Tuesday, 26 August 2014

The British West Indies Regiment mutiny, 1918 - Steven Johns

The First World War was aptly named, despite taking place mostly in Europe the conflict drew most of the independent nations like the USA and Japan, and thanks to the extensive system of colonisation and Empire building of the European powers thousands of young men from Africa, Asia and the Caribbean.
Here is just one such account of the desperation and ingratitude of the major powers at that time.
British West India Regiment troops in France, 1916. Photograph copyright Imperial War Museum
A short history of the mutiny at Taranto in Italy by West Indian soldiers in the British army at the end of World War I, which had a significant impact subsequently on anti-colonial struggles in the Caribbean.


With the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, thousands of West Indians volunteered to join the British army. They were encouraged to do so by activists like Marcus Garvey, on the basis that if they showed their loyalty to the King they would show they have the right to be treated as equals.
Initially, the Secretary Of State for War Lord Kitchener believed that black British soldiers should not be allowed to join the forces, but King George V's intervention - combined with the need for men - made it possible.

Thousands of West Indians volunteered. Their initial journey to England was perilous, with hundreds of soldiers suffering from severe frostbite when their ships were diverted via Halifax in Canada. Very many had to return home no longer fit to serve as soldiers, with no compensation or benefits.

In 1915, British West Indies Regiment was formed by grouping together the Caribbean volunteers. This should not be confused with the West India Regiment, founded in 1795, which was normally stationed in the British colonies in the Caribbean themselves.

Arriving in the war zone, they found that the fighting was to be done by white soldiers, and that West Indians were to be assigned the dirty and dangerous work of loading ammunition, laying telephone wires and digging trenches. Most of them went to war without guns.

Conditions were appalling. George Blackman, a Barbadian member of the fourth division, when recounting conditions to a journalist rolled up his sleeve to show his armpit: "it was cold. And everywhere there were white lice. We had to shave the hair there because the lice grow there. All our socks were full of white lice."

This poem by one of the troops, The Black Soldier's Lament, showed the bitterness with which this was experienced:
Stripped to the waist and sweated chest
Midday's reprieve brings much-needed rest
From trenches deep toward the sky.
Non-fighting troops and yet we die.
During the war, 15,600 men in the regiment's 12 battalions served with the Allied forces, with two thirds of the volunteers coming from Jamaica and the rest from Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, the Bahamas, British Honduras (now Belize), Grenada, British Guiana (now Guyana), the Leeward Islands, St Lucia and St Vincent.

It was active in a number of areas including playing a vital role in active combat against the Turkish army in Palestine, Jordan and Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq) and in France, Italy and Egypt where the men serve mainly in auxiliary roles. Although there is evidence that there were also armed skirmishes with German troops in France.


After Armistice Day, on 11 November 1918, the eight BWIR battalions in France and Italy were concentrated at Taranto in Italy to prepare for demobilisation1. They were subsequently joined by the three battalions from Egypt and the men from Mesopotamia. As a result of severe labour shortages at Taranto, the West Indians had to carry out arduous physical tasks. They had to load and unload ships, do labour fatigues and perform demeaning tasks like building and cleaning toilets for white soldiers, which all caused much resentment. As did the discovery that white soldiers were being given a pay rise while black soldiers were not.

By 6 December 1918 they had had enough: the men of the 9th Battalion revolted and attacked their black officers. On the same day, 180 sergeants forwarded a petition to the Secretary of State complaining about the pay issue, the failure to increase their separation allowance, and the fact that they had been discriminated against in the area of promotions.

During the mutiny, which lasted about four days, a black NCO shot and killed one of the mutineers in self-defence and there was also a bombing. Disaffection spread quickly among the other soldiers and on 9 December the 'increasingly truculent' 10th Battalion refused to work. A senior commander, Lieutenant Colonel Willis, who had given the orders to BWIR men to clean the latrines of the Italian Labour Corps, was also subsequently assaulted.

In response to calls for help from the commanders at Taranto, a machine-gun company and a battalion of the Worcestershire Regiment were despatched to restore order. Perceived ringleaders were rounded up. The 9th BWIR was disbanded and the men distributed to the other battalions which were all subsequently disarmed.

Approximately 60 soldiers were later tried for mutiny and those convicted received sentences ranging from three to five years, but one man got 20 years, while another was executed by firing squad. The BWIR itself was disbanded in 1921.


