September 1881: Victor Grayson is born in Liverpool. Just a few months previously the Grayson family had been living on Sidney Street in the Poplar district of London. In the late 1800s and early 1900s the area was home to the largest Russian émigré community in the UK. Lenin and Stalin would later hold their meetings in the area. The Grayson family itself is steeped in mystery, and much has been made about the true identity of Victor’s parents.
1884: International Working Men’s Educational Club is founded by the Socialist League on Berner Street, St George in the East and is quickly established as the base of Russian radicalism and anarchism in the UK. In 1886 it moves to Whitechapel where it features prominently in the infamous Ripper investigations. In 1906 it is forced to move to the Brotherhood Church on Jubilee Street, subsequently becoming known as the Jubilee Street Club. German anarcho-syndicalist Rudolf Rocker and Prince Kropotkin become key speakers at the club.
March 1898: Russian Social Democratic Labour Party is founded.
April 1902: Exiled from Russia Vladimir Lenin moves to London. It is here that he meets Russian Marxist Leon Trotsky. Continues production of political newspaper, Iskra (meaning ‘spark’). British Social Democrat activist Harry Quelch offers Lenin use of his office and printing press. In 1920 Quelch’s son Tom Quelch becomes founding member of the Communist Party of Great Britain (in 1905 Iskra falls under control of Georgi Plekhanov).
July 1903: Second Russian Social Democratic Labour Party Congress held in London in July 1903. Lenin, Plekhanov, Trotsky, Martov, Stalin and Rosa Luxemburg all in attendance. The RSDLP splits into Bolsheviks (‘the minority’) and Mensheviks (‘the majority’) as a result of disputes between Lenin and Martov over the definition of party membership. Locations include Three John’s Pub in Islington and the Jubilee Street Club in Whitechapel. London’s East End is favoured due to its substantial Russian population.
1904: Grayson becomes a neighbour of Suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst in Ancoats, Manchester. They are also members of the same Independent Labour Party branch in Central Manchester. He becomes a firm confidant of Pankhurst.
1905-1906: Glasgow shipworker (and later Etaples mutineer) James Cullen finds himself stranded in Odessa, Russia as a result of the 1905 shipyard strikes and mutinies.
March 1906: Victor Grayson and Christabel Pankhurst form the Manchester University Student Socialist Society. 40 students enrol. Grayson is elected Chariman and Pankhurst, Vice-Chairman. Treasurer Fred Marquis (subsequently 1st Earl of Woolton) was, like Grayson active in Social Work in Liverpool and an active member of the Unitarian Church.
December 1906: Adela Pankhurst charged and sentenced over assault in the House of Commons.
January – July 1907: Victor Grayson and Adela Pankhurst (daughter of Manchester Suffragette Emeline Pankhurst) become leading figures in the Manchester’s Independent Labour Party. Adela campaigns actively for Grayson in the Colne Valley. The Women’s Social and Political Union play a central role in his sensational victory when Grayson stands as Independent Socialist/Labour candidate in the Colne Valley (West Yorkshire) by-election.
January – July 1907: Minister F.R Swan steps down from his post as Congregationist Minister in Marsden, Colve Valley in order to campaign full-time for Grayson and the Social Democratic movement. He becomes one of the main supporting speakers.
June 1907: 5th Congress of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (ft. Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin and Plekhanov) takes place at Bruce Wallace and Reverend F. R. Swan’s Brotherhood Church in Southgate Road, Whitechapel. As we have seen above the former minister in Marsden, West Yorkshire, the Reverend F.R Swan (a Congregationalist Minister) played a key role in the election of Victor Grayson in the Colne Valley in the summer of 1907 (the Brotherhood Church was a Christian anarchist and pacifist community with roots in Yorkshire and Northern Ireland). German anarchist, Rudolf Rocker and Glasgow Communist and anarchist, Guy Aldred also play host to the Congress on Jubilee Street. The revolutionaries discuss bank robberies as a means of funding the revolution. The 1907 Tiflis bank robbery becomes the most famous of these robberies.
July 1907: Grayson is elected MP for the Colne Valley and moves to London.
