CHAPTER XXI
The Police Strike

ON AUGUST 301 1918, eleven weeks before the Armistice, London learned with consternation that more than six thousand of the Metropolitan Police and practically all the City of London force were on strike. Their demands were:

The official recognition of the National Union of Police and Prison Officers; an increase of pay and a war bonus; and the reinstatement of Police Constable Thiel, who had been discharged from the force by a discipline board for his action in connection with the police union.

General Smuts was deputed by the Prime Minister to see the men and endeavour to persuade them to return to duty, but he found the task beyond him. The fact was that the nerves of many people in London had succumbed to a kind of war hysteria from the strain of four years' fighting. The author had evidence of this when he had to make his way through the strikers on the first morning. They filled the approaches to Scotland Yard in plain clothes, shouting and booing, and among those who were shouting the loudest were men that he knew almost intimately as calm, energetic, and conscientious officers. Mass influence had entirely changed them. There was a strange, hysterical light in their eyes, but he saw them recover their balance as he passed, and one of them made a shamefaced gesture of salute.

At about 4 P.M. several thousands who had changed into mufti marched from Scotland Yard to Smith Square, where

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