10 Mutiny

Submitted by Reddebrek on August 15, 2020

Invergordon has been called the `quiet` mutiny. A far more appropriate word is `determined`. There could have been no more determined men in the world than the mutineers of the Atlantic Fleet on those two days in 1931. There was none of that strange atmosphere which usually engulfs a fleet when a small mutiny breaks out on a single ship, when the ship in question seems to have been put in quarantine and a pall of mystery settles over it. From the beginning we knew we were going to win and we had no fears that, having lost out, the Board of Admiralty would let loose its hang-em-at-the-yard-arm revenge complex. Our strike was based on the solidarity of all involved.

Having decided, on Norfolk, to delay action till 8 am, we turned out in the normal manner and went through the almost ritual job of washing decks. In the poor light of the Highland morning it was not easy to see the other vessels of the Fleet but we could clearly hear loud cheering coming from more than one of the big ships. It was our duty to keep our promise and join in after breakfast. It may be said that it was our duty to continue loyal service, but who were we expected to be loyal to? The people who had a duty not to break a promise and did?

Events on Norfolk followed the expected pattern. Naturally Captain Prickett had been informed that our late action was only a little strategy to put the onus of starting on the big ships, but our intelligence agents had informed us of the move he meant to make to cut the ground from under us. He planned to call a meeting of the ship’s company just before eight o’clock and, once the men were mustered, to talk to us about the futility of our action, promise his help in raising the question of our grievances and then, by saying something such as `Now, men, let’s go to work`, end it all peacefully.

I put it to the men that the pay cuts were ordered by a body much higher than Captain Prickett and that even if he were acting in good faith there was nothing he could do. If he got us to go to work, we had lost. At 7.30 am, together with Able Seaman Shields, I made the round of the mess decks where were housed the people we considered the most important: the seaman’s mess deck and finally the very vital Marines’ mess deck, the Marines being the only men among us who were sworn in when joining the service. There was no need for long speeches. In fact for the stokers but four words were needed: `Are you with us?` There was an immediate response in the affirmative and having obtained the same answer from both seamen and torpedo men, it was left for me to go down to the Marines.

I must confess that as I made my way to their mess deck I had certain apprehensions. After all, only men who have taken the oath of allegiance know how deep an impression it makes. However the reception I received was no less enthusiastic than on the other mess decks. Perhaps people will ask how it was that an able seaman with no exceptional popularity on the ship or any great achievements could have swayed serious-minded men so easily. The answer is that it was not Able Seam Wincott’s powers of oratory or his persuasive manner, but the inhuman behaviour of the Board of Admiralty which drove these people to desperate measures. Able Seaman Wincott was nothing more than a vehicle conveying from one branch of the ship to another the combined wish to begin concerted action.

A little while after my tour representatives of the Marines came to ask me for special protection: they feared they might be called out one by one and thereby isolated from the rest of the men. As shall be seen, we took our own counter-measures. Now we had nothing to do but wait for the captain’s next move.

Exactly at a quarter to eight Captain Prickett ordered `Clear lower deck` and gave the petty officers the word that no one was to be excused. Knowing this muster was due we had previously agreed to attend the call and listen to what the captain had to say, but if within three to five minutes he had not announced that the pay cuts were to be reviewed, we were all to leave the quarter-deck and make straight for the forecastle. As it happened, Captain Prickett sent us to the forecastle sooner than we had intended, for he began on a very unfortunate note. As a result of our action, he told us, several million pounds had already been knocked off British shares in the Argentine alone. Why he chose the Argentine I don’t know- perhaps he had interests there himself. It was somewhat out of place to try to impress sailors on four bob a day, about to drop to three, with the misfortunes of shareholders in the Argentine or Timbuktu or anywhere else. In the event there was not a murmur and no one was noticed jumping over the side in the absence of a skyscraper window. Instead, at the signal, there was a mass movement to the forecastle, and Captain Prickett was left talking to his officers and petty officers.

Keeping our promise to the Marines, we set them in the eyes of the ship and then stood between them and any possible attempt to cajole them back to work on the basis of their oath. At this point the cooks sent a representative to ask me what role they should play during the strike. They were quite ready to down soup ladles with us. I quickly pointed out that they were more valuable to us as cooks than as strikers, as we had no intention of leaving the ship and would need to eat. This little scene may seem rather insignificant when compared with the events taking place in the Fleet that day, but it refutes the calumny that I was conspiring to organise a march on London. In fact everything that followed refutes this unfounded stupidity, which Whitehall still lovingly preserves in its archives, to add to the pollution of Britain.

