Ewer William

William Ewer


William Norman Ewer was born in 1885 and was known mostly as William, or sometimes Norman, and occasionally by the nickname of Trilby. 


He became a Daily Herald journalist from 1912, and was later its Foreign Editor.


Nowadays, he is remembered mostly for a few lines of oft-quoted verse from 1917:

“I gave my life for freedom – this I know:

For those who bade me fight had told me so.”


Ewer was writing in support of Guild Socialism during World War One but his profile rose dramatically after the Herald sent him to cover the Russian Revolution. Not only did the Herald, despite its strong adherence to Labourism, support the Russian Revolution, Ewer would became a Communist Party member – at least until 1929.


He wrote for the Daily Herald for Palme Dutt’s `Labour Monthly' all during the 1920s under the nom de plume of UDC, standing for `Union of Democratic Control’, a reform minded centre-left group designed to campaign for openness in diplomacy and war, in which he had been active. During 1925, he was almost sacked from the Herald for his open support for the Communist Party but saved by the quality of his journalism.


In his later years, and especially after his death, Ewer was accused of espionage for Soviet Russia and was intensively watched by MI5 for a long period during the 1920s. Yet, interestingly, Ewer spent the last three decades of his life writing from an extreme anti-Soviet perspective.


He had previously, according to AR in Labour Monthly on the occasion of his death, during the period from the latter part of the first war to 1929, “done a good deal to expose the warmongers’ policy of British imperialism, and this should be remembered to his credit”.


Ewer died on 25th January 1977, aged 91.


Michael Walker


Source: Labour Monthly March 1977



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