A detailed account of the confrontation of 18th June 1984 and how it was recreated for Channel 4 in 2001.
Please note that all photographs featured are from the re-enactment (courtesy of Dick Clark and Natalia Wieczorek).
This site is "work in development" and will shortly feature more photographs and information.
What actually happened at Orgreave?
An account by freelance historical consultant
Event Director of the
CONTACT Howard Giles
Amber Rudd’s announcement of October 31st 2016 - that there will be no enquiry into the infamous Battle of Orgreave - leaves those interested in what happened on that dramatic day floundering for key facts as most accounts on the net do not go into much detail and/or tend to suffer directly or indirectly from ‘political spin’, just as accounts did at the time. The following seeks to address this.
This site also details the ground breaking live re-enactment staged in 2001 and filmed by Channel 4 for inclusion in their 2002 documentary The Battle of Orgreave, which can be viewed in full on YouTube.
In 2001 my specialist historical event company EventPlan Limited organised, scripted and staged a major live re-enactment of the climactic 1984 clash at Orgreave on behalf of conceptual artist Jeremy Deller and Artangel Media. Mike Figgis filmed our recreation in real time as it happened on behalf of Channel 4.
In preparation for this challenging recreation - to be as historically accurate and politically spin-free as possible - we, Jeremy and the Artangel team undertook extensive research including a number of eyewitness interviews.
What follows is a hopefully accurate, unbiased and non-political account of what happened on that hot, violent day. It is based on what was known at the time of writing, so any fresh (documented) evidence would be most welcome.
The Miners' strike
In 1984 the National Union of Mineworkers, led by Arthur Scargill, was confronting Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government in a bitter miners’ strike, which eventually lasted a year before being called off after the failure to force the government into any concessions. For most ordinary miners, the dispute was all about preventing an overzealous programme of mass pit closures and saving their mining communities. The government on the other hand sought to keep the supply of coke fuel rolling and thus safeguard Britain’s industry and energy supplies.
But there was more. Scargill was openly Marxist and in addition to defending miners' interests sought to attack the government - and hopefully bring it down - by direct political action. Meanwhile, it is accepted by many that the Prime Minister and cabinet sought to break the power of left wing activists and union members, which they referred to as “the enemy within", whilst introducing market forces to “old” industries which they saw as inefficient. It could only end in a major confrontation which both sides were determined to win.
The nation was divided, as indeed were the miners themselves, with increasingly defiant and militant NUM members contrasting with moderates seeking to distance themselves from Scargill’s political objectives and (unballoted) industrial action by forming the breakaway Union of Democratic Mineworkers. This schism within the miners’ ranks was extremely bitter and for many, still remains so today. The families of striking miners suffered severely from lack of money (which some policemen bussed in on well-paid overtime liked to mock) whilst many of those who continued to work were from early on in the strike subjected to sometimes frightening intimidation from groups of “flying pickets”. Violent action culminated in the killing of Welsh taxi driver David Wilkie in November 1984 when a heavy concrete block was dropped on his vehicle whilst transporting a “scab” miner to work. The latter was perhaps the most ugly incident within a notoriously ugly dispute, which to this day remains extremely controversial.
But of all the incidents that took place, the violent clashes at Orgreave on 18th June 1984 continue to resonate the loudest, especially now that the Home Secretary has announced her unexpected decision not to stage an enquiry after all.
For more accounts of the miners’ strike as a whole, please see the links page.
Countdown to confrontation
Following serious public disorder in Toxteth and Brixton at the start of the 1980s, the police had quietly refined new techniques, effectively “softer” versions of colonial riot tactics as used, for example, by the Hong Kong Police, which in turn featured remarkable similarities to (whether consciously realised or not) ancient yet efficient military tactics using shields, lines of “foot soldiers" and “cavalry". With the miners’ strike in full swing, these could now be deployed against pickets where deemed necessary.