It was a false start, this attempt by Captain Prickett to win sympathy from men whose one concern was their immediate predicament whose meagre income was accounted in shillings and not in millions. Just those few opening words convinced us that no serving officer of the Fleet, no matter how he sympathised, could change the situation: our fate was in the hands of that small group of men known as the Board of Admiralty. Captain Prickett’s words also convinced us of the relentless truth of the axiom `The well-fed man cannot understand the hungry man`.

From the moment the men of Norfolk took up their position on the forecastle and announced their solidarity with the other striking ships by a loud cheer, they were on their own. From then on their decisions and behaviour, like the decisions and behaviour of the men on the other individual ships, was up to them. There were no leaders except those thrown up by the crisis. There were no secret contacts with other ships. There was no system of passing messages, as the creators of the Invergordon fables would have us believe. Throughout the mutiny events on different ships followed more or less the same pattern, but this cannot be construed as evidence of premeditation or secret signals. Circumstances of shipboard life had been standardised for years and it was these which dictated the men’s behaviour. For instance, a unanimous concern was the safety of the ships and the officers. This had always been important and no less now, perhaps even more so. Therefore officers of divisions and departments had full access to the men. There were no threats, no insults, no attempts to avoid contact with officers, although a popular officer was talked to more freely than one who had less popularity or none.

Now, whilst the men of Norfolk are gathered on the forecastle, carrying out the necessary chores and talking to the officers, it is a convenient moment to break the narrative and put he case for the lower deck.
In previous versions of the Invergordon story most writers have hurried to show what fabulous salaries sailors received. The Admiralty’s official view in 1931 was that our pay was overgenerous and should be brought down to the level of workers’ wages. Somehow that statement conflicted with our conception of these so-generous wages: we were of the opinion that if we were to be put on a level with workers in factories, our wages would have to go up, not down. On the side of the Admiralty, in their claim that we were overpaid, were, and are, many educated people. It is strange that even now, when our universities are turning out thousands and thousands of these so-called educated people, the belief that they know it all is still preserved. You have your elaborately got up piece of paper called a diploma, you speak with the `correct` accent, and that is it, you’re in the circle. And of all these `proper` accents, the Navy had the most exaggerated, a subject of many jokes on the lower deck, with its mixture of every one of the hundreds of accents of Britain. The AB on duty on a certain ship once reported to the lieutenant who was OOD the arrival in port of another warship. Saluting, he said `The Alligator is entering harbour, sir`. From the summit of his higher education, the OOD looked scornfully at him and said `Alligator? What do you mean, my man? You should say “Elligaytah!”` `Yes, sir,` said the AB, `and the Krokodilee is just behind`.

That is just a diversion into lower deck humour, but it helps make the point that hundreds of these diploma-ed people are mere Professors of Gabology. Yet because they have their bit of paper, they are elected to committees on important affairs of state and given huge salaries and no time limit. At the time of Invergordon these committees were springing up like mushrooms, and their main aim was to show that all the lower paid were being pampered, as a result of which the country was running into financial difficulties. The so-called experts manipulated their figures and convincingly demonstrated that the poor could be more economical; the unemployed could eat grass, the sailor’s wife could sell some little luxury like a gramophone bought at great sacrifice. Then they went through the comedy of getting a democratic backing for their measures, showing them first to the bodies supposed to be representative of every section of the British people. Strangely enough the Trades Union Congress rejected all their suggestions except the ten per cent cut proposed for judges (paid £10,000 a year) and ministers. The TUC’s views did not cut much ice, yet it was in the TUC that the real specialist on the low paid worker was to be found, the late Mr Ernest Bevin, head of the largest union in the country and one of the many union leaders who had lugged heavy loads on board ships and actually lived a low paid life.

Turning to the Navy, the experts went to town to show the British public that if the British sailor did not ride around in a Roll-Royce, it was only because he spent too much on beer. The lower deck really had no reason to strike, they said. It was not losing twenty-five per cent of its income because it benefited from allowances on top of its basic pay. Figures can’t lie, they said, forgetting that we of the lower deck together with the unemployed had long ago learned that liars could figure. Now I will attempt to describe what our fabulous wages looked like when placed on the cap of a son of the sea, whilst inside the head that fitted under that cap a thousand questions were circling around on how he was going to keep his wife and children decently.
The flat rate for an able seaman who joined the Navy before October 1925 was four shillings a day, and on that sum alone could he rely entirely. All extras were subject to conditions and were about as stable as the weather in the Bay of Biscay. For instance, at the age of twenty-one he received his first good-conduct bandage, which entitled him to another three pence per day. However it was only necessary for him to fall foul of some minor naval regulation and away went this little extra. Not only that: by losing that badge he was faced with the possibility of losing in addition his fifteen years’ good conduct medal which carried with it a gratuity of fifty pounds. Small wonder that the men referred to this award as the Medal for Fifteen Years’ Undiscovered Crimes.