Aug 1st – 3rd 1907: Liverpool’s James Larkin, now leading the striking dockers in Belfast invites Glasgow’s John Maclean, and his old Liverpool associates Fred Bower and Victor Grayson to address between 10,000 and 15,000 workers. Rumours persist that Larkin had managed to get 600 members of the 1000-strong Royal Irish Constabulary to support the strike with many men defying the orders of their officers (see: Sir James Sexton, Agitator: The Life of the Docker’s M.P & John Gray, City in Revolt). Some seven thousand troops were drafted in to contain the mutiny. That same year Maclean is introduced to Trotsky and Lenin associate, Peter Petroff who arrives in Edinburgh at the invitation of the Social Democratic Federation. Petroff remains in the UK and becomes a key figure on ‘Red Clydeside’. Grayson is savaged by the press for making a violence speech encouraging the striking Belfast workers to use broken glass against the troops and police.
September 1907: Emeleine Pankhurst resigns from Independent Labour Party to concentrate attentions on the WSPU.
September – Oct 1907: Russian Socialist Revolutionary Peter Petroff arrives in Scotland. He seeks the assistance of the Socialist Democtatic Federation as is provided housing in Glasgow by John Maclean. In the 1905 Revolution Petroff claims to have built a socialist organisation within the Tsarist Army in Southern Russia, taking part in an armed rising in Voronezh. He is made Vice-Commissar for Foreign Affairs by Lenin’s Bolshevik government on his return to Russia in 1918.
October – November 1907: Victor Grayson embarks on a series of talks in Paisley, Bonnybridge, Greenock and Glasgow.
December 1907: Grayson hosts lecture entitled ‘The Destiny of the Mob’ at Northgate Mansions Hall in Gloucester. The lecture is an attempt to breathe fresh life into the personality of socialism and relocate the individual at its spiritual centre. Grayson contends that Capitalism has depersonalised and dehumanized the individual. Modern capitalism “placed commodities above human life”. The more they consume us, he tells his audience, “the more we grow.” Even at this early stage it is clear that Grayson thinks that revolution could never flourish without first taking root in the hearts and minds of the bourgeoisie, placing him alongside the likes of Kerensky. He says that it was a fallacy that rich men could not be Socialists. Socialism was coming by the force of circumstances, the “irresistible trend of things”.
1908: Lenin and the Bolsheviks relocate to Paris but remain allied to the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party.
August 1908: Keir Hardie and Victor Grayson both cite ill-health and embark on a trip to Canada, touring both Montreal, Manitoba and Quebec. The trip is financed by Joseph Fels, a German-born philanthropist and friend of Peter Kropotkin and George Lansbury. Fels also sponsored the 1907 5th Congress of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party, paying for the return trip of 300 or so of its delegates including Stalin and Lenin. Activist and Doukhobor leader, Peter Verigin had recently set up communities of exiles in the region. According to the diary of Charles ‘Leo’ Briggs, Grayson had visited Verigin’s friend, Vladmir Chertkov in Bournemouth with Briggs shortly after arriving at Owen College in Manchester. Fred Bower, an activist Grayson had known from his days in Liverpool, had arrived in Canada with a Doukhobor contingent just a few years earlier. Some of the group were charged with rioting and arson.
March 1909: Still an MP, Victor Grayson attends Labour Conference in Portsmouth. Endures rather comical ‘abduction’ by Conservative motorist making him late for his speech. The abduction had been planned by a retired Conservative Naval Officer. Grayson’s Liverpool comrade Fred Bower says Victor was going to talk about the need for Labour to adopt a more militant policy.
April 1909: Grayson writes, ‘The Case For Efficient National Defence’ in The Clarion after visiting Germany and witnessing first-hand its military build-up.
15th September 1909: Adela Pankhurst justifies violent militant tactics to Taranaki Herald (New Zealand) correspondent.
October 1909: Grayson addresses 8,000 social democrats in Trafalgar Square and makes a violent speech denouncing the execution of Catalan anarchist,
Francesc Ferrer i Guàrdia. Henry Hyndman is also present. In the speech Grayson advocates a “life for a life” and declares that if the head of every king in Europe was torn from it’s trunk tomorrow, it would not pay half the price of Ferrer’s life. He says Ferrer’s death lies at the door of King Edward for failing to use his influence in Spain.
January 1910: Grayson loses his seat in the House of Commons.
February 1911: Victor Grayson is invited to the New Zealand Socialist Party’s April Conference in Dunedin (Mark Briggs attends).
August 1911: Formation of British Socialist Party. Grayson is described by the New Zealand Press as its ‘moving spirit’.
March 1912: Grayson becomes an active voice in the Miner’s and Dockers Strikes taking place in Cardiff and the Rhonnda Valley. Criticizes use of military force against striking workers. Condemns arrest of Trade Unionist Tom Mann.
