February 10, 2015

The Siege of Sidney Street

After spending Christmas at Blenheim, Churchill was at home at Eccleston Square when he was informed that the infamous Houndsditch gang, wanted anarchists, was trapped at 100 Sidney Street in Stepney. As Home Secretary he ordered the use of the Scots Guards and the Horse Artillery, and as an unregenerate activist, he went himself to observe the siege which ended in the burning of the house.

Churchill’s relationship with the King, George V, was uneven. Asquith had assigned him the task of writing a nightly letter, to the King on the work of the House. In one letter, after proposing labor colonies for tramps and wastrels, he added: “it must not be forgotten that there are idlers and wastrels at both ends of the social scale,” The King was offended by this remark which evoked considerable correspondence between the Royal secretary, Lord Knollys, and WSC.

Churchill’s relations with the monarch were considerably enhanced by his defense of the King against a charge by an Edward Mylius, in a republican and anarchist paper, that the King had been previously married while serving with the Mediterranean Fleet. Because Churchill had been in complete charge of the legal challenge, the conviction of Mylius for criminal libel sweetened the relationship with George V.

At this time Max Aitken (later Lord Beaverbrook), a former Canadian financier recently elected as a Conservative MP was walking on the terrace of the House of Commons with Winston’s friend, FE Smith. He commented that he would give five pounds to dine with “that fellow Churchill.” Smith brought them together and so began a lifetime friendship, if at times sorely tried by tensions between them.

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