Born in County Durham in 1930, Larry Braithwaite grew up in Stainforth, South Yorkshire. He became an apprentice electrician in 1947 and joined the ETU whilst working in the construction industry in various parts of the country, carrying out various minor rank- and-file union activities in the process.
Larry also became involved in the Peace Pledge Union and was an opponent of National Service, which he reluctantly went through, given that he was totally opposed to German rearmament.
He joined the Communist Party in Southampton 1954, where he served as a shop steward in the docks and in Fawley oil refinery, before moving to Kentish Town, London, in 1955.
He transferred to Parliament Hill Fields branch of the Party, where John Gollan was then a member. He was probably seen as a member of the awkward squad even then, because he baulked at becoming one of the 500 Party members it was decided should be seconded to the YCL. Perhaps his attitude to this was mainly due to the fact that he had recruited a number of apprentices to the YCL and felt too old to be a member, although he was happy to support and work with the YCL.
In the ETU, he was a branch committee member and then the chair of Grays Inn Branch, Islington, from 1955 to 1959. From this position, he helped organise, among other activities, support for the infamous St Pancras Tenants Association rent strike, and the Joint Trade Union and Old Age Pensioners (as it was called then) Federation.
Having moved to the east end of London, he became a member of the Stepney Branch of Communist Party, where he worked with Alan Blatt and others on recruitment, canvassing and various election activities.
Throughout the fifties and sixties, Larry was also elected to various committees of the ETU, as well as Industrial and Policy Conferences but was always a rank and file union office holder at job or branch level.
He attended and helped organise quite a lot of Div. 11 Advisory Committee meeting purely for Party members in Division 11, as well as some London District Advisory and Aggregate (all-member) meetings.
The 1961 ballot rigging scandal in the ETU saw Larry edged out of influence in the Party since it was considered he had been too close to those such as Jack Frazer, who was not simply Secretary of the National Party Advisory to Larry but was also an old friend and ex-work mate. He has known Frank Haxell quite well, especially when the former ETU general secretary, now disgraced, became a member of Larry’s Chapel at IPC Magazines. George Scott, a lifelong Labour Party member but also one of those accused of impropriety, was a close personal friend. The only other personal connection Larry had was with the leading personalities of the affair Sid Goldberg.
Together with many Communists, Larry participated in the first Aldermaston March from London in 1958 and supported many such events since. At one CND meeting held in a pub in Euston Road, probably in 1959, a block of ETU comrades in the audience defended a very frightened Canon Collins against fascist violence outside the meeting place.
From 1959 to 1964, Larry was again a branch committee member and then chair, this time of East Ham Branch of ETU. This was the largest branch in Division Eleven of the ETU, which had been electing Frank Chapple, hence the significance of a branch move.
Considerable involvement with Dagenham YCL followed, with Larry applying himself to an intensive recruiting role in both the Party and his union. At that time Dagenham was a very active part of the South Essex YCL with Cyril King, who was himself one of a large number of ETU members locally, as secretary. Seemingly, Dudley Moore, the comedian, actor, and musician was briefly a member, perhaps in the very early 1950s before he went on a scholarship to university. Moore was brought up on the Beacontree council estate where his father, Jock Moore, was an electrician for Stratford East Railway; both parents were very musical and taught Dudley the piano when he was eight years old.
Personal circumstances necessitated a move for Larry to Southwark in 1962, where his Party activity was mostly confined to canvassing and leafleting on behalf of Joe Bent and Nell Vyse.
Larry’s wife, Frances, then a trainee lighting engineer, stood as a Party candidate in the local elections there. She had previously been Secretary of Islington YCL, at that time the largest branch in London. She was briefly a member of Station Engineers No. 10 branch of the ETU, which was Frank Chapple’s branch, and for some time she was the Secretary of Central No.1. Branch of the ETU in Peckham. Frances later studied, took a degree, and became a teacher, serving as Secretary of Brent NUT, the largest association in London, a post she held for many years, as well as being a member of the union’s EC, before becoming a Regional Officer for the Union.
Larry and Frances moved to Brent in 1967, where they again worked with Alan Blatt in covering a range of Party and non-Party activities, with most Party meetings taking place in their home, usually chaired by Larry. It was Alan who invariably stood as a Communist Party candidate in local elections. The Braithwaites were both officers of the local Tenants and Residents Association, although Frances was also very busy with educational activities, NUT and the Woodcraft Folk.
Larry worked and organised throughout these years as shop steward for a number of firms in the building industry and, due to the blacklist by electrical contractors association, also worked in shipping, the Port of London, exhibitions, signs, film and television studios until 1969.
He was the Secretary of the Studio and Entertainment Branch from 1965 to 1969, when he was expelled from the union for organising opposition to the JIB for the electrical contracting industry. Due entirely to the actions of Communist lawyer, Jack Gaster, a successful High Court action reinstated Larry. Following Gaster’s direction, Larry sought employment in any closed shop industry. In 1971, he was eventually able to fill a temporary vacancy at Odhams Press, Long Acre, which was in the process of gradually moving to Bouverie Street.
Larry was elected Chairman of the Chapel of Odhams Press until they finally stopped printing “The People”there, when he was elected Father of the Chapel (FoC) of IPC Magazines, an office he held until 1975. Moving to The Observer, he was elected first Deputy FOC, then FOC, an office he held until he was made redundant shortly before The Observer was taken over by The Guardian.
In this period, he carried out Party work in Print along with comrades such as Mike Hicks and Bill Freeman. His entire Chapel eventually became shareholders in the Morning Star, and the Press Branch of the ETU, thanks to Mary Rosser, met weekly in Marx Memorial Library.