Police in the Pits

Jules asks

Any ideas what was going on in the Vanbrugh Pits area on Sunday afternoon? I rode past on my Vespa to see plenty (6-8 ish) of heavily armed police, some with sub machine guns as well as police dogs. All seemed to be concentrating of the pits area. Later on they all just seemed to leave. Any update on what it was all about welcome!

You know Jules, once again, I have no idea. If they were armed it’s unlikely they were doing checks for upcoming Olympic stuff; it sounds pretty specific to me.

But all manner of stuff goes on that we never hear about. Things that you think ‘wow, that’s going to end up on the news tonight’ but the week comes and goes and it’s not even two inches on page 14 of the local paper (though of course that’s no surprise, there’s very little in the way of hard news in Greenwich local papers these days).

Your guess is as good as mine – it could be anything from suspected terrorists to armed robbers, escaped prisoners to men carrying table legs…

But I love the idea of your riding past on a Vespa – sort of makes me think of kooky 1960s British movies – you know – something along the lines of Blow Up or Les Bicyclettes de Belsize. Were there any good old fashioned London bobbies among them? Marching bands going by in the background? Dolly-birds in hotpants go-going on the heath?

UPDATE – as you’ll see from the replies, this story was just kicking off as I wrote this. Extremely worrying. I also understand that LOCOG may have (but they’re so damn opaque we can’t be sure) bought a part of Blackheath – common land. How can this have happened? And what happens to it after the ODA use it in the summer? Selling off for flats, perhaps?

25 Comments to “Police in the Pits”

  1. Mike says:

    Three trucks carrying the missile systems and launchers went through Greenwich last week. I’d rather not have surface to air missiles based, stored, transported or used anywhere near me but it seems we must protect ourselves from every possible threat using every possible means.

    Madness. Expensive madness.

  2. Chris says:

    As I’ve said on another local site, if you have to fire a missile in anger you’ve failed anyway.

    They will not frighten off hijacked planes.

  3. Nelson's Left Eye says:

    Chris, if any would-be terrorists know that a hijacked aircraft will not get anywhere near its intended target, then you have a deterrent.

    Extensive, multi-layed anti-terrorist defences are now the norm of any Olympics Games.

  4. Mike says:

    @Nelson’slefteye if a hijacked aircraft is shot down with one of those missiles whilst “attacking” the Olympics, it will fall on the Olympics.
    Like the armed police walking through the Embankment Underground station, this style of protection against ‘those nasty baddies out there’ just makes me feel more unsafe.

  5. Bobby says:


    im no Expert but I do think these Ground to Air missiles have a hefty range!

  6. Mike says:

    At under 7km range I’d be worried about bits falling from the sky if they were launched at anything!

    Like I said earlier, madness.

  7. Bad Witch says:

    Someone just posted on FB that they are putting ground to air missiles in Oxleas Wood. You might have posted about that already – sorry if I’ve missed it – but I feel rather upset about missiles in Oxleas Wood.

  8. Michael Kaye says:

    The following is from Alex Grant last week (before it became common knowledge):

    “The MOD have recently said they may also be using other locations on the Heath for a variety of security measures before and during the Games, and I attach more information on some testing that took place (on the Lewisham part of the Heath) earlier this week. While national security considerations mean that there has to be some secrecy about the plans, Blackheath is not Salisbury Plain. The local community needs to be assured that the plans will not endanger anyone and that any presence of military installations on the heath is not going to cause any damage to the grass and that access is not impeded any more than necessary”

  9. Kate says:

    Cllr Grant’s concern is….damage to the grass?!

    I’m beginning to understand what the so-called “Olympic legacy” is going to look like.

  10. Chris says:

    Nelson, the missiles are a deterrent? What?

    A guy/guys go to the trouble of hijacking/nicking/hiring a plane to crash into the Olympic stadium and they’re worried about being shot down??

    They would get the same publicity if the plane was shot down two miles short of the stadium with inevitable great loss of life on the ground.

    9/11 taught us that fear of death is absolutely not a deterrent for some people.

    The missiles are the MoD’s way of willy-waving.

  11. Nelson's Left Eye says:

    I speak from experience, Chris. Specifically 17 years in the military and counter-terrorism.

    How about yourself?

  12. Dave says:

    Sorry Nelson, the evidence of 9/11 proves otherwise !

  13. Darren says:

    Sorry but can’t agree on this one, if all the planes of 9/11 had ended up in fields it would have been a tragedy, but it would not have been a sucess for AQ and it would not be remembered in the same way. I know what images I remember from 9/11 and I imagine everyone else is the same. Clearly SAM will have a deterent effect, obviously grass is a high price to pay for safety but I’ll take my chances.

