At Stoke Newington's Abney Park cemetery at the weekend, I chanced across this remarkable grave - of a London police constable killed in the line of duty. The centrepiece of the memorial is a representation of the slain police constable's helmet and uniform - a very moving touch.
The inscription hints at quite a story but doesn't spell it out. So let me fill in the gaps ...
P.C. William Frederick Tyler died in what was known at the time as the Tottenham "outrage", a notorious incident which shocked Londoners and created a backwash of ill-feeling against Jewish political refugees who were responsible for the violence.
As the robbers/revolutionaries fled, they opened fire on the increasing numbers in their pursuit. A ten-year-old boy, Ralph Joscelyne, was shot and killed. At Tottenham marshes, PC Tyler was able to take a shortcut and get in front of the robbers - they shot him dead.
At one point, the two Latvians commandeered a tram as they sought to get away from their pursuers. One of them, realising that he was trapped, shot himself; the other managed to barricade himself in a room in a cottage in Walsthamstow where he was shot dead. The chase lasted two hours and covered six miles ... it's estimated that the two robbers fired 400 rounds of ammunition at their pursuers ... and at the end, four people were dead. You can see why this was called the Tottenham outrage.
The events in Tottenham and Walthamstow bear a striking similarity to the still more notorious Siege of Sidney Street in the East End two years later, when Winston Churchill accompanied a detachment of Scots Guards to flush out another gang of revolutionary Jewish robbers.
The grave and memorial for PC Tyler was paid for by the Metropolitan Police - it's now Grade II listed. Ralph Joscelyne, I discover, is buried nearby in Abney Park cemetery - next time I go I'll tried to find his gravestone.
UPDATED IN NOVEMBER 2020: Carl Houslop has been in touch - he found among his parents' papers a memorial card for Constable Tyler and Ralph Joscelyne. With his kind permission, the card is posted below. You will get a sense in the wording of the anti-immigrant sentiment stirred up by the incident. It's not the sort of wording that would be remotely acceptable today - but it's part of the story of those killings and the public response to them. Many thanks to Carl for sharing this very striking memorial card.
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