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:


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  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

  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.

  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.

  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

  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 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.

One Trackback/Pingback

  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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