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


There were 33 recorded strikes in 1934, spread over 13 prisons. As the tables below show, all but one of the strikes with a known start and end date lasted less than two weeks. While the reasons prisoners gave for their strikes were diverse, they generally involved complaints about their punishment or prison conditions. More than half of the cases have no records of force feeding.

There is no evidence of a coordinated group strike in 1934. But throughout the year there were several strikes which appear to aim only to disturb the peace. William Nicholson appears in the record again (see 1932 and 1933). Still serving a 3 year sentence at Parkhurst for "obtaining goods by false pretence," Nicholson began a 17 day hunger strike in March, for no reason other than a "general grievance." Officials did not sound too concerned, noting that he had a "history of previous hunger strikes." Nicholson was not force-fed, primarily because he did take 6 ounces of milk a day.

Francis Leonard Ambrose went on 4 different strikes in 1934 for no other reason that "to cause trouble." Convicted of receiving stolen goods, Ambrose was sentenced to 3 years at Dartmoor in December 1930, but remained in prison through 1934. From January through May he went on 4 different strikes, lasting 4, 7, 8, and 5 days. Officials responded to his desire to cause trouble by force feeding him with a stomach pump, between 1 and 2 times per day. 

The longest strike, though the record does not list the exact start date, was carried out by Mary Barrington Kelly. Convicted of receiving stolen goods, willful damage, and larceny, Kelly was sentenced to prison time and hard labor at Holloway. In early September she began refusing most of her food, and did not resume until the end of November. Kelly claimed that she was striking because of unjust treatment by the judge who sentenced her and the prison Governor.   

Duration of Strikes

This table includes the 32 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 was 1 strike for which the length could not be determined, due to an unknown start date.

Notable Strikes, 1934

William Nicholson

William Nicholson

Francis Leonard Ambrose

Francis Leonard Ambrose First Strike
Francis Leonard Ambrose Second Strike
Francis Leonard Ambrose Third Strike
Francis Leonard Ambrose Fourth Strike

Mary Barrington Kelly

Mary Barrington Kelly