27th May – 28th June 1968

27th-31st May (Monday-Friday) Tribunal of Enquiry hears oral testimony from participants in the events of 7th May, allowing the panel to cross-check accounts and to put questions arising from the written evidence already submitted and available for the public. Over 30 witnesses are cross examined over the course of the hearings, with John Tillett (who was chairing the Chemical Society meeting on 7th May) taking the stand on no less than four of the five days. Approximately 32 minutes of the questioning are recorded on a tape reel, including Peter Archard and John Tillett (pp. 24-37 of transcripts).

27th May (Monday) Tribunal of Enquiry hears evidence from:

Transcripts pp.NameDept./OccupationSub Ref(s)
1-34 Pete ARCHARDGovernment graduate student11, 35
60-64John N. BRADLEYChair of Chemistry Dept.1
65-74John TILLETTChemistry staff23
84-91Reginald WYATTAdmin Assistant/Maintenance Officer25, 75
91-101Chris MULLINSPhysics graduate student16
102-114W. DAVISHead Porter26, 79

Locations: Box 10 (tape recording);

Box 17/Tribunal Hearings (complete set of transcripts).

28th (Tuesday) Letter to The Times from David Stephen defending the University as (positively) different, if not the ‘few extremists’, and affirming collective accountability (‘Disorders at Essex’, p. 11).

28th (Tuesday) Tribunal of Enquiry hears evidence from:

Transcripts pp.NameDept./OccupationSub Ref(s)
44-49John TILLETTChemistry staff23
115-116W. DAVISHead Porter26, 79
117-134D. F. GREENSLADEChemistry staff14
135-157Paul HOUGHTONComparative Studies student21, 54
158-177Colin ROGERSStudents’ Council20
178-182David LEWISChemistry Fellow17, 73
182-212Keith BOWDENChemistry staff36
212-213R. G. JOSCELYNEChemistry 2nd-year student8
214-226David TRIESMANGovernment 3rd-year student42
259-260Mike GONZALESLiterature graduate student44
260-265Lucia JONESStudent19

Location: Box 17/Tribunal Hearings

29th (Wednesday) Tribunal of Enquiry hears evidence from:

Transcripts pp.NameDept./OccupationSub Ref(s)
227-237Janet STEELStudent18
238-246Manfred GORDONChemistry staff37
247-250Alasdair MACINTYREDean of StudentsN/A
251-258Mike GONZALESLiterature graduate student44
266-271J. A. LILLEYMaintenance Officer24

Location: Box 17/Tribunal Hearings

30th (Thursday) Dean of the School of Comparative Studies Jean Blondel circulates a brief memo to students in light of recent rumours of the leaking of exam questions, which are to be amended as a result.

30th (Thursday) A renewed call for Tribunal contributions is issued by Robin Dixon, Assistant Registrar and Tribunal Secretary (deadline 5pm the following day); Dixon expresses an especial interest in the planning of the demonstration, about which details are apparently a bit scarce.

30th (Thursday) Tribunal of Enquiry hears evidence from:

Transcripts pp.NameDept./OccupationSub Ref(s)
75-77John TILLETTChemistry staff23
77-83Reginald WYATTAdmin Assistant/Maintenance Officer25, 75
272-276Derek WIGGINSChemistry student3
276-278Brian REEVEComparative Studies 2nd-year student40
282-284John S. BENTLEYStudent46
284-291Alastair HATCHETTStudent30
292-296Joan BUSFIELDSociology graduate student16, 51

Locations: Box 14/ Internal Documents/Ref 63 (Blondel), Ref 64 (Dixon);

Box 17/Tribunal Hearings.

31st (Friday) Tribunal of Enquiry hears evidence from:

Transcripts pp.NameDept./OccupationSub Ref(s)
278-281John S. BENTLEYStudent46
297-299Dorothy E. SMITHSociology staff58
299-300R. A. WHITEComparative Studies 1st-year student39
300-301Phillip HOLDENStudentN/A
302-307R. M. G. ROBERTSChemistry staff31
308-313John TILLETTChemistry staff23
314-315F STEPHENSChemistry staff73
315-322Raphael HALBERSTADTStudent64
323-326Gordon BLAIRStudent45
326Ian BRODIEStudents’ CouncilN/A
327-328Julian HARBERSociology student49
329-331Paul GOODCHILDStudent, photographerN/A
331-333Reginald WYATTAdmin Assistant/Maintenance Officer25, 75
333-337Chris RATCLIFFE Comparative Studies 2nd-year student65
338-342Islay FULLERTON3rd-year Sociology student68
343Mr MARKSDeputy-Head PorterN/A

c. 31st (Friday) A leaflet is circulated by Common First Year students on the Comparative Studies degree protesting Dean Blondel’s memo (above) on the decision to amend exam papers; the leaflet calls for a boycott, in light of the potential psychological impact of the uncertainty around the summer exams, and makes a case for the abolition of exams altogether.

Locations: Box 17/Tribunal Hearings;

Box 17/May 1968 (CFY Exams protest).

