This article appeared in "Past and Present" No.69 (Nov. 1975) and was assessed by JSTOR in 2008. It is a very long article so bear with me as I place it on the forum, but thought it might be of interest to the members. Mutiny at Etaples Base in 1917 On the last day of December 1917 Wilfred Owen wrote to his mother: Last year, at this time, (it is just midnight, and now is the intolerable instant of the Change) last year I lay awake in a windy tent in the middle of a vast encampment. It seemed neither France or England, but a kind of paddock where the beasts are kept a few days before the shambles. I heard the revelling of the Scottish troops, who are now dead, and who knew they would be dead. I thought of this present night, and whether I should indeed - whether we should indeed - whether you would indeed - but I thought neither long or deeply, for I am a master of elision. But chiefly I thought of the very strange on all faces in that camp; an incomprehensible look, which a man will never see in England, though wars should be in England; nor can it be seen in any battle. But only in Etaples. It was not despair, or terror, it was more terrible than terror, for it was a blindfold look, and without expression, like a dead rabbit's." Eight months after that night in Etaples described by Owen, the base was disrupted by a week of riot. Men poured out of the vast, dreadful encampment, attacked the Military Police, displaced the officers, and flooded through the town. Their demonstrations were suppressed, but were followed, in the eighteen months threreafter by a multiplicity of riots, strikes and other conflagrations. These disturbances, though arising for a variety of reasons and rarely linking with each other, went far towards compelling reform, concession and measures of improvement; and led eventually to the dismantling of great sections of the army. The incidents at Etaples Base in September 1917 formed by no means the largest mutiny in the British army of that day. But it was the first, and it lived, more vividly than all the others, in the memories of those who passed through the base camps on their way towards the front. Today, drawing on the military archives and on the recollections of men present at that time, the events of that week may be carefully set out. The Etaples mutiny throws light on the inner workings of the army: on the relationship, that is, between officers and men, between the men of one unit and those drawn from another, between the officers at Etaples and those at General Headquarters (G.H.Q.); and, not least, on the policy of Sir Douglas Haig in areas which military historians have chosen to neglect. In tha late summer of 1917 the British Expeditionary Force, France and Flanders, was deployed along a section of the Western Front extending from the coast of Belgium to the head-waters of the Somme. In the trenches, behind the lines, gathered in the base depots, and strung out along the lines of communication, were gathered some two million officers and men. This great army, the largest that Great Britain has ever sent abroad, was manned, reinforced, armed, fed and generally supplied, along routes which started principally in England: routes passed through the English ports, across the Channel, and thence through the great bases on the northern coast of France. One such base was Etaples, a small town in the Pas de Calais, some fifteen miles south of Boulogne. Etaples Base embraced port facilities, railway yards, stores, hospitals, prisons, training areas and all the encumberances of an army at war; but consisted principally of a series of Infantry Base Depots (I.B.D.s), gathered on the rising ground to the east of the railway which runs north-south beside the town. Drafts from England for numerous infantry divisions passed through the I.B.D.'s where, according to unit, they were regrouped, put through a period of training, and sent forward to the front. Also on the depots were to be found men transferring to other theatres of the war or classed as "Temporary Base" after hospital and convalescence. Between June 1915 and September 1917 more than a million officers and men passed through Etaples on their way to the front.