The ‘hunger march’ was primarily a protest phenomenon of the early 20th century. The term was first used to describe an event of 1905, but they became more popular and visible with the growing hardship of the 1920s and 1930s. Unemployed men and women would (usually) walk en masse from their home city to London, to protest and publicise their condition, and to ask for government aid. Many of these marches were organised by the Communist Party of Great Britain and were much more radically minded than the Jarrow march, which deliberately rejected the ‘hunger’ tag. 1905 RAUNDS TO LONDON The first hunger march: 115 unemployed army bootmakers from the Northamptonshire village of Raunds walked to London to protest at War Office complaisance in the undercutting of wages. The marchers, led by James ‘General’ Gribble, interrupted a speech on women’s suffrage and were ejected from the Houses of Parliament. They were given a heroes’ welcome by 5,000 of their townsfolk on their return, though. 1927 At a demonstration RHONDDA VALLEY that became TO known LONDON as ‘Red Sunday in Rhondda Valley’, AJ Cook called for a march to protest about dire conditions after the General Strike. Miners from all over South Wales made up the 270strong contingent, which enjoyed popular support, although the TUC, the press and the government were hostile, and women who knocked doors in the Rhondda to collect for the march were arrested. The marchers won some concessions over cuts in benefits. 1932 NATIONAL HUNGER MARCH The Communist Party-led National Unemployed Workers Movement (NUWM) was behind many of the hunger marches of the 1920s and 1930s. The 3,000 marchers, who came from the most economically depressed regions of Scotland, northern England and the Welsh Valleys, were met by a crowd of 100,000 on arrival at Hyde Park. The government mustered 70,000 policemen, who used force to stop the marchers’ petition reaching parliament. Serious violence ensued. 1936 BLIND HUNGER MARCH The National League of the Blind had pioneered protest marches in the years after World War I, and though less well remembered than the Jarrow crusade, its 1936 march was an important stage in the fight for disability rights in Britain. A contingent of blind people led by GA Costance from Swansea trekked to a rally in Hyde Park, where they met blind marchers from other parts of the country, including Leeds and Manchester.
Unemployed miners marched in 1927 with less fanfare, but greater success
Most marches were seen as threats to public order