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Title: 'Tommy Atkins' wrath: British military wrongdoing in Palestine, Malaya, Cyprus & Aden 1945-67
Author: Standley, Charlie
Awarding Body: University of Reading
Current Institution: University of Reading
Date of Award: 2013
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The conduct of British soldiers in wars of decolonisation has never been of greater historiographical relevance. In legal proceedings ending in 2013 a group of elderly ethnic Kikuyu won the right to sue the British Government for compensation claiming they had been subjected to torture during the Mau Mau Emergency. As a result the Foreign Office was forced to admit the existence of a secret archive at Hanslope Park containing documents relating not only to Kenya but other end-of-Empire conflicts. These have shed new light on the sometimes brutal nature of British counterinsurgency practice and given impetus to the scholarly debates surrounding it. Using this new material alongside existing government files and the first-hand accounts of contemporaries this thesis investigates alleged incidents of wrongdoing by British soldiers - the eponymous Tommy Atkins - in four post-war conflicts: Palestine, Malaya, Cyprus and Aden. It introduces as a key explanation the issue of demarcation. Despite exhortations from senior officers soldiers proved reluctant to separate operations from recreation; military families found themselves in harm's way accompanying husbands into dangerous theatres; and soldiers' duties often overlapped with those of civilian police. It will be argued that the blurring of these boundaries provided soft targets for insurgents whose attacks led to vengeful reprisals from British soldiers. Other reasons for illegal violence will be sought including the motivation of individual soldiers, the institutional culture of certain units and the British Army as a whole, and whether or not there was a racial component. Reactions of governments in London and the colonies as well as political parties, the media and wider public opinion will also feature prominently. 'Tommy Atkins' wrath' features eleven in-depth case studies from four conflicts, widespread discussion of theatre and unit-specific factors which influenced soldiers' likelihood to commit wrongdoing, comparisons with other colonial powers and analysis of the current state of historiography on the subject.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available