I'm doing some research into the spate of Latvian revolutionary 'expropriation' in London 110 years ago and I've come across some marvellous pieces of ephemera. The Latvian anarchists probably got away with a few robberies and wages snatches. But two robberies failed spectacularly - and tragically.
One was the Tottenham Outrage of January 1909, when two heavily armed robbers stole the money being brought to pay the wages at a rubber factory. They got the cash - but were pursued over six miles by police, passers-by, local kids, the lot. The two robbers died or suffered fatal injuries. And two others were shot dead - a policeman and a ten-year-old boy.
In December 1910, another group of armed Latvian emigres staged a much more sophisticated attempt to rob a jewellery shop in Houndsditch in the City of London. They were interrupted by local police, Three police officers were shot dead, and one of the robbers suffered fatal gunshot wounds at the hands of a comrade.
There was a national sense of shock and anger. This folding mourning card paid tribute to the three murdered policemen.
A few weeks later, two of the suspected Houndsditch gang were tracked down to a first-floor room at 100 Sidney Street in Stepney. Overnight the police surrounded the house and managed to get the other occupants out. The two men were well armed. The first shots rang out at 7:30 in the morning of 3rd January 1911- and the shoot-out continued for another six hours.
The police were comprehensively outgunned, and Scots Guards were called in to help meet the volley of shots fired by the two men. Eventually the house caught fire. The fire brigade were not allowed to douse the flames. In the embers of the house, the bodies of the two gunmen were found - one had been shot and other died from suffocation.
The Siege of Sidney Street was a sensation. This dramatic, illustrated account of the event was on sale within days.
And here's another wonderful artefact - a few days after the Siege, some of those allegedly involved were required to appear in court in committal proceedings relating to the Houndsditch shootings.
This news photo shows the two women who appeared - Sara Trassjonsky and Luba Milstein - flanked by a warder and a prison matron. What a telling image!
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