Tom Wintringham is known for his work with Britain’s Home Guard in 1940. Wintringham had learned guerilla warfare tactics during the Spanish Civil War, and he set up a training centre at Osterley Park to teach these skills to members of the Home Guard.
Born in Grimsby on 15 May 1898, WIntringham studied Law at Balliol College, Oxford, before giving up his studies to join the Royal Flying Corps during World War One. He left the Army in 1919.
Following the war, Wintringham worked as a military journalist. After setting up a journal titled ‘Left Review; he joined the British Communist Party. In 1925, he was one of the twelve CPGB officials imprisoned for seditious libel and incitement to mutiny.
On the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, Wintringham went to Spain to report on the conflict. He joined the Republican forces and became the commander of the British Battalion of the International Brigade. In 1937 he was wounded at the Battle of Jarama and was forced to return to Britain. However, in the time he spent in Spain, he became an expert in guerrilla warfare.
During the war in Spain, Wintringham started a relationship with Kitty Bowler - an American journalist. After marrying, Wintringham was expelled from the British Communist Party because he refused to leave Bowler, who was accused of being a Trotskyite spy.
Wintringham established a school in Osterley Park, West London in 1940. He intended to train the Home Guard in guerilla tactics that would slow down the German advance in the event of an invasion.
Wintringham and his team were credited with transforming the Home Guard - initially a poorly trained, poorly unit of men. Training in guerilla warfare and street fighting for the Home Guard volunteers started within 20 minutes of arrival and within three months Wintringham and his men had trained 5,000 volunteers. Wintringham book on guerrilla warfare, 'New Ways of War' became a bestseller.
However, the British government remained suspicious of Wintringham for his involvement in the Spanish Civil War. After only three months, the army took over Osterley Park. The government then established three more guerilla warfare training grounds across Britain.
In 1941 Wintringham’s left wing beliefs came to light again when he helped establish the Common Wealth Party. The party was based on three principles: morality in politics, common ownership and democracy.
Tom Wintringham died in 1949, aged 51.
See also: The Auxiliary Unit
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