The British Steel coking plant at Orgreave, South Yorkshire had already witnessed a number of clashes with lines of police officers keeping the roadway open for coal lorries and “scab” labour, with Arthur Scargill being arrested during one of them, but June 18 would see the climactic clash as the NUM organised a mass picket with the intention of turning Orgreave into another Saltley (the scene of a major NUM victory some years before against Ted Heath’s government) by blockading the plant and if possible closing it. The police drew up plans to stop them, probably influenced by information received from alleged “moles” within the union. This intelligence system was apparently so efficient during the strike that police units often received their instructions before the pickets did.
As 5-6000 pickets converged on Orgreave from all over the country, massive numbers of police from 10 counties were deployed to defend the coking plant.
The police were commanded by Assistant Chief Constable Anthony Clement. Noticeably absent from the scene was South Yorkshire Chief Constable Peter Wright. Many have since wondered why he delegated such an obviously sensitive and important operation to his ACC.
There were 181 PSU’s (Police Support Units) present - so based on average PSU stength, at least 4200 men, although some accounts claim up to 8000. They were however very unlike today’s highly trained riot police. They were not an integrated force used to working together, each contingent fielded a different number of officers, and forces were differently equipped. There were a small number of (recently) well-trained PSUs but the mass of ordinary officers had no special training at all, nor any specialist uniforms or equipment other than some long defensive shields for those in the front ranks of a demonstration. 58 police dogs were deployed, along with between 42 and 50 mounted police, the latter destined to play a major role in both escalating and then ending the "battle". No WPCs were present on this day, nor were there more than one or two female pickets, by coincidence or perhaps because both sides felt that the mass picket could turn into something rather more serious.
In addition to his many ordinary “Bobbies”, Clement could also deploy a defensive cordon of officers protected by tall see-through plastic shields - the Met Shield as it was known. These shields, which had been deployed at previous incidents at Orgreave and elsewhere, were supposed to also protect officers standing behind, although in reality it was easy to lob stones and other missiles over the top onto the heads of policemen further back.
Crucially, if Clement so wished, he was authorised to up the stakes by using new formations with crash helmets and short shields, and trained in new arrest “snatch squad” or dispersal tactics. Particularly when combined with mounted police, they represented a potent force easily capable of defeating rioters. However, they had never been used on mainland Britain and whether this would now be appropriate would depend on whether the police were faced with a real riot or just a noisy demonstration. Most important of all, their use would represent a major turning point in British police tactics, i.e. a deliberate change in emphasis from defensive to offensive tactics, something that until now had not been thought to be acceptable to the British public. Clearly the government felt that public opinion would now support such a radical move. But as the huge crowd of miners and some (not particularly welcome) politically motivated demonstrators gathered, very few could have even heard of short-shield PSUs or realised that this would be the day they would be used for the first time, against them.
It has been since claimed that the government had secretly included some troops to bolster the police, as some officers - albeit very much a minority - were observed wearing unmarked blue boiler suits rather than traditional police uniforms with collar numbers displayed. However government papers subsequently released appear to show that this is unlikely to be the case as Mrs Thatcher had been extremely wary of agreeing to involve the military unless she had been forced to declare a national state of emergency (which did not occur). It may be that the boiler suits were simply issued with some of the new riot gear, but more investigation will be needed before any firm conclusions can be reached. No doubt an enquiry would have looked into this.
Face to face
When small numbers of police and pickets initially eyed each other up at 6am, the mood was friendly enough with pickets playing football and banter between pickets and local police. The latter, aware that unlike “foreign” forces brought in to assist (such as the Metropolitan Police, although not deployed there that day), they had to live and work amongst the local community after the strike, so mostly did their best to remain on relatively good terms with the pickets. It was clearly going to be a beautiful day so it seemed to some that perhaps little would occur other than the usual token shouting and pushing…but the mood soon began to change with the arrival of more and more pickets, matched by deployment of police officers, at this stage from “ordinary” units with no riot gear.
