The Monocled Mutineer
January 5, 2006 10:01 AM   Subscribe

Etaples, 1917 - The first and last mutiny of the British Army. The story was first told in "The Monocled Mutineer" by William Allison & John Farley which was later made into a BBC drama (script written by Alan Bleasdale) broadcast in 1986. This program has never been shown since on British terrestrial TV and even resulted in questions being asked in Parliament about the BBC's left-wing bias. The true facts will be classified until 2017, 100 years after the events. [mi]
posted by longbaugh (10 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Percy Toplis was the subject of both the book and TV series (ably played by Paul McGann, yes that one) although later research indicated it was unlikely that he had truly played a part in the events. Whilst the Tory government cracked down on the BBC, anti-establishment comics writer Pat Mills sneaked the storyline into his WWI series Charley's War in the comic "Battle". When the few remaining WWI veterans have finally met their comrades maybe there will still be some people who remember the events of those few days in 1917.
posted by longbaugh at 10:02 AM on January 5, 2006 [1 favorite]

This program has never been shown since on British terrestrial TV and even resulted in questions being asked in Parliament about the BBC's left-wing bias.

You say that like it's some kind of conspiracy. There's lots of great political British television drama that never gets a second outing. Days of Hope, for example. Almost all of the early Ken Loach/Tony Garnett stuff apart from Cathy Come Home, come to that.

I think the reason is that there just isn't a huge audience for most of it. After all, you don't get much more political than Boys from the Blackstuff, and that was shown numerous times.

Basically, I think that kind of drama needs to get a BAFTA before it gets the sort of repeats we'd like to see. Or perhaps be written by Dennis Potter.

Good post though.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:16 AM on January 5, 2006

Well made post, longbaugh. Thanks.
posted by dazed_one at 11:08 AM on January 5, 2006

longbaugh - I don;t usppose you;d knwo if that bit is covered by the current titan collection of Charlies War?
posted by Artw at 11:49 AM on January 5, 2006

Not yet Artw - the two collections cover June 2nd - August 1st 1916 and 1st August - 17th October 1916. Titan have apparently given the go-ahead to print Volumes 3 and 4 as of the 30th December which is great news. I pick up on a whole lot more in the stories thanks to the fact that I am no longer 8 years old; rather than a gripping boy's yarn about noble tommies and the evil hun I can now read it as Mill's intended.
posted by longbaugh at 12:20 PM on January 5, 2006

100 years for declassification.. I wonder how the government comes up with these numbers. I can only imagine them as arbitrary, unless such a heinous event took place that warranted a century of secrecy to protect the truth. That seems out of place however, given the fact that many of the details did seem to emerge after all.
posted by MJ6 at 12:42 PM on January 5, 2006

Any number would be arbitrary. Something about protecting the rights of the living, I think. Or (it is whispered) the Royals. There's that story (correct me if I'm wrong, but I seem to recall-) about the British government not thinking it quite the thing to take in Cousin Nicky and his Hun wife when the Russians were making a new government. Well, who knew what was going to happen? Still, no cloud without a silver lining. Later on, Queen Mary, who had a thing about jewelry, apparantly bought a bunch of Tsarist baubles on the cheap from the high minded Bolshies. Still, no real need to make a to do about it.

Oh, there's a lot of stuff to hide from that era, and I hope I'm around to see what the professionals dig out. Or can determine was accidentally destroyed.

(Surely a heinous event is the last thing that should be kept secret? Though I agree, a hundred in any event seems a bit much.)

Good post, BTW. You got any more?
posted by IndigoJones at 2:36 PM on January 5, 2006

The true facts will be classified until 2017, 100 years after the events

Is this really true? The old '100-year rule' was abolished a long time ago, and nowadays it's only census and medical records that are normally subject to 100-year closure. It seems very unlikely to me that any files relating to the Etaples mutiny would still be classified -- and even if they are, then it ought to be possible to get them declassified under the Freedom of Information Act.

If anyone can prove me wrong, by pointing me in the direction of these top-secret files, then I'll submit a FoI request to see them myself, and post the results to Metafilter.
posted by verstegan at 2:46 PM on January 5, 2006

Nice post! I couldn't stop laughing at the vision of tired men at war wanting a drink and just ignoring authority. But being ignorant of this event, I didn't realize how serious it had seemed until late in the article.

I'm always thrilled to find stories like this of social norms being tossed aside.
posted by infowar at 4:05 PM on January 5, 2006

The old '100-year rule' was abolished a long time ago

2000, in fact, and I have to say that as an American I was unaware, so thank you, verstegan, for that. Please do follow up if you can, it would be most interesting.

(Mind you, they appear to have a whole slew of exempt information)
posted by IndigoJones at 5:21 AM on January 6, 2006

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