The papers of Hugh Brock (1914-1985)

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The papers include correspondence, meeting minutes, reports, memoranda, newsletters, leaflets, photographs, press releases and press cuttings, covering the following organisations and topics:

Non Violence Commission of Peace Pledge Union, Operation Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance Group and Michael Randle's pacifist mission to Hungary (19 files), 1941-1958 [Cwl HBP/1]. Including photographs of march to Aldermaston AWRE, April 1952.

Christmas Island H-bomb protest, Direct Action Committee against Nuclear War and Committee of 100 (12 files), 1957-1978 [Cwl HBP/2].

World Peace Brigade and Everyman III Project Committee (4 files) [Cwl HBP/3].

Other peace campaigns and activities, including Peacemakers (bicycle ride from Paris to Moscow, 1951), Journalists' Peace Group, Congress of England, Third Camp, Pacifist Youth Action Group and 1957 Committee (7 files), 1951-1968 [Cwl DBP/4].

Peace News, including split with Peace Pledge Union, (5 files and 1 item), 1953-1985 [Cwl HBP/5]. Comprising files of correspondence with Sybil Morrison and Stuart Morris, Campaign Organiser and Chairman of Peace Pledge Union, and with Bernard Boothroyd, editor of Peace News 1949-1951.

Origins of Nuclear Disarmament Symbol (peace sign), created by Gerald Holtom for Aldermaston March 1958 (2 files), 1958-1986 [Cwl HBP/6]. Including letter from Holtom to Brock describing the origins of his design, 29 September 1973.

Administrative / Biographical History

Hugh Brock was born on 15 May 1914 and trained as a printer at the London School of Printing. In 1940 the small printing firm which he ran with his brother Ashley took on the production of the pacifist journal Peace News. Other printers refused to handle it because of the risk of prosecution under the Defence Regulations and a trade ban on its distribution meant that the peace movement had to rely on its own distribution network. Founded in 1936, Peace News was the official paper of the Peace Pledge Union. Hugh was a member of the PPU and of the Society of Friends. During the Blitz, Hugh and his wife Eileen worked together in air raid shelters in London as part of a Pacifist Service Unit. As a conscientious objector to wartime military service, Hugh served a six month prison sentence in 1941, during which time Eileen gave birth to their son Jeremy. A daughter, Carolyn, was born in 1944.

In 1946 Hugh became assistant editor of Peace News, working alongside a succession of editors, including Frank Lea, Bernard Boothroyd and J Allen Skinner. The Brock family moved to Stoke Newington in 1948, where their household became a centre of pacifist activity. The origins of the non violent direct action movement in Britain lie largely in Hugh Brock's activism and organisational work during this period.

Following its Steps to Peace conference in November 1949, the Peace Pledge Union set up a Non Violence Commission to study non violent resistance and the applicability of Gandhi's ideas in Britain. On Hugh's initiative, members of the commission formed Operation Gandhi in December 1951. Amongst its aims were the withdrawal of US troops from Britain and an end to Britain's production of atomic weapons. Hugh acted as secretary of the group and David Hoggett (later founder of the Commonweal Collection) was one of its members. Operation Gandhi experimented with non violent direct action methods, beginning with a sit-down outside the War Office in January 1952. This protest brought Michael Randle into the movement. Other demonstrations were organised at Mildenhall, the site of a US Airforce bomber base, and at nuclear energy and weapons research centres. The most significant for the later history of the peace movement was a small-scale march to Aldermaston in April 1952 to protest at the construction of the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment. Re-named the Non Violent Resistance Group in summer 1952, the group was active until late 1956, when it supported Michael Randle's pacifist mission to Hungary.

During the same period Hugh Brock was involved with Peacemakers, the Journalists' Peace Group, the Congress of England and the Third Camp, the Pacifist Youth Action Group and the 1957 Committee, sometimes in an organisational role and also on behalf of Peace News. He became editor of Peace News in 1955 and used his role to guide the paper towards major coverage of the nuclear disarmament movement, as this developed in the late 1950s and early 1960s. This led to tension with more traditional pacifists within the Peace Pledge Union, and particularly with its Campaign Organiser Sybil Morrison, who resigned from the Peace News board of directors. The PPU broke its formal link with the paper in 1961.

