The ship of democracy, which has weathered all storms, may sink through the mutiny of those on board.



Mutiny on the Bounty

Despite the unimportance of the Bounty's journey in 1879, the ship and men chosen all combined to produce a dangerous atmosphere. The ship was too small, overcrowded and at the same time undermanned. Sixteen crew members deserted even before the ship had left England, leaving only thirteen men to work the ship, including a near-blind Irish fiddler whose only role was to play during the regular dancing sessions designed to keep the men fit. 

On the outward journey the Bounty was hit badly by storms and all the supplies were soaked through, so Bligh had to cut rations to the men. Some of the ship's officers started to show small displays of insurrection, and the Captain was unable to punish them properly given the few men at his disposal. He grew angrier and the crew grew more mutinous, until eventually the frustrations of Fletcher Christian, the acting Lieutenant, boiled over after being forced to leave Tahiti where they had been enjoying the ‘hospitality’ of the local women. He incited the other men to tie the captain to the mast and then force him into the small launch with the crew members still loyal to him with a sextant and a pocket watch. William Bligh’s rank was Commanding Lieutenant. He was promoted to Captain after his miraculous journey to Timor in the small boat in which they'd been set adrift.

Bligh was appointed Governor of New South Wales in 1805. Within eighteen months he was once again deposed, in a military putsch. Bligh is, therefore, perhaps the only Englishman who has ever had an entire continent rebel against him. 

Potemkin Mutiny

The Potemkin Mutiny (1905) began after an argument over borscht. A seaman called Valenchuk objected to the maggots in his soup. The Captain claimed they were merely flies’ eggs and perfectly fit to eat. Valenchuk expressed himself in such plain language that executive officer, Commander Giliarovsky, flew into rage and shot him dead. Other members of the crew seized Giliarovsky and threw him overboard. The captain and several other officers were killed and the rest shut away in one of the cabins. The Potemkin hoisted the red flag and a ‘people’s committee’ was chosen to take charge.
The ship landed in the port of Odessa. Valenchuk’s body was brought ashore by an honour guard. A note pinned to his chest read, ‘This is the body of Valenchuk, killed by the commander for having told the truth. Retribution has been meted out to the commander.’ 
As the day wore on, word spread, the crowd swelled, listening to inflammatory speeches, joining in revolutionary songs and some of them drinking considerable quantities of vodka. People began looting warehouses and setting fires until much of the harbour area was in flames. Martial law was declared and the governor was instructed by telegram from Tsar Nicholas II to take firm action. Troops were sent to the harbour in the evening and at about midnight opened fire on the crowd. Some were shot and some jumped or fell into the water and drowned. The sailors on the Potemkin did nothing. The casualties were put at 2,000 dead and 3,000 seriously wounded.
Calm was restored but the sailors’ demand for an amnesty was turned down and the Potemkin set out to sea. The mutineers sailed west to the Romanian port of Constanza for badly needed fresh water and coal, but the Romanians demanded that they surrender the ship. They refused and sailed back eastwards to Feodosia in the Crimea, where a party landed to seize supplies, but was driven off. The Potemkin sailed disconsolately back to Constanza, and surrendered to the Romanian authorities, who handed the ship over to Russian naval officers.


Disorder, horror, fear and mutiny
Shall here inhabit, and this land be call'd
The field of Golgotha and dead men's skulls.

Indian Mutiny

The Indian Mutiny (1857) started due to greaseproof paper. Before loading a gun, the men had to bite the top off a cartridge, and a rumour ran through the ranks of Hindu and Muslim troops that the grease used on the cartridge paper was made from cow or pig fat. 

Soldiers of the Bengal army shot their British officers, and marched on Delhi. Their mutiny encouraged rebellion by considerable numbers of Indian civilians in a broad belt of northern and central India - roughly from Delhi in the west to Benares in the east. For some months the British presence in this area was reduced to beleaguered garrisons, until forces were able to launch offensives that had restored imperial authority by 1858.
British public opinion was profoundly shocked by the scale of the uprising and by the loss of life on both sides - involving the massacre by the rebels of captured Europeans, including women and children, and the indiscriminate killing of Indian soldiers and civilians by the avenging British armies.

Mutiny of the Monkeys

In 1890, a British vessel called the Margaret travelled from Durban to Boston with a consignment of 400 cockatoos, 12 snakes, two crocodiles, some monkeys, a gorilla and an orang-utan to be delivered to an American zoo. Almost immediately, things started to go wrong:

• Rats ate the grain meant for the cockatoos, so the birds all died.

• After a storm, the snakes and crocodiles escaped, forcing the crew to shelter in their cabins.

• The snakes and crocodiles went to war "until the surviving crocodile killed the last snake." The croc was killed when some cargo fell on it.

• Then the monkeys escaped and climbed the rigging. Most of them died when the sea swept them away.

• Then the gorilla got out, and grabbed an iron bar. He nearly decapitated the ship's cook before being subdued.

• When the ship got to port, the animals left on board were the gorilla, three monkeys, and four parrots.

Mr. G.B. Chicken, a volunteer of the Indian Naval Brigade during the Indian Mutiny, is one of only 5 civilians to have won a Victoria Cross.

The Bounty's mission was to go to the Pacific islands and transport some breadfruit trees to the West Indies.

The mutiny of the Royal Indian Navy in 1946 involved over 20,000 sailors across 78 ships and 20 bases on land.

In 1860, 1,000 Chinese slaves imprisoned on an American ship called the Norway staged an uprising.

In 1766, a Dutch East India Company ship left Madagascar with 147 slaves. An officer asked 5 slaves to clean some spears, half of the sailors were killed.