The premises of the Transport and General Workers Union (TGWU) on Trafford Road (now the United Reform Church) in Salford was chosen as the strike headquarters and J.A. Webb, Secretary of the TGWU and a Salford man, was appointed to act as Secretary of the North West Strike Committee. It made sense. Manchester was not a centre of the mining industry whereas Salford had 3,000 miners living in Swinton and Pendlebury at that time. There were also 1,600 tramwaymen in the City and over 3,000 men working on the docks.
The General Strike, which broke out on 3rd May 1926, began to have a serious affect after the first week when a bread shortage threatened. The dockers firmly refused to allow any movement of goods on the docks and the Government moved the destroyer Wessex up the Canal. They sent naval ratings to escort 500 volunteers who assembled at Salford Police Station with the intention of moving flour and grain to the bakeries. But they were prevented from doing so by the mill workers and dockers.
On 11th May, the second line strikers, those in the engineering and shipyards, were called out at midnight. But before their action could take effect, the incredulous news was received that the T.U.C. had called the strike off. Many workers refused to believe it and continued their action. They thought it was a false message sent out on the radio which had been used by the Government for the first time in history as a means of communication.
The Communist Party issued a leaflet headed THE GREAT BETRAYAL the text of which was sent from London for local duplication and distribution, and Salford Communist Party Secretary, Jack Forshaw, started producing copies.
Meanwhile the police began arresting people caught with copies of the leaflet on them. George Dodd, Boston Dunn, Harold Hicks, David John, Hugh Graham and Hymie Lee were among those taken in. The police found copies of the GREAT BETRAYAL on Jack’s duplicator and he was also arrested.
What followed was one of the most disgraceful episodes of the strike. Forshaw was kept in prison over the weekend. He was a diabetic who needed special food, medication and warmth, all of which he was denied. He contracted pneumonia whilst in prison and died within a few days.
Salford workers put up a magnificent struggle acting in a dignified and responsible way in spite of attempts to provoke or intimidate them. Most workers returned to work on the same terms but the miners were left to fight on alone for seven long and hungry months before they too were forced back by starvation.
The Working Class Movement Library has a large collection of material on the General Strike, including some illustrations. It also holds the archive on Jack Forshaw’s experiences.