Papers of Lt Commander Edgar Philip Young RN (retired) and Amicia More Young

Scope and Content

Edgar Young's papers have survived as a largely complete collection documenting all aspects of his life and work. They have been arranged into series of different types of records, with sections on two of the main organisations with which he was involved and the collected papers of his third wife regarding the anti-Vietnam War movement.


Young's diaries exist as a complete series for the years 1934 until his death in 1975. Recording only appointments and visits abroad, the diaries are useful nonetheless in tracking his movements in Eastern Europe, which he visited with regularity from the late 1940s onwards. Two early diaries have survived for 1920 and 1921, and these cover his period of naval duty on board HMS Pegasus [U DYO/1/1-2]. The information in these diaries is more substantial and documents the role of HMS Pegasus in Allied military operations in the Black Sea during the Russian civil war and in campaigns against Turkish nationalists.


The files cover various topics and comprise mainly correspondence and press cuttings. There are two files detailing Young's relations with The Admiralty, especially the furore surrounding his removal from the Retired List of the Royal Navy in 1952 on political grounds [U DYO/2/1-2]. His response to the publication of The fellow-travellers by David Caute in 1973, with its unflattering portrayal of his political activities, is revealed by file U DYO/2/6. The publication of his own book, Czechoslovakia: keystone of peace and democracy in 1938 resulted in a file of reviews and related correspondence [U DYO/2/10].

Leaflets and election addresses by Young and other candidates in the 1935 general election can be found in three files covering his campaign as Labour candidate in the Hull North West constituency [U DYO/2/17-19]. His membership of the Labour Party was brief and the events surrounding his expulsion in 1939 are significant and well documented. Four files of correspondence relate the history of his involvement in the Popular Front movement, from the initial campaign in support of William Mellor's selection as parliamentary candidate for Stockport, to the memorandum by Stafford Cripps, Cripps' subsequent expulsion and the organisation of the Petition Committee [U DYO/2/25-27 & 32]. Young's correspondence with Cripps is extensive and begins in August 1933 with his decision to enter politics [U DYO/2/25]. His selection as candidate for Hull North West and his own expulsion from the Party are also discussed with Cripps. A related file contains reports, minutes, correspondence and publicity material for the People's Convention which met in January 1941 [U DYO/2/31]. Young's pamphlet, A people's peace (1941), is included, with a programme of meetings addressed by Young in November of that year.


Carbon copies of Young's letters home to his family and friends during his service in the Royal Navy are available for the period 1922 to 1930 [U DYO/3/1-5]. These letters give particularly full and frank accounts of his activities and his opinions and cover several notable events in his naval career, namely his training in Paris as a translator and interpreter of French in 1924, the 9 months spent in Prague studying Russian in 1927 and his appointment to the staff of the Commander in Chief China Station in late 1930. File U DYO/3/2 contains a number of letters, addressed to a friend, possibly Pay Lieutenant DH Doig, which have been cut into pieces and heavily underlined in red pencil in a manner which suggests that Young may have been preparing an autobiography.

From the mid to late 1930s there are important single letters, particularly regarding German aggression towards Czechoslovakia [U DYO/3/12-17]. These include a copy of a letter dated 16 September 1938 which Young sent from Prague to Clement Attlee MP in the days immediately preceding the signing of the Munich Agreement. There is an interesting letter from KA Windisch of Jena in Germany about the growth of National Socialism and the reasons for Hitler's popularity, as well as a discussion of the idea of social credit and Young's 1935 election manifesto from his former comrade, Cecil Bransom of HM Signal School, Portsmouth [U DYO/3/10 & 11].

During the war, Young remained in London, working as a freelance journalist. His correspondence with his former neighbour Marjorie Robinson makes reference to his experience of bombing raids during the Blitz [U DYO/3/23]. There are letters about the establishment of friendship societies with Bulgaria, Romania and Czechoslovakia in the late 1940s and early 1970s, as well as a memorandum on the organisation of such societies addressed by Edgar Young to the Soviet Ambassador [U DYO/3/29, 34 & 98]. His support of the Soviet Union dates to the German invasion of the country in 1941 and there are letters from recipients of his pamphlet That Second Front (1942) [U DYO/3/25], a copy of which is amongst his writings at U DYO/4/44a. Unlike a large number of Communists and Communist sympathisers, Young continued to support the Soviet Union after its invasion of Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968. His reasons for this can be gauged through his correspondence [U DYO/2/22, 3/73, 77 & 81]. This includes the letters which he sent to the Ambassadors of the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Poland, Hungary and East Germany in support of the Warsaw Pact suppression of the Prague Spring. This support was not unconnected with the decision to award him a Lenin centenary medal in 1971 [U DYO/3/84].

