The 1919 British Revolution

Across Europe in the early part of the 20th Century many of the nation states were undergoing change or violent revolution. The governments of the time were so concerned about this that resources were diverted to focus on the perceived threat of revolutionaries and paramilitary forces.

The 1917 Russian Revolution eventually led to the Communist USSR as well as a Civil War that raged for years with plenty of intervention by the Western powers.

In Germany following their defeat in 1918 led to the creation of the Weimar Republic that was plagued by political extremism. In addition that time saw both left wing and right wing paramilitaries causing problems for the government.

The capitulation and break up of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire also saw rises in nationalism and revolution.

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.

Medium Mark C tanks and soldiers at the Glasgow Cattle Market in the Gallowgate

With troops and tanks on the streets of Glasgow, peace was eventually restored, but there were concerns that some of the soldiers might go over to the side of the rioters, could that have been the spark that started a British Revolution?

The fear of the soldiers siding with the protestors was so much that the War Department didn’t want any Glaswegian troops sent to quell the violence, incase they changed sides. Though reports later implied that English troops were sent, more recent research has indicated that it was Scottish troops that were sent to Glasgow. However what if English troops were sent and the situation rather than be defused, escalated into a more violent conflict. Would the conflict bring in local paramilitary forces, some fighting for the establishment and some fighting for change? Another potential spark for a British Revolution?

British army tank in Dublin

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

One thought on “The 1919 British Revolution”

  1. Interesting piece, and true to the facts. One point though – the last image, of the tank and soldiers in a street, was taken in Dublin, although it has occasionally been used by ‘Battle’ propagandists as ‘English troops oppressing the Scots’. It’s by no means the worst example – one blog uses a photo of the Russian dead of the Battle of Bulimov in 1916 as showing the ‘dead’ of George Square!

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