Papers of Tom Wilfred Atkinson

Scope and Content

Includes papers relating to Tom Atkinson's time working for President Sukarno of Indonesia, the first President of an independent Indonesia, as a speechwriter, as well as papers relating to his later academic career at the University of Hull and his proposed book concerning his experiences in Indonesia entitled 'Vision and Reality'.

Administrative / Biographical History

Tom Wilfred Atkinson was born on 30 August 1922 in Cockfield, County Durham, the son of a policeman. In his teens he joined the Young Communists and in 1936, attempted to join the International Brigade in Spain, but was sent home after he was found to be only 14.

In 1941, he joined the RAF and volunteered to work under the servicing commandos. Towards the end of the war, Atkinson's unit was deployed to the Netherlands East Indies with the objective of aiding in the return of prisoners of war and internees. Soon after, following the Japanese surrender, the Indonesian nationalist leader, Sukarno, declared the country's independence. Unwilling to work with the Dutch, and with the permission of their adjutant, Atkinson and a group of friends established a pro-Indonesian group within the RAF. Securing typewriters and a duplicator, they began publishing the Indonesian Information Bulletin.

Returning to London in 1946, Atkinson continued to publish the Bulletin whilst also working as the European correspondent for the Indonesian news agency 'Antara'. In 1947, he was appointed to the post of Information and Public Relations Officer for the Indonesian Representative Office in London and in 1950, to the post of Information Officer at the Indonesian Embassy in London.

Two years later, Atkinson returned to Indonesia as an official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jakarta and in 1955 officially took up the post of speechwriter to President Sukarno. During his time in Indonesia, he also held various other posts including lecturer in European History at the Universitas Nasional, lecturer in Foreign Policy of Nations at the Service Academy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, lecturer in English Language at the Police and Air Force Academies, advisor to the National Council (1955), and advisor to the Supreme Advisory Council (1960).

Initially, welcoming of Atkinson's advice, tension between Atkinson and Sukarno began to develop by the late 1950s owing to differing world views. The tension worsened by the start of the 1960s, when Sukarno began attacking 'British Imperialism'. Owing to this and exhaustion caused by overwork, Atkinson collapsed and briefly returned to the UK before being recalled. He later suffered another collapse and returned to Britain for good in 1961.

Following their return to the UK, Atkinson and his wife Rene, established a small hotel in the northwest of Scotland, where they also ran a building contractors business and a handicrafts centre. In 1967, Atkinson returned to academia, taking up a research associateship at the Centre for South-East Asian Studies at the University of Hull. A year later, he then became involved in the Modern Indonesia Project at Cornell University. Following this, the Atkinsons moved to a small Welsh farm for 10 years before returning to Scotland and founding the Luath Press in 1981. Through the press, Atkinson published guides to the north and west of Scotland and wrote the book Napier's History of Herbal Healing: Ancient and Modern (2004). His daughter Dee Atkinson had taken over Napier's Herbalists and he had found himself managing Napier's mail order service alongside Luath Press. In 2004, he also edited the book Spectacles, Testicles, Fags and Matches: Memoirs of the servicing commandos.

Tom Atkinson suffered a stroke in 2006. He died, following an aneurism, on 26 June 2007. He was survived by his wife, Rene, and his two daughters, Dee and Chanchal.


U DX337/1 Files relating to time working for the Republic of Indonesia

U DX337/2 Files relating to later academic career

Access Information

Access will be granted to any accredited reader

Custodial History

Deposited in 2000

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