NOTHING NEW UNDER THE SUN (ALMOST)
4th January, 1911 : A house in the East End was burned to the ground with three anarchists trapped inside after a gun battle with over 1,000 troops and armed police. “Who could have imagined a scene like this in England,” declared Winston Churchill, the Home Secretary, who soon took command. The battle began at 4 a.m. when armed detectives arrived at No. 100 Sidney Street, off the Mile End Road, looking for anarchist who had already killed three policemen. They were met with concentrated pistol fire which badly wounded one of them so reinforcements were called for, including Scots Guards from the Tower of London who arrived with a Maxim gun. Later a contingent of Royal Horse Artillery from St John’s Wood came with two 13-pounders.
All morning pistol and rifle fire was poured into the house, with the anarchists replying vigorously with their automatics. In all ten people were injured, including a few of the onlookers, but the trapped anarchists seemed to be unharmed. Then, at 12.50 p.m. some smoke appeared from the chimney. The fire brigade was called and soon galloped up, but Mr Churchill refused to allow them to intervene. By 1.50 p.m. the house was ablaze and it seemed impossible that anyone could have survived. Later two charred bodies were found, but one of the men, “Peter the Painter”, is believed to have escaped.
[ It would seem that the British have a long tradition of incompetence in dealing with terrorists. ]