You are exploring:  Library  >
Exhibits  > 
Hunger Strikes in British Prisons, 1913-1940  > 
Annual Statistics  > 
Hunger Strike in British Prisons 1913-1940


There were 103 recorded strikes in 1920, spread over 25 prisons (two of the prisons were unable to be identified). Nearly a quarter of the strikes (24) took place in Liverpool. As the tables below show, about half of the strikes lasted less than two weeks, but there a number which lasted much longer, included one hunger strike which went on for more than four months. The tables also demonstrate that prison officials did not resort to force-feeding in more than one-third of the hunger strikes. While there were a variety of reasons given for strikes, conscientious objectors made up the largest group. See the data for 1917 for more details on conscientious objectors during World War One.   

There is evidence of one coordinated strike in 1918. On July 22-23, 1918, a group of prisoners in Liverpool went on a hunger strike. The men gave no reason for their strike, but officials noted that they were acting "in concert with others under punishment." All of the men had been convicted of "disobedience" at the District Courts Martial at Dublin, Cork, or Chester, and sentenced to 2 years hard labor at Liverpool. There is no record of when the group ended their strike, nor is there any indication that officials attempted to force feed the prisoners.   

Also in 1918 was an incident of death of force feeding. In November 1917, political prisoner William E. Burns was convicted of an unspecified crime at a District Courts Martial and sentenced to 2 years at Hull. On March 14, 1918, Burns died from "pneumonia, consequent upon the inhalation of some fluid food during the forcible feeding." An official investigation found that the tube used in the feeding was too flexible. The record does not indicate when or why Burns began his hunger strike.  

Duration of Strikes

This table includes the 70 strikes for which there was a definite start and end date. Strikes with a length of "0" indicate the strike started and ended on the same day.

There were 33 strikes for which the length could not be determined, due to a missing start date, end date, or both.

Notable Strikes, 1918

Conscientious Objectors

Conscientious Objectors
Conscientious Objectors

Group Strike

Group Strike 1
Group Strike 2
Group Strike 3
Group Strike 4

William E. Burns - Death by Force Feeding

William E. Burns