By Sanchia Berg
BBC NEWS, December 2010 – A hundred years on, the Siege of Sidney Street still resonates. The third of January 1911 was the day two Latvian anarchists held out in an East End tenement for seven hours against more than 200 armed police and a detachment of soldiers.
The might of the Empire turned against two desperate young Jewish men in an ordinary street. Thousands of Londoners came to watch. Winston Churchill, Home Secretary was at the scene too, in his distinctive Astrakhan collared coat: a stray bullet passed through his top hat.
The drama had really begun three weeks before, on December 16 1910, which is why the Museum of London Docklands opens its Sidney Street exhibition this week. A gang of Latvian revolutionaries tried to rob a jeweller’s shop in Houndsditch.
It was one of a series of “expropriations” to raise funds for propaganda and help their fellow activists in Russia and Latvia.
They’d planned this carefully: renting rooms in the building which backed onto the rear of the shop. In the Museum of London is a 60 foot length of India rubber gas hose, bought by the would be burglars so they could use gas from their own building to burn through the jeweller’s safe.
- View the Siege of Sidney Street in picture at The Independent here.
- You can also find an article on this topic from Finest Hour 43 here.
- The Docklands 24 just opened an exhibit entitled Why Churchill stopped fire rescue in Siege of Sidney St. You can find more information here.