The Battle of Lewes Road Part 6
The collapse of the General Strike
The collapse of the General Strike was not expected. Morale was so high and organisation so strong that in some parts of the country, before it was known that the T.U.C. had accepted term tantamount to “unconditional surrender,” demonstrators were organised to celebrate the “Victory.” The men who had sacrificed so much to prove their solidarity with the miners were completely bewildered when it was realised that their heroic stand had brought them defeat. The employers were not in pressing home their advantage. Many in Brighton saw the act of calling off the strike by the General Council of the T.U.C. as a betrayal. Those who must have felt it most keenly were the strikers who lost their jobs when the management of the local transport companies refused to reinstate them after the strike, one such company was Southdown Motors, when the strikes returning back to work, were told that they must state whether they belonged to a trade union or not. Some of the strikers within Brighton were dismissed by their employers for taking part in the General Strike and were black listed by other employers within the town.
Peace with honour
“Peace with Honour” proclaimed the headline of the British Worker newspaper, but there was nothing honourable about the way in which the strikers, and especially the miners, had been sold out. Disheartened, workers began to drift back to work. The miners fought on for another seven months, but by November they had been compelled to return to the pits on the worst possible terms. Union membership slumped. In 1927 the government passed the Trades Disputes Act, which made both general and sympathetic strikes illegal.
Meanwhile, in the bar of the Savoy Hotel, Harry Craddock and his well-heeled patrons were celebrating the end of the General Strike. “Let us set England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland going again,” Baldwin had said in his radio address. The Strike’s Off cocktail, created on May 12, 1926, was Craddock’s own response to the Prime Minister’s appeal. Appropriately enough, it leaves a sour taste in the mouth:
¼ Lemon or Lime Juice, ¼ Swedish Punch, ½ Gin.
The following morning the 22 prisoners who had been arrested at the two disturbances were brought before the bench. They had been remanded in custody from the previous evening, when, with indecent haste, an emergency Magistrates Court. They were marched through the town from the police station to the town hall where they appeared before the emergency magistrates’ court. They had been summoned and the men immediately charged with incitement to riot, throwing bottles and stones, assaulting the police etc. They were legally represented by A. J. Grinstead, a Labour Councillor, who did what he could in the difficult circumstances. All 22 received sentences of hard labour, from one to six months; others were heavily fined.
The trail lasted about six hours and during the lunch interval news was received that the General Council of the T.U.C. had called of the strike. On resuming, A.J. Grinstead submitted that the case should be adjourned, adding: “I think I may say, sir, that we are all desiring that if there is peace, it should be a general peace.” The magistrate ruled against an adjournment, and with the vicious sentences already referred to were recorded.
There was a large crowd outside the Town Hall as the prisoners, handcuffed together in twos and threes, were brought out by the police. They were hurried into large private cars with more police brought up the rear of the procession. Some of the men smiled at relatives in the crowd, who waved handkerchiefs in acknowledgement. The cars turned on to the Sea Front in the direction of Portsmouth.
Many thanks to Paul Edwards
“The Brighton Motive Power Depots” website
Over many years much has been written about the various forms of traction that operated in and around the Brighton area.
But very little has been documented about the footplate-men who actually worked on them.
This web site tries to remedy this as it seeks to explain the history of
Brighton’s Motive Power depots and the creation of the Brighton branch of the train driver’s union,
ASLEF – the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers & Firemen