ebgeorge at hotmail.com
Sun Feb 3 02:54:25 MST 2002
Look back in anger
Sunday February 3, 2002
Amhurst Road hasn't changed much in the past 30 years. Rotting chunks of
low-rise council blocks break up the long lines of run-down Victorian
villas. There are trees, but they don't look at home. There are shops, but
no banks, just the odd bureau for cashing cheques. Here and there, towards
the top of Amhurst Road, pockets of gentility peek through the desperation.
At the farthest point north, as Amhurst Road ends and Stoke Newington
begins, there's even a delicatessen. But all-in-all it's pretty low-key and
anonymous. You could easily blend into the surroundings if you were a
criminal. Or a terrorist.
Number 359, the last building on Amhurst Road, has been spruced up a little,
but it hasn't changed much since 20 August 1971, when a police squad raided
the upstairs flat and found a small arsenal of weapons and explosives. They
belonged to Britain's only homegrown urban terrorist group, the Angry
Brigade. In the series of 25 bombings attributed to them no one was killed
(one person was slightly injured), but they were a serious embarrassment to
Edward Heath's government. For a brief period between August 1970 and August
1971, the authorities were unable to stop a group of left-wing adventurers
bombing the homes of Tory politicians, as well as government and corporate
The Bomb Squad, set up in January 1971 with the specific job of catching
'the Angries', had received a tip-off that the flat had been rented by four
university dropouts wanted in connection with the bombs. When they smashed
through the door at four o'clock that Friday afternoon, the squad couldn't
believe its luck. There, according to the police account of events, they
found more than 60 rounds of ammunition, a Browning revolver, a sten gun,
and a Beretta said to have been used in an attack on the US embassy in 1967.
In a cabinet in the hallway was a polythene bag stuffed with 33 sticks of
gelignite and more ammunition. They also found detonators, a knife, a
hand-operated duplicating machine used for the production of 'communiqués',
and a John Bull children's printing set used to authenticate Angry Brigade
releases to the press. Bags of documents removed from the flat included
lists of names and addresses of prominent Tories: employment secretary
Robert Carr, whose home had been bombed in January 1971, Attorney-General
Sir Peter Rawlinson who had been targeted the previous September and John
Davies, the secretary of state for Trade and Industry, whose heavily guarded
town house in Chelsea had been bombed three weeks before the raid. Also
included was the man who would later become the chief ideologue of
Thatcherism, Keith Joseph, and the future chancellor, Geoffrey Howe, then an
obscure junior minister.
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