JUNE 1968

6th (Thursday) Tribunal of Enquiry reconvenes to cross examine Jem Thomas on the matter of his spectacles (Thomas’ testimony is on pp. 344-345 of the transcripts); these were taken from him by Dr Bowden at the Chemical Society meeting on 7th May (witnessed by David Triesman and others) and, according to Thomas’s testimony submitted on 4th June, returned seriously damaged: ‘they were bent at the bridge, so that the lenses were looking at each other, the stalks were bent too…. I was fortunately able to straighten them out however the lenses remain slightly chipped.’

A series of near-identical statements denying that the spectacles were ‘bent parallel (with the lenses facing each other)’ prior to being returned to Thomas is swiftly gathered, presumably by Bowden, from chemists and other scientists, as well as porters and maintenance staff involved.

Wyatt, Northage, and Davis are contacted for further written evidence about the condition of the glasses, and all admit that these were in fact bent at the bridge, to one degree or another, by the time they finally arrived at lost property.

Locations: Box 9/Tribunal of Enquiry Written Evidence/Ref 71 (Thomas), Ref 42 (Triesman), Ref 73 (Northage et al.), Ref 75 (Wyatt), Ref 77 (Northage, again), and Ref 79 (Davis);

Box 17/Tribunal Hearings (Thomas’ cross-examination).


10th (Monday) Committee of Enquiry receives report of Tribunal of Enquiry.

10th (Monday) Information Officer Walter Evans reports on a meeting to plan ways to continue the discussions that had begun around the time of the Inch Incident and Enquiry; the document lists many of the names of those present, and some suggested topics for such discussions.

Locations: Box 8 (Tribunal Report);

Box 14/Internal Documents/Ref 65 (Evans on the Free University meeting).

11th (Tuesday) Committee of Enquiry circulates a memorandum (signed K. Trace, Committee Chair) to all members of University (as per p.1 of circular of 21st May); the circular canvasses responses to a proposed three-part statement of principles concerning freedom of speech “as it applies to public meetings within a university.” The memo claims the Committee’s interest lies purely in gauging consensus, and that there will be no intention to apply any new principles retrospectively; that is, it wouldn’t be used against the three rusticated students, although the wording of clause (c) came under much closer scrutiny than that of either (a) or (b). The deadline for responses is set for 10am, Monday 17th June.

Broadly the statement proposes:

  • (a) every group or individual has the right to express views and knowledge, however repugnant (although subject to law);
  • (b) every group or individual is free to invite whomever to speak on whatever topic, and nobody has the right to stop a talk on the subject of the speaker’s choosing;
  • (c) there may be a (rare) moral imperative to divert discussion, but this still breaches the principle and University regulations; hence offenders are subject to disciplinary procedures (which may take into account “The extent of ‘moral justification’ if any”).

11th (Tuesday) The ‘June 16th Committee’ circulates a document, ‘Make a Desolation and Call it Peace’; the last item in the Internal Documents collection is an attack on Porton Down, euphemistic government language, and poor standards of civilian defence in case of CBW attack; the Committee further urges the British government to cease sharing CBW research and information with its partners in North America, in accordance with its agreed obligations.

Locations: Box 14/Internal Documents/Ref 66 (‘Make a Desolation…’);

Box 17/May 1968 (Trace’s memorandum).

c. 14th (Friday) Another leaflet from the June 16th Committee (‘care of Socialist Society’) giving details of a demonstration against Porton Down outside the Ministry of Defence on 16th June, and suggesting some theatricality might be welcome.

Location:Box 15/Revolutions/May 1968 subfolder.

16th (Sunday) Around 200 students and other supporters join the demonstration against Porton Down outside the Ministry of Defence in Whitehall, where protestors handed in a petition, and were involved in minor scuffles with the mounted guards.

17th (Monday) Deadline for receipt of written submissions on freedom of speech to Committee of Enquiry; by far and away the most controversial of the three paragraphs (above) is 3 (c), which raises the issue of ‘moral justification’ for interrupting a speaker.

Along with the written and oral statements gathered by the Tribunal of Enquiry, and the Internal Documents collection, the 47 responses to to Trace’s memorandum of 11th June constitute the last of the University Administration’s major collections to do with the May 1968 events.

Freed to an extent from the Tribunal’s purely factual remit, the submissions in this collection perhaps best illustrate the wide-ranging multiplicity of perspectives on more abstract questions about the nature of a university and why it exists, as well as how its members should conduct themselves (and how it should discipline perceived infractions).

Location: Box 8 includes all 47 responses to the memorandum; the final item (Refs 40-47) is a table summary of eight responses that simply indicated agreement or otherwise with each of the three paragraphs.

c. 20th (Thursday) A schedule for a further four days of Free University discussions (24th-27th June) is posted on noticeboards; ‘nightly dancing and festivities’ are promised, along with a meeting between students and industrial and trade unionists the weekend prior.

Location: Box 15/Revolutions/May 1968 subfolder.

24th (Monday) Committee of Enquiry reports on freedom of speech. The report is bookended by a cover note, signed by sixteen members of the Committee, expressing their hope that the University might now start to move on from the events of 7th May, and a minority conclusion taking a more hard-line approach to breaches of discipline, and rejecting a number of the findings in the report itself.

Location: Box 8.

c. 27th (Thursday) A further, seemingly mock Free University schedule for 1st-3rd July is circulated around this time, promising (among other attractions) a live guest appearance from Che Guevara.

Location: Box 15/Revolutions/May 1968 subfolder.

28th (Friday) SUMMER TERM ENDS.

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