But there was something else, perhaps not noticed at first by many. Unlike previous demonstrations, where pickets had been prevented from reaching their intended “target” through use of road blocks and diversions, in a very early example of what much later became known as “kettling”, this time the police actually escorted them to Orgreave and into a pre-determined holding area in a field in front of the “Topside” of the coke plant. Looking around, pickets could see a solid line of police to their front and mounted police with dog handlers loosely containing them to the left, right and right rear.
About half a mile to their rear, the Sheffield to Worksop railway line ran at the bottom of a steep embankment, forming the fourth side of a rough rectangle, with only a narrow road bridge into Orgreave village offering a way out. Was this a prepared “battleground”? Most pickets and even one of the police subsequently interviewed believe that it was, and that the police were under instructions from the government to take a tough line with demonstrators - they would not tolerate another Saltley. What is certain is that although the ground sloped quite significantly up and away from the police line up towards the pickets, had the police commander been seeking a straight military-style “victory”, he could be forgiven for being pleased with both the ground and his dispositions, the latter being thorough.
Accurately recounting the Battle of Orgreave is almost as difficult as reconstructing other, much more ancient fights. Memories fade and “veterans” often have very different perspectives on timings and the order in which things happened. Add to this serious political “spin” from both sides including police attempts to portray what happened as a fully-fledged riot (something later rejected by the courts) and the job becomes even more difficult. Some news footage from the time and subsequent interviews (for instance, in the 2001 Channel 4 documentary The Battle of Orgreave) have been shown on TV or is now available on YouTube, but as far as the author is aware, little of the official police film record has appeared. However, a combination of official documentation including witness statements, other accounts, interviews and film have facilitated a reasonable stab at uncovering the facts - although this account remains open to reinterpretation should new evidence arise.
In retrospect the Battle of Orgreave took place in three key phases, the first consisting of the police response to thousands of protestors milling about in front of their line, shouting and occasionally throwing missiles. How many protestors were initially involved in the latter is difficult to establish, but during the subsequent trial of miners arrested for riot, ACC Clement’s references to a constant “barrage” of missiles was dismissed. However, from the start, some stones were definitely thrown - quite possibly not by miners - from the back of the crowd and both police and pickets in front hit. In response, Clement deployed a wide cordon of tall defensive see-through shields in front of his non-shield officers, but if anything, this just invited more stones, some of which bounced back off the shields and into the front lines of miners. Some flew over the top of the line and hit officers beyond, such as PC Akers, hit in the face by a brick and taken to hospital around 8am.
However (and unlike some of today’s quite sophisticated protestors), the vast majority of miners at Orgreave in 1984 had come “in peace”, being tooled up with nothing more threatening than a T-shirt and jeans. This left them woefully unprepared for what was to come. Meanwhile, mounted police were deployed to the rear of the police line, presumably as a show of force, but one which almost certainly increased the tension. Most present must have known that if they were used, things could become unpleasant. They did.
At 8am lorries began to arrive at the plant to pick up coke. To chants of “Here we go, here we go”, hundreds of miners surged towards the centre right of the police line in a big push. Although a few protesters threw themselves at the police in an occasionally successful attempt to break the line, this “ritual” push was pretty good-natured and with the blue line heavily reinforced with officers pushing & shoving those in front, and miners squashed up against the long shields, it lasted just 38 seconds.
