Few could have predicted the long-lasting effect that such a simple device would have on the City in the years to come. Born of desperation and anger it not only robbed men of their futures when it was deployed, but the shock it created amongst the general populace was far out of proportion to its actual effects.
We are talking, of course, about what became called the ‘Brick Lane Bottle Grenade’. This device consists of a gin bottle filled with ethyl spirits or petroleum. Moments before it is to be deployed the hellion responsible inserts anywhere between two and six shotgun cartridges into the bottle before sealing it with a piece of rag. This is then lit and thrown. The target of the attack does not only have to suffer serious burns but they, and anyone near them, shall also be peppered with shot as the cartridges ‘cook off’. It has deterred good citizens from going to the aid of the burning victim. Often it has been dropped from rooftops or windows into trucks, omnibuses or carriages to devastating effect in their confines.
The first time that this weapon appeared was in the now infamous Cable Street massacre in 1892. Five Police Constables and their Sergeant were escorting three Aldermen away from a public meeting that had fallen to riot. As they proceeded down the street they were attacked from the roofs above by no less six of these infernal devices. Five men died horrible deaths and the others were maimed and scarred for life. The incident was witnessed by a photographer from The London Daily Chronicle and his pictures of the aftermath were quickly put on the front page. The photograph that elicited the most shock was that of three of the incendiaries watching from the rooftop. They were all women.
None of these villainesses were ever prosecuted but it was believed they came from the Cornhill Commune. A mixed force of Police and Westminster Yeomanry raided the Commune two days later and thirty-six men and women died in the ensuing battle, including three Constables and the heroic Captain of the Yeomanry, Ezekiah Briggs. This filthy hotbed of insurrection was dispersed and printed instructions found for the manufacture of these devices.
Since that time the brave men of the Metropolitan Police have had to face this menace whenever they take on the evil anarchists that befoul our city. The invention of the Vulcan Coat by the American Samuel Bryant has helped them endure this, but many good men have still perished or been terribly maimed by it.
Meanwhile in the alleys and stews of the East End women young and old have taken up the mantle of ‘Incendiary’ mimicking their ‘sisters’ of the Paris Commune. They tell of their ‘pride’ in defending their riotous communities against the forces of law and order.
Lord Ellesmere has spoken and written at length over the conditions that drive the meeker sex to such dire solutions. The infant mortality rate, the addiction to gin and whoring, and the lack of gainful employment for men and women alike. He is raising money to sweep away those foul slums around Brick Lane and replace them with sanitary, modern blocks for our urban poor to inhabit. He has also spoken on the need for a reduction in our dependence on the machine and a return to the provision of regular manual labour for the uneducated classes.
Although his Christian sentiments are much admired in the House, many feel that the undeserving poor are just that. As Lord Grimshanks is fond of saying: “They are slackers, layabouts and scroungers who do not need clean abodes and work, they need discipline and to fear the righteous anger of the law. They are unreformed incorrigibles and should be treated as such. Their leaders, those damned Russian anarchists and German Jewish Socialists who infest the East End, should be hunted down and put to the noose.”