During the spate of recent stories commerating the 90th anniversary of the first Armistice no mention, not surprisingly, was made of the Etaples Army mutiny of 1917.
Sixty years ago my father, who served in the Middlesex Regiment from 1914-1918 and then in the army of occupation until 1920, told me of the event.
Etaples, situated near Boulogne, held a base camp which was supposedly a rest area for troops rotated out of the line and would receive new conscripts on their way to the front.
It also contained the notorious bull ring, which among troops was the most hated place in France. The permanent staff of instructors, known as canaries because of their yellow armbands, military police known as redcaps, and admin staff, were sadistically humiliating and exploiting both new recruits and seasoned veterans of many campaigns.
The fightback of September 1917 began with an incident in which a redcap shot and killed Corporal William Wood, a Gordon Highlander, who was on his way to the cinema.
This caused the Scots to riot. Soon others joined in and the mutiny was on.
Crowds forced their way over a bridge into the town searching for any redcaps they could lay their hands on. Trouble spread and there was the danger of news getting to the front line and for those troops to mutiny. Lloyd George went to France to appease them.
After six days the mutiny ended, some grievances were addressed and inflammatory redcaps were taken away from the Military Police. They were not reinstated for many years.
In 1978 it was revealed that the records of the Etaples Board of Enquiry had at some time been destroyed. Military files are not to be released until 2017, by which time all the witnesses will be dead.