Wednesday, 24 June 2020

the battle of bamber bridge

On this evening in 1943, there was a mutiny among the ranks of segregated US service members stationed in the eponymous Lancashire village, provoked by racist attitudes and the lingering tension of reports of the distant Detroit riots (see also) sparked in part by mobilising the military and ramping up the manufacture of materiel. The village hosted a sustainment regiment of trucking and logistics engineering, a unit of the quartermaster corps, that was compromised exclusively of Black soldiers in one part of the village and another military police detachment in another, whom were white.
Accounts of hospitality and accommodation vary slightly but according to most sources, the villagers were welcoming and supportive of their quartermaster unit—and in any case, treated immensely better abroad than at home—and when American commanders insisted that a separate bar be established, all three publicans, landlords posted “Black Troops Only” signs. Tensions rose at Ye Old Hob Inn during a confrontation between an MP patrol and a private accused of being improperly dressed during leisure hours and at the pub without a pass. The brawl turned violent when the armed MPs turned their machine guns on the others, whom were forced to raid their unit’s armoury in self-defence. Locals defended the GIs at the pub, siding with them as being attacked unprovoked. Once the melee had ended by the next afternoon, one was dead and seven were injured, with court martial proceedings taken up immediately. Though the mutiny was censored from the press and not disclosed until decades later, institutional reforms were almost immediate, with commands restructured and racist officers removed from leadership positions, and while still segregated generally for years longer, morale for Black soldiers stationed in Europe markedly improved and MP patrols were integrated and required to have a diverse makeup.