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BerichtGeplaatst: 15 Feb 2008 9:36    Onderwerp: Muiterij en opstand in WO1 Reageer met quote

1917: The Etaples mutiny

September 9th, 2006 by Steven.

A short history of one of the early big mutinies of British troops in Europe as World War I came to an end.

Etaples, about 15 miles south of Boulogne, was a notorious British Army base camp for those on their way to the front. Under atrocious conditions both raw recruits from England and battle-weary veterans were subjected to intensive training in gas warfare, bayonet drill, and long sessions of marching at the double across the dunes. After two weeks at Etaples many of the wounded were only too glad to return to the front with unhealed wounds. Conditions in the hospital were punitive rather than therapeutic and there had been incidents at the hospital between military police and patients.

Matters came to a head one Sunday afternoon (September 9, 1917) after the arrest of a gunner in the New Zealand Artillery. A large crowd of angry men gathered and did not disperse even when told the gunner had been released. It was clear that the protest over the arrest was only the tip of an iceberg and the atmosphere was tense. The arrival of military police only made matters worse and scuffles broke out. Suddenly the sound of shooting was heard. Private H. Reeve, a military policeman, had fired into the crowd killing a corporal and wounding a French woman bystander. (1) News of the shooting spread quickly. By 7.30 pm over a thousand angry men were pursuing the military police who fled in the direction of the town. The Camp Adjutant describes how the men 'swarmed into the town, raided the office of the Base Commandant, pulled him out of his chair and carried him on their shoulders through the town.' (2)

The following morning measures were taken to prevent further outbreaks and police pickets were stationed on the bridges leading into the town. Nevertheless, by 4 pm men had broken through the pickets and were holding meetings in the town, followed by sporadic demonstrations around the camp. On Tuesday, fearing further outbreaks, the Base Commandant requested reinforcements. Meanwhile, the demonstrations gathered momentum. On Wednesday, September 12, in spite of orders confining them to camp, over a thousand men broke out, marched through the town and then on to Paris Plage. Later that day reinforcements of 400 officers and men of the Honourable Artillery Company (HAC) arrived, armed with wooden staves. A more sinister presence was cavalry support from the 15th Hussars and a section of the Machine Gun Squadron. The threat worked: only 300 men broke camp and were arrested at Etaples. The incident was now over and the reinforcements were dispersed. (3)

If shooting had broken out who knows what the effect would have been on the rest of the British army in France, particularly at a time when the French army was itself in such trouble? Moreover, at Etaples, the authorities could not rely on New Zealand troops to shoot down Scottish demonstrators with whom they had close loyalties. And a cavalry attack on unarmed men might have provoked a strong reaction. In the event the authorities were able to manage with the HAC. (4)

Not all mutinies that year ended as peacefully. On September 5, only a few days before the outbreak at Etaples, two companies went on strike at Boulogne. The following day they tried to break out of camp and although unarmed they were shot down. Twenty three were killed and twenty four wounded. (5) Yet despite such harsh reprisals within four days Number 74 Labour Company also struck. The authorities responded on September 11 by killing four men, wounding fifteen, and inflicting prison sentences on twenty five more. (6) Only a month later a similar dispute took place in the First Army Area, where five men were killed and fourteen wounded. Many other strikes in the Labour Corps were similarly 'overcome', but casualty lists are not recorded. We know that in December 1917 a Guards detachment opened fire on strikers of No. 21 Labour Company at Fontinettes, near Calais, killing four and wounding nine. 'Despite such rebuffs', say Gill and Dallas, 'strikes amongst labour companies continued to occur'. (7)

The severity of the repression can be explained by the fact that these particular mutineers were Chinese or Egyptians whose treatment was determined by the colour of their skins. Not every mutiny was put down by a display of superior strength. This was due to one of the fundamental paradoxes of a rigidly disciplined organisation, in wartime, of which the authorities were well aware. Once men reach the point where death is familiar, fear of death has less effect. There were other restrictions on the decision to shoot: draconian methods could themselves provoke further trouble.

So whilst 'native' labour troops continued to be subdued by shooting, reforms were instituted to try to prevent further outbreaks at Etaples. The system of training was virtually abandoned. Thousands came to believe that the Etaples mutiny 'changed the whole phase of routine and "bull" from Base to Front Line'. (8)

There was a rumour that 'ringleaders of the Etaples mutiny were later shot'. (9) But we have no concrete evidence to corroborate this. Official policy was flexible. 'Men responsible for organising disaffection on a far larger scale the following winter' say Gill and Dallas, 'in both France and the Middle East, escaped without punishment at all, so threatening were the number and temper of the troops who backed them up. Equally, unfortunates who ran away from the trenches, if only for a day, were very often shot.' (10)

Whatever steps the authorities took they did not stop the rising tide of mutinies which continued throughout 1918, reaching a peak in the winter of 1918-1919. Sometimes the anger of the mutineers broke into full-scale riots, as on the night of December 9-10, 1918 'when men of the Royal Artillery stationed at Le Havre Base burnt down several depots in a riot which, in its destructiveness, outweighed anything which Etaples base had seen.' (11)

Taken from Mutinies by Dave Lamb

1. Gill and Dallas, op. cit., p.92
2. Quoted by Gill and Dallas, ibid. , p. 92
3. See Gill and Dallas, op. cit. , who draw attention to an affinity between the undisciplined Anzacs and the fiercely disciplined Scottish troops. The initial rioting on Sunday was sparked off by Anzac troops, contemptuous of the narrow discipline of the British Army and its social distinctions between officers and men.
4. According to Gill and Dallas the HAC detachment was composed mainly of officers and 'was the one unit on which complete reliance could be placed. Drawn from every section of society save from the working classes, the cadets were certain to stand firm. ' (op. cit. , p. 105)
5. Gill and Dallas, ibid., p. 102
6. Ibid., p. 102
7. Ibid. , p. 103. By 1918 there were some 200,000 men in the Chinese Labour Corps alone. They worked on building, road-making, even in factories. There was substantial syndicalist influence amongst them and they formed several unions. Between 1916 and 1918 they were involved in at least 25 strikes. Since the men were under military discipline these strikes in themselves constituted mutiny.
After the war, Labour Corps returnees had a profound effect in China itself. In Shanghai there was a syndicalist group called the Chinese Wartime Labourers Corps. In Canton, returnees created 26 new unions regarded as the 'first modern unions in China'. (See Nohara Shiro, 'Anarchism and the May 4th Movement', Libero International No. 3, November 1975). An interesting example of how ideas cross frontiers.
8. Quoted from a letter. Gill and Dallas, op. cit., p. 106
9. Ibid. , p. 111
10. Ibid., p. 111
11. Ibid., p. 112
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BerichtGeplaatst: 15 Feb 2008 9:41    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

Arnold Reisberg: Jännerstreik und Matrosenaufstand von Cattaro 1918

Vor 90 Jahren, Mitte Januar 1918, begann in Österreich der große "Jännerstreik". Als Folge der Bedingungen des verheerenden imperialistischen Weltkrieges und unter dem Eindruck der erfolgreichen sozialistischen Revolution in Russland im Oktober 1917 hatte sich "um die Jahreswende 1917/18", schreibt Arnold Reisberg, "die Krise der Donaumonarchie zu einer akut revolutionären Situation zu[gespitzt]. Sie fand ihren sichtbaren Ausdruck im grandiosen Jännerstreik von 1918 und den anschließenden Militärrevolten sowie in den gegen die Monarchie gerichteten Aktionen der national unterdrückten Völker.

Als bei den Friedensverhandlungen in Brest-Litowsk die deutschen und österreichischen Imperialisten der jungen Sowjetmacht drückende Bedingungen aufzwingen wollten und dadurch den Abschluss eines Friedensvertrages in Frage stellten, erhoben die österreichischen Arbeiter die zornige Stimme des Protestes. Bereits am 13. Jänner kam es in Wien und in vielen anderen Städten Österreichs zu stürmischen Arbeiterversammlungen gegen das Verhalten der Regierung in Brest-Litowsk, gegen die Annexionspläne der Imperialisten. Der letzte Funke, der zur Explosion führte, war die an diesem Tage verfügte Kürzung der ohnehin unzureichenden Mehlration. Als Antwort darauf brach am 14. Jänner 1918 im Industriegebiet Neunkirchen-Wiener Neustadt spontan und ohne Zustimmung der Partei- und Gewerkschaftsinstanzen ein Streik aus, der mit Windeseile die österreichische Industrie erfasste und auch auf Böhmen und Ungarn übergriff. Im Laufe der Aktion wurden nach russischem Vorbild die ersten Arbeiterräte in Österreich gebildet, und das gab, wie Otto Bauer zugeben musste, "der Bewegung einen grandiosen revolutionären Charakter und weckte in den Massen die Hoffnung, den Streik unmittelbar zur Revolution zu steigern, die Mach an sich zu reißen, den Frieden erzwingen zu können". (O. Bauer: Die österreichische Revolution, Wien 1923, S. 63.)

