Cecil John L'Estrange Malone was the Member for Parliament for Leyton East (1918-1922) and Northampton (1928-1931), one of the pioneers of naval aviation, and also the first man to represent the Communist Party of Great Britain in Parliament.
Early life and career
His father, the Reverend Savile Richard William L'Estrange-Malone, was born in Yorkshire, entered the church and spent some time in Ireland, largely because his uncle was the Archbishop of Armagh at the time. The Reverend L'Estrange-Malone originally only bore the name of L'Estrange, but later additionally adopted the name of Malone as one of the conditions of inheriting the estates of one Richard Malone in Ireland. He subsequently became the rector of Dalton Holme in Yorkshire, which is where his son Cecil was born on the 7th September 1890, but despite being a mere rector was both well connected and well-off, since his wife Francis Mary Foljambe, was one of the coheirs of the 3rd and last Earl of Liverpool, whilst his sister Mary Caroline Louisa (1849-1934) married the 20th Earl of Erroll.
Young Cecil was educated at the Cordwalles School in Maidenhead, joined the Royal Navy in 1905, and attended the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth. In 1911 he was chosen to undergo a flying course at Eastchurch, being only the second such course approved by the Admiralty, and so qualified as a pilot with Royal Aero Club certificate No. 195. He therefore became one of the founder members of the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) which was established in July 1912. Following the outbreak of World War I, he was placed in command of the RNAS units that took part in the raid on Cuxhaven on the 25th December 1914, being the first combined sea and air operation undertaken by the Royal Navy, and was mentioned in despatches. Placed in command of HMS Ben-my-Chree in March 1915 he served in the Dardanelles Campaign and was again mentioned in despatches, largely due to his pioneering work in equipping aeroplanes to carry torpedoes and successfully torpedoing three enemy vessels. Malone was subsequently placed in command of the East Indies and Egypt Seaplane squadron and was awarded the Order of the Nile (Fourth Class) by the Sultan of Egypt, and following the end of the war was appointed to the Plans Division of the Admiralty in 1918, and served as the First British Air Attaché at the British Embassy in Paris, and Air Representative at the Supreme War Council of the Allied Governments.
All in all Malone had a successful war and thus having been selected as the Coalition Liberal candidate for the constituency of Leyton East, he was duly returned to the House of Commons at the General Election of 1918. As a committed liberal, he became involved with the Reconstruction Society, which had grown out of the Anti-Socialist Union of 1908, and was committed to exposing the 'fallacies' of socialism in general and those of Russian Bolshevism in particular.
As a member of the executive committee of the Reconstruction Society, Malone decided to go and see for himself how Bolshevism was faring and in September 1919 he paid a visit to Soviet Russia. Once there he made the acquaintance of the likes of Maxim Litvinov, Georgii Chicherin, and Leon Trotsky, toured sundry factories, government offices, and the like, and came to the conclusion that Bolshevism wasn't so bad after all. On his return from Soviet Russia, he made a complete about turn, and abandoned the Liberals in favour of the British Socialist Party, which in 1920 became one of the founding organisations of the Communist Party of Great Britain, and so Malone became a member of the very first Central Committee of the CPGB in 1921.
Not everyone was convinced by this political conversion however, as Malone was soon denounced by John Maclean as a government agent. But then Maclean also blamed the government for the breakdown of his marriage, and similarly denounced Theodore Rothstein as a government agent, despite the fact that Rothstein was the principle bagman for the Bolsheviks in funding the emerging CPGB as well as being their official representative in Britain. As a result no one paid that much attention to Maclean. In any event, as a committed communist, Malone also became a key figure in the Hands Off Russia campaign and so appeared at a rally held at the Albert Hall on the 7th November 1920 where he delivered a speech in which he announced that "if it is necessary to save bloodshed and to save atrocities we shall have to use the lampposts or the wall" on the basis of "What are a few Churchills or a few Curzons on lampposts compared to the massacre of thousands of Indians at Amritsar?" (Also reported as be being "What are a few Churchills or a few Curzons on lampposts compared to the massacre of thousands of human beings?" Presumably when it was realised that the death toll at Amritsar was in the hundreds rather than the thousands.}
Naturally such sentiments brought Malone to the attention of the authorities. Detectives from Scotland Yard raided his home in London, where they found three revolvers and two cloakroom tickets that led Special Branch to parcels that contained leaflets entitled 'Form of Instruction for the Red Officers' Course' which contained proposals for the organisation of an "International Red Army" dedicated to the overthrow of global capitalism. Malone was arrested in Dublin where he's gone to deliver yet another speech, and brought back to England where he put in an appearance at Bow Street Magistrates' Court charged with an "act likely to cause sedition and disaffection amongst the civilian population" under Regulation 42 of the Defence of the Realm Act. In the circumstances it was rather fortunate for Malone that the authorities could not prove that he had actually produced the Red Officers' Course' pamphlets, otherwise he would have been charged with high treason.
