1919: Britain’s Year of Revolution

A few years ago I wrote a blog post about an alternate history, called The 1919 British Revolution.

As well as looking at the general feeling of discontent across the country I did focus on an incident in Glasgow.

In Great Britain the government feared a bolshevik uprising and was quick to oppress any potential threat to the established order. One of the biggest areas for concern were the labour movements and trade unions. One strike in Glasgow in 1919 eventually resulted in a street battle between strikers and police, which was so bad, the army was called in. The “Battle of George Square”, also known as “Bloody Friday” and “Black Friday”, was one of the most intense riots in the history of Glasgow; it took place on Friday, 31 January 1919. Clashes between the City of Glasgow Police and protesters broke out, prompting the War Cabinet to make soldiers available to the civil power, to prevent the violence from escalating.

I also saw this post the first of a series of blog posts.

In future blog posts I want to have a look at potential battles in the 1919 British Revolution and the forces involved.

I did start thinking about possible scenarios and forces. I have in the cupboard the boxed set of Battlefront’s 15mm The Great War Mitchell’s Marauders.

Mitchell's Marauders (GBRAB1)

The boxed set includes one Company HQ, two Rifle Platoons, one Machine-gun Platoon, one Royal Artillery Gun Detachment. It also has one Medium Tank Platoon comprising a single Mark A Whippet and a Heavy Tank Platoon which is two Mark IV tanks.

I was thinking that this would be a good starting force for the 1919 British Revolution.

In my original blog post I used a couple of contemporary photographs, one was of the tanks, Medium Mark C tanks, and soldiers at the Glasgow Cattle Market in the Gallowgate waiting to be called in for action in Glasgow. The other photograph though was a Mark IV tank on the streets of Dublin.

British army tank in Dublin

I realised that I wanted to do some more research into this era and as you do went to Google. As well as finding more photographs from the era I also discovered that there was a book about a range of incidents across 1919.

1919; Britain’s Year of Revolution tells the story of an almost unknown passage in British history. On the August Bank Holiday that year, the government in London despatched warships to the northern city of Liverpool in an overwhelming show of force. Thousands of troops, backed by tanks, had been trying without success to suppress disorder on the streets. Earlier that year in London, 1000 soldiers had marched on Downing Street, before being disarmed by a battalion of the Grenadier Guards loyal to the government. In Luton that summer, the town hall was burned down by rioters, before the army was brought in to restore order and in Glasgow, artillery and tanks were positioned in the centre of the city to deter what the Secretary of State for Scotland described as a ‘Bolshevik uprising’. Industrial unrest and mutiny in the armed forces combined together to produce the fear that Britain was facing the same kind of situation which had led to the Russian Revolution two years earlier. Drawing chiefly upon contemporary sources, this book describes the sequence of events which looked as though they might be the precursor to a revolution along the lines of those sweeping across Europe at that time. To some observers, it seemed only a matter of time before Britain transformed itself from a constitutional monarchy into a Soviet Republic.

Well time to buy that from Amazon then.