In what may have been a move to relieve pressure on his line, Clement now ordered some of his mounted police forward. As the centre of the line swung inwards, the mounted officers cantered out (in a fairly disorganised column, but at least all in the same direction) and panic immediately gripped many miners, who fled in a mass towards the rear. On this first occasion though, the horses were kept reasonably well in hand, no batons were drawn (despite later claims to the contrary) and everybody got out of the way safely or just stood still as the horses moved past them - there was no attempt to ride anybody down as would have happened in a real “cavalry charge”. The mounted police halted about 30 yards in front of their line and then withdrew. A space had been cleared, but at the price of escalating the tension. With hindsight, this tactic appears to have been a mistake as it altered the whole tone of the demonstration for the worse - although it could have been quite deliberate. Either way, the miners quickly drifted back to where they had previously been standing until Clement was faced by a mass of increasingly agitated pickets all along his line. More missiles were thrown, one caught in fine style by a non-shield PC to (probably still) good-natured applause from nearby miners (no doubt themselves wary of “friendly fire”). It was a standoff, but it wouldn’t last.
A second mounted advance was ordered with the same results as before - more fear and anger amongst miners, but this time the whole police line advanced 30 yards, driving back the demonstrators. The mounted police began to take occasional hits from stones and the whole atmosphere was beginning to turn ugly. ACC Clement now used his loudhailer to warn the miners that if they did not retreat 100 yards, he would deploy short shield squads (which had been marched up to behind the police line from their holding area) but either the miners did not hear or understand what this meant (they could not see through the police line), or they simply disregarded it. They didn’t move, so Clement repeated his warning. When nothing happened, he ordered a third mounted advance, this time with the short-shields following up - the die was cast. “Real” riot tactics were about to be used on mainland Britain for the first time.
Hand to hand fighting
Video footage of what happened next is very illuminating. A short-shield senior officer tells his men “You know what you are doing, no heads, bodies only” and then with two other PSUs (about 66 men in all) in column and with truncheons drawn, sallied out through the a gap in the left centre of the police line, jogging on behind the mounted police (who had still not drawn batons) cantering in a fairly disorganised manner…but extremely intimidating none the less.) The same occurs on the right of the police centre. Panic once again sweeps the miners standing in front, many of whom run en masse to the rear pursued by the mounted officers and loose lines of short shield units waving truncheons and making arrests. Some non-shield officers join in and one was caught on camera severely beating a protester (Russell Broomhead). He and his friend Wayne Lingard, who came to his aid, were arrested and along with others were moved to the rear of the police line. Already, some (albeit just a few) police are “losing it” - ignoring the "no heads" order - and the demonstration is clearly moving towards becoming a battle.
Having achieved their immediate objective of driving back the pickets, the police out in front withdrew to their line. But as the short shield units fell back facing the miners, the latter cautiously followed up. The demonstrators now knew that they were facing no ordinary police response, and things began to escalate further with neither side willing to give way.
More miners were throwing stones now. Dust hung in the air as thousands of demonstrators milled around on the dry scrubby grass or on the roadway, waiting for the next move. This occurred at 9.25, when the fully-laden coke lorries began to depart from the plant, heralding a second big push against the police line, rather less good-tempered than the first. Again both sides pushed and shoved, with some police liberally using their truncheons over the top of their long shields in the front rank. The police line held and again Clement use mounted units and short shields to drive the miners off with rather more than the “minimum force” enshrined in the police manual….indeed it has been claimed that the officers had previously been encouraged to ramp up the violence. But it worked, as the miners were prevented from blockading the coke plant.
At this point, Arthur Scargill appeared and perhaps in an attempt to bolster the morale of the miners, walked along the line of police, shaking his head from side to side and possibly berating them for their conduct. This generated cheers from the miners and no doubt rather less charitable comments from the police. Mr Scargill may also have hoped to be arrested directly in front of the press, just as he had on a previous day (for blocking a pavement with fellow pickets), but this time the police were more canny and after a while he returned to the ranks of the miners.
