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General Strike Day 1: Tuesday, 4 May 1926

Day 1

[From 'The Daily Herald', 4 May 1926]

An almost complete industrial paralysis"

BBC news broadcast, 7pm

  • The strike is run centrally by the Trades Union Congress through Ernest Bevin’s Strike Organisation Committee and locally co-ordinated by trades councils or councils of action.
  • 'First-line' workers - including those working in transport, printing trades and "productive" industries (e.g. iron and steel, building trade, electricity and gas supply) - are called out on strike. The response exceeds expectations, and the strikers are joined by many non-unionists – 3 ½ million are thought to be on strike.
  • Workers involved in the distribution of food, provision of health and sanitary services, or building of homes and hospitals are instructed to remain at work.
  • Public transport is at a near standstill. In London the roads are jammed with vehicles and thousands travel to work on foot. A crowd stop traffic going through the Blackwall Tunnel in East London and are baton-charged by police. Crowds in Newcastle force travellers to abandon their cars.
  • No national newspapers are produced, as the printers are on strike. The BBC issues regular radio news bulletins and broadcasts government appeals for volunteers. The Labour Party leader James Ramsay Macdonald is refused permission to broadcast a statement. Emergency strike bulletins are produced by various organisations.
  • The Organisation for the Maintenance of Supplies merges with the government organisation.
  • The Women's Auxiliary Service announce that they are enrolling an Emergency Corps of women to do welfare work among women and children.
  • The President of the Board of Trade calls on the London Emergency Committee to take control of the London milk supply.
  • Temporary buildings are constructed in Hyde Park, London, in preparation for its use as a food distribution centre by the government.
  • Food supplies are landed by two warships in Liverpool.
  • Naval ratings are used to help keep power stations working.
  • Shapurji Saklatvala, the Communist MP for North Battersea, is arrested and charged with making a 'seditious' speech in Hyde Park on 1st May; he would be sentenced to two months’ imprisonment on 5th May.
  • The Prince of Wales ignores orders against flying without the special authorisation of the King and government, and returns to Britain from France, using an Imperial Airways airplane. Air transport was also used to distribute an emergency bulletin published by the Daily Mail in Manchester.

Selected sources:

See all digitised sources for Day 1