Cops and Dockers

Britons like to think that they all pulled together during the Second World War, but as Clive Emsley shows, some of the work force, in particular those employed in the nation’s ports, were just as likely to be pulling a fast one.

A foreman whistles a signal to a crane driver, 1938.

Under the headline 'Dock Thefts: 'Substantial and Deplorable'' the Manchester Guardian carried a short article on March 20th, 1944 quoting the annual report of the Liverpool Steamship Owners Association:

Pilferage of essential supplies, whether those coming into this country or going overseas to our forces or those of our allies, is an offence no less serious than looting … and the small fines or short sentences that magistrates impose on its detection are no real deterrent to a profitable business. Participants in that business should be so dealt with as will ensure its discouragement. It will continue unchecked so long as its rewards are out of proportion to its risks.

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