That it was not so difficult to lose a good conduct badge may be seen from the following incident. The same captain who took us on our wonderful trip to China deprived one man of his good conduct badge, a leading seaman of his rating, and five crewmen of their badges, and added seven days’ cells into the bargain, all because they were reported by the flagship to rowing raggedly. It happened at Gibraltar, where they were taking the whaler on some mission or other; as they passed the break in the mole a heavy sea struck and for a moment they lost stroke. When an `extra` can depend on the whim of an officer, who may or may not like you personally, it is certainly not to be relied on.

Much has been made of the extra known as the `clothing allowance`, and the impression has perhaps been created that it was given in addition to the clothing supplied by the service. The truth is a little different and shows that the government was actually doing business on this allowance. When a boy joined the Navy at the tender age of 15 ¾ he was completely kitted up within the first two days. No one will deny that the kit issued to new entrants was something to admire, complete in every detail down to tooth powder. On finishing his course and leaving for sea-service, he received in addition a sailor’s overcoat, tropical suits and a few minor articles. But from that day on he received nothing free of charge, not even a length of cotton to sew on a button with.

Instead he got a clothing allowance of threepence a day (this threepence, like a tip for a liftboy, seemed a widespread practice in the Admiralty). It would appear that with careful treatment of his clothes, a man could be in hand threepence a day, only rarely making incursions into the accumulated sum to renew some article which had outlived its usefulness. However there were plenty of people, aided by a number of regulations, to put a check on a man trying to become rich from his clothing allowance. According to regulations, his immediate commanding officer was obliged to conduct a kit inspection every two weeks. True, many officers avoided this chore, but many did not. Any clothing which did not come up to the officer’s conception of naval uniform standards was condemned and new items provided, the cost being withheld from the man’s pay.
If there was no particular emphasis on these regulations on the ships, the system in the Royal Naval Barracks at Devonport made up for it. It was known as `clothing class`, but it had nothing to do with teaching sailors how to sew on buttons or patch a pair of pants. It should have been called `clothing inquisition`. The `class` was held in a large basement in one of the barracks and was in the charge of a WO [Warrant Officer] whose five underlings, all petty officers, were evidently chosen for their reputations as what sailors called `pure, unadulterated bastards`. Every man entering the barracks had first to acquire a card, something in the nature of an identity card minus photograph, which was known to the men as a `breathing licence`. Without it nothing could be done, and until it was stamped by the clothing class he could not breathe freely.

The man spread out his kit on the floor and one of the petty officers took on the job of inspection, both for condition and inventory, some of the articles had long since ceased to serve any useful purpose, but that did not matter: they had been issued and had to be accounted for. The favourite trick of the junior inquisitors was to take up a pair of trousers, search it inch by inch until they found the beginning of a hole, thrust their two index fingers through the cloth, crowing `What’s this? What’s this?` and pull their fingers apart until the garment was torn almost in two and, of course, beyond repair.

In view of the fact that the purchase of, say, a suit was a big drag on a man’s pay, an enterprising firm of naval tailors in Devonport organised a scheme whereby the men could make a regular allocation from their pay and take clothing as and when required. For the businessman it was an advantageous deal. Thousands signed the allocation agreement, with the result that every week the tailor put large sums of money into his bank, where it earned him a tidy sum in interest for no more effort on his part than the trouble of keeping his bankbook in a safe place. Now no one made an allocation of the mere sum of threepence a day – a weekly sum of twenty-one pence or in the financial language of those days, one shilling and ninepence. They always added to this sum from their own pockets, for the tailor would not accept less than ten shillings a month.
So the Navy got its pound of flesh from the clothing allowance. Only the experts can be gullible enough to think it was an addition.