With the lorries gone, a lull settled over the scene by 10am, and although a second lorry run was due later in the day, four hours into the mass picket most miners now drifted off towards Orgreave village, where many coaches were parked and Asda provided a convenient source of drinks and snacks on a blazing hot day. Pictures show no more than a few hundred miners sunbathing, sitting or standing around in front of the 10-15 deep police line. The latter sweltered in their uniforms and were not at all happy. Logistical support had broken down (if it was ever there to start with) and few had been able to drink anything for hours, despite the heat. The only officer seen in shirt sleeves seems to be ACC Clement himself, enjoying a cup of tea and thus hardly leading by example, unless he took his jacket off so he could be more easily recognised by his men. He did, however, stand down officers including the long shields, who went to the rear for a break. Thus ended the first part of the battle. It could also have been the end of the demonstration, but it wasn’t.
A second front
As well as containing the mass picket Topside (i.e. at the front of the plant), more police were holding back another large group of miners Bottomside, on the other side of the plant. This was carried out with relative ease although there were police charges to disperse demonstrators and arrests made. At some time during the day however, it appears that a few enterprising miners managed to slip by the police line and break into the plant, but with no instructions on what to do or any way of communicating with their leadership, they merely stood around for a while and then left. Another “what if” of history, perhaps! In many respects this illustrates the difference between the largely unorganised pickets (who although possessing a few walkie-talkies, could not hope to effectively co-ordinate en masse) and the highly organised police, even though the latter apparently completely missed the small infiltration of the plant.
How and why the second phase of the battle began is still open to interpretation. Some miners claim that the police just attacked without warning or provocation. Others suggest that a few militants started throwing stones. The police statement says that a lorry tyre was rolled to within 20 yards of their line (although this could hardly be interpreted as a serious threat) and that missiles began to be thrown at the now unprotected policemen on duty (those with shields having earlier been stood down). Another source suggests that a verbal altercation broke out between some miners and police, although there was apparently no physical confrontation. Whatever happened, it is clear that the remaining miners were by now hugely outnumbered by the police, who with the long-shields now hastily recalled to the front, were again ready for action.
In many respects, the pattern of stone-throwing and the police response was inevitable once “battle” had been joined. The pickets were lightly-dressed and most would come off worst in a person to person confrontation against policemen protected by a helmet & shield and armed with a truncheon. So pickets had to avoid physical contact if they could. The police on the other hand could only control the ground they stood on and had to either passively endure missile throwing against them (which is extremely frustrating, especially when hot and thirsty) or launch limited “defensive” charges to drive the stone-throwers away. But the latter could only offer a temporary respite. Either the situation had to calm down with the protesters dispersing, or the police would have to clear the latter from the ground in front of their line. The former now looked unlikely whilst the latter could only be achieved by more charges as water cannon, tear gas or rubber bullets were not available, nor was the use of such measures considered appropriate or acceptable on the mainland. This left just one tactic - more charges. So the original objective of the police - to keep the road open for coke lorries - had now been superseded whether they wished it or not. Battle had been joined.
Heralded by the front rank police banging their truncheons on their shields “Zulu” style, a dramatic three-phase mass advance by the whole police line began, driving the protestors off the field and over the railway bridge into Orgreave village. In their panic to escape from pursuing police, many of the miners situated to the left of the bridge were unable to reach it and so slid or ran down the steep railway embankment to cross the line, scrambling up the other side - some fighting amongst themselves in their haste to get away. It was a rout. Fortunately, no train was due.
Some miners stood and fought, or tried to help friends being hurt or arrested. Many were injured as hundreds of police swept forward, the long-shield line and reserves following up the mounted, short and non-shield officers out in front. Miners, some with blood streaming from head wounds inflicted despite the “no heads” order, were arrested and taken to the rear. Most retreated the other way, including a young miner called David Bell. Already hurt, he limped as far as the electricity sub-station by the bridge but as he rested there was caught by five officers, one of whom allegedly stood on his injured leg and fractured it. None the less, he was forced to hop back to the police line under arrest. This was just one of many photographed incidents that helped discredit the police case when pickets appeared in court, charged with riot.