Die Initialzündung für den Jännerstreik war von einer kleinen oppositionellen Gruppe ausgegangen, die sich aus den um Friedrich Adler gruppierten Linken gebildet und den Namen "Linksradikale" angenommen hatte. Die "Linksradikalen" hatten durch Franz Koritschoner und Anna Strömer Verbindung mit Lenin und der von ihm geführten "Zimmerwalder Linken" und propagierten deren Ideen in Österreich. Sie gewannen Einfluss in Betrieben von Wiener Neustadt und Umgebung, agitierten dort für den Generalstreik und hatten an einigen Stellen die Führung im Jännerstreik.

Aber die gesamte Führung der Massenbewegung konnten sie nicht gewinnen, denn es waren meist jüngere Vertrauensmänner, die nur im eigenen Wirkungsbereich bekannt waren, und zu einem großen Teil Jugendliche, Studenten und Intellektuelle. Zweitens aber waren sich die Arbeiter bei ihren Aktionen noch nicht bewusst, dass sie auch gegen die Politik des sozialdemokratischen Parteivorstandes kämpfen hätten müssen. So gelang es den erfahrenen sozialdemokratischen Partei- und Gewerkschaftsführern ohne große Mühe, die Leitung des Streiks in ihre Hände zu bekommen. Ihnen war aber die revolutionäre Perspektive vollständig unerwünscht. Im Gegenteil, all ihre Anstrengungen waren in Zusammenarbeit mit den Behörden darauf gerichtet, dem Streik einen möglichst harmlosen Charakter zu verleihen und schnell zu beenden. Ihre erste Sorge war daher, wie es in einer von ihnen 1918 herausgegebenen Broschüre "Um Friede, Freiheit und Recht" heißt, "die Bewegung zu erfassen, zu leiten und vor Missdeutung und vor Abirrung zu schützen".

Unter "Abirrung" verstand die SPÖ-Führung die Steigerung des Kampfes zur Revolution, die sie um jeden Preis vermeiden wollte. Nachträglich hab es auch Otto Bauer zu: "Die Steigerung des Streiks zur Revolution selbst konnten wir nicht wollen. Darum mussten wir dafür sorgen, dass der Streik beendet werde..." (a. a. O., S. 65.)

Drei Argumente waren es im Wesentlichen, die von der sozialdemokratischen Propaganda gegen die Fortsetzung des Streiks vorgebracht wurden:

1. Das Proletariat stünde allein, die Bauern seien eine konterrevolutionäre Kraft;

2. die Regierung würden den Kampf mit der Armee niederschlagen und

3. im allerschlimmsten Falle für die Regierung würde sie die deutschen Truppen zur Annexion Österreichs herbeirufen.

Alle drei Argumente hat die Geschichte zerschlagen. Die Bauern waren auch in Österreich, wie es ja Otto Bauer selbst später zugab, so revolutionär gestimmt wie noch nie. Was die Armee anbelangt, so waren die Truppen, wie es auch die nachfolgenden Soldatenmeutereien beweisen, schon damals alle andere als zuverlässig. "Der Kampf der Arbeiterschaft um Frieden fand unter den kriegsmüden hungernden Soldaten lautes Echo." (Otto Bauer, a. a. O., S. 66.)

Und der sozialdemokratische Führer Julius Deutsch, der damals im Kriegsministerium arbeitete, gab in seinen militärpolitischen Erinnerungen zu, dass "die militärische Situation in Wien für die Regierung recht ungünstig" war. In Wien standen anfangs nichts mehr als 3000 kampffähige Soldaten zur Verfügung. Selbst das Offizierskorps war infolge der nationalen Gegensätze bereits äußersten Spannungen ausgesetzt. Und schließlich hätte ein revolutionärer Umsturz Österreich keineswegs zu einer leichten Beute für das imperialistische Deutschland gemacht, denn im Anschluss an den Jännerstreik brach auch dort aus ähnlichen Gründen ein gewaltiger Generalstreik aus. Zwischen dem revolutionären Russland und dem revolutionären Österreich hätte sich damals ein konterrevolutionäres, monarchistisches Deutschland nicht halten können.

Nachdem aber die SPÖ-Führung den Streik in ihre Hände bekommen hatte, ergriff sie die erstbeste Gelegenheit, um die grandiose Bewegung gegen das Versprechen geringfügiger Verbesserungen abzuwürgen.

Die Regierung versprach, die Friedensverhandlungen an keinerlei territorialen Fragen scheitern zu lassen, keinerlei Gebietserweiterungen auf Russlands Kosten anzustreben, Polens Selbstbestimmungsrecht vorbehaltlos anzuerkennen; außerdem versprach sie Reformen des Kriegsleistungsgesetzes und des Ernährungsdienstes und die Demokratisierung des Gemeindewahlrechts.

Charakteristisch war indes auch die Vertröstung auf einen zukünftigen Kampf, mit der Karl Seitz der großen Vertrauensmännerkonferenz, die über die Fortsetzung des Streiks entscheiden sollte, den Abbruch schmackhaft zu machen versuchte:

"Ich bitte Sie, von diesem Gesichtspunkt aus die Antwort der Regierung als genügend zu beurteilen. Dann wollen wir Gewehr bei Fuß stehen und abwarten, ob man von dem Wege, den wir als richtig erkannt haben, abweichen wird, jeden Augenblick entschlossen, wieder zum äußersten Mittel der Abwehr zu greifen, wenn jemand wagen sollte, etwas zu unternehmen, was den Frieden bedrohen könnte!"

Das Wort von dem "Gewehr-bei-Fuß-Stehen" war von nun an bis zu den Tagen des 12. Februar 1934 das Leitmotiv der österreichischen Sozialdemokratie, bis sie ihr trauriges Ende fand. Diese Politik war ein Charakteristikum der so genannten austromarxistischen, scheinbar zwischen Reform und Bolschewismus stehenden Politik. In Wirklichkeit waren am Austromarxismus nur die Worte radikal oder revolutionär, doch die Politik selbst opportunistisch und reformistisch, doch war ihr Wesen durch die radikale oder revolutionäre Phrase verdeckt.

Mit revolutionären, marxistisch klingenden Theorien und Worten war eine opportunistische Praxis verbunden, der revolutionäre Klassenkampf im Prinzip anerkannt, aber in jedem konkreten Fall als zu unsicher und zu opferreich abgelehnt.

Eine sehr wichtige Voraussetzung für das Spiel mit radikalen, "neunzigprozentig bolschewistischen" Phrasen war der Umstand, dass es links von der SPÖ keine große Kommunistische Partei gab, die sie gezwungen hätte, den Worten Taten folgen zu lassen. Doch es war eine dialektische Wechselwirkung: Gerade durch den Gebrauch der radikalen Phrasen gelang es der SPÖ bis zum Februar 1934, die KPÖ klein zu halten.

So verhüllten auch im Jännerstreik die Phrase "Gewehr bei Fuß" und die Drohung, wieder zum äußersten Mittel zu greifen, nur die Tatsache der feigen Kapitulation. "In Wirklichkeit haben die Herrschenden von den vier aufgestellten Bedingungen nicht eine einzige erfüllt", gab der sozialdemokratische Historiker Jacques Hannak nach dem zweiten Weltkrieg zu. (J. Hannak: Im Sturm eines Jahrhunderts, Wien 1952, S. 231.)

Die austromonarchistische Politik der sozialdemokratischen Führung war nicht auf die Herbeiführung der österreichischen Revolution gerichtet, sondern auf die Erhaltung der Habsburgermonarchie, wenn auch sozialdemokratische Historiker bedauern, dass "die großen Leistungen zur Sanierung und Rettung des Habsburgerreiches, die die austromonarchistischen Theoretiker erbracht hatten, nicht beachtet und honoriert" wurden. (Norbert Leser: Zwischen Reformismus und Bolschewismus, Wien 1968, S. 286.)