November 1912: Victor Grayson marries Ruth Nightingale (actress Rith Norreys) in Chelsea. Ruth is the daughter John Webster Nightingale (b.1858 Chorlton), a Manchester-Bolton banker whose family have firm links to Lancashire’s Chartist and Nonconformity movements. Her grandfather is Jonathan Nightingale (b.1830) Blackburn. His birth is registered in the National Archive’s among the Non-Conformist Births and Baptism records. Ruth’s great uncle, Benjamin Nightingale was a radical minister whose work is mentioned in the writings of Elizabeth Gaskell (his book, Lancashire Nonconformity is published in 1890). The Nonconformity movement comprised of Presbyterians, Congregationalists and other Calvinist groups. The Nightingales appear to have made their money in Manchester’s Cotton & Textile Industry.
February 1913: Right-wing New Zealand Press report on Grayson and French Socialist efforts to ‘corrupt the army and navy’ should war be declared (they propose calling a general strike).
April 1913: Victor and Ruth Grayson arrive in New York in the midst of a major ‘Silk Strikes’ in New Jersey. His friends and hosts are among the fiercest supporters of the strikes. In an interview with the New York Times Grayson says that murder would be justified during the strikes. In the same interview Ruth describes herself as a ‘militant suffragette’ who believes that women in England are ‘justified in burning houses and raising Cain generally”. She believes that “anything is justifiable.”
April 1913: Grayson visits pro-war Socialists Samuel George Hobson (Cardiff/Bristol) and William English Walling (Kentucky, US). They are associates of the pro-Conscription Henry Hyndman and US Russian-Jewish exiles Sergius Ingerman and Boris Reinstein both now active in the Socialist Labour Party of America. Reinstein took control of the US Passaic Weavers strike of 1912 and the ongoing New Jersey Silk strike. In October 1917 Reinstein returns to Russia and is made Head of Propaganda by Vladimir Lenin. Sergius Ingerman stays in America and founds the New York Plekhanov Group. Plekhanov was one of the leading revolutionaries who like Grayson backed the war in the name of ‘defense of the revolution’ and ‘national defence’. Mensheviks like Plekhanov and Tsereteli were advocates of Social-Chauvinism and believed their vision of revolution was not viable under German triumph. They backed the Revolutionaries’ Second International but not the Comintern (Third International) of 1919. At the end of their stay in America Ruth Grayson tells reporters, “The only people I found worthwhile (here) were the Russian Jews. I liked them.”
May 1913: Writing in Pravda Vladimir Lenin describes Grayson as “a very fiery socialist, but one not strong in principles and given to phrase-mongering.” (Pravda, No. 109, 14 May 1913)
March 9th 1914: Grayson delivers violent revolutionary speech in London. “You must fight capitalism with every possible weapon. If they shoot you down you must get ready to shoot them.”
May 1914: Grayson’s Colne Valley campaigner Adela Pankhurst arrives in Melbourne, Australia.
July 1914: Lenin opposes outbreaks World War One as an ‘imperialist conflict’ and calls for proletariat soldiers to mutiny.
17th July 1914: Grayson election campaigner, Adela Pankhurst arrives in Sydney, Australia at the initiation of E. J. Kavanagh and the New South Wales Labour Council. Reinforces case for militancy. Quickly drafted into the Women’s Peace Army led by Suffragette, Vida Goldstein. Here she embarks on an ‘anti-recruitment’ drive (part of the anti-Conscription League’).
July 1914: Grayson is dispatched by Manchester ‘Umpire’ newspaper (later ‘Empire News’) to France as War Correspondent. It is not backed by the war office.
August 1914: Grayson commissions private plane and flies above trenches and beyond enemy lines. On landing back in France he arrested as a German Spy as a result of Police concerns about his requisite papers. The charges are later dropped.
September 1914: Poor health sees Grayson return to England where he engages in recruitment campaigns.
June 1915: Victor Grayson arrives in Australia on what is believed to have been a pro-war recruitment drive. Sails from London on the SS Orontes (the troopship alleged to have ferried Toplis away from to India before any mutiny happened).
September 1915: Ruth Grayson lands job with Allan Wilkie’s Shakespearean Touring Company. Wilkie receives a CBE in in May 1925 for services to the British Empire.
October 1915: Founder of the British Labour Movement and anti-War campaigner Keir Hardie dies. Grayson at one time regarded Hardie as friend and inspiration.
