is about Thomas Henry (Tom) Wintringham (1898-1949), and the new book about him.
He was man-of-action, journalist, military historian, soldier, Marxist and author. He believed
in Socialism and a Socialist Britain, even if it took a bloody revolution to get there!
But he was also lover, poet, husband, father and friend.
Hugh Purcell is now a writer and broadcaster specialising in twentieth century history. He was
the Executive Producer of several BBC TV series such as "The Roads To War" (with Charles
Wheeler) and "Cinememo", a history of the century through home movies, and he has written
BBC radio histories including the obituary of Oswald Mosley. He was President of MAP TV,
a Euro Media project encouraging films on European history, for which he was made a
Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.
He now writes biographies and is a frequent
contributor to History Today and History magazines.
The Last English Revolutionary, a biography of Tom Wintringham,
has now been written by Hugh Purcell. It was published by
in September 2004. ISBN 0-7509-3080-2
Tom Wintringham -- the man
Tom had strong views on many things, and wrote with humour and passion.
He wrote books and articles about war and history and politics.
His letters and poems range over love and pain, courage, disappointment and
anger. His family preserved some of these documents, in a "Tom Wintringham
archive", now in the
Liddell Hart Centre
for Military Archives, Kings College,
The new biography describes the life of this complex, charismatic, much-loved man,
with his ideas, his convictions, his friends and family, his enemies, his achievements,
his hopes, and his mistakes. All this is illustrated with many quotations, both from Tom's
own writing, and from contemporary writing about him.
Tom made important contributions to several events of the first half of the
twentieth century: for example to the General Strike, the Spanish Civil War,
the creation of the Home Guard, and of the Communist Party in Great Britain.
And in each case Hugh Purcell explains the historical background, in a way that
I found helpful and illuminating. Purcell also tackles difficult questions:
Tom's Politics (1919-1938)
Why did Tom Wintringham join the Communist Party?
He worked for the Party, wrote for them, went to jail for them.
Why did they never quite trust him?
When the Party threw him out, why did he fight to stay in?
Tom's Politics (1942-1945)
Tom and Sir Richard Acland founded the Common Wealth Party.
Several of their candidates were elected Members of Parliament.
But then everything went wrong, and the party was dissolved.
Kitty Meets Tom
American Kitty Bowler (later Tom Wintringham's second wife) describes how she first met
Tom in wartime Barcelona, in September 1936.
I wandered over to the cafe Rambla feeling desolate and forlorn. Like the story book
waif, who peeks through frosted panes at the happy families gathered round the fireside,
I eyed the little group at a corner table. Shy but desperate I approached.
All conversation stopped. Blankly and coldly they looked at me as only the English can.
Then a soft-voiced bald man touched my arm: "You must join us". Relaxing gradually I
realised I was talking to a gifted conversationalist, cultured, intelligent, witty. I liked
this man's mind and the amusing twist he would give a phrase. But I was puzzled.
This quiet literary individual wasn't my idea of a military man. "That's Tom Wintringham",
I was told, "the author of a book on Marxist military strategy. He's a big shot in the
English Communist Party, but he's an old sweetie."
--- quoted from The Last English Revolutionary.
of books by Tom Wintringham.
Some of these books were overtaken by events, but others were best-sellers!
(Tom also edited newspapers and magazines, and wrote articles, stories and poems...)
- The Coming World War. Wishart 1935
- Mutiny. Mutinies from Spartacus to
Invergordon. Stanley Nott, London 1936
- English Captain. Faber 1939
(also in Penguin)
- Deadlock War. Faber 1940
- New Ways of War. Penguin Special 1940
- Armies of Freemen. Routledge 1940
- Guerrilla Warfare. By Yank Levy. Penguin 1941, said
to be written for Yank by Tom.
- Peoples' War. Penguin Special 1942
- Freedom is our Weapon. A Policy for Army Reform.
Kegan Paul 1941
- Politics of Victory. Routledge 1941
- Weapons and Tactics from Troy to Stalingrad. Houghton
Mifflin, Boston, USA 1943
- Your M.P. By 'Gracchus'. Gollancz 1944