Although the mutiny was crushed, the bitterness persisted and on 17 December 1918 about 60 NCOs held a meeting to discuss the question of black rights, self-determination and closer union in the West Indies. An organisation called the Caribbean League was formed at the gathering to further these objectives. At another meeting on 20 December, under the chairmanship of one Sergeant Baxter, who had just been superseded by a white NCO, a sergeant of the 3rd BWIR argued that "the black man should have freedom and govern himself in the West Indies and that if necessary, force and bloodshed should be used to attain that object". His sentiments were loudly applauded by the majority of those present. The soldiers decided to hold a general strike for higher wages on their return to the West Indies.

Back in the West Indies, between 1916 and 1919 a number of colonies including St Lucia, Grenada, Barbados, Antigua, Trinidad, Jamaica and British Guiana were experiencing a wave of often violent strikes.

It was into this turmoil that the disgruntled BWIR soldiers began arriving back. There were no welcome parades or celebrations of their contribution to the war effort. Instead, fearing unrest the British government moved three cruisers with machine guns into docks at Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad. Thousands of former soldiers were displaced to nearby countries like Cuba and Venezuela.
But despite this, many more joined the wave of worker protests resulting from a severe economic crisis produced by the war. Disenchanted soldiers and angry workers demonstrated, went on strike and rioted in a number of territories including Jamaica, Grenada and especially in British Honduras.
A secret colonial memo from 1919, uncovered by researchers for a Channel 4 programme on the Taranto mutiny, showed that the British government realised that everything had changed, too: "Nothing we can do will alter the fact that the black man has begun to think and feel himself as good as the white."


  • 1. The process soldiers go through before leaving the Army 
Originally posted on LibCom.org
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Thursday, 21 August 2014

Loafers Glory 05: Whimsical Stew

 Episode 05 of Loafers Glory Whimsical Stew, this ones a bit more random going from a recital of Walt Whitman's poetry including a rare mechanical recording of the man himself, to activism of Yip Harburg the song writer responsible for Over the Rainbow among many others. It's also jammed with some Wobbly history and anecdotes about Utah Phillips childhood reading about Depression era Bank Robbers.

Despite the rather shotgun like approach to organisation this was again an informative and enjoyable journey through history. In particular the speech by Huey Long about wealth concentration seems very close to the 99% rhetoric of the Occupy movement.

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Wednesday, 20 August 2014

1917: The Etaples mutiny

 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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Wednesday, 13 August 2014

The London IWW

IWW pyramid of class relations

Its the anniversary of World War One, so I like everyone else will be posting up bits of history relating to the war and the period. For a start here's a few pieces about the Industrial Workers of the World.

Here's a video of a lecture by Nick Heath about the first IWW organisation in London and its activities during the war.

And here's a chapter from Ken Weller that covers the same ground.

A chapter from Weller's excellent Don't be a Soldier! - the radical anti-war movement in north London 1914-1918. This was the only period in which the Wobblies had any significant presence among the UK radical workers' movement.
Note: the NLHL was the North London Herald League, a network of generally libertarian/anti-parliamentarist militants engaged in agitation around industrial and anti-war struggles.
With similar politics, the WSF was the Workers' Socialist Federation, which emerged from earlier East London womens' suffrage groups; Sylvia Pankhurst was a prominent member and it published the Workers' Dreadnought radical newspaper.
12. The Industrial Workers of the World
The IWW was another part of the complex jigsaw of North London revolutionary politics. Many of the founders of the NLHL had been 'Wobblies' and a close relationship continued throughout the War. Up to about 1916 the North London Local of the IWW had met at the NLHL's premises, but it then moved to its own headquarters in unfurnished rooms in Theobalds Road, Bloomsbury.

With the introduction of conscription several local Wobblies went to prison, while others went on the run. Some of them even managed to leave the country, while at least one member, Frank Ginger (alias Grainger),(1) had joined the army, fought on the Somme, and then deserted and spent the rest of the War avoiding arrest. Nevertheless, some of the 'old guard' remained active; these included Albert Young, A. B. Elsbury and Jack Smith, who were joined by a new wave of members who included Harold Edwards(2) (later secretary-treasurer of the Local), Arthur Titley,(3) Dick Beech and Esther Archer.(4)

The Local had a wide range of activities; for example, several of its members worked at the Hispano Suiza factory in North London where Arthur Titley was a shop steward. The Local was also heavily involved in the Workers' Committee movement; one of' its members, Tommy Walsh,(5) a carpenter, was apparently secretary of the London Building Workers' Committee, while Vic Beacham was also active after his release from prison.

