Communists and suspected Communists
Communists and suspected Communists
Sam Wanamaker (KV 2/3106-3107) 1951-1958
From the Security Service files now released on Sam Wanamaker, the American theatrical producer and actor and father of actress Zoë Wanamaker, it is apparent that the Service did not show an interest in Sam Wanamaker's activities until 1951 when it picked up reports of discussions in the British Communist Party about his expected arrival in the UK. Wanamaker and his wife, Charlotte, were both suspected Communists and had left the United States under pressure from the House Un-American Activities Committee. Learning of the Wanamakers' arrival, the Service obtained Home Office records of their aliens registration (which includes the only mention in these files of the Wanamakers' children).
KV 2/3106 shows the lengths that Sam Wanamaker went to avoid doing anything by way of contact with British Communists that would give the American authorities further ammunition to use against him - see for instance the intercepted correspondence at serial 11a. The Service collected information that came to hand about Wanamaker, but did not actively monitor him. The file includes correspondence with the US Embassy and various reports of Wanamaker's work and activities from a variety of sources, including details of his applications to extend his permission to remain and work in Britain. Serials 32-33a show that, in the event of an emergency, it had been decided that Sam, but not Charlotte Wanamaker, should be interned.
KV 2/3107 includes more details of Wanamaker's professional work, and includes publicity material (serial 55a) produced for his projects the New Shakespeare Theatre Club and the New Shakespeare Film Society - both of which were viewed as vehicles for spreading left-wing ideas. A letter of 1957 (serial 52a) shows that Wanamaker was still being careful about any activity that might incriminate him with the American authorities: 'Although there can be no doubt where Sam Wanamaker's sympathies lie, he continues to take care not to prejudice his position by any association with Communists or Communist activities…'. This file includes a photograph of Sam Wanamaker.
Anna Strong (KV 2/3043) 1923-1957
The well-travelled American journalist Anna Strong had already earned her reputation as a friend of the oppressed by the time the Security Service began collecting information about her in 1923. Strong was by then settled in Moscow and working as a well-placed journalist in Soviet Russia. This file records how 'the American crank extremist' (serial 7c, 1929) was carefully watched on her occasional transit trips through the United Kingdom, given her influence in Russia (where she was reputed to have been 'a teacher of English to Trotsky', serial 6a), and increasingly with the Communist movement in China, where she spent much of the remainder of her life, particularly after 1949 when she was deported from the Soviet Union on charges of espionage. British concerns centred on her efforts to visit India where no doubt she would have supported the objectives of Gandhi's Indian National Congress.
The file includes various papers relating to her applications for British Empire visas, and the restrictions to be placed on her travel to the sub-continent, including reports of several interviews with Home Office officials. In 1933, she was characterised as 'a pleasant, vigorous type of woman, with a sense of humour. I shouldn't imagine she would undermine the Empire.' (serial 27a). Having been at first regarded as a well-placed supporter of the Communist regime, by 1941 the file documents concerns that she had a more significant role – Roger Hollis forwarding a report on Strong (serial 55a) stating, 'she is believed to be one of the most important couriers for the Soviet Government and the Red Network. Her Party membership is said to be kept very secret…'. The file includes a photograph of Strong, aged 61 (serial 76z).
Dorothy Galton (KV 2/3049-3050) 1925-1956
Galton, who in her retirement became a leading published authority on beekeeping (author of such works as The Bee-hive - an enquiry into its origin and history and Survey of a Thousand Years of Beekeeping in Russia), was in her working career the leading administrator of the School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES). She had been an active Communist in the period 1932-1936, and so was known to the Security Service when she became its "official link" in SSEES regarding the provision of Russian language courses for military service personnel.
KV 2/3049 shows the difficulty this caused the Service. In contrast to its policy where the link person could be trusted, the Service was reluctant to pass to Galton any information regarding its policy towards Communists. Roger Hollis minuted in 1943 (minute 63) that '…it would be most unwise that we should give Dorothy Galton any information about our policy towards the Communists, and I do not think that we should even turn down a Communist lecturer at this School of Slavonic Studies if his name should be submitted to us. Dorothy Galton…is still in association with members of the Party, and it is just on such a matter as this that the Party would be able to enlist sympathy by attacking us if we were to turn down a candidate on account of Communist connections.' The file contains copies of intercepted correspondence, and shows that Galton rejoined the Party in 1950.
There is further coverage of the case, amid continuing suspicions that Galton was "snooping", either for the Communist Party or for the Soviet intelligence services, in KV 2/3050. The file includes ongoing reports from a source inside SSEES, including for example that at serial 118a: 'A powerful personality in the School is the Secretary, Dorothy Galton, a most unpleasant and seriously unbalanced woman and the only person in the place who makes a serious attempt at administration.' A case summary form 1954 (serial 140a) notes the dangers of her powerful position of having access to the names of every serviceman who attended the Joint Services School of Language courses at SSEES. One final concern was raised in 1955, when she took up residence at a cottage at Hoddesdon, near Parndon in Essex, with her brother-in-law Albert Evans, the Labour MP for South West Islington. The file includes photographs of Galton.
Francis Meynell (KV 2/3041-3042) 1916-1949
Meynell, director of the Daily Herald and editor of The Tablet between the wars, provides an interesting example of an early British Communist intellectual. These two reconstituted files record how he came to notice as an active peace campaigner during the First World War, leading the Guild of Pope's Peace. This was viewed by British officials as being an especially suspicious organisation - not only did it campaign for peace at any cost, but because of its Catholic nature it was viewed as being pro-German. There is some reporting in KV 2/3041 of Meynell's own case to be accepted as a conscientious objector. The file includes suspicions that he was involved in propaganda designed to undermine the morale of the British army.
Meynell remained prominent in the peace movement after the war, and by his own account was involved in channelling Soviet funds to support the left-wing Daily Herald, as noted in KV 2/3042. This includes reports that Meynell himself smuggled Soviet diamonds into the UK from Switzerland, concealed in place of the cream centres in a box of chocolate creams (e.g. minute 14 of 29 December 1920).
Graeme Shankland (Colin Lindsay-Shankland) (KV 2/3108-3110) 1942-1958
Shankland's career as a leading architect of post-war Britain for the London County Council (he was a leading figure in the design of the South Bank Centre, the redevelopment of the Elephant and Castle and the proposed new town at Hook in Hampshire and in Milton Keynes) came despite his well-known Communist beliefs. Shankland had however first come to the notice of the Security Service before his rise to prominence, as shown in KV 2/3108. Shankland joined the army 'suddenly' in 1942 and the Service expressed concern, given his avowed Communist beliefs, that he was given a role where he had access to top secret information regarding the Potsdam Conference. The minutes on this file reflect the Service's concerns about lax army vetting procedures. Representations were made ensuring Shankland was moved to other duties, and it is possible to trace his subsequent wartime career through the service's ongoing watch on his activities.
Shankland's post-army career is documented in KV 2/3109-3110, where his flourishing career as an architect with the London County Council and then in his own practice is recorded alongside his openly Communist sympathies. From September 1956 a warrant was obtained for the interception of his mail, and copies of his correspondence can be found on these files. The files make careful note of the detail of his domestic arrangements and his relationship with partner Peter Thomas (for instance at serial 144, from 1956). KV 2/3110 contains a photograph of Shankland and a copy of his birth registration document.