Mit der Abwürgung des Jännerstreiks vereitelte der SPÖ-Vorstand die einmalige Möglichkeit, durch eine gemeinsame Aktion der Arbeiter aller Nationalitäten der Habsburgermonarchie Österreich aus dem imperialistischen Weltkrieg herauszuführen und die notwendigen demokratischen und sozialen Veränderungen zu erreichen. Trotzdem war der Jännerstreik der Prolog der kommenden Revolution in Österreich. W. I. Lenin, der die Entwicklung der revolutionären Bewegung in der ganzen Welt mit gespannter Aufmerksamkeit verfolgte, begrüßte am 24. Jänner 1918 diese Massenerhebung: "Wir haben in diesen Tagen den heroischen Kampf der österreichischen Arbeiter gegen die imperialistischen Räuber vor Augen gehabt. Wenn es auch den Räubern gelingen sollte, vorübergehend die Bewegung aufzuhalten - sie ganz zum Stillstand zu bringen ist unmöglich, sie ist unbesiegbar." (Werke, Bd. 26, S. 472.)

Der Jännerstreik scheiterte nicht etwa an der Unreife der objektiven Bedingungen, sondern in erster Linie am Fehlen einer revolutionären Führung, wie sie sich in Russland seit 1903 unter der Führung Lenins in der bolschewistischen Partei entwickelt hatte, die rechtzeitig den organisatorischen Bruch mit den opportunistischen Elementen vollzogen hatte.

Die wenigen oppositionellen Gruppen der Linksradikalen, die sich ohne Friedrich Adler bildeten, konnten eine revolutionäre Partei nicht ersetzen. Sie zogen nach dem Abbruch des Jännerstreiks in einem Flugblatt unter dem Titel "Verraten und Verkauft" die Schlussfolgerung: "Von den heutigen 'Arbeitervertretern' ist nichts mehr zu erwarten! Schließen wir uns selbst zu Gruppen des Kampfes zusammen..., so dass eine neue Organisation des Kampfes und der Befreiung entstehe!" (Zit. in: Rudolf Neck, Arbeiterschaft und Staat im ersten Weltkrieg 1914 bis 1918, Wien 1964, 2. Band, S. 396.)

In der berechtigten Befürchtung, dass hier eine revolutionäre Partei entstehen würde, die der Politik der Zusammenarbeit der SPÖ-Führung mit der Regierung erfolgreich Widerstand entgegensetzen könnte, griffen die Behörden energisch durch, indem sie die aktivsten Linksradikalen verhafteten oder an die Front abkommandierten, so dass diese Bewegung bis zum Ende des Krieges lahmgelegt wurde. Auch ihre für den 1. Mai 1918 geplante Gründung einer Zeitung unter dem Namen "Weckruf" musste unterbleiben.

Unmittelbar an den Jännerstreik schlossen sich Soldatenmeutereien an, die von der tiefen Gärung der Armee zeugten. In Judenburg und in Fünfkirchen meuterten südslawische Truppen, in Rumburg tschechische, in Budapest ungarische. Am 22. Jänner traten die Arsenalarbeiter des Kriegshafens Pola in den Streik, und die Matrosen der vor dem Hafen liegenden Schiffe erklärten sich mit ihnen solidarisch. Am 29. Jänner streikten erneut die Arbeiter im Gebiet von Mährisch-Ostrau.

Am 1. Februar 1918 kam es zur größten Erhebung in der Armee, zum Aufstand der Flotte in der Bucht von Cattaro, bei dem 6000 Matrosen auf 40 Schiffen die roten Fahnen hissten und sofortigen Friedensschluss verlangten. Entgegen den Versuchen mancher Historiker, den Aufstand für eine nationalistische Bewegung auszugeben, beweisen auch die neuesten Forschungen eindeutig den sozialistischen, proletarischen Charakter des Aufstands, wenngleich natürlich auch die Auflehnung gegen nationale Unterdrückung und Diskriminierung von Seiten der größtenteils deutschsprachigen Offiziere eine Rolle spielte. "Im Matrosenrat war die Einheit der österreichisch-ungarischen Revolution verkörpert, die Einheit von nationaler Befreiung der Völker und sozialer Befreiung des Volkes. Die revolutionären Matrosen von Cattaro zielten auf eine österreichisch-ungarische Gesamtrevolution, die sowohl national als auch sozialistisch sein sollte - analog der russischen." (Bruno Frei: Neue Forschungen über die Matrosen von Cattaro. In: Weg und Ziel, Juni 1962, S. 522/523.)

Die Forderungen der Aufständischen enthielten neben konkreten Tagesforderungen an erster Stelle die Forderung nach sofortigem Frieden. So heißt es in der vom Mannschaftskomitee aufgestellten Liste "Was wir wollen": "1. Maßnahmen zur Einleitung eines sofortigen allgemeinen Friedens. 2. Vollständige politische Unabhängigkeit von anderen Mächten (gemeint ist Deutschland - A. R.). 3. Frieden aufgrund des russischen demokratischen Vorschlags, 'ohne Annexionen etc.'. 4. Vollständige Abrüstung (Demobilisierung) und Aufstellung der freiwilligen Miliz. 5. Selbstbestimmungsrecht der Völker … 8. Demokratisierung der Regierung." Auch die Zivilarbeiter stellten an die erste Stelle die Forderung: "Allgemeinen Frieden".

Die Matrosen schickten zwei Telegramme ab, die allerdings ihre Adressaten nicht erreichten: eines an den sozialdemokratischen Parteiführer V. Adler und eines an den ungarischen liberalen Politik der Michail Karoly. In dem letzteren wurde ausdrücklich sofortiger Friedensschluss ohne Annexionen auf "sozialistischer Grundlage" gefordert. Nur dem Umstand, dass es den Behörden gelang, den Aufstand totzuschweigen, ist es zuzuschreiben, dass er keine weiteren Kreise zog. Die Matrosen blieben allein, der Aufstand wurde niedergeschlagen, die Anführer hingerichtet.

Die Schwächung der linksradikalen Organisation durch die Regierungsmaßnahmen erleichterte es der SPÖ-Führung, auch den großen Streik in Wien um Juli 1918, an dem rund 100.000 Arbeiter teilnahmen, in ihre Hände zu bekommen. Wieder kam es zur Wahl von Arbeiterräten. Aber die SPÖ-Führung erklärte, die Ausdehnung des Streiks läge nicht im Interesse der Verhandlungen mit den Unternehmern, und Renner versicherte dem Ministerpräsidenten, dass die Bewegung keinen politischen Charakter trage. So wurde der sich anbahnende neue Generalstreik unterbunden."

[Auszug aus: Arnold Reisberg, Februar 1934 - Hintergründe und Folgen, Wien 1974, S. 71-77]
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BerichtGeplaatst: 15 Feb 2008 11:05    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

1919: The Calais mutiny

A short history of the strike and mutiny of British troops stationed in France following the end of the First World War which won concessions and helped speed up demobbing.

As the end of World War I was nearing, the British Army was being used more extensively in France, as the French military had largely disintegrated due to widespread mutiny. However, as time progressed, British soldiers were proving equally unwilling to fight and to obey.

A court martial following the Etaples Mutiny on September 22, 1918 sentenced five youths aged seventeen to nineteen to ten years imprisonment for acts of indiscipline. This led to further agitation for their release. There was a growing campaign against the censorship of news from home and soldiers at Calais elected delegates who also acted as distributors for the then prohibited Daily Herald. There were also demands for instant dismantling of the Val de Lievre workshops.

The stability of the Army on the Continent was affected by the mass industrial unrest back home. In France, in the war zone, official brutalities were rife. One example was at the prison at Les Attaques, where men were detained for trivial offences such as overstaying their leave by a few hours. Prisoners were only supplied with one blanket, during one of the severest winter for decades. They were flogged and manacled for merely talking to each other.

At the end of January 1919, the men of the Army Ordnance and Mechanical Transport sections at the Val de Lievre camp called a mass meeting which decided to mutiny. Conditions in the camp were bad, and reports of several incidents had already found their way into the newspapers.

The Calais mutiny began after agitation for demobilisation*. It coincided with the arrest of Private John Pantling, of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps, while delivering what the authorities described as a 'seditious speech to an assembly of soldiers.'

On pay night the men at Val de Lievre smashed open the jail and let Pantling out. The authorities tried to recapture him. When this failed, fresh military police were brought in. They arrested the sergeant of the guard for failing to prevent the prisoner's 'escape'. Anger was now rising. The Commanding Officer - by now a very frightened man - released the sergeant, and called off the attempt to recapture Pantling. He also agreed to a meeting with the men to discuss their grievances. The next day many concessions were made, including shorter hours.

