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Edward Alexander (Ted) Dickinson (1903–1937)

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Ted Dickinson, n.d.

Ted Dickinson, n.d.

Edward Alexander (Ted) Dickinson (1903-1937) gaoled political activist, killed in Spanish Civil War 

Birth: 21 April 1903 in Grimsby, Lincolnshire, England, son of Edward Dickinson (1875-1906), fish merchant, and Mary Cormack, née Ross, later Newman (1877-1964?), sub postmistress. Marriage: 19 October 1929 in Adelaide, South Australia, to Myrtle Ellen Ankers. They had one daughter. Death: 12 February 1937 in Spain 

  • Arrived in Melbourne, Victoria, with his mother and sister aboard the RMS Orsova on 1 December 1913. Educated at Coburg State School.
  • Studies at Workers’ Educational Association in Melbourne brought him to Marxism and acquainted him with Industrial Workers of the World leader Charlie Reeves.
  • Followed various occupations from lift driver to farm labourer. With Noel ‘Ham and Eggs’ Lyons he assisted with the revival of the IWW in Sydney following World War I and soon became leading figure. In 1926-1927 he was a delegate to the Sydney Trades and Labor Council.
  • ‘Five foot ten, brown hair, blue-eyed, carriage as straight as a ramrod … enthusiastic speaker … (with) musical voice ... often led crowds at (Sydney) Domain in the singing of the old wobbly songs’. Became editor of Direct Action.
  • Major figure in free speech fights in Adelaide, in 1927. Charged with blasphemy. During waterside workers’ strike in Adelaide in 1928 article in Direct Action led to him being charged and convicted with ‘unlawfully taking part in a riot’ and seditious libel. Received a nine-month gaol sentence.
  • Though Direct Action crushed, he remained prominent in unemployed demonstrations in Adelaide. Member of Hands Off China committee. Engaged in business deal — possibly shady — to sell Russian Petrol in Australia, liaising with investors and J. S. Garden, using connections with J. A. Beasley and Arthur Rae.
  • Returned to England on 20 October 1929, following his marriage, to pursue oil deal. Active in anti-fascist movements, helping found International Freedom League, closely connected with Communist Party of Great Britain, participating in unemployed demonstrations/ hunger marches and street battles against Mosley’s Blackshirts.
  • In 1936 he joined British Battalion to fight Franco and fascism in Spain; was praised by Tom Wintringham as ‘a brilliant man’. Killed at battle of the Jarama Valley, in defence of Madrid. Shot in cold blood by fascists after declaring, ‘If we had a bunch of Australian bushmen here we’d have pushed you bastards into the sea long ago’.

Malcolm Henry Ellis, The red road: the story of the capture of the Lang party by Communists, instructed from Moscow (Sydney [1932]); Jim Moss, Sound of trumpets: history of the labour movement in South Australia (Adelaide, 1985); Verity Burgmann, Revolutionary Industrial Unionism: The Industrial Workers of the World in Australia (CUP, 1995), pp 263-66; Stuart Macintyre, The Reds: The Communist Party of Australia from origins to illegality (Sydney, 1998); Australian Left Review, No. 4, December 1966 - January 1967, pp 41-45; Smith’s Weekly (Sydney), 26 December 1931, p 1 []; Amirah Inglis, Australians in the Spanish Civil War (Sydney, 1987).

This person appears as a part of the Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8. [View Article]

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Citation details

'Dickinson, Edward Alexander (Ted) (1903–1937)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 29 May 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Ted Dickinson, n.d.

Ted Dickinson, n.d.

Life Summary [details]


21 April, 1903
Grimsby, Lincolnshire, England


12 February, 1937 (aged 33)

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