Sunday, August 3, 2014

WW1: The hidden story of soldier’s mutinies, strikes and riots

In 1919, Britain came close to a workers’ and soldiers’ uprising. But it’s not a story the official WW1 commemoration wants to highlight

WW1 ncrj

The official 100th anniversary commemorations of World War One (WW1) mostly record a honourable, noble cause fought by happy, loyal, patriotic soldiers. But the truth is somewhat more complex and varied.

The 1914-18 British Army was notorious for its frequent appalling mistreatment of working class lower ranks by arrogant, out-of-touch upper class officers who often exploited ordinary soldiers as their personal servants and, under fire, as expendable military ordnance.

Blind obedience, spit and polish and square-bashing drill were the order of the day. They comprised an excessive proportion of basic training – to the relative neglect of weapon proficiency and tactical exercises.

For the average soldier, food was poor, accommodation insanitary, uniforms and weapons often sub-standard, wages low, recreation restricted, punishments brutal and the post-war demobilisation was delayed without good reason.

These abuses provoked numerous uprisings by fed-up foot soldiers.

In the closing months of the war, and on into 1919, there were widespread military mutinies, strikes and riots. Significant sections of the British armed forces were awash with rebellion and revolutionary fervour.