March 1916: New Zealand Christian Socialist and Pacifist Archibald Baxter makes the New Zealand news when he and several of his associates refuse conscription to the New Zealand Defence Force.
April 26th 1916: New Zealand Returned Soldiers’ Association is founded. Victor’s Grayson’s commanding officer serves as President of the Association between 1924 and 1926.
July 1916: Grayson makes career-changing pro-War speech onboard the Orontes in Australia (the ship that Toplis is alleged to have been on at the time of the Etaples Mutiny).
July 1916: Grayson Colne Valley campaigner, Adela Pankhurst arrives in New Zealand for a series of lectures in Wellington, Auckland, Hamilton and a mass meeting at the Manawatu Flaxworker’s Union – chaired by subsequent pacifist and Conscientious Objector, Mark Briggs.
August 1916: Grayson arrives (and stays) in New Zealand. He is accompanied by his wife Ruth Nightingale (actress Ruth Norreys) as part of Wilkie’s Shakespearean Company. The boat they are sailing on nearly sinks.
August 26th 1916: Frank Hughes of New Zealand’s Canterbury Infantry Regiment shot for serial desertion and refusing to obey orders.
September 1916: Grayson gives lecture at Wellington’s Alexandra Hall entitled, ‘The Coming Revolution‘. He says a social revolution must first take root in the press and religions of the world. This is followed by ‘The Altar of Mammon‘ at an address made at the Socialist Party HQ in Christchurch.
September 1916: Delivers second lecture at Wellington’s Alexandra Hall on behalf of the Social Democratic Party entitled, ‘The War and the Labour Movement’. Attempts create a plausible context for Socialists to back the war.
September 1916: In an interview with the Maoriland Worker, Grayson offers a revealing insight into his pro-Conscription efforts, “the present war would achieve an epoch-making revolution … possibly resulting in the overthrow of capitalism itself”. He claims men would come back from the war “trained to use guns and bayonets and act unitedly”. The men, he goes on, would ‘reap the experiences of the trenches.” His basic premise is that the British proletariat would never be able to go back and accept the terms of their oppression.
October 29th 1916: Conditions at Etaples Camp continue to deteriorate. Private Jack Braithwaite (described as a Bohemian Journalist) serving with the 2nd Battalion of the Otago Regiment of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force is shot for mutiny. Three other New Zealand privates have their sentences commuted. In total five New Zealand soldiers were executed during the war, two from Grayson’s Canterbury Regiment.
November 8th 1916: Adela Pankhurst is back in New Zealand for series of talks in Katamatite.
November 1916: The New Zealand Attoney General calls Grayson a ‘mischievous fanatic’.
November 1916: Writing in the Lyttelton Times, Victor Grayson explains reason for his decision to enlist and his complete change of heart about the war and conscription: ” I have joined the army and hope to fight because the Prusso-Germans, because I believe that my ideals stand the best chance of realisation under a British regime … I hate war and I hate killing. yet if I account for the vassals of the world’s mad dog, I shall have ‘done my bit’ towards the world’s regeneration.”
November 28th 1916: Grayson enlists with New Zealand’s 1st Battalion Canterbury Regiment. Leaves Wellington in March 1917 and completes basic training at Sling Camp in Wiltshire, England. The Canterbury Regiment’s Aberdeenshire-born, Lieutenant Colonel Hugh Stewart (and author of the official history of the New Zealand war effort) spent the period before the war teaching in Russian schools and had learned the Russian language. He was the son of Presbyterian minister, John Stewart and Margaret Mackintosh. In his Official History of the New Zealand Division published in 1922 Stewart is accused of hushing-up the mutiny that broke out in Etaples. Stewart subsequently wrote several books on Russia including ‘Provincial Russia’ and ‘Russia’ (with Sunday Times correspondent, George Dobson and Dutch-French painter and draughtsman, Frederic de Haenen). Both books were published by Adam & Charles Black (owned by the politically active, Adam Black of Edinburgh and Soho whose friend Walter Berry had already been imprisoned for writing a ‘seditious’ pamphlet). Stewart’s co-author, George Dobson was arrested by the Cheka (Soviet secret police) in August 1918 on suspicion of spying for the British. British Naval attaché, Francis Cromie died defending the British Embassy that same year.
November 1916: Grayson gets cold shouldered by the Australian Labour Movement for supporting Conscription.
