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Horne was born in 1910 to a working class family in Willesden one of ten children; his father was a labourer. Harold Horne joined the Communist Party in 1930 and became active in unemployed struggles, being intermittently employed at a number of north London factories in the early 1930s. He played an increasingly significant role in the NUWM from 1933-5 and a supporting speaker for Wal Hannington. Horne was beaten up by police at an open-air meeting in Parliament Square and, when he was attacked by police truncheons during an altercation outside the PAC, he defensively lifted a chair and it accidentally hit a police inspector on the nose causing it to bleed. For this, he was jailed for six months in 1933. On his release, he became a member of the central committee of the YCL.
Horne and his wife to be, `Billie’ Ann Yates (born in 8.4.16, she joined the YCL in 1932 and Party in 1933) were active in Willesden in the YCL and in hosting the Scottish contingent of hunger march in 1932. In November 1933, Harold, Claude Berridge and a Mrs Larkin stood as Communists in Stonebridge Willesden. They won some 1,000 votes and came close to winning council seats on the Urban District Council. Perhaps being nurtured by Berridge, a significant player in the engineering union, the AEU, Horne was sent to study at the LeninSchool in Moscow for a year in 1934-5. He and Billie found time to get married on his return in 1935 and they then became heavily involved as a political `team’ in anti-fascist work in Willesden and remained married all their lives.
In 1937 Horne joined the International Brigade, he was twice wounded and served in perhaps up to eight major battles and was increasingly promoted ending up as a company commander. On his return to Britain, in December 1938, he and Billie led a school strike for safer roads. Harold found himself victimised on account of his past and, finding it difficult to obtain work, became a full time Secretary for the Willesden Communist Party until September 1939.
He eventually found work in 1940 in Luton at the Vauxhall (General Motors) plant and became a key figure in the Party factory branch and a regular speaker at its factory gate meetings. In 1943, he was elected a shop steward for the AEU. Billie became a full time worker for the South East Midlands District of the Party.
Horne became President of the AEU District Committee and, in 1945, led the first ever successful strike at Vauxhall’s. Later, he transferred to the Dunstable Bedford truck plant and in 1963 again became President of the AEU District and convenor of the plant. He was a leading light in the creation in1965 of the Vauxhall combine shop stewards committee and remained working for the company as convenor until ill-health forced early retirement in 1971.
Horne finished his memoirs in 1978, shortly before he died in November of that year, aged 67 years, his wife having pre-deceased him in January. Fortunately, his recollections (the title is a reference to the wondrous child’s nursery rhyme) were self-published, in an act of remembrance of a long friendship, by Owen Hardistry with support from trade unions, in 1998, proceeds being donated to the International Brigade Association.
Source: Harold Horne “All the trees were bread and cheese- the making of a rebel” (1998)