Red Clydeside remembered: The Battle of George Square

The Government sends tanks in Glasgow to deal with strikers.
The Government sends tanks in Glasgow to deal with strikers.
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THE lives of people in Scotland were shaped by their experiences during and in the aftermath of the bloody First World War.

As a country, Scotland had provided more men than proportion of its population than anywhere else in Britain.

A government official on the ground following the strike.

A government official on the ground following the strike.

And by the end of the war, the country, which had at first been optimistic and even enthusiastic, now found itself in mourning for a generation of lost sons, brothers, husbands and fathers.

Glasgow had played an important role during the Great War, as the country’s industrial powerhouse, building submarines for the Navy and fulfilling enormous, endless demands for war munitions.

As workers from across the country flocked to the area, the population expanded, the bulk of which lived in and around Glasgow, a huge working class population who faced cramped living conditions and became increasingly unionised.

This along with several other factors contributed to the rise of socialism in the West of Scotland.

Tanks and soldiers

Tanks and soldiers

Many Scots had begun to feel disillusioned by the Liberal government of that time, who they felt did not represent the working class.

The popular Glasgow Rent Strike of 1915, where people protested landlords raising rents while many men, many of whom were the main breadwinners, were fighting and dying for their country on the Western Front, was supported by trade unions, the Labour Party and suffragettes among other more left wing political groups.

As the First World War came to an end, thousands of troops returned home, flooding the job market.

READ MORE - Looking back at Scottish political protests

The Battle of George Square

The Battle of George Square

The Clyde Workers Committee called for a “40 hours strike” which they hoped could help create jobs for the returning solders, as well as reducing the average working week for those in employment.

On January 31, 1919, The Red Flag of Bolshevism was raised at George Square in the city and around 60,000 protesters gathered.

The protest, later known as ‘Bloody Friday’, soon turned to a riot, with fierce clashes between the police and the workers.

Many of the strikers were fresh from the trenches and fought police with their fists, iron railings and even broken bottles.

The fighting went on throughout the night, with 53 people recorded as injured following the clashes.

Later described as a ‘Bolshevik uprising’ by Robert Munro, the Secretary of State for Scotland at the time, the government eventually sent in 10,000 troops, tanks and machine guns to bring stability back to the city.

According to some historical sources it was English troops sent in , despite a full battalion of Scottish soldiers being stationed at Maryhill barracks in Glasgow at that time.

Following the violence, strikers sent a leaflet to the wider British labour movement calling them to “rally to the support of your comrades on the Clyde”.

Within a week of the strike, a 47-hour working week was agreed.

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