March 14th 1917: Grayson Colne Valley campaigner, Adela Pankhurst severs her connection with Australian Peace Movement to focus on organising work for the Socialist Party in Australia.
March 1917 – Russia’s February Revolution. Abdication of Tsar Nicholas II and formation of Russian Provisional Government. Mitigating factors include hunger riots, industrial riots and mass desertions among Russian troops. February Revolution still dominated by capitalist stakeholders and supported by many nobles. Socialists had the support of troops and mutiny was a critical factor. Provisional Government and leading members of the Menshevik vow to continue war with Germany.
March 1917: Manawatu Flaxworker’s Union leader and Pankhurst associate, Mark Briggs is arrested by civilian police. Briggs and his fellow objectors are imprisoned first in Wellington, then at Treantham, Sling Camp (Bulford, Wiltshire) before relocation to Etaples Camp. Their status as Conscientious Objectors is not recognised by the military and their treatment is severe.
March 26th 1917: Victor Grayson and his regiment leave Wellington New Zealand for basic training in the UK.
April 1917: German authorities grant Vladimir Lenin passage through Germany to Russia in a sealed railway car. Germany believes the return of the anti-war Lenin to Russia will undermine the Russian war effort.
April 1917: Baxter and his co-defendants (described by the press as ‘recalcitrant reservists’) are tried by court martial in Wellington, New Zealand for refusing orders. They are sentenced to 84 days imprisonment with hard labour and then sent back to camp.
June 3rd 1917: As a direct response to Russia’s February Revolution, a Labour and Socialist Convention is held in Leeds. Over 1500 delegates from the Socialist Democratic parties including British Socialist Party, the ILP and Women’s Organisations attend convention that creates a Council of Workers’ and Soldiers’ (it is welcomed by the Russian Soldiers and Worker’s Deputies and a R.A.M.C unit). Basil Thomson of Special Branch says it was “resolved to divide Great Britain into Soviets to the ominous number of thirteen.” This was a reference to the thirteen elected conveners: H. Alexander, Charles G. Ammon, W.C. Anderson, M.P., C. Despard, E.C. Fairchild, J. Fineberg, F.W. Jowett, M.P., George Lansbury, J. Ramsay Macdonald, MP., Tom Quelch, Robert Smillie, Philip Snowden, MP., and Robert Williams. The Council folds after just six months as a result of disagreements over the October Revolution.
June 24th 1917: Men awaiting demobilization within the Royal Sussex, Middlesex, Royal West Kent and Buffs regiments declare a branch of the Soldiers and Workmen’s Council. The authorities view it as an attempt to create a Soviet and the movement fails to gain traction with other regiments.
July 1917: Men of Russia’s First Expeditionary Brigade begin to rebel openly against the Russian High Command at La Courtine Camp. About 9,000 men refuse to fight and set up their own camp-based ‘Soviet Republic’. The situation in Russia remains dangerously unpredictable and the Bolshevik movement is gaining traction.
26th July 1917: Grayson and the 1st Battalion Canterbury Regiment arrive in Devonport, England and are marched into Sling Camp (Bulford Camp) in England to complete basic training.
August 1917: Adela Pankhurst arrested during a march against rising food prices in Melbourne. Sentenced to one month in prison.
August 1917: Adela’s mother, Emmeline Pankhurst meets Alexander Kerensky, the provisional Justice Minister in Russia. Kerensky played a key role in the Russia’s February Revolution (he leads the moderate Trudoviks faction of the Socialist Revolutionary Party). Between March and October 1917 Kerensky serves as Minister of Justice in Russia’s Provisional Government. Britain are eager to keep the Russians in the War.
August 19th 1917: Private John King of New Zealand’s Canterbury Infantry Regiment is executed for desertion by firing squad.
September 5th 1917: Victor Grayson and his Canterbury Infantry Regiment complete basic training at Sling Camp (Bulford) and leave for France.
September 9th 1917: Victor Grayson and the Canterbury Infantry Regiment arrive at the Reinforcement Camp at Etaples.
September 9th 1917: Etaples Mutiny breaks out (New Zealand and Australian troops take leading role in riots). Disturbances mitigated by vicious beating of Arthur John (‘Jock’) Healy – a bugler within New Zealand’s Field Artillery (b. 1896). Service records show regular disciplinary action taken by Military Police and periods of ‘rest’ in hospital.
