Friday, November 27, 2015


oh yes...

Tommy Atkins’ hidden tactics to avoid combat on the Western Front in WW1

Why ‘Blackadder Goes Forth’ could have been a lot funnier (and more subversive)

By Roger Ball

Mass refusals, mutinies, disobedience, strikes and out-right rebellion were all part of the British armed forces’ experience in World War 1. But on a day-to-day level, many soldiers were also actively constantly resisting the war effort - shirking, skulking, and avoiding combat. Though by its nature, these practices are usually clandestine and hard to document, ‘Cunning Plans’ briefly lifts the lid on this hidden resistance...

ISBN: 978-0-9932762-0-0

Price: £2.50

Available from the publications page on website:
 (payment by paypal)

or by post, from
Past Tense c/o 56a Infoshop 56 Crampton Street, London SE17 3AE

(enclosing a cheque payable to Past Tense Publications, for £4.50 inc P&P).

Previous WW1-series pamphlets from Past Tense are also available.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Two Book Launches at Housmans

On successive evenings next week, these interesting events:

‘Red Rosa: A Graphic Biography of Rosa Luxemburg’
with Kate Evans
Tuesday 1st December, 7pm

Entry £3, redeemable against any purchase
A giant of the political left, Rosa Luxemburg is one of the foremost minds in the canon of revolutionary socialist thought. To Marx’s biographer Franz Mehring, no one came as close to the towering intellect of Marx himself.
But she was much more than just a thinker. She made herself heard in a world inimical to the voices of strong-willed women. She overcame physical infirmity and the prejudice she faced as a Jew to become an active revolutionary whose philosophy enriched every corner of an incredibly productive and creative life – her many friendships, her sexual intimacies, and her love of science, nature and art.
Always opposed to the First World War, when others on the German left were swept up on a tide of nationalism, she was imprisoned and murdered in 1919 fighting for a revolution she knew to be doomed.
Red Rosa gives Luxemburg her due as a radical and human being. In this beautifully drawn work of graphic biography, writer and artist Kate Evans has opened up her subject’s intellectual world to a new audience, grounding Luxemburg’s ideas in the realities of an inspirational and deeply affecting life.
Paperback, 224 pages
ISBN: 9781784780999

'Render the Chartists Defenceless' with Les James
Wednesday 2nd December, 7pm
Entry £3, redeemable against any purchase
Newport publishers Three Impostors announce the release of a new book revealing an explosive new twist in the story of the Newport Rising which was the last large-scale armed rebellion against authority in Great Britain when, on the 4th November 1839, somewhere between 1,000 and 5,000 Chartist sympathisers, led by John Frost, marched on the town of Newport, Monmouthshire.
Newport–born Hollywood actor Michael Sheen introduces the book, in which historian Les James describes the previously untold story of the voyage of Frost, Zephaniah Williams and William Jones to Van Diemen’s Land in 1840, to start their sentence of transportation for life for treason.*
Lulled at first by the kindness of those in authority on board the convict ship Mandarin, the prisoners gradually became aware of the web of intrigue and surveillance around them, and suspicious of the possibility of government spies watching their every move. Were these suspicions correct?
Les James is a former Museum Education Officer for Gwent, and Senior Lecturer at the University of Wales, Newport, with a long-standing research interest in south Wales Chartism. 

Three Impostors is a small publisher established in Newport in 2012 with the aim of producing high quality, scholarly versions of rare and out-of-print books, along with other related new writing. Their first book was a commemorative edition of 'Far Off Things' by Arthur Machen, published in 2013 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of his death.

*[RaHN note] Data newly available from the Digital Panopticon project (more on this to follow):
Transportation Register  24th February 1840
 John Frost  colony Van Diemen's Land  term 21 years  ship Mandarin
tried Monmouth Special Gaol Delivery  register text - 
"Convicted at Monmouth Special Gaol Delivery for a term of life."

Founders & Survivors  30th June 1840  John Frost age 55  b 1785  height 67  term 99 years
tried Special Gaol Delivery  trial date 10th December 1839  vdl departure date 25th February 1840
vdl arrival date 30th June 1840  ship vdl Mandarin  place of birth "Newport"
offence report "High Treason"  gaol report - 
"Convicted and imprisoned before for a Libel, otherwise his Character very good"
hulk report "Good"

Founders & Survivors   30th June 1840  Zephaniah Williams  age 44  b 1796  height 67
term 99 years  tried Special Gaol Delivery  trial date 10th December 1839
vdl departure date 25th February 1840  vdl arrival date 30th June 1840
ship vdl Mandarin  offence report "High Treason"  gaol report - 
"very good previous to this affair and former Mutiny"  hulk report "Good"

Transportation Register   24th February 1840  Zephaniah Williams  colony Van Diemen's Land
term 21 years  ship Mandarin  tried Monmouth Special Gaol Delivery
register text - "Convicted at Monmouth Special Gaol Delivery for a term of life."

(William Jones is more difficult to locate/identify in these records).

