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'Dockers' Battalion' Birkenhead & Liverpool


CarylW
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Thank you for your further input Ivor.

Ihave found this topic both interesting and informative.

During WW2 an Uncle was in a 'Reserved occupation' (Chain Maker) and I thought there might have been some resentment on the part of the rest of the family who were all serving in the forces , but this wasn't the case.

However an 'in law'who unfortunately was shot in the leg whilst in Barracks in U.K. was continually critised for receiving an Army pension when he had "never been out of the country"

Regards

Gill

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Thanks Ivor for further replies

Found this in an online book Labour in war time by G D H Cole. Published 1915 (?)

http://www.archive.org/stream/labourinwart...leiala_djvu.txt

The real problem, as the Government well knows, is the problem of organising the Labour that is already in the workshops. In this connection, the solution

which naturally suggests itself to the military and to the governing-class mind is martial law. We have already seen a beginning made in this direction with

the notorious Dockers' Battalion of Liverpool, blessed by capitalists, some Trade Union officials, the Director of the Liverpool Labour Exchange, and Lord Derby. It is necessary to say something about this extra- ordinary body, more especially as Mr. Lloyd George, on his visit to Liverpool to organise Labour, saw fit to go out of his way to inspect it, and as there is more than a hint of imitation of it in the special bodies of munition workers who have now been enrolled.

The Dockers' Battalion consists entirely of members of the National Union of Dock Labourers, and no man can continue to belong to it unless he pays his

Trade Union dues regularly. The President and Vice- President of the Union are sergeants in the battalion, and Mr. James Sexton, the General Secretary, has given it his blessing. Yet there is not the smallest doubt that it is exceedingly unpopular with the Liverpool dockers. On April 18 a meeting was held, confined to members of the Union, at which Lord Derby, Mr. Sexton, and others were to speak, for the purpose of explaining the

objects of the battalion and clearing away suspicion with regard to it. In such a meeting, at which only Trade Unionists were present, not a single speech

could be delivered, so great was the men's suspicion that the battalion was intended to act as a strike- breaking body. In the middle of May a docker was

sent to prison for describing a member of the battalion as a scab, and there have been many similar incidents.

The speech which Lord Derby intended to make was communicated to the Press.

" What put the idea into my head," he says, " was that so many dockers were men who would like to be soldiers,

but were prevented by medical reasons or by age from taking service, though these causes did not prevent them from being good dockers. I also wanted to prevent any idea of soldiers being brought in to do the work of the port, and I thought it would be a good idea to form a number of companies to do as far as possible anything the Govern- ment wanted, to wear khaki uniform, and to be entitled to the medal for service at the end of the war. When I decided to form them I had to try to avoid two things, one of which was that there should be no displacement of any one now in employment, and to disarm any suspicion

that this was a strike battalion. ... In order to avoid it being in any way a strike-breaking battalion the rule was

made that only Union men should be admitted."

However, on another occasion, as reported in the

Times of April 9, Lord Derby, while asserting that it was not a strike-breaking battalion, as it would be worked " in conformity with Union rules and military discipline," added that he would not " look on it as a strike-breaking battalion if it came to be used to do the work of men who were fighting their own superior

officials and by so doing had been delaying goods going to the front." In view of the troubled state of the port, and of Lord Derby's own statements, the Liverpool dockers seem justified in regarding the battalion as suspect. If it was not founded for the purpose of breaking strikes, it might at any rate very easily be converted to such base uses. Soldiers have already acted as strike-breakers more than once during the present war, 1 and the Dockers' Battalion, being subject to military discipline, could clearly be used in the same way.

Caryl

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Caryl

Thanks for the reference from Cole.

What is interesting is the fact that the army had already been used in the UK as strike breakers. Whilst Lord Derby was at great lengths to say that the Liverpool Dock Battalion woukd not be usedas strike breakers I suspect that others, including Kitchener, would have been quite happy for them to take on this role.

In his article Keith Grieves points out that while there were no other Dock Battalions formed there were the Transport Workers Battalions formed. They were, of course, far more flexible as they were not restricte dto one geographic area.

Ivor

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Caryl

If you are looking for some Service Records and already haven't done so then put

Dock* Liver* in the Regiment field of the Service Records for a return of around 240 records. All Liverpool addresses.

hywyn

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What is interesting is the fact that the army had already been used in the UK as strike breakers. Whilst Lord Derby was at great lengths to say that the Liverpool Dock Battalion woukd not be usedas strike breakers I suspect that others, including Kitchener, would have been quite happy for them to take on this role.

Ivor

Ivor

Yes, my thoughts too and I had wondered if this was why the Dockers' Battalion was formed. As you say the army had already been used as strike breakers and in that area too because earlier in March 1915 soldiers from the Bantam battalion of the Cheshire regiment who had been training nearby were drafted in to the Birkenhead Gasworks to replace the striking corporation gas workers who had plunged Birkenhead into darkness

Caryl

If you are looking for some Service Records and already haven't done so then put

Dock* Liver* in the Regiment field of the Service Records for a return of around 240 records. All Liverpool addresses.

hywyn

Thanks Hywyn, didn't know that and it's very helpful. I'm wondering if I'll find any of my family members amongst them!

This is all news to me, had not even heard of this Battalion until I posted about it at the beginning of this thread (and I'm always reading books about local history!)

Caryl

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Also news to me that women were employed as dockers on Liverpool docks during the Great war, albeit for a very short period, found this snippet:

http://www.docstoc.com/docs/17851036/WOMEN...ational-Museums

In early March 1916 due to the shortage of male dockers around 30-50 women were taken on at Huskisson Dock, working as porters moving the unloaded cotton into the Leyland Line warehouses on trucks. These women were employed for about three weeks until opposition from the male dockers and their union forced the company to cease their employment. Around the same time women were also taken on by Harrison Line at Toxteth Dock to unload their ships but again the men refused to work with them and backed by the union the employers ceased to employ women as dockers

Source: Women on the waterfront

Caryl

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This Topic gets more and more interesting with every new post

Gill

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There was often ferocious opposition to the employment of women from the unions, who had fought long and hard to achieve working conditions which they felt obliged to preserve.

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  • 1 year later...

Caryl

If you are looking for some Service Records and already haven't done so then put

Dock* Liver* in the Regiment field of the Service Records for a return of around 240 records. All Liverpool addresses.

hywyn

Hi just came across this site not used it for awhile just want to know where i can access the dockers battalion ,. as is mentioned above

saidy x

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