September 10th 1917: Etaples soldiers set out demands for improvements to camp conditions (access to town in particular)
September 11th 1917: Small delegation of Etaples soldiers (alleged to have included Percy Toplis) seek support of ‘Soldier’s Champion’ Horatio Bottomley who edits the John Bull newspaper. By chance he is staying at the Hotel des Voyagers in Etaples at the time of the incident. Bottomley writes on October 6th how he sets out their complaints: “Leave, Pay, Field Punishment, Military Policing, Short Rations and Cushy Posts”.
September 12th 1917: General Haig’s diary records that he meets Bottomley for lunch. An entry on the same describes the events at Etaples: “The AG reported some disturbances which have occurred at Etaples, due to some men of new drafts with revolutionary ideas who produced red flags and refused to obey orders. The ring leaders have been arrested, and the others sent to their units at the front.” Did these ‘new drafts’ include Grayson’s Canterbury Regiment?
Mutineer James Cullen (sentences to one year, suspended) later writes: “I was approached by a prominent Communist agitator, who asked me what part I would take in getting the troops to mutiny. There was a small council of action set up and we set about doing everything possible to get a general rising… the councils of action, of which I was one, were giving instructions through under channels. The revolt lasted three days, at the end of which a truce was come to between the General Officer Commanding and the rebel troops. I was one who refused point blank to recognise the truce and carried on with a small band of irresponsibles. Eventually we tried to rush the guard one night, but were repulsed. I was captured and made a prisoner.”
September 12th 1917 (same day) A headline in New Zealand’s The Maoriland Worker reads: “The Great Australian Revolt”. It relates the story and persecution of Adela Pankhurst and the ‘mighty working class revolt’ (Maoriland Worker, Volume 8, Issue 342, 12 September 1917).
September 12th – September 16th 1917: Demands for camp improvements are granted: the removal of the Assistant Provost Marshall (Captain Strachan) and the ‘Red Caps’, the cancelling of out-of-bounds orders, a modification of the Bull Ring (training ground) ‘torture’ and the assurance that no man was to be court-martialled for taking part in the mutiny.
September 16th 1917: In France loyal Russian troops battle mutinous Russian troops who have taken arms with the Bolsheviks. Over twenty Russian troops are killed (it subsequently becomes known as the massacre of La Courtine).
September 18th 1917: Etaples mutineer Arthur ‘Jock’ Healy admitted to Etaples General Hospital (there is no mention in his service records of any disciplinary action being taken against Healy for any role played in the mutiny).
September 22nd 1917: Grayson and the 1st Battalion Canterbury Regiment ordered to the front.
September 22nd 1917: Yorkshire-born objector Mark Briggs marched into Sling Camp (the same New Zealand Army base at Bulford in Wiltshire where Grayson completed his training)
September 1917: Britain’s 74 Chinese Labour Corps in Boulogne go on rampage. A total of 27 unarmed strikers are shot dead, 39 are wounded and 25 are taken prisoner.
October 1st: Mutineer Arthur ‘Jock’ Healy moved from Etaples to a hospital in London England.
October 4th: Etaples Mutineer Jesse Robert Short of the 24 Northumberland Fusiliers, executed by firing squad.
October 6th 1917: New Zealand Conscientious Objector, Mark Briggs arrives in Etaples from Sling Camp (Bulford) and is immediately sentenced to Field Punishment 1: the ‘crucifixion’ – loosely tied to a pole and forced into a hanging position. His torture is ordered by Lieutenant Colonel George Mitchell, generally thought to have helped restore order at the camp in the aftermath of the mutiny. Officers quiz Briggs about his Socialist ‘tendencies’.
October 15th 1917: Victor Grayson is wounded at Passchendaele. Admitted to 9th General Hospital (wound to the left hip). Medical notes say condition made worse by years of alcoholism (1 bottle of whisky a day) and epileptic seizures since 1911.
October 23rd 1917: Etaples Mutineer James Cullen in detention awaiting trial for mutiny. His sentence is suspended and he is sent to the front.
October 29th 1917: Grayson is transferred to No.1 New Zealand General Hospital in Brockenhurst, England.
November 7th 1917: The October Revolution in Russia. Lenin’s Bolshevik-led Red Guards remove the Provisional Government and proclaim soviet rule. Tsar Nicholas III and his family are executed in July 1918.
November 1917: New Zealand Conscientious Objector Archibald Baxter and 13 other detainees leave New Zealand aboard the troopship Waitemata bound for Cape Town on 14 July 1917, imprisoned in the ship’s lockup. They are stripped and put into uniform.
