Invergordon Mutiny of the Royal Navy – Part 10

//Invergordon Mutiny of the Royal Navy – Part 10

Invergordon Mutiny of the Royal Navy – Part 10

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Admiral of the Fleet Sir Andrew Cunningham, the First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff, at his desk at the Admiralty in London.

Quoting again from Cunningham’s A Sailor’s Odyssey:

…writing from my own personal views and experiences of the time, I have no doubt that many of the officers had fallen out of touch with, and were mostly ignorant of, the problems and difficulties affecting the men in their home lives. This applied particularly to the senior officers and the officers in big ships… the Atlantic Fleet at Invergordon had mutinied against reductions in pay. A mutiny it certainly was. It has no other name.

At the end of 1920, ratings had seen a large increase in pay to compensate for the inflation of the war years (1914-1918) and the lack of a substantive pay increase for almost a century prior to that date. Their daily wage went from 1 shilling and 5 pence a day to 4 shillings a day. Adjusted for inflation, this amounted to an increase in actual purchasing power of 10%. Married men received additional money as a marriage allowance but only if they were over twenty-five years of age. This was an incredibly foolish rule since this was an era when young people married early in life, usually in their late teens or early twenties. Hence, such a rule created a dis-incentive for younger married men to enlist.

Ratings also received bits of extra money for length of service, as long as they hadn’t run afoul of the many regulations of “the Andrew,” as the ratings referred to the Royal Navy. Depending on your actual job, you might also receive an extra allowance. Stokers, for instance, had the dirtiest, hottest job aboard and received an extra few pence for that.

Those ratings most enraged against the cut in pay were men who had completed their first twelve year hitch and had signed on for another ten years. At the end of that time, 22 years, they would be eligible for a pension. However, under the new pay scale, their income would much lower over the ten years to come and in practical terms that meant that with a stroke of a pen reducing their wages, they would serve two and half years for free. Their pensions would also be lower since their pay was lower.

While this photograph was taken in 1945, it accurately sums up the temperament of the ratings in the Royal Navy during the Invergordon Mutiny. Boxing matches would have been common in the fleet during the time of that era along with soccer matches between ships as well as other entertainments designed to keep the men busy.

In a private letter written by Admiral Tomkinson after the mutiny, he said the channels of complaint the men could use were:

…valueless, and that the men had no other course than the one they took… It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that there is a foundation for such a feeling among the men.

[Source: The Invergordon Mutiny by Alan Ereira. Images courtesy of the Imperial War Museum Website and the Imperial War Museum Website.]

By | 2016-05-28T11:53:37+00:00 November 13th, 2013|Charles McCain|0 Comments

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Charles McCain is a Washington DC based freelance journalist and novelist. He is the author of "An Honorable German," a World War Two naval epic. You can read more of his work on his website: