19 – 5 – 1951
Homework - Read W J
The Owen’s School Siege
This story tells how the “Dockers Revolt” was broken up, how Mr Strong, a teacher, gained a Victoria Cross, and how the pupils of 1V B fought a life savings battle against great odds.
One bright sunny afternoon in the summer of 1951 we were all sitting at our desks hard at work, wondering what the London dockers, who were on strike, would do next. They had raided an arms factory in Green Park, and were marching towards our school to try to capture an apparatus which Mr Peter Fahren, our Physics master, had invented to make sulphur out of lead oxide. The Government had said there was no need to worry so we had come to school in the morning. At about 2.15 p.m. there was a loud explosion from the direction of the playground. The next moment Mr Lacey, one of the school caretakers, came running into the school shouting out that a mortar shell had landed in the playground. Straight away the store of arms in the cloakroom was distributed amongst the classes and the boys were told to stay in their Form rooms until the attack started. The streets had suddenly become deserted, there was no help about, a message came through saying that there would be no help for at least two hours because all the forces, police, etc, had deserted because they didn’t want to oppose the dockers, so some troops from France were being sent over by jet troop carrying planes.
Another shell landed in the playground. Mr Paul climbed to the top of the Physics Lab and with the aid of field glasses discovered that the mortar gun was on top of Sadlers Wells. This news was conveyed to the other masters who took immediate action. Mr Strong was sent
up into the balcony outside the new Laboratory, where he soon got his bazooka into action. The first shot knocked the mortar clean off the roof. Meanwhile blockades had been set up either end of Owen Street and Owen’s Row, and all the second and third form boys had been issued with revolvers. The Lower School had just been evacuated to Rooms 3 and 2 when the first mob of dockers came into sight down Pentonville Road. The school Cadets were were ordered to their positions and the fighting began.
The dockers charged into St John’s Street and stormed the barricade in Owen Street, but they were held back by murderous machine gun fire from Mr Edwards and Mr Phillips. Mr Strong was doing wonders with the bazooka and for a time the attackers were held off.
Then about six hundred dockers broke into Owen’s Row and swept into the playground. Immediately, Mr Davidson led a contingent of his scouts in a wild charge across the playground in a valiant effort to save the waste paper basket, but they were surrounded and forced to retreat to the school. The grand old sprinter was the only one who got back to the school alive. By this time the playground was swarming with dockers who were massing for an attack, so to play for time Mr Butler sent a squad of cadets, under Strevens, to relieve Mr Tricker who was under heavy pressure defending the Gym. The expedition was doomed and only Strevens and Christmas reached the Gym. Strevens was last seen with his back to the wall surrounded by a large group of dockers. The Sten- gun fire from the Head’s study was taking its toll and the dockers were falling like nine-pins. They massed up for one last desperate attempt to get into the school and charged towards the cloakroom. This is where 1VB came into the battle.
1VB were in the cloakroom getting ammunition when the attack came The Form ran towards the dining rooms whilst Richardson held off the mob with a Tommygun. Day pulled the pins out of a couple of hand grenades and tossed them into the boiler room. There was a terrific explosion and the walls of the washroom and cloakroom caved in, right on top of the advancing dockers.
This move had foiled the attack and before the dockers could retreat Mr Rutter and Mr Nightingale dropped phails of mustard gas amongst them. This cast them into confusion and the school had complete control of the matter.After Mr Strong turned his bazooka onto the mob in Owen Street, the dockers scattered, despite loud cries from their leader, who was picked off by a well aimed shot from Mr Tricker’s automatic rifle.
Thus ended the Owen’s School Siege which was a credit to a great old school.