Personal and biographical information can also be gleaned - there is a useful letter to Max Hammerling in 1947 which summarises his activities since 1917, as well as comment on the death of Ida Sindelkova and snippets about his first wife, since remarried and known as Geraldine de Schoenberg [U DYO/3/30, 36 & 70]. Correspondence in the early 1950s with solicitors White & Leonard details his attempts to obtain the compensation due to Ida Sindelkova following the nationalisation of her land near Slapy lake in Czechoslovakia [U DYO/3/41].

Writings and indexes

This series begins with a collection of naval reconnaissance and intelligence reports compiled and received by Young whilst serving as Sub Lieutenant on HMS Pegasus during the last months of the Russian civil war [U DYO/4/1-3]. The reports relate to the operations of the British naval forces in the Black Sea and include the order for Operation MG in late June 1920. There is also a single report produced during Young's tour of duty in the Far East a decade later which recounts his meeting with the Soviet Naval and Military Attaches to Tokyo in October 1931 [U DYO/4/4].

The production of articles for the press and specialist journals formed the basis of Young's work after leaving the Royal Navy and failing to become an MP in 1935. His writings begin in 1933 after his return from service in the Far East, with a series of articles about sites of cultural importance in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia) [U DYO/4/5-11]. These include the 'buried cities' of Sri Lanka, such as Anuradhapura, the Dieng Plateau in central Java and Sigiriya, the Lion Rock, in Sri Lanka. A detailed account of his journey through Indonesia in the early 1930s with his first wife is accompanied by 101 black and white photographs. Geraldine Young also compiled her own study of 'Some aspects of Bali and the Balinese'.

The files and bundles containing his writings have been arranged in date order [U DYO/4/12-131]. Young was systematic in his collection of published copies of his work and in retaining the carbon copy typescripts of those articles which were rejected. Interspersed amongst his articles are copies of the numerous letters to the press which with Young bombarded such journals and newspapers as the New Statesman and The Times. The pattern of his writings over the decades can therefore be studied, from his concern in the late 1930s with the growth of fascism in Europe and the fate of Czechoslovakia, through to his later concentration on aspects of shipping, shipbuilding, fishing and industrialisation generally in the Soviet Bloc. During the Second World War he covered naval and military issues for various regional and local newspapers, acting as naval correspondent for the Yorkshire Post in 1940-1941 and the Sydney Daily Mail in 1942 [U DYO/4/37 & 47]. A series of his articles was also published in The Sphere magazine [U DYO/4/22-31]. After the war, he wrote about the process of reconstruction in Eastern Europe, particularly in Czechoslovakia, East Germany and Bulgaria, drafting a history of the country during the period 1939 to 1948 [East Germany is covered by file U DYO/4/60 and the history of Bulgaria is at U DYO/4/61]. However from the 1950s onwards, his writings became less political, more specialist in subject matter and more technical in style. An early example is an article resulting from a visit to Vietnam with his third wife Amicia in 1959. This focuses on the position of engineers in liberated Vietnam and is illustrated by photographs of the Handong machine tool factory taken by Amicia [U DYO/4/84]. The bundles of articles about the Soviet passenger liner Ivan Franko and shipbuilding in Romania are typical of his work in the 1960s and 1970s [U DYO/4/93 & 127].

For the period 1948 to 1974 there is a series of small notebooks in which Young indexed all his published articles. Each article is listed by title, with bibliographic information, in date order [U DYO/5].

