Millwall not scabs shock

BBC Radio 5 Live presenter and Millwall fan Danny Baker swapping shirts with Hollywood star and West Ham United supporter Ray Winstone

Prior to the two clubs meeting at The Den back in September 2011, Transpontine discussed the Millwall and West Ham rivalry and asked whether its origins in the 1926 General Strike is based on reality of fiction.

Millwall are playing at home to West Ham on Saturday in case you didn't know, and the police have promised a massive operation across South London to deal with it. Let's just say there's a bit of a history between the two clubs, and when they last met in 2009 there was some pretty heavy fighting.

One oft-repeated bit of football folklore is that this rivalry dates back to the 1926 General Strike. Here's what the Daily Mail said:

'Millwall, formed in 1885 by dockers and shipbuilders on the Isle of Dogs gained support in the surrounding areas and were then the best team outside the FA, nicknamed the 'Lions of the South'... Tensions reached their peak in the 1920s when Thames Ironworks moved to a new home and adopted the name West Ham United. As Millwall struggled, West Ham's star was rising. Fighting broke out during the 1926 general strike when the West Ham dockers were on strike while Millwall carried on working' (26 August 2009).

Or The Telegraph (28 August 2009): 'To the north you had the workforce of the Royal docks (drenched in the claret-and-blue of West Ham) and to the south, the Millwall, London and Surrey docks (Millwall 'til they died). When the Millwall shipyard broke the 1926 dockers' strike, the outrage over the water raised tensions to tipping point'.

This gets endlessly repeated across wikipedia etc. But is it true? By 1926 Millwall had been based in New Cross for 16 years, having moved from the Isle of Dogs in 1910. Doubtless Millwall had many supporters employed in the docks on the South of the River and presumably some still working across the Thames on the Isle of Dogs. But during the 1926 General Strike, the dockers across London seem to have been solid. Looking through quite a few books on the matter, I can find no mention of South London or Isle of Dogs dockers being strikebreakers.

On the contrary, at Surrey Docks only seven people turned up to work out of 2,000 on the first day of the strike. A mass picket at the gates of the Dock kept it effectively closed, and even the Port of London Authority clerical staff walked out - their first ever strike. The only attempts at strike breaking involved the use of students and naval ratings to unload ships. There were clashes between police and strikers in Tooley Street as these strikebreakers were brought in to Hays's Wharf (source: Nine Days in May: The General Strike in Southwark, Past Tense Publicaitons). But none of this involved dockers, Millwall supporters or otherwise, in strike breaking.

I am afraid the myth of the Millwall scabs seems to be a vicious slur on the South London proletariat! This will no doubt come as a relief to the team's most well known supporter today: Bob Crow of the rail workers' union.

[update 18 September 2011: this myth got yet another airing yesterday on the BBC's Football League Show with the presenter saying that in 1926 there were 'differences of opinions between the rival docks about whether or not to support the General Strike' and some interviewed West Ham fans repeating a similar line. Apart from anything else it is not true that there were rival docks in 1926 - all the main docks on both sides of the river including East India, West India, Millwall, Surrey and Royal Albert were taken under the single management of the Port of London Authority in 1909]

From Transpontine, written Friday, September 16, 2011.


Serge Forward
Jan 10 2012 21:31

Back in the late 80s, me and a mate used to get in free to Millwall games. It was like fucking being in fuckin purgatory. The fans were dead nice to us and didn't give a shit that we were red mancs gobbing off about how good united are grin

Jan 10 2012 21:31
Tommy Ascaso wrote:
Millwall did provide workers for schools during the June 30th strike

The actual club, supporters' club, ultras, who? From personal experience, I know some of West Ham's lot to be cunts, it was piss funny when we (Wigan) sent them down last season!

Jan 10 2012 21:41

Serge, that's probably cos you were man united... from 1:50 minutes onward grin

Serge Forward
Jan 10 2012 22:56

He's been doing that same routine since the 1970s... in fact, I've got the original recording somewhere, 'they've got no cowin bovril!'

