Dave Springhall

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Headstone for Douglas Frank Springhall on the Babaoshan Revolutionary Cemetery in Beijing.

Douglas Frank Springhall (28 March 1901 – 2 September 1953), known as Dave Springhall, was a British communist activist.

Born in Kensal Green, Springhall joined the Royal Navy at the age of fifteen, during World War I. In 1920, he wrote "Discontent on the Lower Deck", an article for the communist publication Workers' Dreadnought, leading to his dismissal from the Navy for "associating with extremists".[1]

Springhall joined the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) and its affiliated Young Communist League (YCL). He worked as a builder, but struggled to find employment, focussing his time on the National Unemployed Workers' Committee Movement and the trade union movement. He stood as a Labour Party candidate for Richmond Town Council, then later as a Communist candidate, but was not elected.[1]

In 1924, Springhall was a delegate to the Fifth Congress of the Communist International, and also the Fourth Congress of the Young Communist International. In 1926, following the imprisonment of William Rust, he became Acting Secretary of the YCL, serving during the British general strike, for which he was twice jailed himself. From 1928 to 1931, Springhall studied at the International Lenin School. He then returned to the UK, when he led moves to expel Trotskyists from the CPGB.[1] From this period on, he may have been working for the GRU.[2]

During the Spanish Civil War, Springhall served as Political Commissar of the British Battalion, then later Assistant Commissar of the XV International Brigade. Although he was shot at the Battle of Jarama, the bullet passed through his cheeks and he was not seriously wounded. He returned to the UK in 1938, becoming editor of the Daily Worker, then briefly serving as the CPGB's representative in Moscow. He returned to the UK again to ensure that the party supported the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. General Secretary Harry Pollitt opposed this and was removed, Springhall working as National Organiser to lead the party alongside Rust and Rajani Palme Dutt.[1]

In 1943, Springhall was imprisoned, and also removed from his party posts, after he was convicted of receiving secret information from an Air Ministry employee.[1] It subsequently emerged that he had also obtained classified information from Desmond Uren of the Special Operations Executive.[2] He served four-and-a-half years of a seven-year penal servitude sentence. On his release, he worked in advertising before travelling through Eastern Europe to China, where he worked as an advisor to the Chinese Information Bureau of the Press Administration. He travelled to Moscow in 1953 to receive treatment for throat cancer, but died there.[1] His grave is located at the Babaoshan Revolutionary Cemetery in Beijing.


Media offices
Preceded by
Rajani Palme Dutt
Editor of the Daily Worker
Succeeded by
John Ross Campbell
Party political offices
Preceded by
Robbie Robson
London District Secretary of the Communist Party of Great Britain
Succeeded by
Ted Bramley
Preceded by
R. W. Robson
National Organiser of the Communist Party of Great Britain
Succeeded by
Peter Kerrigan
Military offices
Preceded by
New position
Political Commissar of the British Battalion
1936 – 1937
Succeeded by
George Aitken