While this was taking place there was a distinct hardening of the attitude of the officers. The soldiers spent the weekend organising the other camps into Soldiers Councils. On Sunday the officers struck back and rearrested Pantling. The news spread quickly. On Monday the newly organised Soldiers Councils called a strike. Not a single man turned up for reveille. The sentries were replaced by pickets. That same morning, at another camp in nearby Vendreux, over 2,000 men came out in sympathy. Later that morning they marched to the Calais camp as a gesture of solidarity. After a mass meeting both camps marched behind brass bands towards the headquarters, where Brigadier Rawlinson was stationed. By now the mutineers totalled 4,000. The headquarters were quickly surrounded and a deputation entered. They demanded the release of Private Pantling. The authorities capitulated and promised that he would be back in his camp within twenty-four hours.

On Tuesday morning he was returned. But by now some 20,000 men had joined the mutiny and the strike was spreading French workers were cooperating and a total embargo was placed upon the movement of British military traffic by rail. In fact the rail stoppage was a significant factor in the escalation of the struggle. 5,000 infantrymen due to return home, finding themselves delayed, struck in support of their own demand for immediate demobilisation.

In an attempt to intimidate the mutineers General Byng and fresh troops were sent for. Unfortunately Byng made the mistake of arriving before his men. His car was immediately commandeered by the mutineers and replaced by a modest Ford. Byng's troops were delayed for a further two days by Lhe blacking of British transport. When they arrived machine guns were placed at strategic points, such as food stores and munition dumps. Byng's troops, in the words of a participant, were 'bits of boys who were sent out just as the war ended.'

Fresh from the growing unrest at home, they were even more reluctant to be in khaki than the Calais mutineers themselves. They started fraternising with them and before long had joined the mutineers. The strike continued.

Some barrack room lawyer pointed out that Pantling could be rearrested at any time. It was decided that it would be to his advantage to be court-martialled whilst the soldiers were still in control. His acquittal would then be binding and he would be safe from further arrest. Reluctantly, the officers had to agree.

The strike was now total. It was led and coordinated by the strike committee, which now took the title of 'The Calais Soldiers' and Sailors' Association.' Their method of organising was strictly democratic. Each hut or group of huts elected a delegate to the Camp Committee. These committees then sent delegates to the Central Area Committee. By-passing the officers, these committees issued daily orders from the occupied Headquarters.

The quality and quantity of the food increased. The food surplus served to confirm the rumour that officers had secretly been selling food to French businessmen. S.C.A. Cannel, who was working as a clerk at the Ordnance Depot testified how “our food was being "flogged" to French people. In fact, I saw with my own eyes, clothes baskets full of bully, cheese and bacon going out of the camps at night.”

Eventually a conference was arranged, at which major concessions were won. But the mutiny was drawing to a close. On the evening of the conference, whilst most of the soldiers were attending a local cinema, a surprise vote was taken. The result was acceptance of an officer's ultimatum to return under orders. These men then had to face the wrath of their comrades, who returned to discover that the mutiny had virtually collapsed.

During the mutiny contacts had been made with French workers, and with allied forces on the Rhine. Troops at Dunkirk were also ready to come out, and there was little doubt that they would have found support amongst workers and troops back home. Had the movement continued it could clearly have developed a revolutionary character. A further significant sign that the army was crumbling was when women of the Queen Mary's Army Auxiliary stayed away from work, in solidarity with the Calais strike.

Meanwhile, in Scotland, the Clyde strike had also collapsed. This played a part in lowering the morale of the Calais mutineers, who drew back from a course of action leading to revolution.

This incident had shaken the authorities to the core. British troops had shown they were capable of highly sophisticated forms of struggle, forging important links with other sectors of the army and with the civilian population. Although the strike was over, the authorities never felt strong enough to victimise the strike committees or to re-impose the old type of military discipline. Soldiers were free to return to camp whenever they felt like it, and to enter cafes and the like during 'prohibited' hours, without fear of disciplinary action. The food was improved. New huts were erected. Weekend work was abolished. The Calais Area Soldiers' and Sailors' Association continued to meet and applied for representation on the newly formed Soldiers', Sailors' and Airmen's Union.

The mutiny had ended on January 30 1919. Within three months demobilisation began in earnest - only just in time to avert another wave of mutiny. The lesson that the military machine could be beaten had been learnt. Churchill commented at the time that “if these armies had formed a "united resolve", if they had been seduced from the standards of duty and patriotism, there was no power which could have attempted to withstand them.”

From Mutinies, by Dave Lamb, which is extensively footnoted
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BerichtGeplaatst: 15 Feb 2008 11:07    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

1918-1930: Mutiny and resistance in the Royal Navy

A short history of mutinies and rebellions in the British Royal Navy and Marines from the end of World War I, Russian Revolution and up until 1930.

Whilst the mutinies in the German and French Navies in the First World War have been well documented little information is available concerning the British Royal Navy. There was, however, considerable talk of mutiny at Portsmouth, in the summer of 1918. The threat was serious enough for Lionel Yexley, an admiralty agent,[1] to write a report warning the Admiralty of impending trouble. This was only averted by immediate improvements in pay and conditions. Demands for 'lower deck' organisation were taken seriously. Agitation for trade union representation was spreading throughout the Navy.

The material conditions of the sailors certainly justified a mutiny. Between 1852 and 1917 there had only been one pay increase, amounting to a penny a day, in 1912. Wartime inflation had reduced the sailors' nineteen pence a day to a mere pittance. Another twopence a day was granted in 1917, plus a miserable separation allowance of ten shillings and six pence a week, for wives. Following a series of mutinies in 1919 pay increases of over two hundred per cent were granted.

After the Russian Revolution the British Navy was sent into action against the Russians. It proved ineffective, but this ineffectiveness had less to do with the efforts of the Bolsheviks than with the unwillingness of the British seamen to fight. The extent of these mutinies can be measured by reference to the following comment made in the House of Commons by G. Lambert MP, on March 12 1919:

'...undoubtedly there was, at the end of last year, grave unrest in the Navy... I do not wish to be violent, but I think I am correct in saying that a match would have touched off an explosion.'[2]

Shortly after the armistice with Germany the crew of a light cruiser, at Libau on the Baltic, mutinied. Many other ships were sent home from Archangel and Murmansk after similar experiences. In spite of a propaganda campaign against Russia it was becoming increasingly difficult to obtain reliable crews. Refusals to weigh for Russia were a regular occurrence at Invergordon, Portsmouth, Rosyth, Devonport and Fort Edgar.

Many labour historians have written about the refusal of dockers to load the 'Jolly George' with an arms consignment for Poland in May 1920. But we have heard virtually nothing about far greater challenges to authority in the armed forces. For example, early in 1919 a group of dock workers discovered that the destination of a large cruiser being refitted at Rosyth was Russia. Together with some members of the Socialist Labour Party they leafleted the crew, who refused to sail. In fact the crew stayed put for three weeks, although isolated in mid-stream, until their demands were met and they were paid off at Portsmouth.

In January 1919 there were mutinies on the mine-sweepers at Rosyth. On January 13, 1919 there was a mutiny on the patrol boat 'Kilbride' at Milford Haven, where the red flag was hoisted. This was an uneasy year for the Admiralty. On October 12, 150 seamen had broken out of their ships at Port Edgar on hearing that they were due to return to the Baltic. The First Destroyer Flotilla was prevented from returning to the Baltic war. Eventually half the ships sailed on August 14, their crews made up from Atlantic Fleet battleships. Although most of the mutineers were arrested, some 44 men made their way to London to present petitions at Whitehall. They were arrested at King's Cross and sent to Chatham Barracks.[3] Between October 12 and November 21, 1919 some 96 offenders had been arrested and punished, ten by imprisonment.[4] It should be remembered that the government had repeatedly pledged that only volunteers would be sent to fight against the Russians. It is clear that this was not the practice employed by the Admiralty. Those who did not intend to 'volunteer' had little choice but to mutiny and face the consequences.

HMS vindictive By November 1919 discontent had spread to the aircraft carrier 'Vindictive' (pictured, right) in Copenhagen. A marine detachment was called in to disperse a group of seamen demanding leave. Two men were arrested. Later two stokers were caught trying to stop the fan engines. They were each given five years. The following morning virtually no one turned up for duty. This provoked Captain Grace to arrest five more alleged 'ringleaders'. They were condemned to 90 days hard labour before a dishonourable discharge. Another six were arrested, but resistance continued. The next morning 14 crewmen were still refusing duty and were arrested. That evening another two arrests were made.[5]

Meanwhile the crews of the minesweepers operating in the Baltic declared they had had enough. There were incidents aboard the flagship 'Delhi', in December, when only 25% of the crew responded to a command to return to Biorko in the Gulf of Finland.

