Kinmel Camp Riots, 1919

Readers of this blog have from time to time drawn my attention to the Kinmel Camp riots of 1919, when Canadian servicemen, dissatisfied by delays in demobilisation and other grievances, expressed their feelings through protest.

I’ve been looking at the Times report of the riot, and am struck especially by the way that the rioters are represented. The ringleaders were “not true Canadians, but men with Russian blood”, and the standard-bearer was “of Russian extraction.” What is more, the trouble was mostly caused by men of the auxiliary branches of the force – the Railway Corps, the Labour Corps, etc, and not by the fighting soldiers. There is also a strong insistence that not one of the girls working in the camp was molested.

The writer of this piece seems to be working hard to maintain the image of the Canadian soldier by marginalising the rioters as an unrepresentative minoritt, and giving them an excuse for their behaviour (dissatisfaction plus drink) while insisting that even when drunk Canadian soldiers do not engage in Hunnish practices against womenfolk. I wonder how accurate this is.

Here’s the report:



  1. Posted October 10, 2008 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

    Hi,does anyone contributing to this website know of the iron crosses at bobelwydin

    • John Johnson
      Posted August 13, 2014 at 11:01 am | Permalink

      I have not seen the iron crosses at St. Margret’s, but will talk to a buddy of mine who knows a lot about the camp. Wait out….. John

      • John Johnson
        Posted July 30, 2015 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

        Having spoken to a friend, I can confirm that their whereb 2 German war graves At Boddlwydan and these were removed to Staffordshire.

  2. George
    Posted February 25, 2009 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    Next month is the ninetieth anniversary of this riot by Canadians at Kinmel Camp and still there is some mystery about five of the 90 graves in Bodelwyddan Church Cemetery. Many of the others were a result of the flu epidemic but one gravestone bears the instription: “One day the truth will be known”. Still waiting!

    • Taff Handley
      Posted August 13, 2014 at 6:53 am | Permalink

      I served at Kinmel Park camp in 1970. The oddest thing is, and I am sure my memory is not playing tricks on me, there were in the region of some 50 Canadian graves there. The story which had been propogated was they all died of flu. The oddest thing was, they all seemed to have died on the same day.

      • John Johnson
        Posted March 31, 2015 at 10:28 am | Permalink


      • John Johnson
        Posted March 31, 2015 at 10:35 am | Permalink

        Taff, any stories of the 70’s will be gratefully appreciated.. John

      • John Johnson
        Posted June 1, 2015 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

        Your memory does not serve you well. read my book when its published. John

  3. Posted February 26, 2009 at 12:17 am | Permalink

    I came across a reference to Kinmel last week, in James Hanley’s autobiography ‘Broken Water’. He had been serving with the Canadian Army, but invalided home in 1918. When recovered, he says, he was at Kinmel Camp at the time of the rioting. Frustratingly, he gives no further details.

    • John Johnson
      Posted June 1, 2015 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

      I have recently returned from Ontario, Canada where I met a chap who’s Great Grand Fathers both of them where at Kinmel Camp during the riots.

      I hope to get their story and some photographs for my book on the camp. John

  4. Julian Putkowski
    Posted February 26, 2009 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    There are a number of ways in which the Kinmel Park Camp riots may be interpreted. The ‘Times’ report, the Camp Commandant and his officers were pretty racist in their depiction of the key actors in the destruction and bloodshed. For an account that draws on other contemporary sources and advances aa critique of both the ‘Times’ and the Canadian authorities version of events, see: J.J. Putkowski (2002 edition) The Kinmel Park Camp Riots 1919 (Flintshire Historical Society)or for a military/functionalist understanding:(online) Coombs, Howard G., Dimensions of Military Leadership: The Kinmel Park Mutiny of 4/5 March 1919

  5. David Wallwork
    Posted May 5, 2009 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

    My Grandfather served in the Cheshire Regiment, Birkenhead Pals and was one of the soldiers ordered to contain the riot. He said the official line was that flu killed the Canadians but in fact they were killed when their fire was returned. As a sniper my grandfather did not usualy miss and was not proud of the fact that some of the men in Bodelwyddan churchyard were a result of his shooting. As a child I thought it one of his tall tales but now I’m not so sure.

    • John D johnson
      Posted November 28, 2013 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

      David, very interesting indeed. I am at present collating information about Kinmel Park Camp 1915-to the present day. I would be willing to add this write up of your grandfather should you give permission to do so.

      In Comradeship John

      • John Johnson
        Posted March 31, 2015 at 10:30 am | Permalink

        David I am now 70 pages into my book, would you like your story adding? John

    • Anonymous
      Posted April 26, 2018 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

      Tall story indeed. There were five killed in the rioting, but a great many died of flue. The officials fudged the issue and the confusion continues. Even the clear accounts point out where they can’t be sure if events. They even accused a man, who was eventually proven to have mediated between the two sides, of being a Russian revolutionary.

  6. Geoffrey Williams
    Posted January 27, 2014 at 8:28 pm | Permalink

    I remember visiting the churchyard in the 1950s with my grandfather, who served in the Great War – Cheshire Regiment, and my father, who served in WW2. My grandfather said the graves were of soldiers shot during the MUTINY of 1919. He had great sympathy for the soldiers who just wanted to go home.

  7. David Jones
    Posted January 22, 2015 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

    My father was waiting for demob from the Canadian Artillery and was drafted in as a Military Policeman at the time of the riots. I have his written account of his experiences if anyone is interested

    • Posted January 22, 2015 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

      I’d certainly be interested to see a copy. And I think that the Imperial War Museum would be extremely keen on having a memoir of the events from the viewpoint of a Military policeman.

