Politics on a postcard
Sorting through my gran’s postcard collection at the weekend, I came across this one, dated 27th September 1918. Although it shows an image from Oban in Scotland, it was actually sent from Tettenhall, Wolverhampton to my gran, Edith Diggory, who was on holiday in Fairbourne, North Wales!
The card is signed, your loving sister, H. This would be Hannah, Edith’s older sister.
In the message, Hannah explains how she would have written a letter but didn’t have time before Edith came home. I read about the weather, how it had been a nice day but had poured with rain yesterday... all good postcard fare... but then Hannah went on to comment what a performance the family had had getting home. They’d not got back until 9 o’clock and had to change several times…on account of the strike.
I went off to investigate and it appears that Hannah was referring to a railway strike that was in the news at the time. The dispute originated in South Wales, when workers refused a pay increase offer from the government which they considered inadequate.
Railway services paralysed
The situation escalated to the railway sector, causing disruption to mail, goods and passenger traffic, as well as the transport of troops – Britain, of course, was still at war at the time.
On 25th September, two days before Hannah sent her postcard, the Birmingham Gazette reported on the “alarming spread” of the dispute, with services on Great Western Railway “paralysed”. Alongside was a report of a speech made by the general secretary of the National Union of Railwaymen, Mr James Henry Thomas, urging his members to stand firm and support their fellow workers.
Not much seems to have been written about the 1918 railway strike, eclipsed perhaps by the better known industrial action of the following year, which involved many more workers, including the police and the armed forces.
I always love discovering a family history story which makes reference to a national event!