Lectures and speeches

These are largely comprised of the lectures which he gave during his period as Naval Liaison Officer for the transmitter section of the Wireless Department at HM Signal School, Portsmouth during 1932-1933 [U DYO/6/1-17]. The lectures formed part of the training programme for entrants into the Visual Signalling and Wireless Transmission branches of the Royal Navy. There are also reviews of the programme and related correspondence dating from his earlier work as Officer in Charge of HM Signal School, Shotley and as Signal Officer of HMS Ganges from 1928 to 1930. His later work for radio is revealed by several transcripts of broadcasts, such as those discussing his visits to Bulgaria and Romania in late 1946 [U DYO/6/20]. His experiences also formed the basis of an address on 'Life as I saw it behind the Iron Curtain' to the John Gulson Boys' Secondary School in Coventry, and a report of the occasion was compiled by school pupils [U DYO/6/21].

Translation work

Young combined freelance journalism with translation work after leaving the Royal Navy and several examples of his work, which concentrated on Russian scientific texts, have survived amongst his papers. One of his first translations dates from 1946, The reminiscences of an academic shipbuilder by Admiral AN Krylov; the remainder date from the 1960s and 1970s, and include the last piece of work undertaken before his death, the translation from the French of Voici l'homme, Dimitrov [U DYO/7/2-3 & 15].


A varied and unusual collection of photographs and photograph albums includes two framed black and white portraits of Edgar Young [U DYO/8/1-2]. The first shows him as a child, possibly in India, the country of his birth, whilst the second has been taken on board ship in his naval uniform, and therefore dates from the period 1917-1934. Photographs taken during his journey through Germany and Czechoslovakia to Prague in 1927 include views of the Vah valley and the Tatra mountains [U DYO/8/3-4]. There are almost 200 small black and white photographs accompanying the articles which Young wrote in the early 1930s during his travels through South East Asia with his first wife. These feature the landscapes, architecture and peoples of Sri Lanka and Indonesia [U DYO/4/5-11]. A number of loose photographs of Hindu temples in Cambodia and Thailand and of scenes in Wei-hai-wei, Shanghai and Peking are also available [U DYO/8/5-7].

During his visit to Czechoslovakia in spring 1938, Young travelled to the town of Liberec in the Sudetenland and as a souvenir, received an album of photographs of the local May Day rally [U DYO/8/8]. Another souvenir album documents the history of Bulgaria during the Second World War and includes maps and 18 black and white photographs of Bulgarian partisans, the uprising against German occupation in September 1944 and post-war reconstruction [U DYO/8/9]. Produced by the Central Youth Commission of the Fatherland Front, the album was obtained by Young during his first visit to Bulgaria after the war. In 1969, he travelled east of Leipzig to Bautzen, the capital of Lusatia. The Federation of Lusatian Sorbs presented him with an album containing photographs of Sorb people, as well as pen and ink drawings by Mercin Nowak [U DYO/8/11]. Young's own photographs of the occasion show Sorb children in national dress performing dances in the town square [U DYO/8/12].


Of particular interest are the press cuttings relating to Young's second marriage to the Czech academic Dr Ida Sindelkova in December 1939 and the inquest into her suicide some 10 years later [U DYO/9/8-9]. The history of his links with Czechoslovakia are summarised in a curriculum vitae sent to Pavel Stulzajter in 1972 [U DYO/9/10].

International Peace Campaign

Young's involvement with the International Peace Campaign began in 1936 when he toured East and Central Europe on behalf of the campaign. His credentials, issued in the form of a letter from the Chief Treasurer, General Prouderoux, are accompanied by a detailed day-by-day account of his journey, which took him to Austria, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Romania and Poland [U DYO/10/1-2]. The majority of his papers relate to the first international conference organised by the IPC, which was known as the World Peace Congress and took place in Brussels in September 1936. There are publicity leaflets, information for delegates, lists of delegations from Belgium, Bulgaria, Hungary, the Soviet Union, the Baltic states, Britain and France, discussion papers, reports and resolutions issued by the Commissions on various subjects, transcripts of speeches, newspapers, pamphlets and bulletins, as well as similar material for the concurrent International Agrarian Conference [U DYO/10/7-36]. Another conference on the subject of aid to China and the boycott of Japanese goods was organised in February 1938 and two background memoranda about the boycott are available [U DYO/10/39-40]. Correspondence regarding the dissolution of the IPC and the objections voiced by Young and others, including Stanley Evans, can be found at U DYO/10/44-45.

