Francis Ben

Ben Francis

Ben Francis was born in South Wales in 1897 and, on leaving school, he worked in coal mining until he served in army in the First World War. He was gassed while serving in France, which left him with poor health for the rest of his life.


He was foremost in the early struggles after 1926 against unemployment, and one of the leading figures in the Welsh march to the 1928 Swansea TUC against the policy of `Mondism’. His exposure of Ramsay MacDonald, then the MP for the Aberavon constituency, was described as `outstanding’.

He was a close friend of Idris Cox, secretary of the International Department of the Communist Party (see separate entry), who said of Francis, on his death: “When I first made his acquaintance, Ben was a keen student at one of my National Council of Labour Colleges classes on working class history in Port Talbot. He was the prominent local Independent Labour Party leader. The experience of a miners' lockout and General Strike early in 1926 gave the final seal to his growing Communist standpoint. It brought him into the Communist Party and despite his ill-health gave him new vigour and enthusiasm.”

After he had moved to the Maesteg valley, he was one of a “splendid team of Communist leaders who led the workers of that valley in many fierce struggles, unemployed  marches, protest demonstrations and election campaigns.”

Then, Francis began a thirty year stint as a member of the editorial staff of the Daily Worker in London from soon after the paper's foundation in 1930. He was, in turn, reporter, industrial correspondent, forces correspondent during the Second World War, and deputy-news editor. Despite his physical condition he resolutely refused to ease-up on working and his courage was a reportedly a source of inspiration to all members of the paper’s staff.

He died aged 64, after a heart attack in a Moscow sanatorium, where he had gone for convalescence after spending some time in a London hospital.

Speaking of his work during the unemployed struggles in the 1930s, Will Paynter, general secretary of the National Union of Mine workers recalled that: "He always fought tirelessly for justice for the men who were denied assistance. Yes, he was a fine fighter for ordinary workers.”

Source: Daily Worker Front Page article: "Courageous Ben Francis Dead – A Journalist and Fighter" 6th September 1961

Michael Walker


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