Harry Turner's Episodes of Personal History
With the RAF in India #7b     | HISTORY Page | Obituary Page |

7b. The Great Revolt

The technical site at Wilson Point is our contact with the outside world. We are hearing strange reports of RAF stations taking action in protest at the dilatory demob; intercepted messages suggest that unrest is widespread and growing. We seek clarification from Poona, to be told that all the big RAF stations and camps are involved in a spontaneous revolt against the prospect of having to hang on here doing little useful work for another twelve months before general demob becomes effective. Poona permanent staff are on the brink of joining in, except for the accounts section who are nobly working on long enough to ensure that everyone is paid before they take action. A gesture we all appreciate.
    We are dazed by the news, though there's little we can do that will affect the situation in our present isolation; Nick climbs the aerial mast to hang a token red handkerchief as a gesture, but otherwise life goes on much as usual. There's some speculation about the official reaction to the revolt, fears expressed that the army will be called in to sort things. Which could be nasty. But so far it seems all quiet on the ground and we just hope the protest will provoke some positive results.

To be continued . . . ■

While we were momentarily diverted by India's recent past glories, others were making modern history. In faraway Bamhrauli, a sizeable RAF station near Allahabad, grumblers round the canteen tables suddenly found they were part of a mass protest. There was a spontaneous resolve to take concerted action against official procrastination in getting to grips with with slowness of demobilisation. Each hut on the camp elected a delegate to serve on an action committe: demands were agreed and immediate plans discussed.

Next day, things seemed normal. Two thousand airmen assembled in columns outside their huts and marched off smartly for the parade ground and morning ceremonial. They never arrived. They marched right past the square and proceeded to assemble in the large hanger newly converted into the camp cinema. A visibly shaken officer and retinue tailed after them to demand an explanation of the unprecedented breach of regulations.

From all accounts the meeting was orderly. One after another, speakers from the ranks made the points that their action was not directed against the RAF or the officers, that all essential services would be maintained, but that they were civilian conscripts, not regulars, and had taken action because of unacceptable delays in release from the forces now that the war was over. There was a need to force the authorities into making a positive statement to resolve present confusion. In brief, they were on strike . . .

They might have added that they had also taken control of the armory to stop weapons being used against them.

Word of this action flashed across south-east Asia, through all the radio and teleprinter links manned by the RAF, through staff operating planes flying on Transport Command routes. There was prompt sympathetic action on other RAF camps and airfields throughout India, and support in Malaysia and the Middle East. The action spread so quickly, so spontaneously, it stunned the powers on the spot. ■

See also:
MUTINY! by Bernard Shilling, Aeroplane Monthly, December 1986
RAF base hit by strike action: a profile of striker LAC George Neal by Mike Shaw,
      Huddersfield Daily Examiner, 20 November, 1992 and
Messages of mutiny by Mike Shaw, 30 November, 1992
RAF was ready to shoot strikers, The Observer, 4 August 1996
Secret History: Mutiny in the RAF, Channel 4 documentary, 8 August 1996

© Harry Turner, 1998.

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