Union of Democratic Control

The papers relating to Young's activities within the Union of Democratic Control, which date primarily from the late 1930s and 1940s, are miscellaneous and dominated by typescript reports and memoranda, as well as drafts of various UDC pamphlets [U DYO/11/8-30 & 33-34]. There are papers covering the reorganisation of the UDC in spring 1936 and agenda, minutes, circulars, financial statements and correspondence for the period January 1956 to January 1957 [U DYO/11/3 & 7]. A few anti-fascist leaflets from other organisations are included, such as the Manchester and District Anti-War Council and Neu Beginnen, a London-based group of German Social Democrats [U DYO/11/38 & 41].

Amicia M Young

Amongst the papers of Edgar Young are those of his third wife Amicia Bassadone documenting her involvement in the anti-Vietnam War movement of the mid to late 1960s. These papers are significant for a number of reasons. A large proportion of the material comprises duplicate records of the British Council (later Campaign) for Peace in Vietnam (BCPV), of which Amicia was a founder member and Secretary. The offices of the BCPV were broken into in mid-1968 and its records destroyed; hence the importance of the surviving papers of its members. Amicia's papers are particularly useful for studying the organisation of the campaign, not simply the public face of demonstrations and rallies. Minutes of the Council and Working Committee of the BCPV are available for the period 1965 to 1969, accompanied by reports by the Secretary and monthly accounts [U DYO/12/4-5, 7 & 9]. The early history of the movement is traced in two reports, one by Amicia herself from May 1968, focusing on the BCPV, and the other dated 14 March 1969 and more general in scope [U DYO/12/16 & 7c]. Together with minutes and notes of the founding meeting of the BCPV in April 1965 and drafts of the constitution, these are useful sources for tracing its origins [U DYO/12/1-2 & 3]. National conferences were held by the BCPV from 1965 into the early 1970s - the fullest papers survive for those held in 1966 and 1968 [U DYO/12/14-15].

Amicia's particular involvement focused on four areas. Firstly she was a trade unionist and attended the founding meeting as a representative of the Association of Scientific Workers. There are therefore papers from the Trade Union Sub Committee of the BCPV on which she sat [U DYO/12/12]. Secondly as a scientist, she took part in the Books for Vietnam campaign, as documented by her correspondence with scientists in London and Paris in 1966 and 1967 [U DYO/12/53]. Her main contribution to the BCPV was as Secretary during 1968 and her correspondence is particularly useful for this year [U DYO/12/48]. She served concurrently as Secretary of the National Vietnam Campaign Committee (NVCC) and was involved in the amalgamation of the two organisations in early 1969 [U DYO/12/22]. Finally she was also active at a local level as Secretary of St. Marylebone Committee for Peace in Vietnam and in this capacity lobbied MPs and the Prime Minister, Harold Wilson [U DYO/12/55].

The papers include numerous press releases, circulars, bulletins, leaflets, petitions and other campaign materials produced by the BCPV, the NVCC, the Vietnam Solidarity Campaign, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Group 68 and women's groups opposed to the war [U DYO/12/27-28, 34-44, 56, 57-97]. Two of the major events organised by the BCPV are covered, the drafting of the British People's Declaration for Peace in Vietnam and the peace trip to Boulogne on 22 September 1968 [U DYO/12/32 & 33]. A photograph of the meeting at Boulogne is included amongst the papers, and there are also five small photographs of another unidentified French anti-Vietnam War rally and a photograph taken in the BCPV offices of a woman thought to be Amicia Young [U DYO/12/117 & 120]. Visually outstanding is the series of some 19 posters advertising rallies, demonstrations and other events, including Vietnam Day on 30 June 1965, the march to the United States embassy in Grosvenor Square on 22 October 1967 and the largest demonstration against the war in which 100,000 people marched to Hyde Park Corner on 27 October 1968 [U DYO/12/101, 99 & 107].