January 8th 1918: Baxter arrives at Sling Camp (Bulford Camp, Wiltshire) after measles outbreak in Cape Town.
January 26th 1918: Military Police warrant issued on Etaples mutineer Arthur John Healy for absentee journey to Edinburgh.
January 28th 1918: New Zealand conscientious objector Archibald Baxter arrives in Etaples. The camp is now under the control of Sling Camp’s Lieutenant Colonel George ‘Hoppy’ Mitchell. The official explanation is that it is to relieve overcrowding at the detention camp at Sling/Bulford, but there are some indications that it was to provide the correct legal framework to mete out more severe punishment.
January 1918: Grayson is discharged from military service as medically unfit. On his return to England he seeks (but is not offered) a financial arrangement with the National War Aims Committee to campaign on their behalf.
Februay 1918: Ruth Grayson gives birth prematurely and dies.
February 18th 1918: Bolsheviks appoint Maxim Litvinovas their Consul in England. John Maclean is appointed Bolshevik Consul in Glasgow. Maclean is subsequently imprisoned for sedition (inciting other Socialists to begin a revolution by seizing the city’s town hall, its banks and post offices). Money is said to have been funnelled to Maclean through bank accounts belonging to Litvinovas (Bolshevik Pay For Agitators, Hawera & Normanby Star, Volume LXXIV, Issue 0, 19 December 1918)
February 1918: Attempted mutiny breaks out on two Imperial Russian ships docked in Liverpool (the Poryv and the Razsvet). Voices are heard crying, ‘Shoot the officers’).
February 1918: Victor Grayson is drafted into trade unionist, Havelock Wilson’s Merchant Seamen’s League. He undertakes active campaigning in Glasgow and ‘Red Clydeside’.
February 1918: Basil Thomson, Head of Special Branch asks impresario Maundy Gregory to keep an eye on Grayson.
April 1918: Grayson provides detailed account of his month-long military career and injury in the Daily Mail.
April 1918: Grayson suddenly withdraws completely from public life, and his attachment to Wilson is severed. He does not feature in Wilson’s plans again.
August 30 1918: Major Police strike in England. 12,000 officers go on strike. Sir Basil Thomson believes it to be economic and not revolutionary in nature.
September 1918: Etaples Mutineer Arthur ‘Jock’ Healy discharged as a result of diagnosed heart murmur (New Zealand’s Department of Internal Affairs records his death as 1966 in Blenheim). Healy went on to serve with the New Zealand Home Guard and as Engine Driver in World War II.
June-November 1918: Grayson moves to Bury Street in London’s St James Palace. Maundy Gregory and Etaples Soldier’s Champion, Horatio Bottomley become Grayson’s most frequent visitors.
November 1918 & March 1919: Riots break out among New Zealand Troops at the Sling Camp (Bulford). Grayson’s old regiment, the Canterbury Regiment is involved. The giant Bulford Kiwi is carved out of the hillside as a way of restoring order and discipline. Transport issues and the influenza pandemic mean that the last group of New Zealand soldiers do not arrive home until May 1920.
January 1919: National Union of Ex-Servicemen (NUX) is founded in London by ‘Victor Grayson mystery’ witness, John Beckett and Ernest Mander, a worker at the ‘Ministry of Munitions’ in London who moves to New Zealand in 1920.
January 10th 1919: Military riots break out in Folkestone. Disturbances breal out at other camps. The slow demobilization process is blamed.
January 1919: Bolshevik violinist, Eduard Sõrmus schedules UK tour to coincide with Sylvia’s ‘Hands of Russia’ meeting at Albert Hall in March.
Janaury 31st 1919: Battle of George Square. Glasgow and Clydeside area is scene of intense riots as 60,000 demonstrators battle with Police. Troops are called in as Churchill’s fears of a Bolshevik revolution take hold. Subsequently referred to as Black Friday. James Cullen associate, William Gallacher is arrested. Maclean’s Red Clydeside Movement is judged to be behind it.
1919: New Zealand Maoriland Worker writer, Edward Hunter (aka. Billy Banjo) returns to Glasgow. The former secretary of the Huntly branch of the New Zealand Socialist Party and Grayson supporter has already been charged with sedition and is blacklisted on the coalfields of New Zealand. As brother-in-law of Scottish Socialist and Labour MP James C. Welsh he enjoys an active role in Clydeside Politics and Political theatre.
March 1919: Special Branch report signs of co-operation between ex-servicemen’s The Sailors’, Soldiers’, and Airmen’s Union and extreme Labour organisations.