Sunday, November 22, 2015

New Online Resources for Radical Historians (1)

1. Appeals Against Conscription in Scotland, First World War

Some Military Service Appeals Tribunal records are now available on ScotlandsPeople, as follows:
"Now available to search are 7,977 index entries relating to the Appeal cases of 5,820 men seeking exemption from military service between 1916 and 1918. Fully searchable by name, address, grounds, and occupation, the index is FREE* to search, offering access to a little-known series of records which are of importance to family and military historians alike. Each record is a full colour facsimile of the Appeal case documents, and for an introductory period, are only 10 credits (2.33GBP) to view. Find out more about the Military Service Appeals Tribunal Records.

*Index for Military Service Appeals Tribunal Records is free to search. Images are chargeable and can be viewed for 10 credits per document until 3 December 2015, and will cost 20 credits per document thereafter. "

[Unlike the Middlesex Appeal Tribunal records, these are unfortunately not free to download. Credits can be purchased on the website in batches of 30 for £7.]

"The Military Service Tribunal system was set up under the Military Service Act 1916, which set down the terms for mandatory military service and came into force on 2 March 1916. The new Military Service Act required all adult males, aged 18-41, to register for military service unless they were married, widowed with children, serving in the Royal Navy, a minister of religion, or working in a reserved occupation. From 1916, volunteers and conscripted men seeking exemption from military service could apply to Tribunals for temporary, conditional or permanent exemption. The Military Service Appeals Tribunal Records cover the Local Tribunal areas of Edinburgh, the Lothians and the Borders. Other chance survivals exist, including papers from the Ross, Cromarty and Sutherland (Lewis Section) Appeal Tribunal, which are preserved as part of Stornoway Sheriff Court records."

"Each set of case papers should include an appeal form, local tribunal application form and a notice of decision form which confirms the final decision of the Appeal Tribunal. The appeal application form gives the address, age and occupation in most cases. Some appeals papers include additional correspondence in support of the appeal. For some entries the appeal papers themselves do not survive, but related applications for medical re-examination have survived. This will be indicated in the relevant index entries. Applications for medical re-examination include the name of a person, address, occupation, age and the result of the examination."

"A minority of the cases were appeals made by conscientious objectors..."
Among the sample case studies presented on the website, one or two are of particular interest in relation to other material on this blog, on opposition to the war:-

 Robert Logan, a 21 year old coalminer from Tranent, was a conscientious objector. Applications on the ground of Conscientious Objection had to be supported with proof of ‘genuine conscientious conviction’ as set out in an official form. (Robert Logan, HH30/28/1/20)
In support of his appeal, Robert Logan wrote:
“In claiming exemption from Military Service I do so because as an International Socialist I believed it is immoral for man to take from his fellow man that which he cannot replace or return & as this presently applies to all human life I regard all such life as sacred & war immoral in the extreme. I believe in International Brotherhood not as an idle dream but as a social ideal possible of achievement. The workers of the world are bound by all the ties that bind kindred & more. They have the same aspirations & the same ideals & co-operate together with one another to add to the worlds store of happiness. No matter how perfidious Governments or our iniquitous press may disguise these facts & no matter how successful they may be in temporarily for their own material motives (Witness the "Secret Treaties" published by the Russian Bolshevik Government) in persuading certain groups of workers to hate one another & to act viciously towards one another & to act viciously towards one another I will not be a party to their crime against humanity.”
 This passionate expression of his ethics was effective. The Tribunal were unanimous that his convictions were sincere and he was granted exemption from combatant service on 11 May 1918. He died in Tranent in 1943, aged 49. 
[Robert Logan does not show up on the Pearce Register online]

Thirty-six year old Malcolm Martin was originally from Stornoway but by 1916 was working as a shepherd in Punta Arenas, South America. A temporary holiday back to the Isle of Lewis led to Malcolm’s appeal submitted 25 February 1916. (Malcolm Martin, SC33/62/1/34) 
“The appellant is a shepherd who came to Lewis on a visit shortly before the outbreak of the present war. He was not therefore ‘ordinarily resident’ in Great Britain on August 15 last and the Military Service Act does not apply to him. Further, he was engaged in his occupation as a Shepherd at Punta Arenas, South America and when making said visit to Lewis his intention was and is to return to Punta Arenas where he has a troop of horses and other property – all his property and interests are situated there and Some are now requiring Appellants personal attention”.
As he was not ordinarily resident and his business remained in Argentina, Malcolm applied for absolute exemption on grounds of serious hardship. His appeal was refused on 31 March 1916 “in respect that applicant doesn’t come within the exceptions specified in the first schedule to the Military Service Act 1916”.
Martin’s appeal was unsuccessful and he subsequently drowned with many other returning soldiers* when HMY Iolaire sank in The Minch, close to its destination, Stornoway, off the north-western coast of Scotland on 1 January 1919.
[*In fact most of the men lost were sailors who had been serving in the Royal Naval Reserve.]