The miscellaneous section contains some unusual items, mainly relating to Edgar Young's interest in Czechoslovakian affairs. These include two portfolios of maps of the country under German occupation dating from September 1938 and March 1940, as well as a carbon copy typescript about conditions following the German invasion of the Sudetenland which makes reference to refugees and the establishment of a concentration camp at Liberec for political detainees [U DYO/13/14, 15 & 5]. The transcript of a speech to the League of Nations Assembly by Senor Alvarez del Vayo discusses the League's response to the Spanish civil war, whilst conditions in post-war Hungary and the Soviet Union are covered by the report of a British parliamentary delegation in 1946 and a manuscript detailing a visit by Rev. Dr EEV Collocott in July 1952 respectively [U DYO/13/1, 8 & 9]. There are several poems scattered throughout the collection, two of which relate to Vietnam, 'Cease-fire' and 'To whom it may concern', both by Adrian Mitchell [U DYO/12/79 & 4/95]. The reverse of a typescript on Pan Slavism by Vlado Clementis and Petr Hron includes poetry in the original Czech [U DYO/2/11a].

Administrative / Biographical History

Edgar Young was born to British parents in Ballygunge, near Calcutta on 5 October 1899 [biographical information can be found in files U DYO/2/1 & 17, in a letter to Max Hammerling, 19 July 1947 at U DYO/3/30 and in the February 1949 edition of Russia Today at U DYO/4/63]. He returned to England as a young child and after completing his public school education at Tonbridge School, joined the Royal Navy as a special entry cadet in 1917. As a result he received his training and his first experiences at sea under wartime conditions. After a short period as midshipsman on HMS Ajax, he achieved the rank of Sub Lieutenant in mid 1919. He was posted to the Mediterranean to serve on board the aircraft carrier HMS Pegasus, which formed part of the Black Sea fleet, and spent almost two years engaged in naval intelligence work. His diaries for this period are at U DYO/1/1-2 and copies of the naval intelligence and reconnaissance reports which he compiled and received during service on HMS Pegasus are at U DYO/4/1-3. For the first few months of 1920, Pegasus was involved in the Allied intervention in the Russian civil war, evacuating General Denikin's Russian Volunteer Army from Novorossisk, and carrying out bombing raids and air drops of anti-Bolshevik propaganda along the Russian coast. After the British decision to abandon military support for the White Russians, Pegasus withdrew to Turkish waters and engaged in naval operations against Turkish nationalists, such as Operation MG in early July, a combined landing at Mudania and Ghemlik. During this period, Young was made Signals Officer.

After returning from the Mediterranean in autumn 1921, he embarked upon a naval training course at Cambridge University, was awarded a first class certificate and rose to the position of Lieutenant. His aptitude for languages (he began privately to study Russian whilst at Cambridge) led to his selection by the Navy for training as an interpreter and translator. From May 1924 he spent five months in Paris learning French, followed by specialist training in signals and wireless telegraphy, in which he qualified in July 1925. He married his first wife Geraldine Leahy at St. Jude's Church, Portsea on 11 December 1926, and travelled with her the following spring to Prague, to spend nine months living amongst the Russian emigre community and studying their language [see U DYO/3/1-5 for carbon copies of his correspondence covering the period 1922-1930]. His naval career continued to flourish with his appointment as Officer in Charge of HM Signal School at Shotley, where he was responsible for developing the training of ratings in the Visual Signalling and Wireless Transmission branches of the Navy. There are copies of his correspondence and reviews of the training scheme for 1928-1930 at U DYO/6/1-6.

On becoming Lieutenant Commander, Young rapidly moved from the post of Signal Officer on HMS Ganges to an overseas posting in the Far East. He was to serve on the staff of the Commander in Chief, China Station, as Fleet Signal and Wireless Operator, and sailed to Wei-hai-wei on board the flagship HMS Kent in late 1930. His wife travelled separately to Shanghai. During this time, the Youngs travelled extensively in Indochina, Thailand (then known as Siam), the Philippines, China and Japan [see U DYO/4/5-11 for copies of the articles written about his travels in South East Asia in the early 1930s]. During a reception held on HMS Suffolk on 21 October 1931 whilst moored at Yokohama in Japan, Young met the Soviet military and naval attaches to Tokyo, Nikolai Bologoff and Alexander Cook, and discussed the internal political situation in the Soviet Union [the report of this discussion is at U DYO/4/4]. His subsequent move to HM Naval Wireless Station, Singapore, enabled him to undertake an extensive tour of Indonesia (then known as the Dutch East Indies) in September 1932, taking in the islands of Java, Sumatra and Bali.