I have already mentioned the monthly mess bill which a goodly part of the lower deck was still paying in those days, as the `general messing` system only slowly overtook the whole Navy. Another expense which the economists failed to take into account was the regular leave railway fare. If we take it that the majority of the men hailed from London or from the north, we can say that on average the men paid a good three pounds per year in railway fares. I know that when I once lost my return ticket from Leicester to Plymouth, the inspector took my name and particulars and three months later I was called into the ship’s office and signed away more than two pounds for that one-way trip. On another occasion, when I was still an ordinary seaman, I drew my pay to go on leave for two weeks and just managed to cover my railway fare. Yet all the efforts by lower deck representatives to introduce a contributory system whereby a weekly subscription would ensure free travel for seamen proceeding on leave were persistently blocked.

There was a marriage allowance, but it was limited to sailors of twenty-five or over and by no standards could it have been considered excessive: six shillings for the first child, then down to two shillings for the following one. Why the minimum age of twenty-five was imposed is incomprehensible, unless, of course, it was thought better for virile young men of twenty-three or twenty-four to spend their energies in brothels than in the marriage-bed, or better still, skulking around dark alleys or in cheap doss houses with the VD-ravaged `free` prostitutes of Britain.

But extras are extras to whomever they are paid. Some extras, somewhat more juicy than those granted to the men, were never mentioned by the analysts who thought the lower deck too well off. For instance, according to the first of the Articles of War, every captain or commander of a ship had to `cause worship of Almighty God` to be observed, or suffer punishment for not doing so. Should there be no chaplain aboard, the captain took prayers every morning after breakfast. It was a job which occupied at the most three minutes, but the captain pocketed an extra half-crown every time he did it – five-eights of an AB’s daily rate, not a mean extra. Furthermore captains were happy to arrange for chaplains to be absent, so that the half-crowns kept coming. I myself have taken part in filling a spare cabin with lumber so that the captain could plead he had no space for a chaplain.

How many more such extras for officers helped to swell the Navy bill I do not pretend to know, but entertainment money figured high on the list. Not for the men, however. When we visited Kiel, the crew of a German cruiser invited us to their own mess deck and did us really glorious. But after our convivial evening, we could only say `Thank you`. We had no chance of returning their hospitality.

After that digression which, based on personal knowledge, is far more authentic than the estimates of high-salaried so-called experts, let us get back to the forecastle of the Norfolk, where the men have gathered after Captain Prickett’s dismal failure to impress them with the story of the drop in British holdings in the Argentine.
One of the most extraordinary features of the Invergordon incident was the peaceful relationship between officers and men and, above all, the smoothness of the daily routine. An examination of the ship’s log of any of the ships involved will show a complete lack of abnormalities. Although different activities were continually underway on board the ships, officers interviewing groups of men and so forth, the harbour was deserted except for an occasional ship’s motorboat passing from one ship to another. As I have said, the strikers had no detailed plans and passed no secret messages, far less passwords or instructions. But if the crew of a passing motorboat from another striking ship showed crossed forearms, it conveyed to us that the men of that ship were still solid in their strike. This was not a planned signal. The crossed forearms were one of many unofficial signals that had entered Navy life years and years before and actually meant `Tie up` or `Finish`. In our particular circumstances at Invergordon it was automatically adopted to mean something more.

We were visited regularly by our officers all through the day and these regular approaches unwittingly gave us an inkling of what was going on higher up. At the beginning the officers were mainly concerned with getting us to go back to work on the understanding that they, the officers, including the highest in the Fleet, would take all steps within their power to help us. But they soon realised that our quarrel was not with them, that whilst we believed in their integrity, our belief in the Admiralty was smashed entirely. After a time their suggestions took on another tone. Instead of trying to get us back to work, they proposed we should use the time for training. This also had no results.

Then came an interruption in our peaceful day. We on Norfolk were expecting a visitor, an important visitor. Our intelligence service, which had the complete trust of the wardroom and was probably working on both fronts, informed us that the admiral of our squadron, the Second Cruiser Squadron, was coming aboard to talk to us. We did not know him and moreover we did not know his name, for he had never taken any measures to make our acquaintance. His proposed visit meant nothing more to us than that higher officers were being brought into play, emphasising thereby our growing strength. However, exactly forty years after seeing him for two minutes on Norfolk, I discovered his name was Rear-Admiral Astley-Rushton, when I read it on page 115 of Mutiny at Invergordon in 1971. Well, Rear-Admiral Astley-Rushton used his two minutes for an abusive attack on us, using such choice expressions as `Bleddy fools! Bleddy hooligans!` Here was a typical example of the officer who despised his men, accepted the `scum of the earth` theory and was prepared to sacrifice anything except his own interests. Some years later he was killed in a car dash to London after discovering that his name had been omitted from the list of officers decorated after the Royal Review at Spithead. That same dash was sadly lacking when it came to defending the men he was called to lead, but perhaps the manner of his death offers an explanation of the behaviour of the Admiralty. Was it for awards and decorations that the Admiralty schemed to bend the knee to the Cabinet and sacrifice the living standards of ninety thousand loyal men?