There was a further naval mutiny in Russia, that of the gunboat 'Cicala' in the White Sea. Death sentences were imposed on the 'ringleaders'. The fact that these were later commuted to one year's imprisonment reflects the continuing strength of the sailors' movement.[6]

Mutinies in the forces of intervention were not confined to the Navy. There was a large mutiny in a Marine battalion at Murmansk. The 6th Battalion of the Royal Marines, formed in the summer of 1919 at a time of unrest over demobilisation, were originally intended to police Schleswig Holstein. But, at short notice, the Battalion had been diverted to cover the evacuation of Murmansk. They were sent to the Lake Onega region, a further 300 miles south of Kem. In August 1919 two companies refused duty: 90 men were tried and found guilty of mutiny by a court martial. Thirteen men were sentenced to death and others to up to 5 years imprisonment.

None of the death sentences were actually carried out. The 90 mutineers were shipped to Bodmin prison, where they continued their resistance to arbitrary authority. (In this they were acting in the best traditions of the Royal Marines. In December 1918 some Marines had been involved in a mutiny inside Bodmin prison which had resulted in three death sentences, later commuted to five years penal servitude.) Continued resistance paid off. The ninety men arrested after the Murmansk incident had their sentences reduced as follows: the 13 sentenced to death were commuted to five years, but 12 were released after only one year, and the other after two years. Twenty men, originally given 5 years, were released after six months. 51 men sentenced to two years were also released within six months.

In recognition of the fact that their officers had acted contrary to Army instructions in employing young and inexperienced lads at the front, the remainder of those arrested were either released or had their sentences commuted to 6 months. Following the announcement, on December 22, nineteen of these acts of 'clemency' the First Lord of the Admiralty told the Commons that 'bad leadership' was a factor behind the mutiny. He even hinted at the possibility of disciplinary measures being taken against several officers.

Many other mutinies occurred in North Russia. One took place in the 13th Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment, which ended with death sentences being passed on two sergeants whilst the other mutineers were cowed by White Russian machine gunners called in by the English officers.

News of these mutinies was suppressed. They highlighted the reluctance of British sailors to fight against Russia when the government was theoretically committed to a policy of peace. Contrary to what the people were being told, and at the very moment when the hysteria surrounding the Armistice was at its height, the Foreign Office and Admiralty were finalising their arrangements for intervention in Russia.

The Navy was not only required for the anti-Bolshevik crusade and to defend Britain's imperial commitments. It was also needed to quell internal disturbances. Towards the end of the 1914-1918 war seamen were trained in the noble art of 'blacklegging' in the event of strikes by railwaymen or power workers. 'The battleship Vanguard', says Walter Kendall, 'was sent to the Mersey to command Liverpool during the Police strike of August 1919'.[7]

Resistance in the Navy continued between 1919 and the time of the large Invergordon mutiny of 1931.[8] In 1930 there were no fewer than six major movements within the Navy against conditions of work and the arbitrary injustice of naval discipline. The 'Revenge' (pictured, right), 'Royal Oak', Vindictive', 'Repulse', 'Ramillies' and 'Lucia' were all affected.

Edited by from Mutinies by Dave Lamb

1. Lionel Yexley, euphemistically referred to as a 'naval correspondent' (see Walter Kendall, The Revolutionary Movement in Britain 1900-1921, London, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1969, p. 191) was the editor of a lower deck journal called The Fleet. Yexley had amassed a lot of information about underground naval organisations and his statement that such organisations had existed for ten years was confirmed in Bradley's Naval Annual of 1919. These incidents are also referred to by Geoffrey Bennett in Cowan's War (London, Collins, 1964), p. 198. See also Kendall, op. cit. , p. 190
2. Hansard, March 12, 1919
3. Bennett, op. cit., p. 198
4. Ibid., p. 199
5. On December 29, 1919, following a series of acts of militancy, a review of the sentences of those convicted of naval mutiny was announced by the First Lord of the Admiralty. Sentences of up to two years were halved. So were one year sentences. The men serving such sentences had their medals restored. Even the two sailors caught trying to sabot the fan engines of the 'Vindictive' had their convictions reviewed after two years.
6. Bennett, op. cit. , p.203
7. Kendall, op. cit., pp. 191-2
8. Wintringham, op. cit., p. 328
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BerichtGeplaatst: 17 Jan 2009 9:00    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

The Kinmel Park Mutiny of 4/5 March 1919
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BerichtGeplaatst: 05 Apr 2009 13:56    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

Etaples, 1917 - The first and last mutiny of the British Army. The story was first told in "The Monocled Mutineer" by William Allison & John Farley which was later made into a BBC drama (script written by Alan Bleasdale) broadcast in 1986. This program has never been shown since on British terrestrial TV and even resulted in questions being asked in Parliament about the BBC's left-wing bias. The true facts will be classified until 2017, 100 years after the events. [mi]

This is a story of treachery, death and retribution.

Transmitted on 31 August 1986, and spearheading a prestigious autumn season of drama on BBC1, Alan Bleasdale's The Monocled Mutineer saw the dramatist's first historical piece, and adaptation of someone else's work for television (he had already adapted his own Scully books for Channel 4). The BBC had first approached Bleasdale to tackle The Monocled Mutineer (by William Allison and John Fairley) in 1981, however he had at that stage turned it down declaring "I don't do adaptations." Despite this they sent him the book anyway. Patently Bleasdale had a change of heart and found some personal and ideological resonance in the story of Percy Toplis, who had become involved in a mutiny at an army training camp in Etaples in 1917. Bleasdale commented: "My grandfather died on the Western Front six months before my father was born, and I found that a great pull to the story ... [Toplis] had no respect for false authority and the considerations of the so-called superior class. He was a working class mimic who spent his life deliberately keeping away people and not caring. In the end he cares and it's his caring that kills him."

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BerichtGeplaatst: 05 Apr 2009 13:57    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

Zie ook:
The Monocled Mutineer is innocent
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BerichtGeplaatst: 17 Jul 2010 17:13    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

[b]De matrozenopstand in Kiel

De matrozenopstand van Kiel 1918[/b]

Begin november 1918 brak muiterij uit op een aantal schepen van de Keizerlijke Hochseeflotte die voor anker lagen bij de Noordduitse plaats Wilhelmshaven. Deze muiterij zou zowel het einde van het Duitse keizerrijk als het begin van de socialistische novemberrevolutie en de wapenstilstand van 1918 als gevolg hebben.

De aanleiding

In oktober 1918 lanceerde de chef-staf van de "Oberste Seekriegsleitung", schout-bij-nacht v. Trotha, een plan om de Duitse vloot nog eenmaal een beslissende slag te laten leveren met de Britse Royal Navy. Hij hield er daarbij zelfs mogelijk rekening mee dat dit plan een vorm van zelfvernietiging zou kunnen betekenen. Dit gebeurde terwijl de nieuw gevormde regering van Prins Max van Baden al bezig was om onderhandelingen te voeren met de geallieerden teneinde tot een wapenstilstand te komen.

Admiraal Reinhard Scheer, chef van de Seekriegsleitung en als zodanig de meerdere van v. Trotha gaf op 24 oktober bevel om dit plan daadwerkelijk uit te voeren.

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BerichtGeplaatst: 17 Jul 2010 17:15    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

's Keizers koelies (Theodor Plievier)

De beroemde schrijver Theodor Plievier (tot 1933: Plivier) werd op 12 februari 1892 geboren te Berlijn. Hij groeide op in een arbeidersfamilie, die hij spoedig voor een meer avontuurlijker leven achter zich liet. Als jongen van zestien jaar liep hij van huis weg om als scheepsjongen over vrijwel alle wereldzeeën te zwerven. Tussen 1910 en 1913 was hij in Chili als arbeider aan de slag in de was hij werkzaam als arbeider in de kopermijnen. Kort voor het begin van de Eerste Wereldoorlog keerde hij naar Duitsland terug. Hij keerde in dienst bij de Duitse oorlogsmarine en nam in 1918 deel aan de zogeheten Matrosenaufstand in Wilhelmshaven. Tot 1924 bleef hij matroos en verdiende hij in Ubersee zijn kost als losse werkkracht. Daarna werd hij journalist, vertaler en schrijver.