      • John Johnson
        Posted March 31, 2015 at 10:32 am | Permalink

        David, I am writing about Kinmel at present and would dearly like to included your story. John

    • John Johnson
      Posted January 22, 2015 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

      Kindy send me a copy, I would appriecate it. JOHN

      • Posted January 22, 2015 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

        John, I would appreciate a copy if you would not mind. I served in Kinmel Park in 1970. I often visited the church across the road to visit the graveyard, it always struck me as odd that all the Canadians died within a few days. We were always told it was flu! It was only years later I saw a Welsh film dramatising the events which took place there. I have been back to the church a few times, it is a beautiful white stone building.

        Many thanks


      • John Johnson
        Posted January 23, 2015 at 12:01 am | Permalink

        Ray, I will let you know when I am done. John

  8. Posted January 22, 2015 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

    David, there’s clearly a demand for this. If you could send me a photocopy of the account, I will happily publish it here.

    Posted July 8, 2015 at 10:19 pm | Permalink

    I believe the iron crosses at the marble church marked the communal grave of Canadian soldiers killed at Kinmel Park camp.It always intrigued me that there were no names on them.Imagine my surprise when a few years ago i discovered that they had vanished.I believe like many other people that there was a massive cover up by the British and Canadian governments of the time.I Also believe that it is about time the true facts of what really happened at Kinmel Park camp nearly one hundred years ago be made known I contributed another blog about this subject,it was titled BBC-NORTH EAST WALES ASK A LOCAL,but it was discontinued There are some very goog comments on it

    • John Johnson
      Posted July 9, 2015 at 9:46 am | Permalink

      John, I have read many, many documents and testimonies on this subject, there was no cover up in regard to the Kinmel Park Riots. Its all out there warts and all. JOHN

      • Ray
        Posted July 9, 2015 at 10:13 am | Permalink

        John, I was stationed there in Kinmel Park in 71. I was always curious why so many Canadian graves were in the Church graveyard. To be honest, I only ever made cursory enquiries at the time, and the same answer was alway given. It was a Flu epidemic. As the years went by, I eventually forgot about the place, until I watched a Welsh film/documentary about it in the mid 80s. This was a very accurate account of what actually happened there. Regards.

    • John Johnson
      Posted July 20, 2015 at 2:38 pm | Permalink


      • John Johnson
        Posted July 30, 2015 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

        2 Germans where buried in the marble church yard, they have since been moved to Staffordshire.

  10. John Johnson
    Posted July 9, 2015 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    Ladies and Gentlemen, now over 100 pages, still looking for short stories, pictures give me a shout Thank you

    Posted July 9, 2015 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

    Hello JOHN JOHNSON AND RAY.I first heard of the deaths at Kinmel Park in the late 50s while working on mold market.Alocal farmer told my boss and I about the riots,he said the Irish Guards were sent in and shot men dead in their barracks.It was many years later while on holiday in Rhyl that I saw theIRON CROSSES and my mind went back to that farmer and what he said.I have believed ever since that I was looking at the grave of the men he was speaking about.There were no names on the crosses WHY?.In a christian society we bury our dead and indeed our enemies dead,so why no names.As a matter of fact one of the crosses is still in the churchyard ,it is on the other side of the church in between two gravestones.

    Posted July 29, 2015 at 9:48 pm | Permalink

    Hi John Johnson,you said that you had researched and read many documents and testimonies about the riots,you also said that you believed the iron crosses were for German soldiers. I would like to know if you came across anything in your research work about those iron crosses that suggests that they were Germans.I would also like to know if you found out why there were no names on the crosses.we ss a Christian society respect the war dead,even our enemy war dead,so why no names.

  13. john roberts
    Posted September 16, 2016 at 1:19 am | Permalink

    i note that the last comment on the kinmel riots was in july 2015 made by myself i would like to continue this debate if possible so if your still of the same mind john johnson and ray and or anybody else lets do it

    Posted September 19, 2016 at 2:04 am | Permalink

    Why is the truth of what happened Kinmel park camp all those years ago still being kept from the british and Canadian peopleIt was nearly one hundred years ago for gods sake.We the British just like all civilised countries make sure our war dead are remembered and where possible have a gravestone with their name on it.I saw those IRON CROSSES andthey were not German.They looked more like celtic crosses they have been removed.I would like to hear from anybodybe they local people or others who have seen the two rows ofcrosses to contribute to this site.

    Posted November 29, 2016 at 10:56 pm | Permalink

    This year we have witnessed a rekindled interest in the first world war in this country by young and old alike. I am nearly 74 years old,and would love to know the truth about the kinmel camp riots As i have said before. Please if there is anyone localy who have seen the rows of iron many years ago tell us on this site.

    • Ray
      Posted November 30, 2016 at 5:59 am | Permalink

      As said previously, I understand the old iron crosses to be German. These have now been moved to the German war cemetary in Stafford. When I served in Kinmel park, the the Canadians all had small headstones. As an aside, this small cemetary is immaculately looked after.

    Posted December 5, 2016 at 10:31 pm | Permalink

    Ray,thanks for your reply. You say that theironcrosses went to Stafford, do you have any data or any information about when this took place,or maybe the date this took place.I still say that they were not German, but why should that matter.They were in unmarked graves WHY

    Posted December 8, 2016 at 11:47 pm | Permalink

    Dear anonymous,thank you for your info.I will attempt to gain more information from it.You dont say if you have any interest or knowledge of the riot.DO YOU

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  1. […] Politicus narrates in a beautifully illustrated post. And, getting back to the Great War period, Great War Fiction examines a slightly different form of fighting — a riot by Canadian troops waiting in Wales […]

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