The Local maintained a regular speaking pitch at Finsbury Park. To raise cash it even printed its own money, designed and printed by Jack Smith. Members could purchase these notes, which were in 2s 6d, 5s, 10s, and £1 denominations, and could redeem them later if they needed the money. No examples of these notes (which were apparently rather beautiful) seem to have survived.
The Local printed many of its own leaflets and 'sticky-backs' and it seems that one of these leaflets led to a drama which could have ended in tragedy. The authorities, possibly with the aid of an informer, managed to track some of those responsible and in March 1918, five men associated with the Local were arrested. Three of them, including Arthur Titley, were sent to prison for up to six months, while two others (who seem to have been American seamen) were deported. The imprisoned men had a very bad time: Arthur Titley was beaten up on several occasions and lost three stone in weight.

Meanwhile, back in the Local, the hunt for the alleged informer was on. The fear of informers was not simple paranoia. The authorities did have networks of spies, and there was massive interception of letters and (for the first time) systematic telephone tapping. Earlier in the War, infamous agent provocateur Alex Gordon(6) had been active in the London area, and he later admitted that his visits to the German Communist Club in Charlotte Street, Tottenham Court Road and the IWW Hall in Whitechapel had been the prelude to police raids on them. Plainclothes police were familiar figures at meetings as they gathered material for prosecutions. The relationships between radicals and the Special Branch men who haunted their meetings were apparently quite complex. Edward Hennem in a letter to me describes them thus:
I knew of no police provocateurs in the Herald League. The blokes who came to our meetings were almost close to us — in fact, one was quite influenced by our philosophy and I think he excluded from his notes some of the stupid remarks of the idiots, such as drilling with broomsticks in Epping Forest. Off course there were some of the other type.
The spy fever within the North London Local of the IWW culminated in a 'trial' at which the man in the dock was A. B. Elsbury, who was ably defended by his brother Sam. It is the unanimous opinion of survivors that Elsbury was completely innocent; fortunately he was acquitted - if the verdict had gone the other way it is difficult to estimate what would have happened. The Local contained some tough customers who had cut their teeth in the turbulent workers' movements of Australia, Latin America and the American West; they had a short way with narks.(7)

There seem to have been a considerable number of firearms floating around the movement after the War, most of them originating with returning servicemen. The going rate for a Lee Enfield rifle was about £2 10s. One of the features of this murky underbelly of the revolutionary movement in the immediate post-War years was a quite considerable gun-running operation to the Irish republicans. Much of this material apparently left the country via Liverpool. There were even rumours of arms stockpiled for potential domestic consumption. Quite a few survivors recall that this trade had considerable North London ramifications, not only in the radical milieu but also among the large local Irish population.

One of the most remarkable members of the Local was Dick Beech. Born about 1893 at Hull, Beech was a huge man some 6ft 3in tall. He had run away to sea with his brother Charlie and they had spent their early lives travelling the world, working in gold and copper mines in Australia, Mexico and Colorado. They presumably joined the IWW in Colorado. At the outbreak of War they were seamen on the Liverpool-USA run, which may have had something to do with the Local's ability to smuggle men from one side of the Atlantic to the other.(8) While serving at sea they were torpedoed twice, on one occasion only surviving by a miracle after spending some time in the water.(9)

In August, 1920, Dick Beech represented the IWW at the 2nd Congress of the Comintern in Russia, and it was during this period that he and his brother fought with the Red Army and apparently did illegal work in Finland behind the white lines.

By 1921 Dick Beech was back in Britain. By this time he was a member of the WSF and he represented it under its temporary name of the Communist Party-British Section of the Third International (CP-BSTI) at the Leeds Convention of' the Communist Party of Great Britain in January whence he was elected to the CP's Provisional Executive Committee.

The Beech Brothers were, perhaps significantly, in Ireland for some time in the early 1920s. One consequence of this was that Dick married Moira, the daughter of James Connolly. Dick was also extremely active in the early unemployed movement, where his size made him a favourite target for police batons during demonstrations; on at least one occasion he was badly beaten.