Over zijn belevenissen bij de Marine in WO I schreef hij hierover later een boek dat hem in op slag bekend maakte: 's Keizers koelies ('Des Kaisers Kulis', 1929) dat in meer dan achttien talen werd vertaald. 's Keizers Koelis beschrijft het verhaal van de Duitse matrozenopstand in 1917. Geven de opstand van deze matrozen en de bewogen atmosfeer van het jaar 1917 niet een parallel te zien met vele gebeurtenissen in de huidige tijd? Zeer zeker. Er is in „'s Keizers Koelies" sprake van een onvervalst opstandige daad tegen een regime, dat de mens nog slechts als kneedbare grondstof en niet meer als een vrij wezen met een eigen wil beschouwt. Tegen zo'n heerschappij is opstand niet slechts mogelijk en geoorloofd, maar zelfs plicht, plicht uit de geest van universele verantwoordelijkheid en in naam van recht en wet. Deze symboliek behoudt zijn geldigheid, vandaag en morgen.

Na 's Keizers Koelis publiceert Theodor Plievier onder meer de novelle 'Zwölf Mann und in Kapitän' (1930), 'Der Kaiser ging, die Generäle blieben' (roman, 1932) en 'Das große Abenteuer' (roman, 1936). In 1933 emigreerde Plievier als politiek vluchteling en trok via Tsjecho-Slowakije naar Frankrijk waar hij korte tijd verbleef tot hij in 1934 op uitnodiging van de Russische regering naar de Sovjet-Unie kwam waar hij tot aan het einde van de Tweede Wereldoorlog woonde. Hij sprak er regelmatig voor de Russische radio de Duitse troepen toe.

Daar schreef en publiceerde hij in 1945 zijn bekendste boek: Stalingrad, een goed gedocumenteerde anti-oorlogsroman van hetzelfde kaliber als bijvoorbeeld Erich Maria Remarque's literair monument: 'Van het westelijk front geen nieuws' (1929). In 'Stalingrad' bespeurt men van de 'politiek' heel weinig. Het is een zeldzaam objectief en van grootse visie getuigend boek, dat op weergaloze wijze de ondergang van het 6de Duitse leger onder generaal Von Paulus beschrijft.

In 1945 was Plievier met het Rode Leger teruggekeerd in Duitsland en woonde nabij Berlijn en Weimar in de Russische zône. Hij werd anti-communist, verhuisde in 1947 plotseling naar West-Duitsland, aanvankelijk in Wallhausen en Bodensee. In 1953 verhuisde hij naar Zweden waar hij tot aan zijn dood bleef wonen en er op 12 maart 1955 te Avegno overleed. Stalingrad was het eerste deel van een trilogie. Later volgden nog Moskou (1952) en Berlijn (1954).

Wat voorafging aan de Matrozenopstand te Kiel door Rob Kammelar (bron: De Eerste Wereldoorlog 1914 - 1918)

De zelfgekozen werkloosheid van de Hochseeflotte, waar admiraal Scheer zich na de slag in het Skagerrak toe gedwongen zag, had een verwoestende werking op het moreel van de scheepsbemanningen. De officieren reageerden hun ongenoegen af op de manschappen. Zinloze en zware oefeningen, waarbij gescholden en gekoeioneerd werd, werden afgewisseld met regelrechte pesterijen. De meeste tijd moesten de bemanningen benedendeks doorbrengen, verlof om aan wal te gaan werd stelselmatig geweigerd. Bovendien was de voeding karig en slecht – in heel Duitsland heerste trouwens honger en ondervoeding als gevolg van de Engelse blokkade. De verzorging van de officieren was veel beter, ook al doordat niet zelden voorraden die voor de manschappen bestemd waren in de officiersmesses terecht kwamen.

Dit alles leidde in de zomer van 1917 telkens weer tot protesten, die overigens nauwelijks verbetering brachten. De bemanningen hielden, zonder dat daarvoor toestemming was gegeven, demonstratieve wandelingen aan de wal, hielden langzaam-aan-acties en gingen zelfs in hongerstaking. Aanvankelijk waren de acties uitsluitend gericht tegen de slechte behandeling. Vooral de bemanningen van de SMS Friedrich der Grosse – het vlaggeschip van de vloot – en het linieschip SMS Prinzregent Luitpold namen hierin het voortouw. De bemanning van dit laatste schip weigerde op 19 juli tijdens de vaart van Kiel naar Wilhelmshafen door het Kaiser-Wilhelm-Kanal11) de bevelen uit te voeren, waardoor de doortocht voor het hele IVe eskader geblokkeerd werd.

Later breidden de acties zich ook uit tot andere schepen. Ook veranderde de strekking van de acties. Het besef dat de oorlog allang verloren was, begon algemeen door te dringen. De leidende actievoerders, onder wie Albin Köbis, stoker op de Prinzregent Luitpold en Max Reichpietsch, matroos op de Friedrich der Grosse, maakten plannen voor een grote vredesdemonstratie tezamen met de arbeiders van de scheepswerven in Kiel. Die matrozenopstand van 1917 zal enkele dagen later leiden tot de Novemberrevolutie die op 3 november 1918 begon in de Duitse Havenstad Kiel en zich spoedig uitbreidde over gans Duitsland. Op 11 november 1918 capituleerde Duitsland, vluchtte de Duitse keizer Wilhelm II naar Nederland, kende Duitsland haar eerste democratie onder de Weimar Republiek en braken voor Berlijn cultureel en historisch gouden tijden aan totdat Adolf Hitler op 30 januari 1933 de macht greep.

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Percy Toplis

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BerichtGeplaatst: 13 Sep 2010 22:54    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

Mutinies in the 1st Australian Imperial Force (AIF)

The AIF suffered several mutinies during the course of the First World War. Some arose due to dissatisfaction with conditions and discipline in training camps such as at Casula Camp in January 1915, or at Etaples in September 1917.

The bulk of the mutinies, however, arose from the situation facing the AIF in September 1918. The flow of new recruits had slowed to a trickle, 1914 enlistees were granted leave to Australia, and Lieutenant General Sir John Monash was pressing the Australian Corps forward, hard on the heels of the retreating Germans. Australian battalions that should have consisted of nearly one thousand men were barely able to muster a few hundred. The British command were aware of the state of Monash's corps and offered him the chance to slow the tempo of his operations but he refused; he correctly assessed that the Germans were just about broken, but so too were his own forces.

On 14 September 1918, the 59th Battalion was ordered back into the line, after a week of continuous operations, just as it had settled down for a rest. The men initially refused to go forward but were eventually convinced by their officers to obey their orders. A similar incident occurred on 21 September when the 1st Battalion was ordered back to the front halfway through a relief by another battalion. One company refused to comply. The mutiny quickly spread throughout the battalion and when it went forward again it did so with ten officers and 84 men; 119 had gone missing.

Further mutinies occurred after an order was promulgated on 23 September 1918 to disband the 19th, 21st, 25th, 37th, 42nd, 54th and 60th Battalions to reinforce others. All but the 60th refused to disband and on 27 September Monash postponed the order until after the coming attack on the Hindenburg Line. All of the battalions so ordered eventually disbanded. These events have entered Australian folklore as “soldiers' strikes” but as instances of mass disobedience against the lawful authority of commissioned officers, they were, plain and simply, mutinies.

Mutiny was one of only two charges for which AIF soldiers could be executed. No charges were ever laid for the 59th Battalion or the disbandment mutinies, but all 119 members involved in the 1st Battalion mutiny were tried, and all but one found guilty. Seemingly to avoid the application of the death penalty, all were tried with desertion and not mutiny. In any case, the end of hostilities caused Monash not to enforce the sentences.

Source: C.E.W. Bean, The Australian Imperial Force in France during the Allied Offensive, 1918, Australia in the war of 1914-1918, vol. VI (Canberra: Australian War Memorial, 1941)

Attempts to extinguish the 42nd Battalion, 1918
A Terrible Blow for the Forty-Second

It was decreed that a serious calamity should fall upon our Battalion. It was threatened with extinction.

Firstly, the news was heralded by "furphies" (the Digger term for rumours). These rumours gradually grew into certainties, until finally, orders were received that the 42nd Battalion was to be broken up forthwith.

Utterances of disgust and disapproval were heard on all sides, whilst consternation surged through our ranks.

We were, all of us, set and determined that no matter what the consequences might be to ourselves as individuals, the breaking up of our splendid unit would be resisted to the uttermost. To us, it was inconceivable that the military authorities could possibly imagine that we 42nd men would calmly submit to the destruction of our Battalion; a Battalion which had covered itself with glory and distinction; a Battalion which had won unstinted praise for its trustworthiness and unflinching devotion to duty; an association which had been the means of cementing bonds of brotherly love and comradeship such as had never been exceeded in the annals of time. That we should be smashed up was unthinkable. It could not be. It must not be.


