Remembering and reflecting on the 'Battle of Lewisham' in August 1977, when a mobilisation by the far-right National Front in South East London was met by mass opposition

Friday, 12 March 2010

Some personal recollections

Here are some personal recollections sent to our e-mail address. You can look at our map to get a picture of where this is happening. I particularly like the way Stephen's story cuts across some of the triumphalist political accounts, and brings out the complexity of the local experience, especially for young people.

From Stephen:

I stumbled onto your site having a half-drunken reminiscence - anyway I used to live in Elverson Road (Deptford / Lewisham border) and I was about 17 at the time. The Police set up a base camp at the top of Elverson Road (near where the Underground Station is now) arriving in a number of coaches. The NF actually marched down Elverson Road from the East end (Station) I guess from Conington Road, right past my house towards 'Liitle Elverson' headed for New Cross / Brockley.

The most bizarre thing was, at some stage in their journey (which was unopposed in our street at least) a liitle black boy had tagged onto the march and was skipping behind the 'racists' having a great time. Just about summed them up - too busy being scary racists to notice the black kid in their midst.

Great days....

I can recall the police sitting in a number of coaches parked on and near the little hill that ran up the side of the 'Ravensbourne Arms' (the old Victorian Pub - now unused & empty - incidentally it featured in one of the 'Courage Bitter' ads featuring Chas & Dave........) We saw them all eating their sandwiches and getting out flasks of coffee etc...... hours later they were armed with riot shields & batons. Just makes the whole charade seem just that little bit sillier now I reckon!

As I understand it the main body of the march was diverted from the original route, and thinking about it I reckon those who came up Elverson Road (East to West, away from the current underground Station) were just part of the march who may have been seperated from the others.... there wasn't a huge number as I recall. The little black kid is the most prominent memory I'm afraid

In my opinion these marches, as with the Brixton Riots in the 80's, were just part of growing-up in post-war London. Like all 'kids' we made friends and fell out more often than we care to remember, and tension between blacks & whites & English & Pakistanis & Indians & Sedgehill & Brockley County Grammar schools..... fluctuated throughout the 70's - One minute they were your sworn enemy, and the next day reggae was cool, and so life goes on. I'm sure its the same with the Asian / Oriental influence that has grown in SE London since I lived there. The kids, me included, could always cope with change, but it seems someone else always wanted to tell us how to feel about it - the NF are just a political party so what's so surprising about that?

From Kevin:

Yes I was there, I was then
19 at the time,
I saw it all, yes the police, had no protection, THE NAZI FRONT, as we called it, had Confederate
Flags, I mean K.K.K flags. [We had] banners saying, “It’s a racist front”.
We came out on Saturday.
 Even the school leavers. And the hiders as well, people who do any old work to get by).
Police came under attack .
Later I ended up at Ladywell.
I went along this alley, ran past a policeman, I saw a
Meat wagon get stoned
with police on board.
I saw smoke rising in the
 First I thought a car was set alight. Then I met up with about 12 others, who
survived the demonstration.
We went to Catford.
We held a speech. Then
I went back, I walked along the route, of that march. 
What I thought was a
car, was in fact a journalist’s
 motorbike that had been set [alight].

Once I was back at
I was asked, "What Happened at Lewisham".
And I told them everything. I even showed
a copy of Socialist Worker:
"We Stopped The Nazis,
They did not pass"
was the heading.
 Also, while I was in Lewisham, at the time,
every shop had a sign
saying "Due to circumstances beyond our control,
please do not come."

Also shields were used for the first time on the
British mainland...

 Had we not done so, it would had
been another story.

No comments: