Transcription of article from The Times, July 1st 1919




After a feud between black and white sailors in the Limehouse district, JOHN MARTIN, 29, a coloured seaman, was indicted, before the Common Serjeant at the Central Criminal Court, yesterday, for wounding James Hanrahn, a ship’s fireman, in St. Anne-street, on the night of May 27. The jury found the defendant Not Guilty, and he was discharged. Mr. Watt appeared for the defence.

Mr. Percival Clarke, prosecuting, said that in Limehouse there was a lodging-house in which over a hundred coloured men resided. They came over here having been demobilised from ships in which they had done transport duty during the war and were waiting for a vessel to take them home. Whether they under-sold the white sailors or not he (counsel) did not know, but whatever the cause the ill-feeling was very great. If there was one thing more than another that white seamen resented it was black sailors associating with white women, and the resulting feud between blacks and whites in Limehouse had attained such serious proportions as to require all the force of the police in the East-end to preserve the peace. On the night of May 27 there was a crowd of blacks and whites outside the lodging-house, and a great disturbance going on. It was alleged that the defendant ran up, flourishing a revolver, and fired in the direction of the crowd, with the result that the prosecutor, Hanrahn, a white man, who was walking along the street at the time, was hit by the bullet, but not seriously hurt. The defendant was arrested in the lodging-house. He had wounds on the head and face, and in reply to the charge he said: “Me no shoot. Crowd knock me down with large sticks.”

A constable said that the crowd, which was very hostile to black men, would have killed the defendant after the revolver shot was heard. After the defendant got back into the lodging-house firing from the windows began.

A stick with a razor lashed to the end of it was produced in Court as a sample of the weapons with which it was said the blacks were armed.

A police inspector said that May 27 was the first night of the disturbance, which continued for the remainder of the week. The trouble started through black men speaking to white girls. The whites wanted to clear the blacks out of Limehouse. The police had received numerous complaints.

In the witness-box the defendant, who said he came from Jamaica and had a wife and two children, denied that he fired the shot, and said he had no revolver. He was attacked in the crowd: one man seized him by the head from behind and he was kicked in the mouth. He did not do anything. He was on 28 days’ leave from the Navy.

In summing-up the COMMON SERJEANT pointed out that there was no evidence that the defendant went about with white girls.