1933 was something of a turning point in Young's life. After returning to HM Signal School at Portsmouth, his disillusionment with the Navy grew in proportion to his interest in politics. Within the space of a few months, he became a Fabian, applied for voluntary retirement from the Navy and, with advice from Sir Stafford Cripps, embarked upon what he hoped would be a parliamentary career in the Labour Party [Young's correspondence with Cripps begins in 1933 and continues until 1950, see U DYO/2/25]. Although lacking in political experience, he was soon adopted as Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for the Hull North West constituency and campaigned against the National Government in the 1935 general election. The seat was retained by the Conservative and Unionist candidate Sir Lambert Ward with a reduced majority of 5234 [see U DYO/2/17-19 for files covering the 1935 election campaign and U DYO/1/5 for his diary for the period]. During this period Young supported himself and his family (which now included two daughters, seven year old Charmian and Tamara, born in 1934) on his Royal Navy pension and a small private income. He worked for five months at the Oxford Street store of the John Lewis Partnership and was selected for the post of assistant to the Secretary of the Institute of Naval Architects, but was never appointed, allegedly on political grounds. The files about his employment by John Lewis's and his appointment by the Institute of Naval Architects are at U DYO/2/24 and U DYO/2/23 respectively.

The political climate of the mid to late 1930s was permeated with the fear of fascism and war. Many in the labour movement became involved in campaigns which sought to unite the left against these threats; after 1937, this was broadened to include co-operation with liberal and progressive elements. Shortly after the 1935 general election, Young joined the British National Committee of the International Peace Campaign (IPC) [U DYO/10 comprises records of the work of the IPC and Young's involvement]. The IPC emerged out of the Peace Ballot organised in Britain by Dame Adelaide Livingstone. It sought to co-ordinate the work of existing pacifist organisations and other groups opposed to war. Towards this end, Young was chosen to undertake an extensive tour of Central Europe in May and June 1936. During his travels between the capital cities of Austria, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Romania and Poland, he met many leading pacifists and encouraged the establishment of IPC National Committees. His report of the trip is at U DYO/10/2 and his movements can be traced through his diary for 1936 [U DYO/1/6]. His credentials for the tour included a letter of introduction from the Communist Harry Pollitt, a fact which was to prove controversial later in life [the letter became the subject of dispute between Young and the author David Caute, who commented on its significance in his book, The fellow-travellers (1973)]. In September 1936 the IPC organised its first World Peace Congress in Brussels which Young attended with his wife Geraldine. He first met Dr Ida Sindelkova, who was to become his second wife, whilst in Prague on behalf of the IPC two months later.

During 1937 and 1938 Young continued to visit Czechoslovakia and published his first book, Czechoslovakia: keystone of peace and democracy, in mid-1938, as part of his efforts to defend the country against German aggression [reviews and relative correspondence are at U DYO/2/10]. In 1938 alone he travelled to Prague, Karlovy Vary, Liberec (in the Sudetenland) and Tatranska Lomnica (to attend a League of Nations summer school on Central Europe) [see file U DYO/2/9]. He was in fact in Prague during the days leading up to the signing of the Munich Agreement on 29 September which ceded the Sudetenland to Germany and he reported on the political atmosphere to Clement Attlee MP [see letter at U DYO/3/15].

Young's involvement with the shortlived Unity Campaign, launched in January 1937, brought the first signs of conflict with the Labour leadership. Details about the Campaign can be found in Roger Eatwell's paper at U DYO/3/91 and Young's involvement is covered by his correspondence with the Labour Party in file U DYO/2/26 and by an address to Hull North West District Labour Party, circa 1937 [U DYO/6/18]. He stood on a unity platform as Labour candidate for St. Marylebone in the 1937 local elections and consciously associated himself with the local Communist Party. When the Campaign dissolved itself and gave way to the Popular Front, Young became Organising Secretary of the Petition Committee set up by Cripps to mobilise support for his six-point manifesto. It was because of these activities that Young was expelled from the Party in March 1939 in the company of Cripps, Aneurin Bevan MP and GR Strauss MP, by a Party Executive wedded to the support of a government which had in his eyes betrayed Czechoslovakia. A file on the Petition Committee is at U DYO/2/32 and his expulsion from the Labour Party is documented by files U DYO/2/25-27. Useful information can again be found in Roger Eatwell's work at U DYO/3/91.

