Battle of Bamber Bridge

Coordinates: 53°43′18″N 2°39′44″W / 53.7217°N 2.6621°W / 53.7217; -2.6621
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Battle of Bamber Bridge
Part of Second World War
Ye Olde Hob Inn, where the violence started
Date24–25 June 1943
Bamber Bridge, Lancashire, England, United Kingdom

53°43′18″N 2°39′44″W / 53.7217°N 2.6621°W / 53.7217; -2.6621
Caused byRacial tensions
34th US Military Police Company
1511th Quartermaster Truck Regiment
Charged32, charged with mutiny
Battle of Bamber Bridge is located in Lancashire
Battle of Bamber Bridge
Location of Bamber Bridge
Battle of Bamber Bridge is located in the United Kingdom
Battle of Bamber Bridge
Battle of Bamber Bridge (the United Kingdom)

The Battle of Bamber Bridge is the name given to an outbreak of racial violence involving American soldiers stationed in the village of Bamber Bridge, Lancashire, in Northern England during the Second World War. Tensions had been high following a failed attempt by US commanders to racially segregate pubs in the village, and worsened after the 1943 Detroit race riot. The battle started when White American Military Police (MPs) attempted to arrest several African American soldiers from the racially segregated 1511th Quartermaster Truck Regiment for being out of uniform at Ye Olde Hob Inn public house in Bamber Bridge.

In a confrontation on the street afterwards, a white MP shot and killed Private William Crossland. More military police then arrived armed with machine guns and grenades, and black soldiers armed themselves with rifles from their base armoury for protection. Both sides exchanged fire through the night. Although a court martial convicted 32 African American soldiers of mutiny and related crimes, poor leadership and the racist attitudes of the MPs were acknowledged as causes.[1]


During the Second World War, Bamber Bridge hosted American servicemen from the 1511th Quartermaster Truck regiment, part of the Eighth Air Force. Their base, Air Force Station 569 (nicknamed "Adam Hall"), was on Mounsey Road, part of which still exists now as home to 2376 (Bamber Bridge) Squadron of the Royal Air Force Air Cadets. The 1511th Quartermaster Truck was a logistics unit, and its duty was to deliver materiel to other Eighth Air Forces bases in Lancashire.[2] The 234th US Military Police Company were also in the town, on its north side.[1]

The US Armed Forces were still racially segregated, and the soldiers of 1511 Quartermaster Truck were almost entirely black, and all but one of the officers were white, as were the MPs. Military commanders tended to treat the service units as "dumping grounds" for less competent officers, and the leadership in the unit was poor.[3]

Racial tensions were exacerbated by the race riots in Detroit earlier that week, which had led to 34 deaths, including 25 black casualties.[4]

According to Anthony Burgess, the people of Bamber Bridge supported the black troops, and when US commanders demanded a colour bar in the town, all three pubs in the town reportedly posted "Black Troops Only" signs.[5]

Outbreak of violence[edit]

On the evening of 24 June 1943, some soldiers from the 1511th Quartermaster Truck Regiment were drinking with the English townsfolk in Ye Olde Hob Inn. Details of how the incident developed differ between sources.

Two MPs, Corporal Roy A. Windsor and Private First Class Ralph F. Ridgeway, responded to a report of trouble at a local pub. The MPs had standing orders to arrest soldiers who were out of camp without a pass, were disorderly, or were not in proper uniform. On entering the pub, they encountered one soldier, Private Eugene Nunn who was dressed in a field jacket rather than the required class A uniform, and asked him to step outside. An argument ensued, with local people and British servicewomen of the Auxiliary Territorial Service siding with Nunn.[6][1] One British soldier challenged the MPs by saying, "Why do you want to arrest them? They're not doing anything or bothering anybody."[7]

