Sunday, May 12, 2013

The siege of Weston-under-Redcastle

I look forward to Fridays because that is the day the Shropshire Star published a new selection of vintage photographs.

One of this week's selection shows Superintendent Bob Landers of Wellington Police holding a revolver and crouched behind a riot shield during what the caption describes as "the longest peacetime siege in British history". This took place at the Shropshire village of Weston-under-Redcastle in September and October 1968.

An old Birmingham Post & Mail story tells the full story:
Deranged farmer John James was holed up for 17 days with a rusty shotgun in a derelict cottage near Weston-under-Redcastle, a village in rural Shropshire, in 1968. 
His hostage, a woman, brought it to an end when she threw his gun out of a window as he slept - allowing the police and army to move in. 
But this was not before he had knocked out an army tank which had ventured too close. 
It was a huge humiliation for the military commander at the scene. 
He had sought refuge after being challenged by the police over the illegal possession of a firearm - and successfully held his besiegers at bay for more than two weeks. 
Reporters covering the event lived in an array of colourful tents, ran two football teams and produced a daily newspaper. 
Afterwards, an Arthur Daley type reporter on the scene arranged for a commemorative tie to be produced. It bore the figure 17 and the icon of a red castle. 
And, as this Glasgow Herald report of his trial shows, James was sent to Broadmoor hospital.

Just another one of those stories that must have been a sensation at the time but must have been long forgotten.

Read more about the siege of Weston-under-Redcastle.


Anonymous said...

Only today I've been talking to my 82 year old Uncle who was a policeman at this siege. He has a wicked sense of humour & as he recalled this siege he had me giggling at the antics of the police & army etc as they tried/or NOT (because of the overtime they were earning!) to get this man out of the house. He recalled the tents, the football and the scrumping of the orchards that kept them in jam for months!!!!

Anonymous said...

My mum and I were recently talking about this too. There's an old pic of my dad in some bushes, taking photographs with a long-lensed camera, and generally looking like he's up to no good, and I was asking my mum where it came from. Turns out it's from this farm siege, which he was covering for what was then PA-Reuter, and he was in the bushes because he didn't want to get shot!
He had a commemorative tie too.

Rebel and handler said...

As dog handler I spent an eight hour shift every day at the siege. On call in Division after my shift. I recall a big iron shield being built at Wellington Police Station only to find to heavy to lift. The Army vehicle was used to approach the house when a shot rang out and blew the aerial off. The Army retreated. There were many other incidents during those days. I don,t recall getting paid overtime in those day just time off which as a dog handler never happened.

Unknown said...

I went to school with the son the writer of the Woman's page on the Wolverhampton Express and Star.His Mother Laura Gillan was a friend of another journalist Jenny Corner and she later bought the house mentioned in the story. It was used as a weekend residence and rented out to friends for holidays. Myself and a group of friends used to rent it from 1974 onwards. It still had some relics from the siege including an old Austin car rotting in the garage attached to the house. We had some interesting times there and whenever we went to the local pub the locals would tell us of the story of the siege.

Jonathan Calder said...

Many thanks for these comments. They are the best part of blogging.

Camera Craft remembered said...

Hi, I was there aged 16, working with Keith Medley, who filmed the event for Movietone News. Keith was called out in the early hours of the morning and went racing off in his Mklll Ford Zodiac, grabbing his camera bag. When he arrived there was no camera in the bag, I had dismantled it the night before to clean it and it was still on the bench; I received a phone call at 9 o’clock the next morning at work in King Street, Wallasey, with my ear duly bent (although I cheekily told him didn’t he notice the camera bag was a bit light). I had to assemble the camera whilst travelling in a taxi to meet Keith halfway down to Shropshire. When I met him he said to get rid of the taxi they would pay it back at the Studio, Camera Craft. With the taxi duly departing, I hopped in and we went together to the farm house. I stayed for two nights, Keith decided that after shots were fired it was no longer safe for me to be there. I had been with Keith for 6 months prior to this starting and had only just replaced the camera to a light model, from memory it was an Ariflex 35mm Cine Camera. I stayed working for Keith Medley for two years. Always interesting out filming with Keith, great for a 16yr old but no I didn’t get that tie!

Jonathan Calder said...

Many thanks for your comment.

Unknown said...

My family lived right opposite the Slade Lane where the siege house was sited. Attached to our house was a small field owned by my father with entry gained via a locked five barred gate opening onto the lane. Without seeking his permission, within days of the siege beginning, after physically removing the gate and depositing it in an adjacent field, the police pitched a tent in the centre of the field that would be used throughout the siege as their headquarters. As of course there were no mobile phones then, during their stay my mother allowed them to phone home (at that time, other than my uncle who lived further up the lane, we were the only family living up the Heath who owned a phone), and lent them a picnic table, six folding chairs, a Calor gas lantern and two large flasks in which she supplied copious amounts of hot water for making tea for the remaining days of the siege. You can imagine our disgust and disbelief when the siege was finally over and the police broke camp, someone in their ranks took (stole) all those items with him. Although we asked the local force to recover them, without any form of apology they replied that as by that time the siege was being manned by officers from several different forces there was no way of them doing that!