Eva Collett Reckitt

Eva Collett Reckitt

Document reference: 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.

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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.