Letter: Churchill and pits

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Tony Heath (letter, 2 September), suggests that I offered an inaccurate account of the Rhondda troubles of 1910. My purpose was to make clear that Churchill first deployed the police, not armed with guns, in an attempt to restore order and that this was preferable to the immediate deployment of troops.

This was recognised at the time as a courageous and humane decision. The leading article in the Manchester Guardian of 10 November 1910 said: "Mr Churchill was violently attacked in yesterday's Times for a decision which in all probability saved many lives. It needed some courage after the Chief Constable had asked for troops, to stop the troops which were on their way and to send policemen instead. But, as usual the brave decision was the wise one.... One can imagine what would have happened if the soldiers instead of the policemen had come upon the rioters while they were pillaging. Bayonets would have been used instead of truncheons ... and instead of a score of cases for the hospital there might have been as many for the mortuary."

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