Sign In

Forgot Password Create Account

The Army Bureau of Current Affairs, or ABCA, was established by William Emrys Williams to educate and raise morale amongst British servicemen and servicewomen during World War II. Williams insisted - despite some controversy - on the right to education, in particular in current affairs, for servicemen and women, and so in mid-1941 Williams established the ABCA and ran it for the duration of the war.

Through the ACBA, officers attended courses on conducting discussion groups. These discussions started as hourly sessions each week. ABCA rapidly expanded resulting in photographic display; wall newspaper articles written by the men themselves and an "Anglo American Brains Trust". The ABCA issued pamphlets in units and promoted discussion about subjects such as post-war reconstruction and the Beveridge report. ABCA met with resistance from Winston Churchill who felt it was a poor use of military time.

The ABCA is generally regarded as a factor in the landslide Labour Party victory in the post-war general election in 1945, a charge that was refuted by General Ronald Adam, the Adjutant General, who had overall responsibility for the Bureau. Nonetheless, ABCA organizers and teachers predominantly seem to have been left-wing, as were the soldiers who attended the classes. The classes became dominated by discussion of nationalization and social justice. The service vote in the election that followed is said to have been the most dramatic reflection of the public mood, with as many as 80% of soldiers voting for the Labour Party according to some sources.

After the war and under the auspices of the Carnegie Trust, Williams transformed the ABCA into the Bureau of Current Affairs, moving their offices to Piccadilly in London and continued their activities in peace-time with the assistance of several ABCA contributors including the artists James Boswell.


Archived