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


There were 28 recorded strikes in 1933, spread over 15 prisons. As the tables below show, only 1 strike with a known start and end date lasted more than 2 weeks. While the reasons given for strikes varies, more than half, 17 out of 28, included no record of force feeding.

There is no evidence of a coordinated group strike in 1933, but there was one strike related to the 1932 Dartmoor Mutiny (see the data for 1932 for details). John MacDonald was convicted of larceny in 1930 and sentenced to 5 years in Winchester. While there is no record of MacDonald striking in 1932, in November 1933 he went on a 6 day hunger strike. MacDonald gave no reason for his strike, but officials believed that the strike was a "protest against what prisoner considers is his wrongful punishment following 'D'moor Mutiny'."

One of the more active strikers in 1933 was William Nicholson. Convicted in January 1933 of "obtaining goods by false pretences" and sentenced to 3 years in Manchester, it is possible that this is the same William Nicholson from the previous year (see the data for 1932 for details). On March he went on a hunger strike for 13 days. Less than two weeks later he went on a second strike, which lasted for 44 days. In both instances he cited dissatisfaction with the results of an appeal as his cause. By October it appears that Nicholson had been transferred to Parkhurst, for on October 23 he went on a 3 day hungers strike to protest his lack of proper medical care.

Often prisoners went on hunger strikes to protest conditions in the prisons, particularly food and labor. One prisoner who objected to both was George Walter Payne. Convicted in 1932 of "Grievous Bodily Harm," Payne was sentenced to six years at Maidstone. According to the record, Payne refused food for two days from August 29-31, 1933, then began gradually reducing his diet. Not forcibly fed by officials, he did not resume a complete diet until November 7, 1933. His reasons for striking were twofold. His first objection was that the prison denied him a vegetarian diet. His second complaint was that officials would not excuse him from labor.    

Duration of Strikes

This table includes the 26 strikes for which there was a definite start and end date. 

There were 2 strikes for which the length could not be determined, due to a missing start date, end date, or both.

Notable Strikes, 1933

John MacDonald

John MacDonald

William Nicholson

William Nicholson First Strike
William Nicholson Second Strike
William Nicholson Third Strike

George Walter Payne

George Walter Payne First Strike
George Walter Payne Second Strike