|.: The Russo-Manx Conflict
In the 1970s, the Manx government landed itself in an awkward position when it declared war on the Soviet Union. Naturally, the Isle of Man was the underdog in any such confrontation, and difficulties with nationalists burning down English homes here meant the UK refused to send troops on the Island’s behalf.
The situation came about when the Russians detained a shipment of cotton in 1979. A shipload of the material was held in the port of Murmansk on its way to the Isle of Man.
It was to be used to make Manx flags to celebrate the 1,000th anniversary of Tynwald, when it was anticipated patriotism would reach such a fervour that every man, woman and child were to be issued with three flags – one for informal occasions, one to hang above their home and one for formal events.
But the Russian actions in taking the four hundred tonnes of cotton threatened to throw the proposals into disarray just four months before the anniversary was due to be officially celebrated.
The holds of the MV Horabl Mufftingler were pillaged and the cotton taken off to be sewn into uniforms for troops who were to invade Afghanistan later that year.
In response, the Manx government demanded to have the material replaced – but the strongly-worded request was flatly turned down by the USSR.
Tynwald was due to debate the issue, but thanks to a stomach virus which was doing the rounds, only four MHKs were present on the day.
They were: Juan Quilligan, Craig Creash, John Cullister, and David Karran. All four had already contracted the bug and were recovering at the time. Unfortunately, they were slightly delirious and so weren’t in full control of their faculties, which led to them passing a motion declaring immediate and total war on the Eastern bloc.
They ordered the men of the Manx navy (pictured above) to enter Russian territorial waters and open fire at will on and shipping from any Soviet country.
As luck would have it, the navy consisted of a single fishing boat which was armed with nothing more threatening than nets and boat hooks. But its crew duly set sail with heavy hearts.
In the background, the UK was nervously trying to negotiate with the Russians – who were preparing to fire nuclear missiles at Douglas, Ramsey, Peel and – for some reason – Sulby.
These would have crossed British airspace and Westminster feared the country’s automatic defences would activate and fire back. Desperate shuttle diplomacy was carried out, and eventually a deal was struck.
Under it, the Manx navy would return to port, the Isle of Man government would issue a statement apologising for its actions and the Russians would stand down, replace the cotton taken with half a million ready-made Manx flags.
The situation was defused, and a Soviet-Manx peace treaty was signed in the Railway Hotel in Union Mills. The whole affair was known as the Russo-Manx Conflict, and was the last time the Manx Navy saw action before it was disbanded in 1998.
Labels: isle of man, isle of man manx, millennium, navy, Russia, tynwald, USSR
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