1919 Southampton mutiny

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The 1919 Southampton mutiny was a mutiny in the British Army which occurred in January 1919 in the aftermath of World War I. The soldiers, after being misinformed that they were being transported to Southampton to be demobilized, were then ordered to board troop ships for France. The mutiny was brought to an end without bloodshed when General Sir Hugh Trenchard threatened lethal force.


In early/mid January 1919, around 5,000 soldiers[1] mutinied in Southampton, taking over the docks and refusing to obey orders.[2]

The former Royal Flying Corps and Royal Air Force general Sir Hugh Trenchard arrived in Southampton in mid January after Sir William Robertson, the Commander-in-Chief of Home Forces asked him to take charge. Trenchard had witnessed mutinies among French troops during World War I and was quite prepared to be ruthless in his dealings.[3] After speaking to the ineffective camp commandant and sizing up the situation, Trenchard marched out onto the docks and personally issued a loud summons for the men to assemble. Trenchard then informed the soldiers that he would hear their grievances but only after they had returned to their duties. This resulted in much heckling and Trenchard was almost knocked over by the surging crowd. Trenchard managed to get away and later decided that as words had failed, force would be needed.[4]

Trenchard then arranged for 250 soldiers, including military policemen, to be sent to him. Whilst they were en route, the General Officer Commanding Southern Command telephoned Trenchard in the middle of the night and after hearing Trenchard's plan he insisted that Trenchard must under no circumstances open fire. Trenchard replied that he was not seeking the GOC's approval, merely informing him of his intentions.[5]

After the troops arrived, Trenchard spoke to the men, explaining his plan and issuing ammunition. On Trenchard's orders, the armed troops surrounded the open front of the huge customs shed where the mutinying soldiers were gathered. Trenchard ordered the men to load and make ready. Trenchard called on the mutineers to surrender and in response a sergeant shouted obscenities. Trenchard's military policemen arrested the sergeant and none of the sergeant's fellow mutineers resisted. Trenchard re-issued his call for submission and the crowd gave their assent.[6]

Trenchard spent the rest of the day hearing each man in turn. The majority were prepared to return to France and Trenchard granted such men a conditional discharge. Trenchard also discovered that lies had been the told to the men, leading them to believe that they were going to Southampton for discharge when they were in fact going to be transported back to France.[7]

Those ring leaders who had been in the customs shed were confined aboard the troop ship. Some other ring leaders were holding out in nearby huts and Trenchard obtained firehoses and had the windows of the huts smashed. The remaining ring leaders were then drenched in ice-cold water and they surrendered and were detained aboard the troop ship.[8]


  1. ^ It was initially reported that 20,000 soldiers had mutinied. Boyle states that Trenchard later put the figure at 5,000 (p. 324)
  2. ^ Boyle, Andrew. "Chapter 12". Trenchard Man of Vision. London: Collins. p. 317. 
  3. ^ Lamb, Dave 1919: The Southampton mutiny 2005
  4. ^ Boyle, Andrew. "Chapter 12". Trenchard Man of Vision. London: Collins. pp. 318 to 320. 
  5. ^ Boyle, Andrew. "Chapter 12". Trenchard Man of Vision. London: Collins. pp. 320 to 321. 
  6. ^ Boyle, Andrew. "Chapter 12". Trenchard Man of Vision. London: Collins. pp. 322 to 323. 
  7. ^ Boyle, Andrew. "Chapter 12". Trenchard Man of Vision. London: Collins. p. 323. 
  8. ^ Boyle, Andrew. "Chapter 12". Trenchard Man of Vision. London: Collins. p. 324. 

External links[edit]