By 1939 Young was bankrupt, without permanent employment and disillusioned with the Labour Party. He relied increasingly on freelance journalism to make a living and in July and August acted as tour leader for a party of Left Book Club members visiting the Soviet Union. His diary for 1939 does not cover this visit [U DYO/1/9], however there is some information amongst the press cuttings in file U DYO/4/45. In the October he divorced his first wife and was married a second time two months later to the Czech academic Dr Ida Sindelkova [he was divorced on 16 October and remarried on 12 December - press cuttings about the marriage are at U DYO/9/8]. He continued his political activities after the outbreak of war and campaigned on behalf of the People's Convention which first met in January 1941 [see file U DYO/2/31]. As Vice-Chairman he sat on the National Committee and Working Committee and also addressed public meetings. He produced two pamphlets during the early 1940s, A people's peace and That Second Front, and acted as naval correspondent for both the Yorkshire Post and the Sydney Daily Mail [these pamphlets are at U DYO/2/31 and 4/44a; his work for the two newspapers is documented by files U DYO/4/37 & 47]. Despite the bombing, Young remained in central London throughout the war [correspondence with a former neighbour during the Blitz is at U DYO/3/23].

His travels in Eastern Europe began again only a few months after the end of the war with a trip to Czechoslovakia [his diaries for 1945-1948 are at U DYO/1/14-17]. He was introduced to several leading Czech politicians whilst in Prague, including President Benes (whom he first met in exile in 1938). More importantly, during a prolonged five month tour of Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria and Romania in 1946, he met Klement Gottwald, the leader of the Czechoslovak Communist Party and Prime Minister following the May elections. In Bulgaria he toured the country with Georgi Tsankov (General Secretary of the Bulgarian trade union movement) and attended several election meetings in factories and villages in Sofia and the surrounding area. This was in the aftermath of a plebiscite on the monarchy and the declaration of a Republic. The election on 27 October resulted in the Communist leader Georgi Dimitrov becoming Prime Minister and Young was able to discuss the post-war reconstruction of Bulgaria with Dimitrov during his visit. A general election was also underway in Romania at this time and Young witnessed the state opening of the Communist-dominated Parliament by King Michael.

On the basis of research carried out during his visits, he published a second work entitled Czechoslovakia in 1946 and tentatively tried to break into radio journalism [scripts of his talks about his experiences in Bulgaria and Romania late 1946 are at U DYO/6/20]. He also became heavily involved in the work of post-war friendship societies with Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Vietnam and later Cuba. He returned to Eastern Europe for a three-month tour of Czechoslovakia, Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary in July 1948 and amassed material for a companion history of Bulgaria, but this was never completed [see U DYO/4/61 for the incomplete draft]. On 23 March 1949, after a period of marital difficulties, his wife was found hanging in their flat by a neighbour. A prolonged and widely reported inquest recorded a verdict of suicide while of unsound mind [collected press cuttings about the inquest are at U DYO/9/9]. Almost a year later, on 17 March, Young married Amicia More Bassadone, whom he first met in 1948 during her period as Assistant Editor of the New Central European Observer. His third wife bore him a son, Simon, on 28 February 1952. Information about Amicia Bassadone's career can be found in her responses to a Communist Party questionnaire from 1960 [CP/PERS/8/3], held in the Party archive at the Labour History Archive and Study Centre, People's History Museum.

A six-year period as translator of Russian and several other Eastern European languages for the Hydrographic Department of The Admiralty ended in 1950 and his relations with The Admiralty began to sour. In early 1952 he was notified of his removal from the Retired List of the Navy [see files U DYO/2/1-2]. The reasons cited by the First Lord of The Admiralty in the Commons were that 'his activities on behalf of the Communist Party were proving a source of such embarrassment and distress to the Royal Navy at home and abroad'. He was thereafter denied the right to call himself Lieutenant Commander RN Retired or to wear naval uniform. Young's case was taken up by the National Council for Civil Liberties as a victim of political discrimination and the furore which The Admiralty's decision aroused meant that it was never in fact enforced.