In the 20s, Dick Beech seems to have worked primarily for one of the Soviet trading agencies but he also apparently acted as a courier and maritime specialist for the Comintern. In the late 1920s, he was editor of a journal called the International Seafarer. Some time in the early 1930s, Dick Beech left the Communist Party with some bitterness, although the exact reasons are obscure, and joined the 1LP. He then became active in the Chemical Workers' Union and was for many years a lay member of its executive and editor of the Union's journal. In 1944-5 he became the union's president.
Dick Beech had many international links, many of them dating from the pre-War syndicalist movement. He knew Trotsky personally and was deeply influenced by his ideas, although he was never a member of a Trotskyist group. In his last years Beech was a member of the Labour Party. He died in Harrow in 1955.(10)

In the latter part of the War the British IWW had a period of substantial growth. It had its own hall in Whitechapel, and was very active in a number of industries in the East End of London. By January 1919 it was substantial enough to be one of the four national convening bodies of the Hands Off Russia Movement (the others were the BSP, ILP and the SLP).(11) Frank Grainger was a prominent speaker, representing the IWW at many Hands Off Russia meetings. The IWW with its strong international connections always had a contingent of workers from abroad within its ranks, especially a number of American seamen.

The most famous American Wobbly associated with the NLHL was George Swazey, who was the National Organizer of the British IWW. Hennem writes:
He came to England and linked up with the Herald League during the War. He could speak for five hours at a stretch on an open-air platform and could keep an audience convulsed. He was perhaps the most humorous speaker I have ever heard.(12)
With the formation of the Communist Party in 1920, the British IWW decided to dissolve itself and join, but many Wobblies didn't stay members for long. Some departed after the suppression of the Kronstadt Commune in 1921, while others quietly left in the ensuing years. The experience of Charlie Lahr perhaps illustrates this process. Lahr had joined the CP - after a short spell in the WSF - and was a member of its Central London branch, whose catchment area included Bloomsbury and Clerkenwell. While in Berlin in 1921, Lahr managed to obtain, and have translated, the text of the New Economic Policy of the Soviet Government. On returning to London, Lahr and Esther Archer found that two other members of the branch, Eden and Cedar Paul,(13) had quite independently translated the same document. The four of them were so opposed to the new policy that they closed down the branch and left the Party.(14)

Of the 16 members of the North London Local of the IWW about whom I have relevant information, at least 12 joined the CP. The amount of time they remained members varied widely, but only two became lifelong adherents. At first glance it might seem surprising that so many activists from the anarchist and syndicalist traditions joined the CP. However, many of these militants saw the revolutionary overthrow of the Tsar and the Kerensky regime, and the slogan 'All Power to the Soviets', as the embodiment of everything they had stood for, and while many of them soon became deeply disillusioned with Leninism and everything it represented, others stayed with the Communist Party for the rest of their lives.

The confused attitude of the anti-parliamentarian wing of the revolutionary movement at this time towards Bolshevism was startlingly expressed in an article by George H. V. Rose's in The Communist, organ of the Communist League,(16) of May 1919.
Therefore we identify ourselves with the Third International, with the communism of Marx, and with that personification of the spirit of revolt, Bakunin,(17) of whom the Third International is but the natural and logical outcome.

