, July 2007


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