In March 1957, Hugh helped to create an emergency committee to protest against British testing of the H-bomb on Christmas Island in the Pacific. The Peace News offices were used as a base for the committee. Its original purpose was to organise and finance a voyage to the test zone by pacifist Harold Steele. Although this did not prove possible, the attempt gained sympathy and support for the cause and drew together a group of activists who went on to form the Direct Action Committee against Nuclear War. The same group formed the Aldermaston March Committee in November 1957 to organise the first mass march to Aldermaston AWRE at Easter 1958. A Labour Party member and local councillor in Stoke Newington, Hugh drew in Labour support for the march through Frank Allaun MP, Walter Wolfgang and Labour's H-Bomb Campaign Committee.

The Direct Action Committee continued as an independent organisation after the Aldermaston March and Hugh was its vice chairman until mid 1960. He worked closely with Michael Randle (chairman), April Carter (secretary) and Pat Arrowsmith (field secretary). After a prolonged picket at Aldermaston AWRE during the summer of 1958, the DAC began a campaign against rocket bases in Britain. Hugh was imprisoned for two weeks after the protest at the North Pickenham base, near Swaffham, in December 1958 and again, for two months in advance of the protest planned at Harrington on 2 January 1960. During the protest against French nuclear testing in the Sahara, he sent April Carter to Ghana as an accredited reporter for Peace News to cover the Conference on Positive Action which took place in Accra in April 1960.

After the Holy Loch March at Whitsun 1961, the DAC made the decision to disband. Hugh had already been involved in the discussions which led to the creation of the Committee of 100 in October 1960. He was not an active member, although he gave the movement publicity and support through the pages of Peace News. Hugh assisted April Carter in her work as European organiser of the American-European Peace March from San Francisco to Moscow. In particular he acted as treasurer of the fund which supported volunteer marchers and published a special Peace News supplement following the arrival of the march in Moscow in October 1961.

In April 1962 Hugh was invited onto the London Working Committee of the recently formed World Peace Brigade. He later served as vice chairman on the European Regional Council, but the WPB could not sustain its activities beyond 1964. His main involvement was in helping to organise the Everyman III Project in summer 1962, which was jointly sponsored by the WPB and the Committee for Non Violent Action. The crew of Everyman III sailed from London to St. Petersburg in protest against Soviet nuclear tests, but were prevented from landing or continuing on to Moscow. As owner of the vessel and chairman of the project committee, Hugh was left with the task of selling the Everyman III and winding up its assets.

Hugh Brock left Peace News in 1964, but continued to be involved with its work and with peace campaigning until his death in 1985. In his working life he maintained his links with the movement as office manager and later director of the Goodwin Press, a radical printers based in Finsbury Park.

Arrangement

The collection has been arranged into series based on the different organisations with which Hugh Brock was involved.

Conditions Governing Access

Available to researchers, by appointment. Access to archive material is subject to preservation requirements and must also conform to the restrictions of the Data Protection Act and any other appropriate legislation.

Acquisition Information

Donated to the Commonweal Collection by Eileen Brock, widow of Hugh Brock, in 1985 and subsequently.

Archivist's Note

Described by Alison Cullingford and revised by Helen Roberts, March 2010.

Conditions Governing Use

Copies may be supplied or produced at the discretion of Special Collections staff, subject to copyright law and the condition of the originals. Applications for permission to make published use of any material should be directed to the Special Collections Librarian in the first instance. The Library will assist where possible with identifying copyright owners, but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user of the material.

Appraisal Information

The following files created and kept by Hugh Brock in a personal capacity had been boxed with the Direct Action Committee archive (Cwl DAC): Cwl HBP/1/1, 1/3, 2/2-5, 2/8-11. These were removed and re-united with Hugh Brock's papers A small amount of weeding of duplicate material was carried out.

Accruals

None expected.

Related Material

Archives of Peace News [GB 0532 Cwl PN]

Archives of the Direct Action Committee against Nuclear War [GB 0532 Cwl DAC]

Papers of Michael Randle [GB 0532 Cwl MR]

Bibliography

Hugh Brock, The century of total war (London: Peace News, undated) covers Operation Gandhi and NVRG actions

Albert Beale, Against all war: fifty years of Peace News, 1936-1986 (Nottingham: Peace News, 1986)

Gail Chester and Andrew Rigby eds., Articles of peace: celebrating fifty years of Peace News (Bridport: Prism, 1986)