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Tanks on the Streets? (Hardback)

The Battle of George Square, Glasgow, 1919

Military P&S History > Social History World History

By Dr Gordon Barclay, Louise Heren
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 232
Illustrations: 30 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781526782656
Published: 4th August 2023



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At 12.08pm on Friday 31 January 1919, Margaret Buchanan drives her tram into George Square in Glasgow’s city centre. She slows down to avoid the youths and men holding their arms up to stop her; some even jump onto the front of her tram. Swirling around her tram is a sea of heavy-coated men who have been on strike since Monday, demanding a reduction to a forty-hour working week. Crucially, the tram workers have not joined the strike; they are being abused as ‘scabs’. Constables and officers of Glasgow’s police force use their hands to try to part the crowd to allow the tram to proceed, but their efforts fail and batons are drawn.

Within minutes, the violence will have spread across and beyond the Square; men will have been injured; the Sheriff will have read the Riot Act; strike leaders will lie stunned and bleeding inside the City Chambers; policemen and protestors will lie beaten in the streets.

The violence and destruction in the Square, the streets to the north and south, in Glasgow Green and even south of the River Clyde, involves thousands of men. The city authorities believe the situation is beyond the control of the outnumbered police; the Sheriff sends a message to the local army commander requesting assistance.

For the first time in history, tanks will be despatched as ‘military aid to the civil power’. They will be accompanied by 10,000 soldiers. At approximately 12.30pm on Friday 31 January 1919, a century of myth-making commences. Using thousands of pages of court papers, memoirs and news reports, this book is the first attempt to tell the story of what happened in day-by-day detail.

As featured in

Evening Times (Glasgow)

Author featured in the article: 'Seeking Social History in Scottish Criminal Records: What else can crime tell us?'

History Scotland

As featured in

Cher Ami, GWSIG Newsletter – International Plastic Modellers Society (UK) – April 2023

About Dr Gordon Barclay

GORDON BARCLAY is an archaeologist and historian, working on the physical and archival remains of the defence of Scotland in the 19th and 20th centuries. He is particularly interested in the misuse of the past in support of Scottish and English nationalist politics.

 Louise Heren

About Louise Heren

Louise Heren is a television documentary producer and director, specialising in history programmes, as well as a social historian with a passion for history based on personal testimony. She has an MA in Scottish History and has recently returned to the University of St. Andrews as a part-time post-graduate student reading for a doctorate in male violence in interwar Scotland. Louise lives in Wiltshire with her family.

Perfect Partner

Glasgow in the Great War (Paperback)

When news of the war broke out in 1914, nothing could prepare the citizens of Glasgow for the changes that would envelop their city over the next four years. The story of Glasgow in the Great War is both an interesting and intriguing one. This book covers this historic city’s involvement from the commencement of the Great War in July 1914, to the Armistice in November 1918, describing in great detail what happened to the city and its people, including their everyday lives, entertainment, spies and the internment of aliens living within the city. Glasgow played a key role in the deployment of…

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