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Post War British Army Mutinies


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There is a post doing the facebook rounds promoting an article that describes the Southampton Mutiny in January 1919.

 

It is here: https://libcom.org/history/articles/southampton-mutiny-1919?fbclid=IwAR00Hpnne_8JcoYPR32FsvDAXCzo8eFyzgPhFAxYsWSFDgOZ85Aw39DJW8U

 

On looking for a slightly less... "socialist workers unite" view I found the opposite, in the form of Peter Tatchell's perspective that these events were a lost opportunity for the creation of the workers' paradise.

 

https://leftfootforward.org/2014/08/ww1-the-hidden-story-of-soliders-mutinies-strikes-and-riots/

 

I couldn't read more than a couple of paragraphs of that, with its attempt to perpetuate the lions led by donkeys line.

 

Wiki seems to start the way of the first article, but leads in to determine how Trenchard defused the situation without anybody being hurt... Except that account comes from a Trenchard biography with a title that suggests a hagiography.

 

How is one supposed to find out the truth?

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Without a deep dive into the archives I suspect you won't. You could look for newspaper articles and maybe an official report but I expect the process would be painful. There is a book called 1919: Britain's Year of Revolution whose bibliography would probably have useful sources although having read the excerpt available on google it looks like the primary source for Southhampton will be the Trenchard biography.

 

https://books.google.com/books?id=R38TDgAAQBAJ&pg=PA37&lpg=PA37&dq=southampton+mutiny+1919&source=bl&ots=_nzfCUWvAx&sig=jiKlNjbi9Ivnecy87FB73bOSsDw&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjNl4yxyq7fAhWm3oMKHRofAjYQ6AEwC3oECAAQAQ#v=onepage&q=southampton%20mutiny%201919&f=false

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I find it interesting how the mutiny, which seems to have been precipitated when soldiers who believed that they were to be demobbed, were instead told to board ships for France, is turned the idea that the country wss ripe for revolution. The latter seems a serious stretch when the men stood down and appear to have just gone home when discharged after Trenchard reasserted control.

 

If there had been a real revolutionary impetus, blood would have been spilled. The whole thing seems overblown by the modern leftist interpretation, but clearly it's possible that the entire episode was officially played down to avoid raising tensions if the country had actually been ripe for revolution

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It could be a bit of both, I'm sure the army did its best to play down the mutinies and the labor movement would have done its best to turn the mutinies into shows of support from and rising class consciousness on the part of the army. Personally I don't think that there was much sympathy for workers in the army at that time, a large number of those serving would have been veterans of the trenches and memories of the workers striking for higher wages while they were 'over there' would have been pretty fresh.

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I find it interesting how the mutiny, which seems to have been precipitated when soldiers who believed that they were to be demobbed, were instead told to board ships for France, is turned the idea that the country wss ripe for revolution. The latter seems a serious stretch when the men stood down and appear to have just gone home when discharged after Trenchard reasserted control.

 

If there had been a real revolutionary impetus, blood would have been spilled. The whole thing seems overblown by the modern leftist interpretation, but clearly it's possible that the entire episode was officially played down to avoid raising tensions if the country had actually been ripe for revolution

 

Bear in mind, only 7 years later the Government was convinced they were on the brink of a Communist Coup, which of course was the general strike. It might look ridiculous to us, im not sure post 1917 they would have viewed it int he same light. Clearly Churchill didnt.

 

My mother does ancestry, Ill get and have a look at the online newspapers when I have a chance. I doubt it will add much however.

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Certainly there was a belief that Communist Coups were likely at that time. This resulted in firearms control legislation in the UK, New Zealand, and I presume other countries. Not to prevent crime but to deny arms to revolutionaries.

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The firearm restrictions in Canada in 1924 were directly related to the 1919 general strike and keeping handguns out of the hands of undesirables such as Communists.

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Well it was reported in Australia, in a 'local' paper: The Capricornian

 

MUTINY BY BRIT3SH
SOLDIERS
LONDON, August 22.
Three hundred men of the Warwick
shire, Berkshire, and Gloucestershire regi
ments refused to parade at Southampton
for embarkation to France, believing that
they would be sent to distant ^theatres
of war, especially Russia, though the
impression was without foundation. The
men refused to return to camp pending
OTtrmina+nn of tbeu* grievanced.
LONDON, August S3.
The Berkshire and other troops who
refused to embark at Southampton, were
intended to go to Turkey. They spent'
the night in a park, and were then com
veyed to camps under an armed escort.
Other newspapers reported that 3000 mutinied.
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