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The Massacre at Amritsar : After one of the worst outrages in modern British history, Winston Churchill made sure there was no cover-up.
The Massacre at Amritsar

When an army officer in Amritsar committed one of the most monstrous acts of barbarity in modern British history, the government of the day (under David Lloyd George) set a fine example by refusing to defend the indefensible.

Bay of Bengal

A map of India (modern borders), showing some of the places mentioned in this story.

A map showing places mentioned in this story (click to enlarge).

ON 13th April 1919, thousands of Sikhs crowded into the Jallianwala Bagh [i.e. garden, park] in Amritsar, Punjab, on their harvest festival.

The Punjab had become a restless province during the Great War, and London, warned of terrorist ties to Germany and Russian revolutionaries, had imposed a crack-down. In defiance, public buildings in Amritsar had been fire-bombed, and just two days earlier Marcella Sherwood, a teacher, had been assaulted, stripped, and dumped in a back-street.

What happened next took a year to become public knowledge. But on 8th June, 1920, Winston Churchill, Secretary of State for War, horrified the Commons with a graphic account.

Acting military commander Reginald Dyer had quietly closed the garden’s gates, and without warning ordered his men to fire at will on the panic-stricken, unarmed pilgrims trapped inside.* Providentially, narrow streets had kept out his armoured vehicles and machine-guns.

The Commons voted overwhelmingly to condemn Dyer, and the nine members of the official inquiry, the Hunter Commission, unanimously agreed.

* The death-toll is disputed. The British set it at 379, the Indian National Congress at about 1,000.

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Picture: © Alan Fleming, Geograph. Licence: CC-BY-SA 3.0. View original
The pleasant park in Amritsar today is at odds with the appalling events of 13th April 1919, though ‘Martyrs’ Well’ and the bullet-holes in the walls of the neighbouring buildings are a constant reminder.
By Sir Winston S. Churchill

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