Papers of Frank Chapple (1921-2004), trade union leader

Scope and Content

This collection contains: records concerning Chapple's early life and career, and autobiographical and personal material, 1935-1984; records concerning the Electrical Trades Union (ETU)/Electrical, Electronic, Telecommunication and Plumbing Trade Union (EETPU)/Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union (AEEU), c1948-1997; records concerning the Trades Union Congress (TUC), 1962-1986; notes, drafts and texts of speeches and articles, with related records, 1964-1996; records concerning legal actions, 1958-1986; records concerning international matters and foreign visits, 1950s-1988; engagement diaries, 1962-1994; records concerning various issues and activities, 1938-1996.

Administrative / Biographical History

Francis Joseph Chapple was born on 8 August 1921 in Hoxton in east London. He joined the Electrical Trades Union (ETU) and the Communist Party in 1937 and 1939 respectively. During the Second World War, he served first in the Royal Ordnance Factories and then in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers in France and Germany. During this period, he made contacts with the emerging German Communist Party and helped to run a communist cell in the army education centre at Lubeck.

In 1947 he and Leslie Cannon represented the ETU at a conference of the communist World Federation of Democratic Youth in Prague, but in the following years he and Cannon became critics of the communist leadership within the union. Chapple was elected to the union executive in 1957 but left it in 1959 and joined the Labour Party. In the same year he supported the anti-communist candidate for the general secretaryship of the ETU, Jock Byrne, who was found by a High Court judgement to have been the genuine winner of an election which the communist leadership had attempted to rig. This effectively ended Communist influence in the union.

Chapple succeeded Byrne as general secretary in 1966 and in 1970 (in 1968 the ETU had merged with the Plumbers' Trade Union to form what became known as the Electrical, Electronic, Telecommunication and Plumbing Union) he combined the posts of president and general secretary on the death of Leslie Cannon. From 1966 until 1970 he was the union's representative on the Labour Party national executive and in 1970 he became a member of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) general council, where he criticised the TUC's response to the industrial relations policies of Edward Heath's government.

Disillusionment with the Labour Party led him to support the Social Democratic Party (SDP), formed in 1981. Despite being regarded by some within the movement as a traitor, he was elected as president of the TUC in 1982. He retired from the leadership of the EETPU in 1984 and in 1985 was made a life peer under the title of Lord Chapple of Hoxton. He died on 19 October 2004.

Reference: Geoffrey Goodman, 'The Guardian' (22 October 2004); Tam Dalyell, 'The Independent' (22 October 2004).

Access Information

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

Acquisition Information

This collection was deposited in the Centre by Mr Barry Chapple, son of Frank Chapple, via Dr John Lloyd, in November 2005.

Other Finding Aids


Further deposits are not expected.

Related Material

The Modern Records Centre also holds general records of the Electrical Trades Union (MSS.387) and the papers of Sir Leslie Cannon (MSS.137)