Rupert Lockwood

Rupert Lockwood delivering a speech at the Domain in Sydney

Prominent Communist journalist, editor and historian Rupert Lockwood wrote No Conscription a 40-minute agit-prop documentary play staged in 1940 at a rally of ALLY (Australian Labor League of Youth, described by Jack Lang as a Trojan Horse to get inside the YMCA and Boy Scouts). It was directed by Vic Arnold.

No Conscription was written for the ALP Education Committee to be broadcast on trade union station 2KY , but was banned on radio as undermining Australia’s war effort. Eddie Ward asked a question in Federal Parliament about the ban, maintaining that it referred to past Australian history, but was told that the censor didn’t have to give a reason. No Conscription dramatised the First World War conscription debate and warned that the fight was on again in 1940.

Lockwood spoke at public meetings in defence of the New Theatre League after its office was raided in 1940 when the CPA was declared illegal. He also defended the NTL's right to stage open-air performances in the Domain, drawing parallels between the Nazis' burning of books and censorship in Australia. Like NTL members Bill Hortin, Paul Mortier and Sid Conway, he was in 1941 an unsuccessful candidate for the anti Jack Lang State Labor Party.

Lockwood was born and died at Natimuk, Victoria, where his newspaperman father had been proprietor of the West Wimmera Mail. After his mother’s death his father in 1916 wed a woman of Lutheran descent, a marriage which aroused local anti-German hostility. After completing his education at Melbourne’s Wesley College Rupert entered a cadetship with the Melbourne Herald where he became friendly with Douglas Wilkie, son of actor-manager Allan Wilkie, and John Fisher, son of former Prime Minister Andrew Fisher.

During the Depression Lockwood was the Herald’s “unemployment roundsman” and in 1934, with Fisher, became involved in the dramatic events surrounding the Australian lecture tour of international journalist Egon Kisch. (Mona Brand’s Here Comes Kisch! was staged at NT in 1984.) In 1935 Lockwood left Australia, working as a newspaper journalist in Singapore before travelling via China and Russia to London. As correspondent for the Australian Newspaper Service he covered events in Europe including the Spanish Civil War. By the time of his recall to Australia in 1938 he was strongly anti-fascist and fearful of Japanese militarism. Back in Melbourne he became active in civil liberties, was demoted at the Herald and joined the CPA. He then moved to Sydney where he became an effective public speaker in the Domain.

For most of the rest of his working life Lockwood made his living from labour movement journalism. From 1952—85 he edited the Maritime Worker, the journal of the Waterside Workers Federation. Lockwood was a key figure in the 1954-5 Royal Commission into Espionage in Australia and the author of Document J, among the papers handed over by Petrov. ASIO agents hovered around his Oyster Bay house.

Lockwood's wife Betty Searle (1916 - 2003) arranged for Rocket Range to be staged at Sutherland in 1957. Born in England to a suffragette mother, she migrated to Australia at age three with her parents. She joined the CPA ca 1936, worked with Jessie Street on “Sheepskins for Russia” during the Second World War, and married Rupert whom she’d met through the CPA. In 1966 Betty returned disillusioned from a trip to the USSR. She separated from Rupert, became more interested in feminism, and was a founder of the Older Women’s Network.

Eight-year-old Penny Lockwood shared the part of the child Lorry Graham in Thirty Pieces of Silver, staged at the height of McCarthyism in 1951.

Find out more about Rupert Lockwood here !