Secret meetings were held. King's Regulations were studied. A resolute spirit to stick together at all costs permeated the ranks of the Battalion.

Non-Commissioned officers, and others versed in military law, drew up a plan which in due course was confided to every member of the rank and file. Secret training in this direction went on for days and nights until each of us felt strong and ready to test the power of the military machine to crush us out of existence.

It was on September 20th that the anticipated blow fell. Instructions were received that the 42nd Battalion of the 11th Infantry Brigade of the A.I.F. be disbanded and its members transferred as reinforcements to the other three Battalions of the Brigade.

September 21st was the date of the momentous parade when our Commanding Officer, who was in charge of the parade, addressed us. He expressed the utmost regret at having to carry out the decision of the High Command, and asked us to realise that the position had been created by the demands of urgent necessity.

The following commands were given and unhesitatingly obeyed: "Attention. Slope Arms. Form Fours. Right."

Upon the order to "March" being given, none but officers moved. The men stood firm as a rock.

The parade was dismissed. Routine training under NCO's was continued during the next few days. Every order issued was strictly obeyed and carried out with alacrity.

The second effort to break up the Battalion occurred on September 25th. When we paraded on this occasion it was noticed that two officers of the 41st Battalion along with the band of that unit were in attendance, evidently to escort us.

Our Commanding Officer again addressed us and exhorted us to obey orders, and to understand that it was lack of reinforcements that had rendered the breaking up of the 42nd Battalion inevitable.

Every order he gave us was promptly obeyed until we were commanded to "March." Again officers responded but not one of the rank and file made the slightest attempt to move. The officers of the 41st Battalion, along with their band, then returned to their quarters.

The following day the 42nd Battalion was reorganised. Instead of its original establishment of four companies of four platoons of sixty men, the companies were reconstructed by having only three platoons each, and the platoons consisted of only twenty-one men. We were then equipped and made ready to fight again as "The Forty-second Battalion," in the forthcoming battle, when it was intended to take and hold the supposedly impregnable "Hindenburg Line."

To remark upon the enthusiasm with which the Battalion as a whole welcomed the decision, might seem superfluous' It was perhaps in the transport lines where it was hailed with the wildest delight. The joy of the drivers knew no bounds.

The horses attached to our transport had, by order of the 11th Brigade Authorities, been taken away and in their stead had been left some very sorry representatives of the equine species.

None but those who witnessed the parting of the drivers with their faithful companions could realise the anguish that surrounded those pathetic farewells. Our horses were considered the best in the Brigade, and every driver was justly proud of his team. In most instances they had been together since the inception of the Battalion Transport. Tears welled up in the eyes of the drivers as they said good-bye to their dumb comrades. It was difficult to keep the drivers interested in their work until the morning of the 28th September, when their horses returned to them, and though the condition of the animals was very much poorer than when taken away, each horse became the recipient of an ovation, greater than which no Melbourne Cup winner has ever been accorded.


It will now be interesting to quote our Corps Commander, the late General Sir John Monash, who comments upon the situation in his book "Australian Victories in France," as follows:

"I have mentioned that early in 1918 all Brigades of the Imperial Service had, owing to declining manpower been reduced from four to three Battalions. In this reduction the Australian Brigades participated only to a small extent. "Every one of the Australian Battalions had created great traditions. Regimental esprit and pride of unit were very strong.

The private soldier valued his Battalion colour patches almost more than any other decoration. "My predecessor in the Corps Command had directed the abandonment of one Battalion in each, the 9th, 12th and 13th Brigades. The residue of the disbanded Battalions were used to replenish the remaining three Battalions. It was doubtless a measure directed by necessity . . . the flow of reinforcements was steadily diminishing. "I became fully alive to the difficulties which would present themselves when the fate of still other Battalions would have to be decided.

It was a day I wanted to stave off until the last possible moment. "Towards the middle of September, 1918, the successful course of the fighting and the moderate rate of wastage had convinced me there was every hope that the strength of the remaining Battalions could be maintained at a useful standard to the end of the campaigning season of that year. "I felt assured that the disbandment of a number of additional Battalions would seriously impair the fighting spirit of the whole Australian Corps. "I was prepared to take the chance of being able to carry on until the end of 1918 with all the remaining Battalions intact. "But I was not permitted to do so. At various times from June to August, an unimaginative department kept harassing me with enquiries . . . . These enquiries were at first ignored, but early in September the Adjutant General became insistent for a reply . . . . I urged a postponement of the question . . . Looking back, it seems scarcely credible these representations should have been ignored.

I procrastinated . . . The responsible authorities overruled my objections, and on September 19th, I received peremptory instructions to disband eight additional Battalions. "I had no option but to comply. , I called my Divisional Commanders together, and with them, decided which Battalions should suffer extinction . . . . It created a situation of extreme difficulty . . . . The whole of the personnel affected raised a very subordinate, but none the less determined, protest. "One Battalion after another very respectfully, but very firmly, took the stand that they did not wish to disband, but would prefer not to fight as dismembered and scattered portions of other Battalions. "This attitude, perhaps, bordered on insubordination, but it was conceived for a very worthy purpose.

It was a pathetic effort and elicited much sympathy from the senior officers and myself. On the eve of the great operation for the overthrow of the Hindenburg Line, I found myself threatened with the possibilities of internal disaffection. "This, to outsiders, who could have no understanding of the situation, might impair the fair name and prestige of the Australian Army Corps. "Up to this stage, the Fourth Army Commander had been in no way concerned in the matter. The pressure came from the War Office and the Adjutant General's Department. "Lord Rawlinson's interests, however, now became vitally involved. . . . I pointed out to him how inopportune was the time for risking trouble of this nature.

The order for disbandment having been given must stand and obedience must be insisted upon, but a postponement of further action for fourteen days was desirable . . . . "Rawlinson accepted my views in their entirety, and used his authority and influence with the Commander-in-Chief. "A postponement of action was authorised and all Battalions which had been threatened with extinction, with one exception, were to remain intact during the remainder of the fighting period."

It is needless to state that at the time we performed our "remonstrance" we had not the slightest idea that such sympathy towards us existed in the minds of our superior officers.

from the book "Spirit of the 42nd" by Vivian Brahams 1938 for the 42nd Bn Assoc

“I hope you live a life you are proud of. If you find that you are not, l hope you have the strength to start all over again.
- F. Scott Fitzgerald
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BerichtGeplaatst: 07 Okt 2017 9:05    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

The untold story of the man who started the Great War mutiny

Kiwi bugler Jock Healy never fired a shot in anger during World War I, and yet he still managed to start a mutiny that exposed the British Army's inhumane treatment towards its own soldiers, and the men who had travelled halfway around the world to fight for the empire.
One hundred years on, the uprising at the infamous training camp next to the fishing port of Etaples on the northern French coast, just south of Boulogne, remains the subject of censorship and speculation over what really went on.

This army city was a brutal, hated place of route marches in the sand dunes, exposure to chlorine gas and endless bayonet drills. It was a place where "canaries" (instructors) and "redcaps" (military police) with safe jobs far behind the front lines could bully and torment even veterans of the trenches recovering from wounds. The slightest sign of dissent could result in field punishments that included a form of crucifixion against the wheel of a howitzer.

Respite from this hell of bullying and boredom involved a surreptitious journey across the estuary into the town of Etaples and the seaside resort of Le Touquet and back before the tide came in.

And at 3pm on the Sunday afternoon of September 9, 1917, Arthur "Jock" Healy, a wheelwright from Blenheim who had enlisted in the New Zealand Rifle Brigade a year earlier, found himself stranded by the rising River Canche.
He had no choice but to return to camp over the Three Arch Bridge, where the military police were waiting. The routine beating that followed was trivial by Etaples standards, and thousands of soldiers had endured this regime resentfully but silently.
However, this day would be different, and it was the Kiwis who finally rose up.

An enraged group of Healy's New Zealand comrades descended on the police hut. A crowd started to gather and the mood turned ugly. The Kiwis had thrown a match on an enormous dry pyre of resentment. Stones were thrown, scuffles broke out, shots were fired at the crowd. And then the redcaps ran for their lives, and those not fast enough were pulverised.

