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Reginald Samuel (Reg) Franklin (1901–1958)

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This entry is from People Australia

Reginald Samuel (Reg) Franklin (1901-1958) seaman, trade union leader 

Birth: 16 November 1901 at Newport, Monmouthshire, Wales, son of William Albert Franklin, dock labourer, and his first wife Lucy Elizabeth, née Reynolds (1878-1906). Marriage: 3 October 1925 at Stockton, Newcastle, New South Wales, to May Bell. They had one daughter and two sons. Death: 13 May 1958 in Morisset asylum, NSW. Religion: Anglican. 

  • His mother died of tuberculosis when he was aged 5. Reg was educated in Wales, attending an “English Board School”. Keen sportsman in youth, interested in boxing.
  • Putting his age down, he joined the British Army in World War I, fighting in France with the South Wales Borderers aged 15 — won Military Medal.
  • Described as a steelworker, he arrived in Sydney aboard Themistocles on 8 March 1921 as one of group of workers on contract to work with Lysaghts, Newcastle.
  • 1924 joined Seamen’s Union of Australasia and went to sea for several years. Played an active part in 1935 strike and member of Newcastle Strike Committee, seeking support from coalminers.
  • 1936 elected Newcastle branch secretary, serving for 17 years, resigning in January 1953. Chairman of the federal executive of the SUA during WW II; strong supporter of Eliot V. Elliott. Described by Donald Fraser as “dedicated figher in defence of the seamen’s material interests”.
  • Enlisted for service in World War II on 10 June 1942. Served part-time in the 31 Battalion Volunteer Defence Corps. Discharged 25 February 1944.
  • July 1950 opened ‘Pandora’s Box’ of Cold War insinuations against SUA when, as only non-communist on federal executive he claimed he had no knowledge of decision to withdraw labour on ships headed for Korean War. In May 1954 surrendered union membership after going ashore.
  • Associated with Australian Labor Party and president, Newcastle Trades Hall Council. Lived at Stockton, Newcastle for many years.
  • Became ill, causing SUA to establish fund for medical bills in March 1956. Matter became controversial when Truth published article on 1 December 1957 instigated by wife expressing concern that ‘testimonial’ funds ‘may go to Reds…The wife of a former official of the Seamen’s Union is fighting to prevent £850 falling into the hands of the Communist Party’. Wife claimed doctors had advised strain of union position had caused medical problems.
  • Cause of death Alzheimer disease and ulcerative collitis.

Brian Fitzpatrick and Rowan J. Cahill, The Seamen’s Union of Australia: a history, (Sydney, 1981); Newcastle Morning Herald, 15 May 1958; Seamen’s Journal, Dec 1957, June 1958; Donald Sinclair Fraser, Articles of agreement: The Seamen’s Union of Australia, 1904-1943 a study of antagonised labour, PhD thesis (University of Wollongong, 1998).

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Citation details

'Franklin, Reginald Samuel (Reg) (1901–1958)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 15 July 2024.

© Copyright Labour Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]


16 November, 1901
Newport, Monmouthshire, Wales


13 May, 1958 (aged 56)
Morisset, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death


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

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