Just before he left his own ship to come aboard Norfolk the Rear-Admiral managed to get his men assembled on the blind side, and during his talk he pointed to the deserted deck and said `You see, my men have turned to![1 ` The trick was so obvious that, together with his profanity, it convinced us he was an officer who would always treat sailors as half thugs, half retarded children.

As he left the Norfolk, we returned to our position on the forecastle, deeply disappointed with his foolish diatribe. The fable-mongers soon got busy, however, and the story was circulated that we had pelted his barge with potatoes – a physical impossibility unless we had come armed with potatoes to hear him speak. But not one officer could honestly say that the men of the Norfolk refused him a peaceful hearing all the time of the standstill.

One of our most popular officers, who never in all his approaches was given an impolite word, was Lieutenant-Commander Rogers. He was the officer of my division and we, the men under him, had always been grateful for his attitude towards us, especially his very humane manner of talking to us. During the strike Lieutenant-Commander Rogers was the officer who was most talked to, and it was he who, after the failures to get us to work or to train, asked `What do you want?` This was something we had not specifically discussed: our whole argument was that the proposed twenty-five per cent reduction would be an impossible burden on the men and their families; but the answer was clear and ready. The circumstances leading to its formulation were the solidarity of the men, the inability of the officers both high and low to break the strike by any means short of force, and finally the absolute incompetence of the Board of Admiralty in the presence if an unusual crisis. It reads like Lenin’s three essentials for revolution, but I can assure the reader that none of us knew of a man called Lenin, so I hope my use of the name will not give reactionaries suspicious thoughts.

When Lieutenant-Commander Rogers asked what we wanted, I rushed down below, took a sheet of foolscap and a pencil and wrote in large block letters `Go away and we will give our answer in writing`. I quickly returned to the forecastle and while Rogers was speaking to some of the men, I passed the sheet of paper to him over their shoulders. I doubt if he saw who gave it as he was surrounded by sailors, but on reading it, he readily agreed and even went so far as to make a gesture to help us, instructing AB George Hill, the commander’s office worker, to bring out to the forecastle the off typewriter, paper and a table. Hill had been in Devonport Division’s one and only typing class – the one and only, because at that time the Commodore of the RN Barracks was a man who believed in ships of iron and men of iron too. When he heard typing classes had been organised, he went off the deep end, shouting something about sailors soon being in skirts, and cancelled the classes.

Hill sat at the typewriter and I began to dictate. What I said was neither previously discussed nor subsequently altered. It poured out of my mouth as it came into my head. This is what I said:

We the loyal subjects of HM the King do hereby present my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty our representations to implore them to amend the drastic cuts in pay that have been inflicted on the lowest paid men on the lower deck.

It is evident to all concerned that this cut is the forerunner of tragedy, misery and immorality amongst the families of the lower deck and unless we can be guaranteed a written agreement from the Admiralty confirmed by Parliament stating that our pay will be revised we are still to remain as one unit, refusing to serve under the new rate of pay.
The men are quite willing to accept a cut which they, the men consider in reason.

Never was any document, which was afterwards to become an historical one, so easy to write. It just came out of me like a baby’s rhyme, learned to perfection, although I did not stop to think it out first, or make corrections, before putting the finished version on paper. But how I came to put on that extraordinary last sentence is still a mystery to me, the author. It contained a perfect opportunity to break the strike as it excluded the `X` ratings, the post-1925 men, from the sailor’s demands. The `X` ratings might have been persuaded to return to work, and any significant number of men turning to at that moment would have inevitably led to our complete collapse. But to our good fortune nobody except a few of these ratings noticed this possibility, and everybody, on the contrary, took this last sentence as a confirmation of our claim to loyalty, our desire to meet the government half way. It seems to me sheer negligence that this point was passed up. Nowadays when I read in the papers or hear on the radio that `experts` are studying a note from a foreign power, I wonder just what vital point they are overlooking.

