My mate who had the file on the Kimmel Park incident returned it this evening. The following is a abridged version of a article I first wrote some 20 years, and which has been updated on a number of occassions, parts of it have been removed and there are no references. It follows on from my previous message.
"The worse disorders that arose from the repatriation programme were also the last. These occurring at Kinmel Park Camp on 4-5 Mar 1919.
News of the incident were widely reported throughout the press in Britain and Canada, most of which were of a lurid and unsubstantiated nature. The Canadian Government is reluctant to offer its own version of this appaling incident, and the records of the CEF Court of Inquiry are supposidly covered by the 100 year rule (????).
Based on Knmel Park Camp, therewhere 20 CEF camps, these being close to Liverpool, this being the normal port of entry and embarkation for Canadians. Many troops had been brought back from France and placed in these camps. Living conditions were very poor, bad food, little fuel for heating or hot water, no entertainment, problems with pay, no wet or dry canteens, with the local populace fleecing the soldiers of what little money they had. There was also much ill feeling about the inadequacy of the pensions being offered to those men disabled by wounds or illness.
The severe shortage of shipping to repatriate Canadians caused bitter distress, especially when the Americans appeared to have greater priority. This extremely galling to men who in some cases had been in action since 1915, while the Americans had seen no fighting at all.
A Canadian infantry officer recalled the circumstances and the soldier's mood.
"They were there without any pay, and without any money, and stuck in this camp at Rhyl, and no idea as to when they were going to get home. They got MAD and they started to make a fuss. When the authorities didn't pay any attention to them, they wrecked the damn camp from one end to the other. They just burnt the damn thing right down."
Late on the evening of the 4 Mar 1919, the breakdown of discipline commenced. At 2230 hours, there had been a number of meeting in which a Russian born Sapper William Tsarevitch of the Railway Engineers, was elected the leader the planned mutiny at Kinmel Park Camp. According to The Times, of London, the signal for the takeover of the Kinmel Park complex of camps was the cry 'Come on the Bolsheviks'.
The mutineers were resisted by 'loyal' troops, this being put down by force. They failed however to occupy Camps 19 and 20, these respectively being officers accommodation and camp administration. There was a degree of looting of drink from canteens, and also of the 'Tin Town Stores', a collection of shanties near the hamlet of Bodelwyddan. Many housing illegal grog shops, these looted, although the mutineers where joined by a number of civilians. They then proceeded to burn down these hovels, the noise of the riot and the fires from here and also the camps, caused much alarm in Rhyl proper.
The next morning saw the mutineers in a inactive state, a number of officers became determined to put down the uprising. A Lt Gauthier in ordinary soldiers uniform, wandered around the camps in an attempt to ID the ringleaders.
A perimeter defence had been prepared around Camp 20 on the orders of a Capt MacLean, also some 40 officers and loyal men were armed with rifles and bayonets.
At 1400 hours 5 Mar 1919, Lt Gauthier addressed some mutineers warning them from approaching the defences, this was treated with derision.
At 1430 hours, advancing behind a Red Flag a large group of mutineers approached the main entrance to Camp 20, A further large group was behind them, displaying many Red Flags, with a much larger group following on. In all three groups many men were seen to be carrying stones, bayonets, cut throat razors lashed to poles, and others rifles and bayonets. it would also appear that others had pistols and revolvers (? war trophies).
Camp Police immediately made a sally towards the first party, and where able to sieze and place in the Guardroom cells some 20. This prompted a attempt by the mutineers to rescue their mates, lauching an assault on the Guard Room and the Camp Records Office.
A CSM witnessing the foray:
'Two men were leading, with a Red Flag between two poles, and I could hear their leaders say, 'Let's have them out'. Stones were thrown through the windows of the Guard Room and two or three of their leaders seized fire buckets from their hooks and smashed windows with them. Then I saw a crowd collect near the roadway and make a rush between the huts of No.18 Camp. They were armed with stick and stones and one or two rifles. I noticed that one of the rifles had a bayonet fixed. Immediately afterwards, I heard shots coming from the direction of No.20 Camp.'
The 2nd attack on Camp 20 was a more determined affair. Pausing briefly when they saw the armed men, the mutineers were rushed by the defenders. Reports are confused as to what actually happened next, but, there was certainly some close quarters fighting, the defenders withdrew, and an exchange of fire took place between the two groups.
A Gunner Hickman was shot and killed in Camp 18 and several men in its huts wounded. Gunner Haney shot in the head, Cpl Young bayoneted throught the head and the alleged leader Tsarevitch, bayoneted through the stomach. These last two must have been killed in the close quarters fighting.
The fieceness of the resistence led to the mutineers raising a white flag, and surrendering.
75 arrested, 50 of whom charged with mutiny, with 27 being convicted and sentenced to between 90 days and ten years.
A Pt Gillan of the Camp Police, was shot whilst moving towards a group of mutineers sheltering in a ArmY Service Corps stables. His grave inscribed "To the proud memory of Private David Gillan, who was killed at Kinmel Park defending the honour of his country. The Times, 8 Mar, emphasised the honour of the CEF, and pointing out that the Camp was no quiet, and that only some 60 men had been involved in the looting.
Just how many of the 20,000 men in the camps took part in the mutiny is unknown. How many actually joined in the attacks on Camp 20 is equally unknown, their number must have been substantial to have provoked such a formidable defence. This being strong enough to induce them to surrender. What is not know is whether their original intent was only to protest at demobilisation delays and camp conditions. While the participation of a Russian, use of Red Flags and the alleged use of 'Come on the Bolsheviks' may have indicated more sinister intent is unkown.
The Communist press desribed the mutiny as having involved 40,000 men and resulting in 13 officers deaths.
The CEF Authorities gave little assistance to the Coroner's Inquest on the dead, and actually swiftly shipping witnesses home!
All in all not a happy event, which leaves a sour taste to the achievements of the CEF, and the loss of so many of its men during the Great War.
My interest in the events were; I was stationed at Kinmel Park Camp in the early 1960's, and I married a girl whose grandfather (a Lt Col in the Royal Artillery) was involved in the activies resulting from the mutiny, his wife actually nursing the wounded.
I hope this is of assistance, but, you must also realise that none of the activies, events had anything to do with the British Army or British Civil Authorities.
Jock from Sydney