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Remembered Today:

Tyneside strikers, March 1917

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Here is another quote from the family letters that I am editing. This is by Philip Dodgson, an officer in C/235 Bty RFA, 47th London Division, writing on 22nd March, 1917:

.... The Boche seem to be behaving as badly now as they did at the beginning, and they deserve the worst. Likewise the Tyneside strikers and, to an extent, those who are so weak as to allow them to strike. We are all disgusted to read about it.

Please can anyone illuminate me as to what strikes this could refer to? Shipbuilders and/or miners? I've been reading de Groots 'Blighty' and Marwick's 'The Deluge' and neither refers specifically to industrial unrest on Tyneside, though 1917 was the worst year of the war for industrial unrest with May 1917 seeing most strikes.

many thanks


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This from Hansard (HC Deb 04 April 1917 vol 92 cc1419-80):-

"I want to raise the question of the food supply and the food distribution, and I want, if I may, to speak a word of restraint, warning, and counsel to the Government in regard to the matter of industrial unrest in certain areas, and especially munition areas, at the present time. The food problem is becoming a serious problem for many of our working people. Since the outbreak of war the price of the 4-lb. loaf has gone up in London from 5½d. to 1s., and the bread is of a coarser quality. It may be a matter of argument as to whether it is less nutritious, but it is certainly of a coarser quality. Wheat prices are soaring mountains high. Wheat actually changed hands the other day at Sheffield at 90s. a quarter, the highest for more than a hundred years. Oats were sold at Berwick the other day at 66s., which is absolutely the highest price on record. And when we come to other foods of working-class consumption, you find in regard to things like potatoes, for example, that there are long queues in London and in other towns, sometimes a quarter to half a mile long, and women and children standing in those queues the whole forenoon on the off-chance of getting a pound or half a pound of potatoes, and at the end finding that there are no potatoes available. I believe that in Manchester the average supply in the working-class districts is I lb. of potatoes, and very often even that is entirely unobtainable. In Tyneside, Sunderland, and other districts we are told of long queues waiting for hours, and of disappointment following the long hours of waiting. Quite recently a deputation of women, many of them the wives of soldiers now in the trenches, went to the Lord Provost of Glasgow in order to tell him their difficulties with regard to food supplies and the shortage. I am sorry to say the Lord Provost of Glasgow, for reasons best known to himself, refused to discuss that question with these women, and he made the remark that food supplies depended upon the elements and upon Almighty God, and that the best thing they could do was to go home and mind their children. 1434 Remarks of that kind at times like the present will not go far to promote good relationship or the right spirit. Vegetables have gone up in price, there is an increasing shortage of margarine, and butter is entirely out of the question in working-class households, and during the last week the price of margarine has increased 4d. per pound."


And, separately, this:-

"My mother was a good housewife and a very good cook. Before she was married she worked as a dressmaker and during world war one, in a munitions factory on Tyneside."


So I'm guessing it was the munitions workers' dissatisfaction at the high price of food etc?

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From The Times Archive it appears to have been a strike over wages, although very little detail is given; there are also reports of similar problems at Barrow at around the same time and before that with Welsh miners. In May there were further problems with unnofficial strike action by engineering union members over proposed or new regulations in connection with the prevention of skilled men being called up for military service; there are also reports of strikes and disputes in both France and Germany....

The Times, Thursday, Mar 22, 1917; pg. 9; Issue 41433; col E

Tyne Engineers' Strike Offer From The Minister Of Labour.

Letter from the Secretary of the Minister of Labour to Mr Robert Young, general secretary of the amalgamated Society of Engineers

requesting a return to work due to 'his deep concern at the interruption in the supply of munitions of war, which are so urgently needed by the army in the field, and the delay in providing guns for our mecantile marine, who are running such grave risks from the German submarine' ....guarantees a hearing of the case and a decision within a week of restarting if work was resumed immediately...

...P.S it is understood that the question for the hearing referred to in this letter is the original application on November 9, 1916

So it looks as if it had been developing for a few months.

The Times, Friday, Mar 23, 1917; pg. 7; Issue 41434; col B

Tyne Engineers' Strike. A Partial Return To Work. (FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT.).

The Times, Saturday, Mar 24, 1917; pg. 7; Issue 41435; col C

Tyne dispute settled

The engineers' wages dispute on the Tyne was settled yesterday after mass meetings held at Newcastle, Jarrow, and Northshields, at which majorities voted in favour of returning to work. The Tyne District Committee met at Newcastle last night, and instructed the members to resume work not later than Monday morning, and at once if possible, pending the hearing of their case as promised by the Minister of labour


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