Malone was convicted, and sentenced to six months imprisonment and bound over for a further twelve months, although he was released on bail pending an appeal. Sadly for Malone his appeal was unsuccessful; indeed the appeal court was rather of the opinion that his sentence was in fact "utterly inadequate". As a result Malone found that his OBE was cancelled; but later returned to the House of Commons after his release from prison. He subsequently adopted a somewhat lower profile and decided not to contest his seat at the General Election of 1922, announcing that he intended to do some "constructive work" rather than sitting in Parliament.
Soon afterwards he changed his mind, having now abandoned the CPGB and joined the Independent Labour Party, and was selected as the Labour candidate for Ashton-under-Lyne. He was defeated at the General Election of 1924 by the Conservative candidate Cornelius Homan, but later managed to scrape home at the Northampton by-election of 1928 by 557 votes. He briefly served in the Labour government as the Parliamentary Private Secretary to Frederick Roberts at the Ministry of Pensions in 1931, only to lose his seat at the General Election of 1931 that swept the National government into power.
That proved to be the end of Malone's public career, although with the advent of World War II
he briefly re-emerged as the chief warden for the City of Westminster Civil Defence in 1942, and between 1943 and 1945 served with the Small Vessels Pool
, or what later became known as the Royal Navy Craft Ferrying Service
. By 1950 he was running 'How Do I Go To Sea' courses encouraging youngsters to follow a maritime career, but otherwise faded into obscurity. He was the author of The Russian Republic
(British Socialist Party, 1920); New China
(Independent Labour Party Publication Dept, 1926); and Manchoukuo, Jewel of Asia
(George Allen & Unwin, 1936) as well as a number of pamphlets.
Malone was twice married. His first wife Leah died in 1951, and he afterwards remarried Dorothy Nina Cheetham in 1956. He died in his London home on the 25th February 1965 at the age of seventy-four and was survived by his second wife and a single daughter by his first marriage.
- ‘MALONE, Lt-Col Cecil L’Estrange’, Who Was Who, A & C Black, 1920–2008; online edn, Oxford University Press, Dec 2007
- 1912 Aviators Certificates - UK
- Flight magazine December 14,1916
- The Strange Communist Colonel?, Our History, New Series No. 2 - 2006
- Colonel Malone, The Russian Republic, British Socialist Party 1920
- Gerry Raffé, Newsletter of the 269 Squadron Old Comrades Association, December 7th 2006
- Joseph Jackson Howard and Frederick Arthur Crisp, Visitation of Ireland (Courtesy of Google books)
From The Times digital archive:
- Our Bolshevists. Wild Talk In Albert Hall, The Times, Monday, Nov 08, 1920
- Mr. Malone, M.P., Sentenced. The Times, Saturday, Nov 20, 1920
- Mr. Malone's Appeal Dismissed, The Times, Tuesday, Jan 18, 1921
- Strenuous Fights In Leyton, The Times, Wednesday, Nov 15, 1922
- A Labour Gain. Small Majority At Northampton, The Times, Wednesday, Jan 11, 1928
- Obituaries; Lieut.-Col. C. L'e. Malone, A Pioneer Of Naval Aviation, The Times, Saturday, Feb 27, 1965