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An American Uprising in Second World War England

Title:An American Uprising in Second World War England - Mutiny in the Duchy
Writer:Werran, K.
Published:Pen & Sword
Published in:2020

Many books have been written about the famous lawsuits of the Second World War, such as the Nuremberg trials, where the leaders of the Third Reich were given their sentences. In An American Uprising in Second World War England one lawsuit is dealt with, that caught the attention of the British and American population in 1943. During this process fourteen black Americans were charged with mutiny. Through the media the free world was kept up to date about this.

The book revolves around an incident of 26 September 1943 with the 581st Ordnance Company of the American army. On that day fourteen soldiers of the previously named segregated unit took up arms and fired some shots in Launceston, in the southeast of England. In the event a jeep was damaged and a military policeman wounded. While it was just a minor incident, there had been tensions brewing around the racial segregation.

In the following lawsuit in Launceston several errors were revealed. The actual perpetrator couldn’t be identified, rights weren’t read to the suspects, and not all suspects could read and check if their statement was taken properly. None of this mattered, as the court wasn’t concerned with the question if someone was guilty, but only with the question of how guilty they were. The accused were disadvantaged in everything, such as shown in the ranks of their attorneys and those of the prosecutors. The prosecuting attorneys were the superiors of the defensive attorneys. While this doesn’t say anything about the quality of the defense, it was a clear symbolic signal of what was more important. After three days the verdict was ready, which was kept secret on purpose. Only later it would be revealed that the men were put to work and received dishonorable discharge, while it had been suggested that they would be executed.

Interesting is that this book used a relatively unknown event to deal with larger themes. It concerns the segregation in the American army, segregation in American society, and the reactions of the British population towards this, which thought more fondly of the black Americans than the white Americans. The segregation even went so far that black Brits, who weren’t American citizens, were subjected to the segregation. This led to a conflict within the British government, which didn’t agree with the racial segregation, but needed to keep on the good terms with their American allies. On the basis of different sources, the topics are tackled, such as legal sources from the trial and opinion polls of the British population, combined with excellent annotation.

Overall, the book is excellently researched and deals with a still-actual topic. Kate Werran has produced a worthy read and the book is highly recommended.

Beoordeling: (Excellent)


Article by:
Samuel de Korte
Published on:
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