Thursday, 3 August 2017

Calling out the troops to the Lancashire coal fields ........ 1912

The years before the Great War were a time of major industrial confrontation and saw some of the bitterest clashes between employers and the Government on one side and organised labour on the other.

A squadron of the 16th Lancers at Leigh, April 1912
During 1911 there were strikes in the south Wales coal fields, and trouble in Liverpool which began with a sailors strike and spread across the city involving other industries.

And while the miners lost, the workers in Liverpool were mostly successful and pointed the way forward for other workers in other industries around the country.

There was a growing feeling that industrial action would deliver a better life for working people.

Royal Fusiliers at Fletcher and Burrows Chesters Pit, Atherton, April 1912
And the agitation even spread to the schools. In over sixty cities and towns children came out as well.

The number of working days lost because of strikes climbed as did the number of trade union members, and in Parliament Churchill, the Home Secretary was often preoccupied with questions on the industrial unrest.

All of this was against a backdrop of wage cuts, poor working conditions, and rapid inflation. Between 1889 and 1910 the cost of food rose by 10 per cent and the cost of coal by 18 per cent.

The life expectancy for working men was just 50 years of age and 54 for women, five per cent of children aged between 10 and 14 were already at work and the richest one percent held 70 percent of the wealth.

4th Battalion Royal City of London Fusiliers at Leigh, April 1912
Here in Manchester in the summer of 1911 the carter’s came out on strike and there were other strikes by the engineers and in the dock workers.

The following year there was a national coal strike aimed at securing a minimum wage.  It began in Derbyshire spread across the country and lasted for 37 days.

Troops were dispatched to the coal fields and the dispute finally ended with the Liberal Government passing the Coal Mines (Minimum Wage) Act.*

Location; 1912

Pictures; from the Manchester Weekly Times, April 12, 1912

*"to provide a Minimum Wage in the case of workmen employed underground in Coal Mines" from the debate on the bill, which can be read at HC Deb 19 March 1912 vol 35 cc1723-93,

No comments:

Post a Comment