Skip to main content
BFI logo











Screenonline banner
Great East End Anarchist Battle, The (1911)


Main image of Great East End Anarchist Battle, The (1911)
aka Houndsditch Murderers at Bay
35mm, 250 ft, black & white, silent
Production CompanyGaumont Graphic

Scenes outside 100 Sidney Street, Stepney, as a trio of besieged anarchists engage in a gunfight with police and Londoners jostle for a view of the action.

Show full synopsis

At the very beginning of January 1911 a gang of armed Latvian anarchists, believed to be involved in the shooting of three policemen at a burglary in Houndsditch in December, were traced to 100 Sidney Street in Stepney and surrounded by the police and, later, troops from the Scots Guard.

The siege went on for many hours, drawing an excited crowd of onlookers and, fortunately for us, cameramen from five different newsreel companies (Warwick, Andrews, Pathé, Co-operative and Gaumont), who jostled for the best vantage points. As a result the 'Sidney Street Siege' is a rare early instance of genuine 'breaking news' (as opposed to pre-scheduled events or footage shot after the event) captured on film.

The Gaumont footage contains several good shots of the police holding back the crowds and a particularly clear shot of the exchange of gun fire across Sidney Street. This version never included the shot of then home secretary Winston Churchill apparently directing troops.

The final shots are taken from a roof on the other side of the street and show the house as it burned and the arrival of the firemen. One of the firemen was later killed by burning wreckage, and the bodies of Fritz Svaars and 'Joseph; aka Sokoloff were retrieved, but this was after the newsreels were already being processed to be shown in London cinemas later that same night.

Bryony Dixon

Click titles to see or read more

Video Clips
Complete film (3:42)
Houndsditch Murderers (1911)
A Year in Film: 1911