  14. Chris says:

    Nelson, counter-terrorism. AQ or PIRA? 9/11 changed counter-terrorism forever.

    My credentials? Well, nothing specific. Some time in foreign climes, relatives in the forces and common sense.

    You actually claim that the threat of being shot down just short of your target is a deterrent? These people are utterly willing to die for their cause, unlike UK bred Tangos (until recently).

    I hope I never live the day to see it, but a jumbo crashing onto the east End will be at least as vivid as one hitting the Olympic Stadium. Not many green fields around Bow.

    The Rapier is a short range SAM. One of my relatives is trained on them. Any plane it hits from the Heath/Oxleas Woods will be over a populated area.

    If a plane does crash onto a heavily populated area because we put it there by shooting it down can you imagine the row when the military effectively say, “The plane represented a threat to VIPs and Olympic spectators so we decided it should hit ticketless Londoners instead….”

  15. Nelson's Left Eye says:

    Okay, it’s getting a little silly now.

    The intention of the 9/11 hijackers was to hit the WTC/Pentagon/Capitol(?) symbolically hitting icons of US economic, military and political might…NOT to be shot down en route where the symbolism is all-but lost.

    And the Rapier missiles are obviously not the only line of defence against hijacked aircraft but will be the last line of defence when all other measures have failed. A jet crashing into daytime semi-surburbia is still better than one hitting a stadium containing 80,000 people, is it not?

    Or would people prefer we let an airliner hit the stadium? Chris certainly seems to with that rather ridiculous last paragraph of his.

  16. Dave says:

    Nelson , you can argue about all sorts of scenarios but the fact remains that you will not deter a suicide bomber whether their weapon of choice is a car a bomb a plane or any other method they choose, they do not value their own life or anyone elses

  17. Nelson's Left Eye says:

    …I’m out.

  18. Chris says:

    “A jet crashing into daytime semi-surburbia is still better than one hitting a stadium containing 80,000 people, is it not?”

    What a very sad comment. We are but mere collateral damage.

    I’m out too.

  19. Franklin says:

    But Nelson was “out” first, na-na-na-na-naaa-na.

    You guys are both making good points and it’s an important debate. Please don’t “out”.

    This debate apprears to boil down to two key issues:

    1/ The potential tradeoff between the deaths of, say, 80,000 people in the Olympic stadium, and the deaths of, say, a few thousand were a fully jumbo jet to be shot down over a densely populated area. To my mind, Nelson’s Left Eye wins this argument on numbers alone. There is total moral equivalence between the death of a spectator in the stadium and the death of a local resident in their home: spectators in the Olympic stadium are no less innocent than those in their homes in Blackheath (or more likely Island Gardens, given the speed+altitude of an incoming hijacked airliner).

    2/ The second point relates to the effectiveness as a deterrent of SAM installations in inner London. Would one or more suicide bombers be deterred from attempting to repeat 9/11 by the presence od these SAM installations? Possibly. Do the SAM installations cause anyone harm? Not really. So, on balance, Nelson’s Left Eye also wins on this point.

    Goes to show – long experience in the field under discussion does matter.

    (Doffs hat to Nelson’s Left Eye).

  20. Creepy Lesbo says:

    I thought they’d just leased the land? But no one had specified how long the lease was and I thought one of the other local blogs had also mentioned this.

  21. Yeah CreepyLesbo (love the moniker, BTW) it is, apparently, a lease. Just goes to show you should never believe anything you read here ;-)

  22. Jon lee says:

    Very interesting arguments and all that but…the original question was about armed police in the Vanbrough Pits area-is it at all possible they were nothing to do with missiles? Just wondering…

  23. Indigo says:

    I don’t know what the police were doing but, about the missiles, it is being said on this forum (search on olympic rapier missile)


    that the Rapier missiles installations are the response to America threatening not to come to the Games, and this has been done without much thought about the consequences of any “engagement”. Ie the missiles on Blackheath are to protect Americans in Greenwich Park; and the missiles in Oxleas Wood are to protect Americans/American horses in the equestrian quarantine station next to Woodlands Farm. Nothing to do with any specific terrorist threat to national security.

  24. The Rambler says:

    The armed police may well have been looking for the Blackheath Mole. reportedly of Middle Eastern appearance he is a subversive at best and a terrorist at worst. I’ve seen a swarthy ill dressed gentleman myself who frequents the Blackheath Tea Hut that absolutely shuns bacon and saveloys in favour of beef burgers. The proprietor gives me to understand he speaks hardly a word of English.