Case studies as above are accompanied by images of extracts from the relevant documents.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Alan Woodward: Research / Archives Catalogue at the Bishopsgate Institute Library

(Alan was one of the Radical History Network convenors, Tottenham resident & activist)  

Now open for visits to view his collection of writings related to local actions, protests and strikes, minutes of local meetings, pamphlets, notes and more. See below and pdf here for more detail of contentsThe contents are stored in boxes, available to view in the library on request. They are not yet fully archived, which is a very extensive and specialist process which the library hope to undertake in the future.

Opening hours Mon - Fri, 10am-5.30pm  - Bishopsgate Institute, 230 Bishopsgate, London, EC2M 4QH

ALAN WOODWARD Tottenham resident & activist (1939-2012)

Administrative/Biographical History:

Alan Woodward was born in London but was evacuated during the second world war. His extended family eventually settled in Broadstairs, Kent. He began to rebel during his national service, joining the tiny Socialist Review Group (later becoming the International Socialists, and then becoming the Socialist Workers Party) while training to be a teacher and remained a member for 40 years. While living in Tottenham, north London, in 1964, Woodward was the driving force in a campaign which set up tenants' associations across the borough to combat rent increases. He later moved to Coventry, where he took an MA at Warwick University and became a trade-union studies tutor, a role he continued until retirement, training hundreds of shop stewards.In the 1980s he returned to Tottenham and remained there for the rest of his life. In the early 1990s he was involved in protests against the British National Party and in 2002 he stood for Haringey council as a Socialist Alliance candidate.

After leaving the SWP and reconsidering his political outlook, Woodward became a "libertarian socialist", drawing on Marxism and anarchism. He was the industrial organiser of Haringey Trade Union Council, for which he edited news bulletins and three small volumes called Fragments, containing life stories of local militants. He was involved with numerous local organisations, was the convenor of the Radical History Network of North-East London, and wrote a number of self-published pamphlets on working-class history and an autobiography. In 2009, workers at the Visteon car parts factory in Enfield occupied the plant after being summarily dismissed. Woodward was there from the beginning and spent a week in the factory, sleeping on the floor. 

Scope and Content: 

Papers of socialist, writer and activist Alan Woodward (1939-2012), including:
·  minutes, papers, accounts, annual reports and papers of Haringey Trades Council, 1969-2011.
·  engagement diaries, letters, photographs and papers collected for the writing of Woodward's autobiography 'An Actor for Freedom', with drafts of the finished work, 1958-2007. 
·  drafts, research materials and papers gathered for writings on workers' socialism, the International Shop Steward Movement, anarchism, Joe Thomas, workers' councils, Joe Jacobs, 1921-2011. 
·  papers, minutes, ephemera and promotional material of the Radical History Network of NE London (RaHN), 1982-2010. 
·  minutes, papers and other records of Haringey Solidarity Group, 2000-2010. 
·  papers and records of Defend Council Housing and local activities in Haringey, 1995-2008. 
·  papers, minutes and other records concerning Woodward's involvement with the International Socialists, 1967-1971. 
·  papers and ephemera regarding miscellaneous strikes and campaigns, including anti-Poll Tax, the Wapping dispute, rail, postal, fire fighters and dock strikes, anti-terror legisation, anti trade union legislation, the Liverpool Dock Strike, the Arnaouti Bakery Workers' Strike, health and safety at work, LGBT rights, 1948-2011. 
·  papers, records and minutes of Haringey Against Privatisation, 1998-2004. 
·  papers and ephemera of the London Socialist Historians Group, 1996-2009. 
·  papers, minutes and records regarding local and radical history in Haringey, including papers of the Haringey Local History Forum, 2001-2006. 
·  papers and records regarding the Red Readers' Project, 1989-1990. 
·  papers and records of the Socialist Workers' League, 1937-1956.

Quantity: 62 Boxes

Sample entries, from many more:-

Radical History Network of NE London
Radical History Network of NE London: papers and ephemera regarding events and speakers, promotional material and information on kindred groups, 2006-2009.

Radical History Network of NE London
Radical History Network of NE London: minutes, papers regarding events and speakers, promotional material, research material and information on kindred groups, 1982-2010.


Sunday, November 15, 2015

The 2016 London Rebel History Calendar

That Time of Year Again, Again...
Presented by Past Tense
Spanking new and all inky off the press...

The 2016 London Rebel History Calendar

Past Tense's third annual calendar, commemorating our selection of the radical, rebellious, subversive and occasionally downright surreal anniversaries, which inspire us, provoke debate and hopefully spread knowledge and enjoyment. We do it because we love it. If you find it useful, makes you think, leads you to something you didn't know, or just makes you laugh and dance with the joy of defiance - that's what we were aiming for... 
A date from London history for every day of 2016: strikes and riots; rowdy parties and occupations; births (no marriages) and deaths. And much more...

Written and designed by angry amateur hysterians, and printed in several colours by artisans in South London.

Yours for just £5.00... Plus £2.00 Postage & Packing

Available from the publications page on our website:

(payment by paypal)

or by post, from
Past Tense
c/o 56a Infoshop
56 Crampton Street,
SE17 3AE

enclosing a cheque for £7.00, payable to Past Tense Publications.