Sunday, December 08, 2013

Victor Durand - The IWW, The Navy & The Incident of the "On The Knee, Dog"

Victor Durand
The IWW, The Navy and The Incident of the "On The Knee, Dog"

On the 9th September 1935 Comrade Victor Durand died in Cardiff, South Wales at the early age of 55.

Victor Durand was an old navy man and served for many years on the Royal Yacht and was a petty officer in the Royal Naval Reserve.

He took an active part in organising the lower deck men during the infamous episode of "On the knee, dog" and was instrumental in forming a branch of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) or "Wobblies" among the naval ratings after his transfer to the China station

Always uncompromising in his work on behalf of the workers he will be sadly missed by all who knew him, and the workers movement have lost a noble fighter at a critical period in its history

Daily Worker 10th September 1935


The incident of "On the knee, dog" would seem to refer to an order given by Lieutenant Bernard St. George Collard, who unhappy at the state of the "muster" at the Portsmouth Naval Barracks on 4th Febuary 1905, (it had been raining heavily and the men keen to get into the dry) recalled the men to Royal Navy gymnasium where he gave then the humiliating naval order "On the knee" (kneel on one knee).  The 110  navy stokers from the Nelson, present took exception to this order, and refused to do so, eventually after threats of being put in the cells, all but one First Class Stoker Edwin Allan Moody agreed to do so. Later in the canteen at 10 O'clock someone shouted out "on the knee" and the 300 stokers angered, began to make a disturbances and headed for the officers quarters at the Naval barracks and the disturbance spilt over into the surrounding streets . The guard turned out and fixed bayonets. Only After assurances were given the men returned to their rooms at 12 after what was called a "Riot" in the papers. 

Edwin Allan Moody was Court Martial in December 1906 in Portsmouth and received 5 years hard labour. The order "On the knee" was changed so that it could only be used in a military (front line) situation. The Daily Mail of course said that the order was simply "a misconstrued order"