Staff Sergeant William Byrd, who was black, defused the situation but, as the MPs left, a beer was thrown at their jeep. After the MPs picked up two reinforcements, they spoke to Captain Julius F. Hirst and Lieutenant Gerald C. Windsor, who told the MPs to do their duty and to arrest the black soldiers. A group of MPs intercepted the soldiers on Station Road as they returned to their base at Mounsey Road. As a fight broke out, the MPs opened fire, and one bullet struck Private William Crossland of the 1511th in the back and killed him.[7][8]

Some of the injured black soldiers returned to their base, but the killing caused panic as rumours began to spread that the MPs were out to shoot black soldiers. Although the colonel was absent, acting CO Major George C. Heris attempted to calm the situation. Lieutenant Edwin D. Jones, the unit's only black officer, managed to persuade the soldiers that Heris would be able to round up the MPs and see that justice was done.[1][3]

However, at midnight, several jeeps full of MPs arrived at the camp, including one improvised armoured car armed with a large machine gun. That prompted black soldiers to arm themselves with weapons. Around two thirds of the rifles were taken, and a large group left the base in pursuit of the MPs.[1] British police officers reported that the MPs set up a roadblock and ambushed the soldiers.[4]

The black soldiers warned the townsfolk to stay inside when a firefight broke out between them and the MPs, which resulted in seven wounded. The fighting stopped around 04:00 the next morning with an officer, three black soldiers, and one MP having been shot and two other MPs beaten. Eventually, the soldiers returned to the base, and by the afternoon, all but four rifles had been recovered.[1][3][9]

Arrests and courts-martial[edit]

By one later account, the violence left one man dead and seven people (five soldiers and two MPs) injured.[3] Although a court martial convicted 32 black soldiers of mutiny and related crimes, poor leadership and racist attitudes among the MPs were blamed as the cause.[1] None of the white MPs were charged, including the one who killed the black soldier, by shooting him in the back.

Two trials were conducted. In August, four of the black soldiers involved in the initial brawl were sentenced to hard labour, one to two and a half years and the others to three, and all to dishonourable discharges, with one of those convictions being overturned on review. The second trial involved 35 defendants. It concluded on 18 September with seven acquittals and 28 convictions. Sentences for those convicted ranged from three months to 15 years, with seven sentences of 12 years or more. Reviews resulted in the release of one man and reductions in all other sentences. Fifteen of the men returned to duty in June 1944 and six other sentences were further reduced. The defendant with the longest sentence returned to duty after serving 13 months.[9]

General Ira C. Eaker, commander of the Eighth Air Force, placed most of the blame for the violence on the white officers and MPs because of their poor leadership and use of racial slurs. To prevent similar incidents happening again, he combined the trucking units into a single special command. The ranks of that command were purged of inexperienced or racist officers, and the MP patrols were racially integrated. Morale among black troops stationed in England improved, and the rates of courts-martial fell. Although there were several more racial incidents between black and white American troops in Britain during the war, none was on the scale of that of Bamber Bridge.[2][5]

Reports of the mutiny were considerably censored, with newspapers disclosing only that violence had occurred in a town somewhere in North West England.[10]

In 1945 Nevil Shute used the incident as material for his fictional account of wartime racism The Chequer Board, which was published in 1947.[11] The author Anthony Burgess, who lived in the Bamber Bridge area after the war, wrote about the event briefly in The New York Times in 1973 and in his autobiography, Little Wilson and Big God.[5][12]

Popular interest in the event increased in the late 1980s after a maintenance worker discovered bullet holes from the battle in the walls of a Bamber Bridge bank.[7]


The Battle of Bamber Bridge was one of the few instances during World War II where racial tensions and clashes erupted between American soldiers on foreign soil. Similar events took place in Australia at the "Battle of Brisbane", and in New Zealand at the "Battle of Manners Street". These instances stand out as significant events that shed light on the racial discrimination and segregation that existed within the U.S. military at that time.