August 1919: Percy Toplis re-enlists under his own name in the RASC. He is based at Bulford Camp alongside the remaining New Zealand units (Sling).
April 1920: Still at Bulford, Toplis is charged and sentenced (in absentia) over the murder of taxi driver George Spicer. Another Bulford Soldier, Harry Fallows is arrested. He says he played no part in the murder of Spicer but had accompanied Toplis on a ‘joyride’ to Cardiff and Swansea in the aftermath murder. Toplis makes his way to Bala in Monmouthshire, South Wales, just a few short miles from the home of executed mutineer, Jess Short. He heads back to London and then Scotland.
November 9th 1919: Grayson’s Liverpool and Belfast ally, Jim Larkin is arrested in New York on charges of Criminal Anarchy. During his time in the US the Irish Labour Leader had joined the Socialist Party of America before being expelled for contact with the Soviets. His arrest coincided with raids on the headquarters of the Russian Soviet (Leeds Mercury 10 November 1919)
1920: Adela Pankhurst becomes founding member of the Communist Party of Australia.
June 1920: So-called mutineer Percy Toplis ambushed and killed in Penrith.
1920: Glasgow mutineer James Cullen becomes a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain, and is later offered a place as speaker in Havelock Wilson’s Industrial Peace Union alongside Adela Pankhurst and Tom Walsh. Like Cullen, Pankhurst eventually moves across to the right and forms the Australia First Movement in 1941.
1920: Victor Grayson is alleged to be investigating Maundy Gregory and the role he played in the trial of Roger Casement and the Lloyd George Honours Scandal.
March 1920: ‘Hands Off Russia’ campaign successful in holding strikes. London dockers refuse to load munitions onto ships to support Poland’s fight against Russia. Anti-communist Intelligence community grows concerned about government’s failure to contain British Bolshevism. To support efforts, Joseph Ball is recruited as Mi5’s Head of B Division: the Counter-Espionage Unit.
August 1920: Communist Party of Great Britain is formed at a conference held at Cannon Street Hotel in London. Co-founders include Harry Pollitt, Wal Hannington, Willie Gallacher and Grayson’s ‘Don’t Shoot’ associate, Tom Mann.
September 15th 1920: Still incarcerated in New York on charges of Criminal Anarchy, Jim Larkin issues a demand for the immediate release of Irish hunger striker, Terence MacSwiney.
September 16th 1920: Anarchists bomb Wall Street in New York.
September 26th-28th 1920: Victor Grayson disappears, never to be seen again.
September 29th 1920: Reports leak of a foiled attack on Whitehall featuring British-based networks loyal to Sinn Fein and the Roger Casement Sinn Fein Club. Attacks were planned in response to the arrest of Terence MacSwiney in August 1920.
September 28th 1920: Painter George Flemwell now based in Switzerland claims that on a rare visit to England on September 28th he spots his old friend Victor Grayson entering ‘Vanity Fair’ — a bungalow on Ditton Island in the Thames owned by Maundy Gregory. According to former Sunday Times journalist and one time Fleming associate, Donald McCormick, the same George Flemwell appears in a coded diary entry by suspected Cambridge Spy Ring Master, Arthur Cecil Pigou. The quote from the diary reads: “Established communications with Piatnitsky via George Flemwell in Switzerland: this is permanent link by Verlet in Geneva.” Osip Piatnitsky was one of the Russian revolutionaries who attended the 5th Congress of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party in London alongside Stalin and Lenin. Their host, Reverend F.R Swan was one of Grayson’s most committed campaigners in the 1907 Colne Valley by-election. The existence of the diary cannot be confirmed.
October 22nd 1920: Terence MacSwiney dies in police custody in Brixton Prison.
October 25th 1920: Brixton-based clerk, Michael Simington convicted over the September Whitehall Plot
November 29th 1920: Sinn Fein arsonists launch sustained attack on Liverpool and Manchester.
May 1922: Etaples champion and Grayson visitor, Horatio Bottomley is arrested and charged with fraud. He served 5 years and died penniless in 1933.
January 1st 1927: Toplis’ Bulford accomplice Harry Fallows is found dead in mysterious circumstances in a cave in Derbyshire. He had been living in Manchester and dating a girl called Marjorie Coe Stewart of Mayne Fabric Company in Salford. The girl is also found dead in the cave. Their death comes just a few months after the end of the Great Strike.
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