During the May 1926 General Strike, Harry aged 66, was enlisted as a volunteer mounted ‘special’ policeman. The General Strike was a UK wide strike called by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) in defence of mineworkers who were being asked to accept longer working hours and reduced wages. It lasted nine days, from 4th to 12th May.
On 11th May 1926 a crowd of 4,000 people, strikers, sympathisers and onlookers, had gathered at the tram depot in Lewes Road in Brighton. The Chief Constable, Charles Griffin, asked the crowd to disperse, but when they refused he sent in 300 foot police and 50 mounted specials who advanced in wedge formation into the crowd. It is believed that the mounted specials were led by ‘Sergeant’ Harry Preston, with Harry Mason, the well-known professional boxer acting as his second in command. What followed was a violent and bloody incident which became known as the ‘Battle of Lewes Road’.
Harry does not confirm his involvement in the incident in either of his books, and refers to it only as “ugly doings at the Tram Depot”. But it appears his reputation took a heavy knock, and his popularity with the public never really recovered.