The incident occurred in a small town in England, rather than on a battlefield, which further sets it apart from typical wartime conflicts. The clash between African American soldiers and white military police in Bamber Bridge was a direct result of racial segregation policies within the military and the racial tensions that arose from them.

Furthermore, the Battle of Bamber Bridge had repercussions beyond the immediate incident. It sparked discussions and debates about racial integration and equality within the U.S. military, leading to subsequent changes in policies and practices. The event has been described as a "precursor to battles that would unfold on American streets for decades to come, during the Civil Rights era".[13]


In June 2013, to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the incident, the University of Central Lancashire held a symposium.[14] It included a screening of the 2009 documentary Choc'late Soldiers from the USA[A] which was produced by Gregory Cooke, and a performance of Lie Back and Think of America, a play written by Natalie Penn of Front Room, which had played at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.[14]

In June 2022, a memorial garden commemorating the battle was created opposite the pub where the Battle of Bamber Bridge started. The incident inspired the plot of the film The Railway Children Return.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "A landmark documentary explores how African American soldiers and British civilians formed an unexpected bond during World War II", which had its world premiere at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of African American History and Culture on 10 November 2009. American History and Culture[15]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Werrell, Ken (1978). Ramsey, Winston G. (ed.). "The Mutiny at Bamber Bridge". After the Battle. No. 22. pp. 1–11. ISBN 9780900913150.
  2. ^ a b Miller, Donald L. (2007). Masters of the Air: America's Bomber Boys Who Fought the Air War Against Nazi Germany. New York: Simon and Schuster. pp. 227–229. ISBN 9780743235457.
  3. ^ a b c d Nalty, Bernard C. (1 January 1986). Strength for the Fight: A History of black Americans in the Military. Simon and Schuster, Free Press. pp. 154–157, 228. ISBN 9780029224113.
  4. ^ a b "When the American military said sorry to Bamber Bridge". Lancashire Evening Post. 12 April 2012. Archived from the original on 2 July 2018. Retrieved 2 June 2017.
  5. ^ a b c Pollins, Harold. "WW2 People's War – The Battle of Bamber Bridge". BBC. Archived from the original on 4 October 2017. Retrieved 4 April 2017.
  6. ^ Warrell1975, p. 203.
  7. ^ a b c Rice, Alan (22 June 2018). "Black troops were welcome in Britain, but Jim Crow wasn't: the race riot of one night in June 1943". The Conversation. Archived from the original on 1 April 2019. Retrieved 5 April 2019.
  8. ^ "The Riot of Bamber Bridge (1943)". Archived from the original on 3 September 2021. Retrieved 3 September 2021.
  9. ^ a b Warrell1975, p. 207.
  10. ^ Rogerson, Derek (24 June 2018). "When race riots sparked a gun battle on streets of Bamber Bridge". Lancashire Evening Post. Archived from the original on 14 December 2018. Retrieved 5 April 2019.
  11. ^ Peter Caddick-Adams. Sand and Steel: A New History of D-Day (2019)
  12. ^ Burgess, Anthony (28 January 1973). "In the Other England, the Land of Cotton, Nobody Says 'Baaaaath'". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 8 April 2020. Retrieved 5 April 2019.
  13. ^ Frayer, Lauren; Al-Kassab, Fatima (21 June 2023). "This WWII battle wasn't against Nazis. It was between Black and white GIs in England". All Things Considered. National Public Radio.
  14. ^ a b "Sollis Marks 70th Anniversary of Battle of Bamber Bridge". Lancashire, U.K.: University of Central Lancashire. Archived from the original on 27 May 2017. Retrieved 2 June 2017.
  15. ^ "Choc'late Soldiers from the USA: Love, War and Change" (PDF). Journal of African American History. Retrieved 2 June 2017.
  16. ^ "Railway Children reboot: film explores black GI segregation in 40s Britain". the Guardian. 9 July 2022. Archived from the original on 11 July 2022. Retrieved 11 July 2022.