Anyway, FC United is the future now. Moston here we come!

Caiman del Barrio
Jan 11 2012 11:27

Fingers Malone will be happy to hear this.

On a funnier note, I remember Chilli Sauce being so freaked out by Millwall fans when we took him to our local a few months back that he had to go home... wink

fingers malone
Jan 11 2012 14:08

Always knew it couldn't be true. Our name is clean at last.

Tommy Ascaso wrote:
Millwall did provide workers for schools during the June 30th strike, and a lot of the fans are scum.

Still upset because I beat you at pool?

Jan 11 2012 16:38

As a west ham fan I have blithely passed this piece of information on many times. Now I find out it's bollocks. You break my heart. Now I need to find a new reason to hate the Millwall.

Probably them beating us again.

Jan 12 2012 22:24

I've spent my whole life hating Millwall, I was going nuts at the Den on New Years Eve when we beat them, I think they are a dying football culture, are hemorrhaging fans and might well go down this season... I've still never believed half of the 'political' stuff about them. To be honest this whole general strike stuff is new to me (but then I've never been interested in east london derbies wink), however the 'Millwall fans are racist' bit that gets paraded out now and then (pretty regularly by my fellow fanbase) has most often seemed to be based on the club as a perceived bastion of the much fabled south london 'white working class' (arguably pretty debatable as most Millwall fans come in on trains from Kent and everyone I've ever met from Bermondsey supports Man Utd) and all the crap that goes along with it. In terms of strikes, at the job I just left there was one other Palace co-worker and one Millwall guy, both of them went in to work on the November 30th BIG DAY OUT so I can't really moralise about anything... except for myself but that's just arrogant!

fingers malone
Jan 17 2012 15:12

Palace are notorious as the "middle class family values" club of South London. Charlton have never managed to be notorious for anything.

Jan 17 2012 16:24
fingers malone wrote:
Palace are notorious as the "middle class family values" club of South London. Charlton have never managed to be notorious for anything.

Yeah, we've always been the 'Nigels', with a lot of fans coming in from nice Surrey areas. Ironically we're 'pikeys' to a lot of other clubs on account of the perceived view of Croydon as underclass scum. I don't think either is particularly accurate (although we do have a fair number of Surrey fans) but anyway I thought your argument was always that Croydon isn't a part of London?wink

Oct 25 2012 23:38

The whole idea that supporters of one particular football team are scabs is absolutely absurd. It doesn't need any more comment than this.

Also considering the distance in time it is doubly absurd. People who supported this team scabbed in 1926, and therefore they are scabs? It is insane.

I can remember working somewhere in the late 80s where many people didn't talk to one particular worker because he had scabbed in 1971. I think there is something problematic in this, but the idea of accusing people of something because their grandfather's supposedly scabbed is batshit insane.


Oct 26 2012 20:53
fingers malone wrote:
Charlton have never managed to be notorious for anything.

No one hates us, we don't care. wink

fingers malone
Oct 26 2012 21:12

I only hate Charlton for the time I walked for ages in the freezing sleet looking for the right bus stop after going to an away game at the "Valley" one day in January.

Oct 27 2012 09:02

I've never found Millwall to be any different re;racism than any other club and in fact knew a couple who were of the viewpoints we would share who were very vociferous in supporting the Lions shall we say red n black star wink

Feb 12 2013 21:42

Good article. My english side of my fam are millwall from peckham but they all live in kent now..

South hammer
Feb 14 2014 20:03

Due to economic cleansing by the Tories, white working class people now no longer can afford to live in London. They live in Essex if their families came from east london and kent if they were from south london. Wouldn't it make sense to build a stadium for west ham in somewhere like Grays or Basildon?

Noah Fence
Feb 15 2014 03:51

Post removed.