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Alfred Ruffield (Alf) Buckley (1892–1963)

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This entry is from People Australia

Alfred Ruffield (Alf) Buckley (1892-1963) boilermaker, Communist and trade union leader 

Birth: 25 August 1892 at Gillingham, Kent, England, son of William Thomas Buckley (1851-1926), a ship engine fitter born in Malta, and Alice, née Jones (1871-1941), born in Pembroke, South Wales. Marriages: (1) 4 June 1921 in St John’s Church, Newcastle, New South Wales to Alethea Ward (1896-1929), born in Framlingham, England. They had two daughters and three sons. (2) 11 May 1940 at Lambton, Newcastle, New South Wales, to Annie Elizabeth, née Hill, late Ford (1893-1974), a divorcee, born in Hull, England, with one daughter. Death: 16 August 1963 at Randwick Chest Hospital, Sydney, NSW. Religion: nominally Anglican, had a “Red funeral”. 

  • Leaving school, Buckley joined the Royal Navy (RN) on 6 August 1908 as a boy shipwright and began training at HM Dockyard, Chatham, Kent. Two months later he switched to boilermaker apprentice. When qualified, he would go to sea as an engine room artificer (ERA). He commenced the standard twelve-year engagement from his eighteenth birthday.
  • Following the end of World War I in 1918, he was granted an early discharge from the RN and given approval to travel to Australia aboard HMAS Sydney, which, after four years' service in the Atlantic, sailed for home in April 1919. For the purpose of his passage, he was engaged in the Royal Australian Navy on 31 March and discharged on 27 July 1919 when the ship reached Sydney.
  • His brother Private William Thomas Buckley had enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 3 October 1916 and was killed in action in France on 13 September 1918, serving with 4th Battalion.
  • In the 1920s Alf worked in a fabricating shop of Broken Hill Pty Ltd steelworks at Newcastle. Actively engaged BHP in industrial arena.
  • Joined Communist Party of Australia. Active in anti-fascist movement.
  • From 1935 to 1944 was secretary of the Newcastle branch of the Boilermakers Society.
  • From 1944 to 1949 was assistant Federal secretary, Boilermakers’ Society, and from 1949 to 1961 Federal general secretary.
  • In April 1950 was one of the Prime Minister Menzies’s list of Communists holding office in key industries when the anti-communist bill was presented to Federal Parliament.
  • Was a member of a delegation of Australian boilermakers who went on a lengthy tour of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in 1956.
  • Cause of death: bronchogenic carcinoma.

Red funeral, Tribune (Sydney), 2 August 1963, p 12:; Boilermaker, March-April 1962, July 1963; John Playford, Doctrinal and strategic problems of the Communist Party of Australia, 1945-1962, PhD thesis, ANU, 1962.

Additional Resources

Citation details

'Buckley, Alfred Ruffield (Alf) (1892–1963)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 23 July 2024.

© Copyright Labour Australia, 2012

Alf Buckley, 1955

Alf Buckley, 1955

Tribune (Sydney), 24 August 1955, p 10

Life Summary [details]


25 August, 1892
Gillingham, Kent, England


16 August, 1963 (aged 70)
Randwick, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death

cancer (lung)

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.

Key Organisations
Political Activism