THE END of the First World War in November 1918 was a time of social, industrial and political instability in Britain with riots in Glasgow and Belfast. Even the Metropolitan Police force had militant action.

The army had soldiers and sailors councils that were formed.

From January 1919 there was a wave of at least 18 military mutinies including at Southwick, Folkestone, Dover, Felixstowe, Shoreham, Aldershot, Southampton, Maidstone, Blackpool and Chatham with troops refusing to embark for Russia and France.

A Guards division was used to suppress dissent.

They disarmed the Durham Light Infantry at Colchester, when they refused to embark for Russia to fight against the Communist revolutionaries.

In Southampton, on January 13, 1919. around 5,000 disgruntled soldiers took over a customs shed in the docks.

Sir William Robertson, Commander in Chief of the British Home Forces, sent General Hugh Trenchard to restore military authority. He was quite prepared to use ruthless measures and was indifferent to their grievances.

Mutanies of 1919 - SeeSouthampton

Aware that the mutineers were unarmed, he phoned a request to the garrison commander at Portsmouth for 250 armed men plus an escort of military police. In spite of fierce objections from Southern Command, Trenchard made it perfectly clear that if necessary he would use lethal force.

The following morning Trenchard had the mutineers surrounded by armed troops with their safety bolts in firing position and live ammunition.

During an attempt to address the troops he was told to ‘drop dead’ by a sergeant, who was arrested and the mutiny collapsed.

Around 170 soldiers were personally selected as ringleaders by Trenchard, fifty three of whom were confined in a nearby troopship. Some soldiers had barricaded themselves in their billets. Hose pipes were used by Trenchard’s riot squad.

They captured about 100 soaked men who were then forced to stand in the January cold outside Trenchard’s office.

In early February, Trenchard was called in by Winston Churchill, then Minister for War and Air, congratulated on his ‘masterly handling of the Southampton riots’ and promoted to Chief of the Air Staff.

Mutanies of 1919 - SeeSouthampton

In the second incident in August 1919, up to 500 soldiers of the 2/7th Warwicks and the 2/5th Gloucesters also mutinied at Southampton. The men should have paraded at four o’clock to proceed to the docks, for return to France after a period of leave.

They believed that they were going to be sent from France to join in the British military action taking place in Russia where Winston Churchill’s stated aim was “to strangle at birth the Bolshevik State”.

Instead of heading for the docks, the soldiers posted notices on nearby railings saying “We are being sent to Russia without being asked” and “War Office said ‘volunteers only.’ Why should we go?”

The men refused to listen to an assurance given by their officers that if they would fall in and march back to the Rest Camp no action would be taken.

The Southampton Mayor, Alderman S. G. Kimber, unsuccessfully tried to help.

During the evening Major-General Blackadder (no relation to the comedy character), commanding the troops in the Southampton district, arrived in the town and agreed to receive a deputation from each of the two regiments.

The soldiers went to the offices of the Discharged and Demobilised Sailors’ and Soldiers’ Association to persuade some of their officials to accompany them but the general refused to receive such a deputation.

Mutanies of 1919 - SeeSouthampton

Eventually it was decided to send the deputation of soldiers to see the general at the rest camp on Southampton Common but no resolution was reached.

The men sent a telegram to the War Office stating their grievance and spent the night under trees.

The next morning the mutineers would not submit voluntarily, so the Royal Sussex Regiment entered the enclosure and marched them off to waiting lorries.

The War Office later said that it had never been their intention to send the men to Russia, their destination was to have been Turkey.

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Martin Brisland is a tour guide with .