Papers of Richard Albert Etheridge (1909-1985), trade unionist and Communist

Scope and Content

Shop stewards; committee minutes, 1946-75; daily working notes, 1946-75; some subject files; extensive AUEW and Communist Party of Great Britain material. Until 1953 the records which Etheridge kept as convener were relatively informal. Most important of these are his daily working notes (MSS.202 /S/J/8/1-80). These take the form of scrap paper, blank on one side (which he wrote on) and folded to fit his pockets. Much of his correspondence for the years 1945 to 1953 was interfiled with these notes. In 1953, after the 'McHugh Strike' called by the National Union of Vehicle Builders, the management at Longbridge determind to make Etheridge account more fully for working time spent on shop stewards' business. In consequence he became more formal in his record keeping. In particular he began to file incoming correspondence and other papers with the agenda for the Joint Shop Stewards or Works Committee meeting at which they would be discussed. Along with the agenda and related papers Etheridge placed what he called the convener's report. This was not a continuous prose report but a skeletal outline of matters to be raised, especially disputes internal to the Longbridge works. Many of the items listed in the conveners' reports were directly related to notes received from shop stewards and these were filed with the conveners' report. The series of files containing the agendas, conveners' reports and related papers for Joint Shop Stewards and Work Committee meetings has been given the references MSS.202/S/J/3/2/1-220. A similar series of agendas, conveners' reports and related papers exists in respect of the AEU shop stewards' organisation at Longbridge (MSS.202/S/A/3/1/1-96). Etheridge devised pro forma record cards and record sheets for use by shop stewards in documenting the manner in which internal disputes were processed: some of these were filed by Etheridge in separate series (MSS.202/S/J/3/3/94-112) but many others were incorporated into other files.The basic outline of Etheridge's system for keeping Longbridge Joint Shop Stewards' records was sound and has been retained in the arrangement of the papers by Modern Records Centre staff. He was, however, often too busy to file incoming correspondence, carbon copies of letters dispatched, etc. In addition, in some instances he seems to have mis-filed papers. Modern Records Centre staff have therefore had to place a substantial number of items in appropriate locations and income instances new files have been created. The contents of Etheridge's shop stewards' files as originally received was described and a record has been kept of papers added or removed. These records are available for inspection. Etheridge's Communist Party papers were in a very jumbled state when received. Only his National Executive Committee papers were substantially in order. Consequently the arrangement of the Communist Party papers is essentially one devised by Modern Records Centre staff. A great many of the AEU, AEF, AUEW, TUC and other labour and political publications received with the Etheridge papers have been transferred to University of Warwick Library stock. The following have, however, been retained: heavily annotated items, e.g. reports to AEU National Committee meetings attended by Dick Etheridge; small items too ephemeral to be readily assimilated into the Library's stock; and, Communist Party publications.

DATA ,Draughtsmens' and Allied Technicians Association.

SU, Share unit or SU Carburettor (Company).

Administrative / Biographical History

Born in Halesowen in 1909, Richard ('Dick') Albert Etheridge was brought up in Birmingham. (d. March 1985 (Times obit. 21 March 1985). In 1940 he began work at the Austin Motor Co.'s giant Longbridge plant near Birmingham. In 1941 he was elected a shop steward and in 1945 he became convener of the Joint Shop Stewards and thus the principal representative of the shop stewards in dealing with the management. He remained convener until 1975. Also in the 1940s he was elected secretary of the Austin AEU Shop Stewards' Committee.

Following the Austin-Nuffield merger which created the British Motor Corporation, the shop stewards of the amalgamating companies formed a combine committee: the BMC Joint Shop Stewards Committee. In February 1956 Etheridge became Chairman of this Committee. Later in that year the Committee played a major role in the organisation and co-ordination of the anti-redundancies strike. In 1968 when the British Leyland Motor Corporation was formed a corresponding shop stewards' combine committee was created. This was the co-federal BLMC Combine Trades Union Committee (often called the BLTUC) of which Etheridge became co-chairman.

In 1946 Etheridge was elected to the AEU's Birmingham District Committee. He remained a committee member until 1965 when the District was divided in two. He was then elected President of the newly-created Birmingham West District and he retained this position until 1975. In 1958 and on 5 subsequent occasions he was elected to the AEU National Committee which was, in effect, an annual conference on union policy. In 1963 and again from 1966 to 1974 he was elected an AEU delegate to the annual Trades Union Congress.

Dick Etheridge had joined the Communist Party before beginning work at Longbridge and during the war years he was active in its Austin Motors group. After the war he was active in its motor industry group and had a role in formulating party policy in respect of the motor industry. In 1950 he contested the Birmingham, Northfield constituency in the general election. He served on both the Birmingham City and Midlands Regional Committees of the Party and from 1961 until 1973 was a member of its National Executive.

Access Information

This collection is available to researchers by appointment at the Modern Records Centre, University of Warwick. See

Other Finding Aids

Custodial History

The collection was bought by the Centre in 1979. The papers relating to Etheridge's work with the AEU and Communist Party of Great Britain were donated to the Centre in May 1985.


No further accruals are expected.

Related Material

The Centre also has records relating to the Amalgamated Engineering Union (MSS 259). Other Modern Records Centre holdings which are directly relevant to Etheridge's life and work are MSS.226/AU British Motor Industry Heritage Trust: Austin Motor Co. Ltd. MSS.228 British Leyland Trade Union Committee; records assembled by Professor Steven Tolliday for research into the British automotive industry.