Despite the official version that `only a few` men prompted the mutiny, despite the fact that other fleets did not strike in 1931, I believed then and still do today that the lower deck of the Royal Navy was, without exception, behind this statement. Trying to play down the affair and discredit the men, the authorities manufactured evidence that the would-be-loyal majority had been terrorised into strike action. The fable was spread around that only my brutal threats had forced AB Hill to type for me. It is a really gruesome picture: the scowling Wincott, stripped to his hairy chest (actually it is like a football field, with eleven on either side), the skull and crossbones tattooed on it in fifteen different colours, a huge red hammer and sickle on his back and a penknife thrust in his waist-band. `Type,` he growls at the fearless Hill, `or I’ll ditch the typewriter!` `Ditch and be damned!` retorts Hill, his eyes flashing with courage. But Wincott in his beer-soaked voice orders his henchmen to rig up the plank and blindfold the typewriter. It is too much for the noble Hill. He cannot sacrifice his beloved typewriter and bowing his head in grief he begins to type.

How ludicrous it all appears, but no more ludicrous than that such a tale could be taken seriously. How George would have laughed to know that I threatened my best friend on that ship, at whose home I had been a regular visitor and for whom I had acted as best man at his wedding but a few weeks before. But all these fairy tales of threats and conspiracies and plans to march on London could not avert the successful result of our action. When we had sent in our manifesto, and were waiting for a reply. A certain officer on Norfolk told us `You have won, but some of you will go outside`.

But there was a whole day to go before those words became a fact, and in the meantime we waited for the official answer to our manifesto. There were no further attempts to cajole or threaten the men back to work. It was now thoroughly realised by everyone, from the top to the bottom of the Fleet, that this was not the mutiny of the adventure books, but a displays of unprecendented solidarity by men who had been callously treated by award-seeking high officials; by men who looked poverty in the face and stared it down; by men who were always ready for the call of duty and who, if an enemy had attempted to take advantage of Invergordon, would have met him with all the fighting spirit of the naval tradition.

One of those to have personal evidence of these qualities was the Norfolk’s officer on duty that first day of the strike. When the order was given at 21000 hours to muster the fire party and night boat’s crew and close the B and C doors, safety measures taken on ships at night, the OOD was amazed to see, not the people called, lining up under the duty petty officer, but one man who stepped smartly up to him, saluted and reported, `Night boat’s crew and fire party mustered, sir. B and C doors closed.`

So astonished was he that he forgot to acknowledge the report, rushed down below to the wardroom which was full of officers and said, almost breathlessly, to the commander `Sir, they have mustered a night boat’s crew and fire party themselves! Yes, sir!` There was a momentary silence as his words sank in and then the commander is reputed to have said `Yes. There are more brains forward than we have ever given credit for.`
We had deliberately chosen a night boat’s crew and a fire party from volunteers who were not in the duty watch, and this for two reasons. The officers would not be able to say `These men have turned to, why not do likewise?` And, secondly, no man could say that he had not taken part in the strike. The officers’ surprise at our taking safety precautions was significant, showing once again that the wardroom had failed to move with the times, and to appreciate the change in quality of the men they commanded.

So we caused a sensation when we put our ship to bed safe and sound and prepared for any emergency the elements may have had in their box of surprises. Perhaps we caused an equal sensation among the more reactionary-minded officers when we failed to take advantage of the rifles and bayonets always ready for action on the Marines’ mess deck. In his journal Lieutenant Elkins reported how he put a guard on the weapons on his ship, the Valiant, and further made the dramatic announcement that he primed his two blunderbusses. Later he shifts from blunderbusses to Lewis guns. But Lieutenant Elkins was preparing for an enemy of his imagination. The Marines left the rifles and bayonets safely locked up in their racks and joined the seamen on the forecastle.

Our strength lay in being obliged only to take counter measures to the wardroom’s every move. They had to put into action the measures decided on whilst we needed only to make a last-second counter-move to render their efforts futile. We had taken our one and only major step, we had stopped obeying orders, and after that we had merely to defend our position against feeble attacks while time worked to strengthen us.

Whilst the inventors of conspiracies set to work to find evidence for their fantasies, the most fantastic event of the mutiny was taking place: in ships with complements ranging from six hundred to over a thousand, officers and men went to their hammocks and beds within a few yards from each other and peacefully slept the whole night through while peaceful mutiny raged around them. At 6 am, when the boatswain piped `All hands`, they rose from their sleep and continued their mutiny.

  • 1Resumed duties and returned to work [Reddebrek]