The historic town of Williamsburg, Virginia, (population 14,800) might seem an unlikely source of insights into the story of Jock Healy and the long covered-up events he provoked.
But keen family historian Alison Rhodes, a retired US Navy chief information officer and the grand-daughter of a Kiwi war bride, has spent decades researching her New Zealand connections.
Being a child of divorced parents in the early 60s, Rhodes says she felt the sting of the loss of her extended family.
"Especially since my mother was a World War II bride from New Zealand and I had never met any of my maternal extended family. I yearned to know more about them; consequently, researching my maternal ancestors was the perfect complement to my love of history."

She began researching the Etaples mutiny to understand the people behind the faded fountain-pen entries on official documents.
"Each of my ancestor's stories is unique and unusual to me. I have come to love and respect each of them, and to cry and laugh along with them as they experienced triumphant highs and tragic lows."

Fourteen of her ancestors served in the Great War, and eventually she came across the story of the Blenheim bugler and a late-summer Sunday in 1917.

Etaples entered a kind of twilight state in the days after Healy's arrest.
Armed Australians went out into the sand dunes hunting for Canaries - so-named for their yellow armbands. Unbelievably, the mutineers even seized the hated camp commander, Brigadier General A. Graham Thomson, and tipped him into the river. Elsewhere, British soldiers marched to the Bull Ring as ordered, but then just sat down in a silent strike.

Soldiers were ordered to block the bridge out of the camp; but the troops laughingly formed scrum-like formations and swept them aside, heading out to cause mayhem.
And then, almost all of them returned. In the end, of the thousands of troops who went out either for revenge or a drink, just 23 never came back.

Of course, the good times were never going to last. The Battle of Passchendaele was raging, and the dithering British high command eventually restored order, with the help of machine guns trained on the parade ground. More than 50 soldiers were court-martialed; one was shot.
However, the brief outbreak did achieve a victory of sorts. The hated Bull Ring was abandoned; soldiers were allowed to swim in the sea and go into Etaples for tea and chips. The commander and military police were replaced.

Of all the millions of men who passed through Etaples, why did the mutiny start with the Kiwis?
In one of the few scholarly articles on the episode, published in the Oxford University Press journal Past & Present in November 1975, historians Douglas Gill and Gloden Dallas speculated that Anzac troops were "contemptuous of the narrow discipline to which British troops subscribed, and were led by officers who had invariably first shown their qualities as privates in the ranks".

In France, the men from Down Under - "a band of adventurers, all volunteers who had travelled across the world" - were the "bane of authority" and constantly in trouble.

Rhodes can empathise with the Kiwis, given her own experiences of army hierarchies in the United States.
"I was the daughter of an enlisted man, but most of my friends' fathers were officers. The segregation and class consciousness of the military is as denigrating to those in the lower classes as any class social system.
"My military ID card was a 'badge of shame' - and I will never forget the first time I felt the sting of it - when I could only socialise with my friends at their officers' pool by being their 'guest'."

Gill and Dallas also speculated that the bond the easygoing Anzacs shared with the Scots was a factor.

"At Etaples, this close relationship built a degree of trust and understanding which helped to convert the sudden riot of four thousand men into a series of daily demonstrations.
"If the insubordination of the Anzacs played an important part on the first day of the mutiny, it was the Scottish troops, present in far greater numbers, who gave the mutiny its force."

A sea mist of coverup and denial immediately rolled over the events of September 1917 and has lingered for a century.
A letter writer to the Otago Daily Times in 1922 – a witness to the mutiny – demanded to know why the official history of the New Zealand Division published that year fails to mention it.
In 1978, British journalists William Allison and John Fairly published The Monocled Mutineer, set in part at Etaples, prompting two New Zealand veterans to contact the Auckland Star with their version of events.

Eight years later, Alan Bleasdale's BBC adaptation of the book caused outrage among establishment figures in Britain, leading to the discovery that the records of the Etaples board of inquiry had been destroyed.
However, there is a detailed and vivid account of the mutiny, and it can be found in an unlikely place - the pages of Battle, a 1980s British war comic.

Artist Joe Colquhoun was an assiduous researcher and the pages dealing with Etaples clearly show the lemon-squeezer hats of Kiwi troops as they confront the armed guards sent to block the troops on Three Arch Bridge.

In to a collated edition printed by Titan Books, Charley's War writer Pat Mills muses that inquiry documents suppressed for 100 years, purportedly to protect the privacy of the families of those punished - might be released on the centenary. But in April this year, Mark Lancaster, the UK Under-Secretary of State for Defence, said the ministry had no documents pertaining to the Haig board of inquiry into the Etaples mutiny.

As for Jock Healy, the Blenheim bugler who retrained as a gunner does not reappear in the witness accounts and recollections of Etaples after his sudden elevation to centre stage.
A week after the outbreak Healy was in hospital with influenza, part of a recurring pattern of serious illness during his overseas service.
The following April he was diagnosed with a heart murmur and by June he was back in Blenheim, having never fired a shot in anger.

In 1921 Jock married Martha, and they had five children – one of whom, Noel, served in the Italian campaign of World War II – and he lived out his days in Nelson, where he died in November 1966.
Rhodes believes Jock Healy, her second cousin three times removed, was "just not a man meant for war". He had enlisted as a bugler, a clue that he was not interested in "real fighting".

"The last and most ironic aspect of Jock's association with the Etaples mutiny is that he was simply trying to "sneak back" into camp from that wonderful Le Touquet – and in no way meant to start the mutiny.
"He was definitely the trigger after his beating and incarceration (though brief) for all that pent-up resentment to the surface. His example is so typical of events in history – seemingly random or innocuous events triggering much larger and momentous aftermaths.
If any question why we died
Tell them, because our fathers lied
-Rudyard Kipling-
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BerichtGeplaatst: 05 Sep 2018 12:48    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote


(...) [O]p 5 september 1917 worden in Keulen de muitende matrozen Albin Köbis en Max Reichpietsch door een vuurpeloton terechtgesteld. Hun dood inspireerde mede de matrozenopstand in Kiel van november 1918, die leidde tot de val van het Duitse Keizerrijk. Ook werden Köbis en Reichpietsch als communisten avant la lettre geëerd door de DDR.

In het derde oorlogsjaar kampte het Duitse Rijk met vele tekorten en met honger. De linkse matrozen Albin Köbis en Max Reichpietsch waren de de ringleiders van een muiterij. Aanvankelijk protesteerden de matrozen over hun rantsoenen en andere praktische zaken, maar al gauw werd het een anti-oorlogsdemonstratie. De autoriteiten, bang voor een revolutie, besloten de opstand neer te slaan en gingen over tot arrestaties.

Köbis, Reichpietsch en drie andere matrozen werden ter dood veroordeeld door een militair tribunaal. Omdat de drie andere matrozen een ondergeschikte rol in de protesten hadden gespeeld werd ze begenadigd. Köbis en Reichpietsch kregen echter de kogel. Ze werden hierdoor martelaren van het marxisme en het pacifisme. Linkse kranten noemden hun executie een ‘gerechtelijke moord’ en hun dood inspireerde mede de matrozenopstand van november 1918. Deze opstand ontwikkelde zich al gauw tot een grote volksopstand tegen het keizerlijke gezag en leidde de val van de monarchie in. Het Duitse Rijk werd een republiek.

Communisten waren Köbis en Reichpietsch trouwens niet. Ze hadden wel radicaal-marxistische ideeën en contacten met de USPD (Unabhängige Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands), die zich in 1917 uit protest tegen de oorlog van de SDP had afgesplitst. Toch zouden vooral de communisten na de Eerste Wereldoorlog met Köbis en Reichpietsch pronken. De KPD, die na de Eerste Wereldoorlog door Duitse communisten werd opgericht, beschouwde Köbis en Reichpietsch als helden. De RFB (Roter Frontkämpferbund), de paramilitaire organisatie van de KPD, organiseerde in de jaren twintig elk jaar een herdenking voor Köbis en Reichpietsch in Keulen, uiteraard totdat de nazi’s na hun machtsovername in 1933 deze herdenking verboden.

De DDR ten slotte annexeerde Albin Köbis en Max Reichpietsch ook als helden. De DDR had zulke helden nodig, om ondanks het duistere nazi-verleden toch een beetje trots op Duitsland te kunnen zijn. In 1967, vijftig jaar na hun terechtstelling, werden de matrozen allebei geëerd met een DDR-postzegel. Niettemin was de televisiefilm Marinemeuterei 1917 uit 1969 een West-Duitse productie.

“I hope you live a life you are proud of. If you find that you are not, l hope you have the strength to start all over again.
- F. Scott Fitzgerald
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