The sit-down strike by soldiers of the 1st Battalion (Yorkshire Regiment) was a very British mutiny. I suppose in a sense Corporal Anthony Brown was lucky to be merely thrown out of the Army: after the 1917 Étaples Mutiny, Cpl Jesse Robart Short was executed for calling an officer a “bugger”.
The present action, taken during the Askari Thunder exercise in Kenya, also stemmed from the actions of people in charge: two commanders – who haven’t had their names plastered all over the press like the enlisted men – got drunk the night before a forced march and were found after the exercise sleeping off their hangover.
Incidents like this never spontaneously erupt; the discontent is usually slow-burning, with a possibly small incident turning into a flashpoint, the straw that broke the camel’s back.
It’s also impossible to ignore what’s going on around at the same time. We have the trial of one of Gunner Lee Rigby’s killers, who has been heaping praise on the nursing and medical care he has received, treatment he ensured Gunner Lee would not live to benefit from.
And of course there’s Marine A (Sgt Alexander Blackman), who was sent to Afghanistan to engage with terrorists in irregular warfare, and is facing 10 years in prison for doing precisely that.
There is an inequality inherent in any functional system, without which systems tend to collapse – but that itself can lead to system collapse when the inequality gap is unbridgeable.
This happened literally in the Étaples mutiny, when the officers appropriated billets in the posh resort across the bridge and left troops to fester on the wrong side of the river. If what happened in Kenya is symptomatic of a wider dislocation between officers and enlisted soldiers, perhaps the veteran Fusiliers’ march on London was but the politest of warning shots.
Afghanistan veterans jailed for parade ground sit-in protest over "muppet" officers - The Huddersfield Daily Examiner
Court-martial of Cpl Jesse Robart Short - National Archives
Lee Rigby murder trial: 'I’m a soldier just like Drummer Rigby... I killed him because this is war’ - Tom Whitehead, Daily Telegraph, 9 December 2013
Sgt Alexander Blackman: Marine backed by 60,000 people over killing of Taliban insurgent - Daily Mirror, 8 December 2013
Breaking: 100,000 people (the threshold that should trigger Parliamentary time for a topic) support Sgt Alexander Blackman - Daily Mail, 11 December 2013
Click to sign the HM Government e-petition to free Sgt Alexander Blackman (Marine A) - at time of writing 37,691 signatures
Veteran Fusiliers to march on London - ITV news, October 2012