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History
THE LONG VIEW
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THE LATEST PROGRAMME
Tuesday, 11/03/2003, 09:00-09:30 and repeated 21:30 - 22:00
Jonathan Freedland looks for the past behind the present. Each week, The Long View, recorded on location throughout the British Isles, takes an issue from the current affairs agenda and finds a parallel in our past.
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Sidney Street siege and more recent police operations.
The Metropolitan police have received information about a terrorist gang. They lay siege to a flat in East London. But this is not 2003, during police operations against World terror, but 1911 and the police are pusrsuing a group of Latvian revolutionaries called the Gardstein Gang.

The Metropolitan Police received information that two of the Gardstein gang were sheltering in Mrs Betsy Gershon's flat in Sidney Street, east London. The combined force of Met and City Police cordoned off the area and evacuated other residents. The gunmen had removed Mrs Gershon's skirt and shoes to prevent her from leaving the building, but she was permitted to go downstairs, where the police rescued her.

The police were armed with bulldog revolvers, shotguns and rifles fitted with .22 Morris-tube barrels for use on a minature range, but these proved completely inadequate for flushing out the gunmen, whose Mauser pistols were capable of rapid and deadly fire. The Home Secretary Winston Churchill gave permission to send for troops before going himself to Sidney Street to take command.
On Location
Left-hand picture:Jonathan Freedland and the actor Chiwetel Ejiofor
Right-hand picture: Programme recording in East London.
Left-hand picture:Bill Fishman, historian.
Right-hand picture: John Wadham

Twenty one volunteer marksmen of the Scots Guards arrived from the Tower of London. Three were placed on the top floor of a nearby building, from which they could fire accurately into the second storey and attic windows from which the gunmen had been shooting. The gunmen were driven down to the lower floors where they came under fire from more guardsmen positioned in houses across the street.

Churchill arrived just before midday and decided heavier artillery was needed. Before it could arrive, smoke was observed rising from the building, and one of the gunmen emerged from a window, then fell back suddenly, almost certainly having been shot. The rate of fire then slowed considerably.

The building burst into flames, and although the Fire Brigade arrived they were forbidden by Churchill to extinguish the blaze. The last shots from 100 Sidney Street were heard at 2.10pm. Fire gutted the building, and the roof caved in. Firemen were at work to prevent damage to other buildings when a wall collapsed, burying five people, one of whom died in hospital. Two bodies were discovered inside the house, one on the first floor where he had been shot, and the other on the ground floor where he had been overcome by smoke.

(The content of this page is based on information suppled by the Metropolitan Police and City of London Police websites: see Related Links below.)

Contributors
Donald Rumbelow – Historian
Bill Fishman – Historian
Chiwetel Ejiofor – Actor
Anthony Browne – Environment Editor of ‘The Times’
John Wadham – Director of Liberty
David Claridge - security advisor


FURTHER READING
The Houndsditch Murders and the Siege of Sidney Street, by Donald Rumbelow.
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THE LONG VIEW
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DON'T MISS
In Our Time
Thursday 9.00-9.45am, rpt 9.30-10.00pm. Melvyn Bragg explores the history of ideas. Listen again online or download the latest programme as an mp3 file.
RELATED PROGRAMMES
Go to This Sceptred Isle website
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PRESENTER
Jonathan Freedland
Jonathan Freedland is an award-winning journalist and broadcaster. A twice-weekly columnist on the Guardian, he also presents BBC 4's The Talk Show on Monday nights at 8.30pm. He is author of the book Bring Home the Revolution, an acclaimed analysis of modern America.
Read a full profile of Jonathan Freedland on BBC 4 ..>>

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