1. Frank Ginger, alias Frank Grainger, went on to be a foundation member of the CP; he later left it and was prominent in the SPGB; still later he was a lecturer for the Economic League.
2. Harold Edwards was born in 1900 at Theobalds Road. He became an anarchist at a very early age. When he became liable for military service in 1918 he went on the run but remained politically active and was a strong supporter of the NLHL. While he was living 'underground' in Soho he came into close contact with the considerable colonies of Spanish and Italian anarchists living in that area; the most notable of these was Errico Malatesta, who once had an electrical engineering shop in Upper Street, Islington. Edwards was also a member of the Communistischer Arbeiter Bildungs Verein, the German Workers' Communist Club in Charlotte Street, founded in 1840, which included among its alumni both Marx and Engels. In 1920 Edwards became secretary of the club for its last six months of existence.
Harold Edwards dropped out of political activity in the 1920s and became an antiquarian bookseller. He and David Goodway have produced an unpublished manuscript, Harold Edwards, a Revolutionary Life, on which I have heavily depended for both these notes and the section on the IWW as a whole. I would also like to thank both the authors for the considerable individual help they have given me.
3. Arthur Titley was born near the Angel in Islington. After the War, unable to find work, he became a window cleaner. He was an early member of Islington CP, in which he apparently stayed until his death. This, I am told, was in an air raid in the Second World War.
4. Esther Archer, 1897-1969, born Esther Argeband. Her family lived in White-chapel. During the War she was a well known open-air speaker, noted for her flaming red hair. Her main associations seem to have been with the IWW and the WSF. Esther worked at the Rothman's cigarette factory in the East End, which she organised for the IWW. She first met Charlie Lahr while he was interned; after he was released in 1919 they joined up and lived together for the rest of their lives. They had two daughters.
5. Tommy Walsh was a carpenter; he had been a member of the North London Industrialist League (see note 3, page 23) since at least 1912. He was also an early member of the British IWW. After the War he was for a while secretary of the International Club — the successor of the German Workers' Club. Unable to find work at his trade, he seems afterwards to have made a living as a racing tipster.
6. Alex Gordon was the person responsible in March 1917 for the entrapment of Alice Wheeldon of Derby, and her daughter and son-in-law, who received 10, five, and seven years' imprisonment respectively for a 'plot' to assassinate Lloyd George and Arthur Henderson. Gordon, posing as a man on the run, had been sheltered by Mrs Wheeldon and had repaid her by setting her up and then informing the authorities. Mrs Wheeldon had a hard time in gaol and became seriously ill, after serving two years, she was released; fourteen months later died.
7. Harry Young remembers being in a pub with Dick Beech and Arthur Titley when a fight broke out in another part of the bar; Beech immediately produced a knife while Titley produced a revolver. Incidentally Titley was a very good boxer.
8. The British IWW was pretty strong in Liverpool; it also had substantial Locals in Glasgow and Hull.
9. Dick Beech wrote an account of this experience in Torpedoed, and other short stories, Progressive Publishing, Harrow 1943,62pp. One wonders if the brothers Beech and their comrades ever met Captain Tupper's 'torpedoed' seamen; it would have been an interesting encounter.
10. I would like to thank John Archer, Bob Edwards and Dick Beech (the nephew of Dick Beech senior) for providing me with much information about Dick and Charlie Beech.
11. There were a number of North London trade union branches, as well as the Herald Leagues of Battersea, Croydon, Fulham and Stepney, also represented at the founding meeting of the 'Hands Offs Russia' Movement.
12. Hennem, op cit.; Swazey later returned to the USA.
13. Eden (1865-1967) and Cedar Paul (died 1972) were leading Marxist intellectuals, responsible for translating many of Marx's writings into English, notably the Everyman edition of Capital. They also jointly wrote several books on birth control. Both rejoined the Communist Party later in the 20s.
14. Charlie Lahr (1885-1967) was a fascinating man whom I knew quite well. Born in Germany, he came to Britain in 1905. A life-long anarchist, Lahr joined the IWW before the First World War. Interned in both World Wars, Lahr ran bookshops at various sites from the early 20s until well into the 1960s; the most notable of these was at Red Lion Street, Bloomsbury, the shop becoming a centre of radical and advanced literary ideas. Lahr introduced many people, myself included, into the highways and byways of political and social thought. The best single source for Charlie's life is a memoir by David Goodway, 'Charles Lahr; Anarchist, Bookseller, Publisher', in the June–July 1977 issue of The London Magazine. I would also like to thank Charlie's daughters Oonagh and Sheila for their unstinting help.
15. G. H. V. Rose was living in Hammersmith at this time. He had left Islington in 1915. He had been active in the local ILP in the first decade of the century. About 1909 he became closely associated with Guy Aldred, a connection which lasted until the early 30s, when he rejoined the ILP. Rose was a hairdresser and played a leading part in the hairdressing section of the shopworkers' union; so did his two sons who were also active in the ILP in the 1930s and the 40s.
The Rose family connections are interesting as they illustrate the familial links which occur again and again in the socialist movement of the period: G. H. V. Rose's father, Frederick Rose, was secretary of the Mildmay Club (see note 3, pages 10 and 11) while his father-in-law was G. W. Patterson (1859-1939), who from the mid-1880s had been an activist in the socialist movement both locally and nationally. Patterson went on to become a prominent propagandist and played an important role in the formation of a number of trade unions. He was friendly with major figures in the movement, such as William Morris, Tom Mann and George Lansbury. Patterson had also been Assistant Organising Secretary of the National Daily Herald League.
16. The Communist League was a short lived organisation which had emerged in March 1919 from a conference called by the London District Council of the SLP; it rapidly attracted to itself a number of recruits from the anti-parliamentarian wing of the socialist movement, strongly laced with anarchists and syndicalists. At its peak the Communist League had well over 20 branches, mostly in London and Scotland but with a few elsewhere, notably in South Wales. The Communist League seems to have lasted about a year, after which it rapidly dissolved into the Communist Party.
17. Bakunin was a major anarchist figure and opponent of Marx in the First

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