Report of Constable Arthur Stokes, F Division, March 21st 1895

It being about half-past ten of the evening I was proceeding along the Lambeth Road towards the river. I was some four hundred yards from the bridge when I espied a steam truck driving towards me somewhat erratically.

Ensuring I was well-illuminated by a nearby lamp post, I held up one hand and indicated to the driver that he should come to a halt at my position. As the truck slowed down and eventually stopped I noted that there were, at least, a dozen men and women standing in the back brandishing placards, a large red flag, several shotguns and a couple of rifles.

I approached the driver’s door and engaged him in conversation.

“Where are you going in such high spirits this evening sir” I said.

“I’m not a ‘sir’ and you is a running dog of the bourgeoisie.” he replied, or words to that effect as some that he actually used were not worth recording.

“Don’t get chippy with me sir or I shall have to caution you.” I said.

Realising, at last, that he was dealing with a member of Her Majesty’s metropolitan constabulary he then sat up straight and tried to give me an ingratiating grin.

“Whereabouts are you and your friends proceeding to at this hour?” I enquired.

One of his companions in the back of the truck interjected shouting “None of your damn business, you class traitor!” I gave him a stern look and he fell silent. I then looked back at the driver.

“We was just going to a party constable” he slurred.

Having now experienced enough of his foul breath to determine his state of sobriety I continued my interrogation.

“It looks to me sir like you have already been to a party and are not in the best condition to be driving an eight-ton truck upon the highway. So I shall ask again, where were you intending to go?” I asked.

“I don’t have to tell you nuffin’ constable, I’m perfectly at liberty to proceed wherever I likes.” he stated.

“On foot perhaps sir. Unfortunately, driving a steam conveyance upon the public highway while under the influence of strong spirits is an offence under the Highway Safety Act 1888 sir, and I must ask you to step down for further examination” I said.

“Look out Sid, ‘e wants to check you over, maybe ‘e’s a molly-boy” shouted one of the women who seemed to be having some considerable difficulty in loading a shotgun.

The driver looked suspicious but, under my continued stare, chose to swing the door open and descend to the pavement in a sort of half-controlled collapse. Within the cab. I could see some crates of milk bottles with rags tied around their necks.

Once he had clawed his way upright, using the lamp post more for support than illumination, he straightened his jacket and put his cap back on his head.

“Hello constable, what’s seems to be the trouble then?” he said, as if he had only now noticed I was there.

“It is my opinion sir, that you are steaming drunk.” I said. This brought forth gales of laughter from the assembled throng in the truck. One of the women fell off the back of the truck and had to be helped back on by some of her companions.

“So what is your full name sir?” I asked.

“Don’t tell ‘im your name Jonesy.” said the woman with the shotgun, who had now dropped several cartridges at her feet. I looked at her, she looked at me and her mouth opened wide. I turned back to the driver.

“Sidney Jones I am arresting you on suspicion of driving a steam conveyance whilst under the influence of alcohol, as proscribed by the Highway Safety Act 1888. Are you going to come quietly or flopping like a fish?” I stated loudly and clearly so that the throng could also hear me.

“You can’t do that constable.” he said ” I’s got places I ‘as to be” he said, looking somewhat agitated.

“And where might that be Mr Jones?” I asked.

“Well we ‘ad this caucus see and decided it was time to overthrow the corrupt masters of the Empire and we was going to burn down the ‘ouses of Parliament.” he said. The silence from the back of the truck was deafening.

“Would this be because you are the ‘downtrodden masses’ sir?” I asked, having heard this tripe at the Dog & Duck many a long evening.

“Yes, that’s it son, we shall rise up we shall” and as he said this his legs gave way and he ended up sitting in the gutter.

It was then I noticed that he was fumbling for a service revolver that was pushed through his waistband. I applied the All-Electric English Truncheon to his head as a discouragement and he did indeed flop about a bit.

I then addressed the throng while cranking the charge box for my truncheon.

“Can anyone else drive this conveyance?” I asked.

“I can.” said one of the men, and he made his way to the front of the truck.

“Are you also drunk?” I asked.

“Probably.” he said, so I charged him with intent and left him flopping in the gutter next to his erstwhile comrade.

“Anyone else?” I said.

There was considerable muttering and shuffling of feet.

“Right then.” I said “I suggest you all dismount and proceed to the number seven omnibus stop by the bridge. There should be a late Bus along in a few minutes that can get you back to Brick Lane. No madam you can’t take your shotgun with you. Carrying one of them, and those rifles lads – put them back please, while intoxicated is also an offence. So be off with you before I consider charging you with Riotous Assembly”.

They looked at Sidney and his comrade who were, by now, in the drooling and shaking stage, then quietly got down off the truck.

Most staggered away towards the omnibus stop, but one younger man lingered a few moments.

“You’ll be first against the wall when the revolution comes copper” he said.

So I charged him with threatening an officer of the law and laid him down in the gutter with the others.

This is why, Sergeant, I have three unconscious men, a steam truck previously owned by Abel Caine Imports & Exports Ltd., eight Lee-Metford Rifles, six shotguns various, two-hundred assorted rounds of ammunition, a Webley service revolver, two crates of a dozen Brick Lane bottle grenades each, two pairs of ladies unmentionables, a 12lb carton of blasting dynamite (no fuses), a nun’s habit, sixteen shillings and sixpence, one wrapped fish supper, a red flag, nine placards, two policemen’s helmets and, forty copies of a revolutionary manifesto in the station yard.

 

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