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Hunger Strike in British Prisons 1913-1940


There were 102 hunger strikes in 1921 across 19 prisons. As the tables below show, nearly ever strike lasted less than a week, and for nearly two-thirds of the cases there was no record of force feeding. Among the strikers, one-third gave no reason for their actions, while another one-third attributed their strikes to complaints about their punishments.

There is evidence of several coordinated strikes in 1921. One was carried out by Connaught Rangers imprisoned for their mutiny. From June 28-July 1, 1920, two companies of Connaught Rangers stationed in Ireland refused to perform their military duty, citing the oppression actions the British in their homeland of Ireland. Sixty men were transported to British prisons, where they became heroes in Ireland.  

Another strike was carried out by Sinn Fein prisoners. In the record, officials list the name of eleven men who went on a hunger strike in Wandsworth, but nothing else. The only other detail included was "Sinn Fein prisoners not forcibly fed."

A third group of strikes which appeared coordinated occurred at the end of November by a group of 7 Irish prisoners at Pentonville. The seven men had been independently sent to Pentonville by courts martial in different parts of Ireland (Waterford, Curragh, Dublin, and Athlone). Between November 29 and December 2 these men went on hunger strikes which each lasted 3-4 days, and none of them were force fed. While two of the men complained about conditions in prison, the other five sought treatment as political prisoners.   

Duration of Strikes

This table includes the 74 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 28 strikes for which the length could not be determined, due to a missing start date, end date, or both.

Notable Strikes, 1921

John Kelly, Patrick Willis, and Eugene Egan - three of the Connaught Ranger mutineers.

Kelly, Willis, and Egan - Connaught Ranger mutineers

Sinn Fein Prisoners

Sinn Fein Prisoners 1921

Pentonville Strikers

Pentonville Strikers