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Thread: Possible RAF Strike-Breaking post-WW1

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    Default Possible RAF Strike-Breaking post-WW1

    Dear All,

    I am reading Andrew Marr’s book “The Making of Modern Britain – from Queen Victoria to VE-Day” (Pan 2010 ISBN 978-0-330-51089-8). Very instructive – I recommend it to you. It will open your eyes!

    But one vignette (p 232 of my paperback copy) reads as follows. It is in the immediate post-WW1 period on Clydeside. A number of “the usual suspects” appear in the narrative, but I thought you might be interested in the excerpt below:-

    Cabinet fears about a communist revolution were equally hysterical, fed by alarmist tittle-tattle from Scotland Yard's director of intelligence, Sir Basil Thompson. On 2 February 1920 one cabinet observer reported that Churchill and Sir Henry Wilson, head of the Imperial General Staff (who would later be assassinated by the IRA) were painting 'a very lurid picture of the country's defenceless position' to the rest of the cabinet. Lloyd George turned to Sir Hugh Trenchard, in charge of the RAF, and asked: ' "How many airmen are there available for [repressing] the revolution?" Trenchard replied that there were 20,000 mechanics and 2,000 pilots but only 100 machines which could be kept going in the air ... The pilots had no weapons for ground fighting. The PM presumed they could use machine guns and drop bombs.' It is a sobering thought that a British cabinet was seriously discussing plans to strafe the working classes not much more than a year after the Great War ended.

    I presume Marr had looked at the Cabinet Papers for the time in TNA in order to be able to quote this? Has anybody come across this before?

    Peter Davies
    Meteorology is a science; good meteorology is an art!
    We might not know - but we might know who does!

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    Peter

    Brett Holman's 'Airminded' blog is worth a read

    http://airminded.org/2012/02/02/coun...on-from-above/

    Much of the post is Australian related quelling of rioters

    "It also had two aeroplanes at its disposal, for 'their great moral effect':

    (a) To overawe rioters by their presence in the air.
    (b) To cooperate with the Artillery.
    (c) To assist in dispersing the rioters by the use of machine guns and revolvers and by dropping bombs or hand grenades."

    but there are passages relating to Clydeside and also Ireland quoting an "Emergency Scheme 'L'" drawn up in 1918

    Rgds

    Pete

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    Hello Peter - in my "full time" job as a railwayman and senior Union Rep, I have developed an interest in and have researched to some degree British Trades Unionism in the UK between the wars, in particular the 1926 General Strike which my industry played a large part in. I have some information on this from "the other side", as it were, regarding the Clydesdale incident immediately post-war that you refer to, and indeed, if memory serves me correctly, further afield - certainly Liverpool and various South Wales locations (Cardiff and Barry?) rings a bell. I'll need to find it in one of my books downstairs, but I'll have a boo either later this evening or in the morning and post back here for you. I recall looking at papers relating to this, again from the Trade Union aspect rather than the British Cabinet aspect, at Warwick University some years ago.

    As an aside, for all he did for the country in WW2, the only surprise for me in Churchill's actions against his own people in the immediate aftermath of WW1 are that Marr (who I do rate very highly as a political commentator) or indeed anyone else, is surprised by it!! Churchill does, after all, have something of a chequered history when it comes to using the military against "the people". The murder by the British Army of striking railwaymen in Llanelli in the early 1920s is one local incident that springs immediately to mind...
    "You can take the boy out of Wales,
    But you can't take Wales out of the boy!!"

    Greg Harrison
    100 Squadron and 100 Squadron Association Historian
    100 Squadron Researcher 1917 - present day
    1 Group Researcher 1940 - 1945

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    Can't remember full details but post WW1 SAAF was deployed against striking white miners in South Africa
    Last edited by paulmcmillan; 17th November 2013 at 21:46.

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    I do not think anyone is taking appropriate perspective, given strikes and riots resulted in bloody revolutions across the Europe. Trade unions could make a lot of stir, not necessarily in the interest of the labour. The example could be bhaviour of British and French TUs, which sabotaged the military production in front of German advance. The best known case is a strike at CBAF, which nearly prevented production of Spitfires there, seriously postponing it in the eve of the BoB. Several TU acted hostille toward Polish airmen, still at the time of the war, as they were considered enemies of Stalin and the Soviet Union (to be frank, rightly so).

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    I will look in my copies of the Lloyd George diaries next time I am in the loft. I pretty much agree with Franek but these events (post #1) were 'immediately post ww1'. That speaks volumes about the mindset of those in charge: the recent Russians slaughter of their Royal Family,everywhere you looked threats to the status quo were popping up and, to top it off, the country was flat broke. The general fear of revolution was paramount in most 'right minded' leaders, even DLG, which would have surprised his opponents. It was around this time a VC was awarded to an RN officer for sinking a Red warship (Agar was his name), without a state of war, which tells you the amount of support the UK establishment provided the White Russians.
    I vaguely recall that part of Trenchards argument for funding around 1919-1921 was to provide a cheaper alternative than the Army for quelling civil unrest ... perhaps he was aiming at the tribal disturbances in a far flung empire, but it was a dangerous thing to offer to a politician all the same.
    Does Andrew Marr quote his sources?
    Bruce
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    It was not only Bolshevik revolution in Russia, but also Soviet revolutions in Hungary and Bavaria, unrests in the whole Europe, and the Bolshevik advance into Europe, interestingly, supported by the Western Europe.
    I did mention 1940 strikes just to show, that the threat was serious, and mind you it was only 20 years, so same TU activists may have been involved. There was a number of foreign inspired unrests in Poland through the 20s & 30s, and there are some similarities, but I am afraid, it could be going well off topic.

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    Gents,

    I'm afraid that Marr gives no references for this - but it must have been Minuted in the Cabinet papers? The reason I started the thread was because Trenchard is popularly supposed to have suggested 'aerial policing' (i.e quelling the natives!) in the Middle East, and thereabouts, in the mid, to late-1920's as a way of (a) giving his RAF something to do, and (b) it was cheaper than using the Army. (Remember the Geddes Axe, and the 10-Year Rule, were around at the time!).

    However, it would seem - if Marr's account is true - (and I (like Greg) rate him highly as a political observer) - then what was Trenchard doing at that Cabinet meeting anyway? As a mere CAS he would have had no right to be there and would have to have been invited/instructed to attend? Why? Somebody - probably Lloyd George - was 'up to something'!!!!
    I was simply asking, as they would say in the Sy game, "anything known?". Seems there was!

    Peter Davies
    Last edited by Resmoroh; 18th November 2013 at 13:35. Reason: Appallingly woolly syntax!
    Meteorology is a science; good meteorology is an art!
    We might not know - but we might know who does!

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    I was thinking of the Rand Rebellion

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rand_Rebellion

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    Paul, tks yrs,

    Young Officer Smuts was, if I remember aright, a revered member of the late WW2 UK political/military circle? Seems that he, too, had a past use of aerial (and other) force(s) in pursuit of commercial/political ends? Where will all this end? What stones are about to be turned over which will expose beneath them that which revered politicians/civil-servants would rather was NOT exposed?

    There is, to my mind, a considerable quantity of information on this subject swanning around that needs to be forcibly ordered into a PhD thesis? Somebody needs to be collared for this? Who do we think might well be the prime candidate?

    Tks yr interest,

    Peter Davies
    Meteorology is a science; good meteorology is an art!
    We might not know - but we might know who does!

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