The battle for the village
The police now reached the railway bridge and using a cordon of long shields, took and held the far side. This ended the second phase of the battle and once again, could have been the end of it, but although they had completely cleared the field and were half a mile from the plant they were defending, the police now came under a heavy barrage of missiles - the retreating miners had discovered a ready supply of missiles including from a scrap yard on the other side of the bridge and had become more belligerent than ever. A car was wheeled out of the scrap yard, placed on the road and set alight.
The bridge was - and still is - narrow and at the range protesters were throwing missiles at, they could hardly miss. For several minutes the line of long shields holding on the roadway came under intense bombardment from stones ripped from an adjoining field boundary wall, and various items of scrap. Behind this line stood more shield-men, with unprotected officers further back out of range.
ACC Clement now had a difficult decision to make. Should he withdraw out of range and risk the angry miners almost certainly following up? Not ideal bearing in mind he knew that more coke lorries were due to call at the plant. Or should he advance from the bridge into the adjacent residential area to chase off those miners (still numbered in hundreds) that continued to strongly resist? What was probably clear was that the hard-pressed long shields on the bridge could not simply be left to suffer further bombardment. The position was untenable - something had to be done.
After a few minutes, the third and final phase of the battle began. In an attempt to chase off the stone throwers, Clement launched a limited short-shield charge, his men falling back after 50 yards or so. Two more such charges were launched, but each time the miners simply followed up the police withdrawal, still throwing missiles. During one of these attacks, Arthur Scargill was injured, either hit by a police shield, a brick from his own side, or just by slipping down the bank he was standing on, depending on which account one accepts - it may even have been a combination of all three. Either way, he was just one of numerous protestors and police hurt in the ongoing melee, although definitely the best known.
Having failed to drive off the stone throwers, Clement now ordered a more general advance, driving the miners up Highfield Lane, past the first village houses. A new line was formed opposite No.31 but still the stones flew, forcing the police to shelter behind their shields, inclined upwards. The Assistant Chief Constable now unleashed his mounted police again, with around 20 charging at the canter and with batons drawn down the road towards the village crossroads. This had the desired effect, with the mass of demonstrators running away as fast as they could, many deciding that enough was enough and dispersing. Bizarrely, a film of the incident records one protestor laughing as he runs away, apparently thoroughly enjoying the excitement of it all.
Meanwhile, in a surreal moment that few would believe until shown actual photographic evidence, an ice cream van (“Rock on Tommy”) continued to sell ices until completely enveloped by the police advance. At this point, the driver prudently drove away. Bearing in mind the hot weather, he probably had the most successful day of anyone present.
Out of control?
Following on the heels of the mounted police the PSUs came on extremely aggressively, many lashing out as the dispersal of remaining miners continued. Some of the latter fled through passageways into and behind the houses on Highfield Lane. Others were caught and beaten, in some cases severely, by short shield officers apparently suffering from “red mist”, unable or unwilling to restrain themselves after being forced to endure a galling barrage of missiles, nor apparently differentiating between stone throwers, other demonstrators and innocent onlookers. It appeared that anybody in the way was fair game. One miner, Kevin Marshall, was repeatedly hit across the bonnet of a car by a police inspector although offering no resistance, before being arrested and pulled along (on one foot) back towards the police lines.
Reaching the crossroads, some mounted police peeled off to the left to chase the miners into the Asda car park, whilst others halted and formed a cordon holding the crossroads, awaiting foot officers advancing up in support.
It was clear that some officers were enjoying the thrill of the chase and handing out rough justice. One was later quoted as saying (about the use of mounted police charges) “It was great to see them smashing into all them bastards who’d been giving us grief all day”. In turn, some protestors were certainly out to “get” the police too. However, neither attitude can be condoned considering the number of genuinely peaceful protestors caught up in the violence.
