Communists and Suspected Communists

Communists and Suspected Communists

(KV 2/1369-1390)

Eva Collett Reckitt

(KV 2/1369-1375)

Eva Reckitt (b.1890) was a wealthy supporter of the Communist Party of Great Britain from the 1920s to the 1950s. Her wealth derived from the Reckitt family business, formerly Reckitt & Colman and now part of Reckitt Benckiser plc.

Reckitt first came to MI5's attention in 1923 when mentioned in intercepted communications between other known Communists, and a Home Office warrant was maintained on her correspondence intermittently for the next 30 years. Initially involved in the work of the Soviet spy organisation the Federated Press of America, she was soon being described by an informant as "the 'milch-cow' of the Communist Party" for her frequent sizeable donations (KV 2/1369), and this prompted investigations into her financial affairs as well. She was elected onto the executive of the Labour Research Department in 1927. Despite frequent communications with such prominent left-wing figures as Pollitt, Cohen and Ewer, the watch maintained on her post and phone line produced little of value, which led to the warrant being suspended for the first time in 1927 (to be periodically renewed and suspended again according to the needs of the hour). Reckitt bought the failing Henderson's 'Bomb Shop' (a political bookshop) in Charing Cross Road in November 1933, and it reopened the next year as Colletts. Warrants were maintained against Reckitt's addresses in Lincoln's Inn and Hampstead, a cottage on the South Downs near Arundel, but not, it appears from the file, against Colletts bookshop.

KV 2/1369 covers 1923-1929, and details the product of the first watch kept on Reckitt's post and telephone communications (which taken together enable a detailed history of her activities for most of the time from 1927 to the end of the war to be reconstructed). A copy of a super tax notice for £95.15s.0d that seemed to alert MI5 to Reckitt's wealth for the first time is on the file, as are reports on observations made on her movements.

KV 2/1370 covers 1929 and in particular the period when the Federated Press of America offices were raided, and it was felt necessary to keep a particularly keen watch on Reckitt. This file also includes the first suggestion of a link between her and John Wilkinson, a scientist employed on secret work for the Chemical Warfare Department. The file includes a hand-drawn map showing the location of Reckitt's cottage, 'The Hollow' at Houghton between Storrington and Arundel, designed to show how isolated it was and unsuited for keeping up observations on the inhabitants.

The following files continue with further product of intercepted communications, history sheets summarising Reckitt's activities, and the periodic imposition and lifting of warrants: KV 2/1371 (1929-1930); KV 2/1372 (1930-1931); KV 2/1373 (1931-1935); KV 2/1374 (1936-1951); and KV 2/1375 (1951-1953). Of these, KV 2/1374 contains the only photograph on the file of Reckitt, and also a report by a West Sussex police detective of a search made of 'The Hollow' after one of the residents there had reported Reckitt to the police for subversive activities following a row over politics. The police report includes a summary of the contents of Reckitt's will.

Cecil Day Lewis

(KV 2/1385)

Cecil Day Lewis (1904-1972) the poet and author (of detective novels under the pseudonym Nicholas Blake), was appointed Poet Laureate in 1968 (and was the father of actor Daniel and cookery writer and broadcaster Tamasin Day-Lewis). During the Second World War he worked for the Ministry of Information. He first came to MI5's attention in 1933 in intercepted correspondence with Harry Pollitt, head of the Communist Party of Great Britain.

This file includes copies of intercepted mail, police enquiry and extracts from Secret Intelligence Service reports, including the decision that there was no justification for seeking a Home Office warrant on Lewis, and general correspondence about his employment in the Ministry, including a warning about Lewis' communist sympathies. There is a letter to Major V Vivian at the Secret Intelligence Service on Lewis, Stephen Spender and W H Auden, all supporters of the Communist Party, which states "Harry Pollitt incidentally thinks less than nothing of their value to the party." The file also includes two exit permit applications to allow Lewis to travel to Ireland in 1940 and 1941, the second in Lewis's own hand.

André Malraux

(KV 2/1386)

Malraux (1901-1976) was born in Paris but lived in French Indo-China from 1922, during which time he became very critical of the French colonial regime, organised the Young Annam League, printed the Indochina in Chains newspaper and may have worked for the Koumintang. On his return to France in 1926 he found fame as an author. Malraux supported the Republican cause during the Spanish Civil War, in which he served as a pilot, and raised funds for the Republicans in tours of the United States. He served in the French tank corps in the Second World War before being captured by the Germans in 1940, after which he escaped, joined the resistance, was captured by the Gestapo in 1944 and underwent a mock execution before being liberated by his colleagues. After the war he served as General de Gaulle's Minister of Information in 1945-1946, and was Minister of Culture, 1960-1969.

This reconstituted file covers the period 1935-1947, and is mainly concerned with Malraux's pre-war activities, particularly in Spain, including correspondence with the Secret Intelligence Service, and also includes reports on his wartime activities.