The Battle with the London Anarchists
Price: 275.00 USD
London: Edward Lloyd, Limited, 1911. This periodical details events of the 1911 Siege of Sidney Street, heavily illustrated with maps and photos including two images of then Home Secretary, Winston S. Churchill. Though complete, this fragile survivor bears many marks of its age. The 8.75 x 11.75 inch (22.3 x 29.9 cm) periodical was folded in half horizontally, and there is old cello-tape reinforcement to a few fraying edges on both the front cover verso and rear cover verso. The toning of the cheap paper is even and spotting is minimal. All edges are worn and creased with short closed tears. A name is inked at the upper right corner of the front cover with a small, indecipherable ink stamp over the price at the upper right front cover corner. The 15 pages are richly illustrated with drawings, diagrams, and photos. This is a scarce and fragile artifact of this strange event in London's history. The Siege of Sidney Street marks a bizarre event in Winston Churchill's early public life and a notable example of the relentlessly impetuous curiosity that often put him in the thick of things and in harm's way. In the evening of 16 December 1910 a Houndsditch resident notified the police of a hammering sound coming from a jeweler's shop. When the unarmed police responded they were met by a gang of Latvians who were in the process of tunneling from an adjacent building with plans of robbing the jeweler's. Four constables and one of the robbers were killed before the gang escaped. The murders of the policemen further strained the already thorny relationship between the London people and the Latvian refugee community, and a manhunt for the murderous robbers commenced. On New Year's Day 1911 an informant turned in information on the gang's location at 100 Sidney Street. By dawn on 3 January the police were prepared to capture the fugitives with two hundred armed men. At the start of the battle it became quickly apparent that the gang had large supplies of ammunition, and a call for reinforcements went out. This call reached Home Secretary Winston Churchill, who approved all force necessary and rushed off to see the fight. He later wrote, "In these circumstances I thought it my duty to see what was going on myself, and my advisers concurred in the propriety of such a step. I must, however, admit that convictions of duty were supported by a strong sense of curiosity which perhaps it would have been well to keep in check." (Thoughts and Adventures, p.68) He continued, "the situation almost immediately became embarrassing... It was no part of my duty to take personal control or to give executive decisions. From my chair in the Home Office I could have sent any order and it would have been immediately acted on, but it was not for me to interfere with those who were in charge on the spot... On the other hand, it was impossible to get into one's car and drive away while matters stood in such great uncertainty, and moreover were extremely interesting." (pp.69-70) Though Churchill suggested a number of ideas, the means of victory presented itself without his aid. A fire broke out in the upper floors of the building where the gunmen were holed up. As the fire spread downwards the fugitives were driven before it. They were killed by the building's collapse before they were apprehended. Churchill was criticized for his frontline involvement with the conflict. In Parliament, Arthur Balfour remarked, "We are concerned to observe photographs in the illustrated newspapers of the Home Secretary in the danger-zone. I understand what the photographer was doing, but why the Home Secretary?" (p.72) This would not be the last time the future Prime Minister would draw such criticism. Similar concerns for his safety were made about his insistence on learning to fly, his fighting on the front during the First World War, and his crossing of the U-boat-filled oceans during WWII. As this unusual and engaging publication testifies, the irrepressible urge to engage was an indelible Churchillian hallmark. First edition.