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Remembered Today:

Disturbance in Calais 24th July 1918


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21 hours ago, FROGSMILE said:

I think that suggests an organised protest of some kind that it is known might target MMP billets that were either known to be nearby the proposed site of the protest, or would be passed by a moving mass of bodies.  In other words to provide a protective cordon sanitaire.

 

NB.  POW companies were Labour Corps units I think and organised to put POW to work on organised labour tasks largely within French infrastructure, in order to compensate for French manpower in uniform.

I have been looking in detail at the WD entry for this incident and note the following interesting points:

24th July

1) Officers went to recon the area where the disturbance had been. This implies that the deployment was in response to actions rather than in anticipation.

2) The mention that exits were to be closed in case of an attack suggests that the mob came from within the camp I think.

26th July

Focus shifts to Calais town “ in case of disturbances in any part of the town”. I assume that disturbances would be caused by off duty troops rather than locals.

I have also found a reference in a book to a mutiny in Calais in July 1918 which I am trying to follow up on.

Edited by Stevejm
correction
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The plot thickens. I found a continuation page in the WD which I think says that they found 60 armed men hiding out in the training area. I struggle to read some of it but it seems to refer to deserters who had been wanted for months

deserters.jpg

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FROGSMILE

It’s starting to make sense now.  It seems to have been a precautionary operation to prevent the repeat of an earlier incident, and connected with relatively large groups of deserters that were foraging during silent hours.  The roaming of such feral gangs, fending for themselves by pilfering is relatively well known to students of WW1.  Their existence played a fairly central part in some of the episodes of the TV series of some decades ago titled The Monocled Mutineer, which was a drama covering the WW1 experiences and eventual demise of the then notorious Percy Toplis.  The gangs did exist and caused the military authorities some problems for a while.

Edited by FROGSMILE
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21 minutes ago, FROGSMILE said:

It’s starting to make sense now.  It seems to have been a precautionary operation to prevent the repeat of an earlier incident, and connected with relatively large groups of deserters that were foraging during silent hours.  The roaming of such feral gangs, fending for themselves by pilfering is relatively well known to students of WW1.  Their existence played a fairly central part in some of the episodes of the TV series of some decades ago titled The Monocled Mutineer, which was a drama covering the WW1 experiences and eventual demise of the then notorious Percy Toplis.

Yes it makes sense now. The first time I read that page I thought it was referring to the battalion that remained in the front line because of the reference to trenches and dug outs but on second reading I realised that it is referring to the training ground at Calais.

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20 hours ago, FROGSMILE said:

It’s starting to make sense now.  It seems to have been a precautionary operation to prevent the repeat of an earlier incident, and connected with relatively large groups of deserters that were foraging during silent hours.  The roaming of such feral gangs, fending for themselves by pilfering is relatively well known to students of WW1.  Their existence played a fairly central part in some of the episodes of the TV series of some decades ago titled The Monocled Mutineer, which was a drama covering the WW1 experiences and eventual demise of the then notorious Percy Toplis.  The gangs did exist and caused the military authorities some problems for a while.

Its also interesting that the WD entry doesn't mention how the deserters were dealt with. Perhaps the Base Commandant's address on 29th July was an ultimatum to them? 

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FROGSMILE
1 hour ago, Stevejm said:

Its also interesting that the WD entry doesn't mention how the deserters were dealt with. Perhaps the Base Commandant's address on 29th July was an ultimatum to them? 

Yes it seems possible, as I recall reading that some discontented soldiers were addressed formally during other incidents, including apparently by General Byng.  Much of what happened then (records and accounts) has been lost leaving just fragmentary details.  A lot of it had a flavour of trade unionism (not a bad thing in itself, but troubling when in a military scenario soon after the German offensive).  I’m told that the best book covering such matters is The Unknown Army: Mutinies in the British Army in World War I by Dallas, Gloden and Gill, Doug ( ISBN: 9780860911067), published in 1985.  There’s a book on the same subject by Julian Putkowski, but it focuses more narrowly around the Etaples affair.

Edited by FROGSMILE
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