Tom Wintringham: Revolutionary Patriot

Hugh Purcell tells the story of the man who inspired the Home Guard, taught it guerrilla warfare and paid a price for his political beliefs.

In the summer of 1940, after the Low Countries and France had surrendered in the face of the Nazi blitzkrieg and the British Army had been evacuated from Dunkirk, Britons awaited their fate, sure that Hitler would order an invasion across the Channel. Prime Minister Winston Churchill roused the nation with BBC broadcasts of stirring defiance that were listened to by two out of every three adults. He was followed on the airwaves by the writer J.B. Priestley, whose homely Yorkshire voice extolling the British way of life was listened to by one out of three adults. Then there was Tom Wintringham with his huge readership of several million from weekly articles in the Picture Post and Daily Mirror, his BBC talks, his columns in Tribune and the New Statesman and his popular books New Ways of War and Armies of Freemen that together sold well over 100,000 copies in a few months. If Churchill’s patriotic oratory called to mind an aged Henry V and Priestley was compared to that ‘honester and true-hearted man Falstaff’, then Wintringham’s persona was his hero, the Leveller John Lilburne.

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