If some of Clement’s men were out of control, what was he doing about it? Clement himself is silent on this within his official statement, but from what can be gathered, it can be argued that he was no longer in effective tactical command where it mattered, probably being too far back down Highfield Lane and out of direct line of sight because of the topography. He later commented that he did not know if his men were out of control in the village, but this is no excuse - as commander it was his responsibility to ensure that his men were following orders. He did however eventually issue an order to withdraw back to the bridge, which was carried out although not before mounted police reacted to more stoning by charging across into Rotherham Lane. During this clash one officer took a swing with his long baton down at Lesley Boulton, a photographer trying to help an injured miner. She was pulled out of the way just in time, with the incident being photographed and thereafter coming to sum up how many people thought of the policing of day - heavy-handed, insufficiently under control, and somehow “just not British”.
Some miners followed up the police withdrawal and began stoning them again, but the police held their ground on the bridge and along the top of the embankment on the plant side. An inept attempt was made by protestors to produce one or two petrol bombs, but as only diesel was available out of a pump in the scrap yard, they promptly went out. In the meantime a pair of crude barricades were constructed on the stone-strewn road from items of scrap, including some nasty looking forward-slanting stakes probably designed to impale horses, should the police decide to come back. If they had it is doubtful however that these improvised barricade would have seriously impeded them, but they didn’t and by mid-afternoon the stone throwing, and thus the battle, finally petered out.
According to official records, 93 arrests were made, with 72 policemen and 51 pickets injured. The total for the latter was undoubtedly much higher however since injured pickets knew that being treated inevitably meant being arrested, so did not at the time seek official medical assistance. In many cases arrest allegedly involved primitive holding conditions and maltreatment. Nobody died or sustained life-threatening injuries, but the number of casualties was still shocking.
So, who won? The police had won a clear victory on the ground, although they may have had some anxious moments when they felt obliged to enter a residential area. For their part, the miners had failed to stop the coke lorries and had received a severe drubbing. Press coverage initially showed the police in the best possible light, portraying the miners as hooligans, although it soon became clear that the running order of some news footage had been edited either by accident or design and was misleading.
Although only a small minority of police officers present that day “lost it”, they, the insensitive and sometimes brutal handling of prisoners, unsubstantiated charges of “riot” and suspiciously similarly worded police statements were enough to tarnish the whole police operation. The sight of policemen applauding returning mounted police also angered many. Local opinion on the police went into free fall, a particularly unfortunate result for those within the South Yorkshire force who had sought to keep the lid on the dispute and maintain reasonable relations with the local community. For some miners, worst of all was being forced to face an uncertain future whilst charged with riot and the possibility of spending much of the rest of their life in prison. They were however all acquitted and incompetent or clearly trumped up police evidence - in particular, identically worded statements from different officers deployed in different locations - thrown out, but the scars (including some physical) remain.
The Battle of Orgreave did not stop any pit closures and the miners' strike failed, so probably the only winners were Margaret Thatcher and her government, as their will prevailed and in doing so, they crushed Arthur Scargill’s power base and political ambitions. However, the social consequences of their industrial policies are seen by many as catastrophic. Whole mining communities were subsequently devastated as pits closed. Families were divided by the strike. Both left a sad legacy we still live with today and very few consider the economic and social cost justified. Whether 'King Coal' could have continued to thrive within today's increasingly low carbon emission orientated country is an entirely different question, of course.
As for the police, many lessons were learned. How to police a demonstration, and how not to. A number of veterans I spoke to said pretty much the same thing - “There were things I did that day I am proud of, and some things I am not”. In fairness it has to be reiterated that even if considered heavy handed, the tactics used on that day were relatively restrained when compared with some other European and American police forces - with no tear gas, water cannon or rubber bullets used (and to this day still unused on the mainland), but one thing is sure - after Orgreave, the image of Dixon of Dock Green was gone forever. All police are now routinely trained in basic “defensive tactics” whilst highly trained PSUs stand ready should they be needed. Early containment and minimum force is now standard doctrine and the Battle of Orgreave might never had happened if this policy had been followed in 1984, but of course, hindsight is a wonderful thing.
© 2016 Howard Giles
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