His visits to East Germany to attend the Leipzig trade fair began with regularity in the 1950s and included tours of the Baltic shipyards at Rostock, Stralsund and Wismar, as well as a performance of the play 'Mother Courage and her children' by Bertolt Brecht at the Berliner Ensemble in December 1955 [his diaries for the 1950s are at U DYO/1/20-29]. He made a month-long tour of Bulgaria in early 1957 and in the winter of the following year, embarked upon a journey through Eastern Europe, the Soviet Union and China, before finally arriving in Vietnam. His wife accompanied him and used the trip to establish contacts with Vietnamese scientists as part of her work for the World Federation of Scientific Workers [see CP/PERS/8/3, Communist Party archive; articles about the visit are at U DYO/4/84-85].

Young's political activities found a new focus in 1950 with the establishment of the Ex Service Movement for Peace (ESMP), of which he was President [see file U DYO/2/16 on the ESMP and files U DYO/2/35-36 on relations with the Soviet War Veterans' Committee]. Essentially an anti-fascist organisation, the ESMP campaigned against German rearmament and had links with the Soviet War Veterans' Committee. Unlike a large proportion of the membership of the Communist Party, Young's support for the Soviet Union was strengthened in 1956 by the armed suppression of the Hungarian uprising [see file U DYO/2/22]. He consistently adhered to the line that the uprising was fomented by counter-revolutionaries and this led to his disillusionment with the Union of Democratic Control, of which he was an Executive Committee member and which published a pamphlet by Basil Davidson exposing 'What really happened in Hungary'. According to his wife Amicia (who was a party member from 1945 onwards), widespread condemnation of the Soviet intervention almost propelled him to join the Communist Party [see CP/PERS/8/3, Communist Party archive]. Similarly in 1968, when the Party split over the Warsaw Pact suppression of the Prague Spring, Young expressed public support for the invasion for the same reasons and consequently acquired a certain notoriety [his letters of support to the ambassadors of the Warsaw Pact countries are at U DYO/3/73 and other relevant correspondence can be found at U DYO/3/77 & 81]. His political activities over a lifetime earned him the label of 'about as dedicated a fellow-traveller as one could find', as the study by David Caute, The fellow-travellers: a postscript to the Enlightenment, described Young when it was published in early 1973 [see Caute, p.343. There is a file covering Young's dispute with Caute at U DYO/2/6].

Until his death in 1975, he occupied his time with travel and to a lesser extent, with the campaign against the Vietnam War, in which his wife was heavily involved. His most frequent destination was East Germany where he visited several former concentration camps, namely Bergen-Belsen, Sachsenhausen, and Buchenwald, but he also made a study tour of shipyards in Romania in 1961 and several visits to the Soviet Union, both on behalf of the ESMP and to attend trade exhibitions. He spent a month in Havana, Cuba in early 1971 with his wife and his final journey abroad was in June 1973 to Czechoslovakia [there are diaries for the 1960s and early 1970s at U DYO/1/30-43. The articles about his visit to Romania are at U DYO/4/127]. Edgar Young died on 10 November 1975. He was survived by his third wife Amicia, his daughter Charmian from his first marriage and his son Simon.


U DYO/1 Diaries, 1920 - 1975

U DYO/2 Files, 1931 - 1975

U DYO/3 Correspondence, 1922 - 1975

U DYO/4 Writings, 1920 - 1975

U DYO/5 Indexes, 1948 - 1974

U DYO/6 Lectures and speeches, 1928 - 1972

U DYO/7 Translation work, 1938 - 1976

U DYO/8 Photographs, circa 1900 - circa 1969

U DYO/9 Personal, 1933 - 1972

U DYO/10 International Peace Campaign, 1934 - 1941

U DYO/11 Union of Democratic Control, 1923 - 1957

U DYO/12 Amicia M Young, 1946 - 1975

U DYO/13 Miscellaneous, 1934 - 1977

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[Simon Young]

Custodial History

Donated by Amicia Young, London, 14 February 1983

Related Material

Records of the Union of Democratic Control [U DDC]

Papers of Anne Kerr MP relating to the anti-Vietnam War movement [U DMK/1]


David Caute, The fellow-travellers: a postscript to the Enlightenment (Wiedenfeld & Nicholson, 1973)