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Hunger Strikes in British Prisons, 1913-1940  > 
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Hunger Strike in British Prisons 1913-1940


There were 20 recorded strikes in 1923, spread over 11 prisons. As the tables below show, 12 out of the 15 strikes with a known start and end date lasted less than a week. In addition, officials did not resort to force feeding in 6 of the 20 strikes. While 6 of the prisoners refused to give a reason for striking, the largest group that gave a reason cited complaints about their punishment.   

There is no evidence of a coordinated group strike in 1923, but there were a few interesting cases. 4 of the 20 strikes were carried out by one prisoner, Joseph Kennelly. Kennelly appears to have been convicted of making counterfeit coins and sentenced to 3 years in Dartmoor. Between June and August 1923 he went on four hunger strikes lasting 3, 7, and 18 days, with one of unknown length. While he gave no reason for striking, officials suspected he was seeking a transfer to Parkhurst. It is unknown how influential his hunger strikes were, but Kennelly appears in the record again in 1924, now at Parkhurst. In 1924 he went on 3 more hunger strikes: 52 days for no reason, 4 days over complaints about prison conditions, and another 4 days demanding to be detained in the hospital.

Also in 1923 were two cases of officials using force feeding to deter hunger strikes. Thomas Clarke and Hilda Mitchell, separately convicted of unspecified crimes and sentenced to hard labor at Birmingham, independently went on hunger strikes in July 1923. But officials noted that in both cases, the prisoner took food when preparations were made to begin force feeding.  


Duration of Strikes

This table includes the 15 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 5 strikes for which the length could not be determined, due to a missing start date, end date, or both.

Notable Strikes, 1923

Joseph Kennelly

Joseph Kennelly First and Second Strike
Joseph Kennelly Third Strike
Joseph Kennelly Fourth Strike
Joseph Kennelly Fifth Strike
Joseph Kennelly Sixth Strike
Joseph Kennelly Seventh Strike

Thomas Clarke and Hilda Mitchell

Thomas Clarke
Hilda Mitchell