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Remembering Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot

  • Published
  • By the RAF Mildenhall Community Relations Adviser's Office
  • 100th Air Refueling Wing
What to know: Team Mildenhall is invited to attend a Bonfire Night event including fireworks, hosted by the British-American Council Nov. 3 at Aspal Close in Beck Row beginning at 6 p.m. The bonfire will be lit around 6:15 p.m. and a fireworks display is slated to begin at 6:45 p.m. Hamburgers, hot dogs and stuffed potatoes will be available. There is no entry charge, but donations are welcome.

"Remember, remember the fifth of November,
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
We see no reason
Why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot."

In 1605 Guy Fawkes and a group of conspirators attempted to blow up the Houses of Parliament at the State opening by King James I. This bold attempt is still commemorated today with Bonfire Night events taking place on or around Nov. 5.

Effigies of Guy Fawkes are made and burned, and it's common to see young people pulling one along and asking, "Penny for the Guy?".

The History

After Queen Elizabeth I died in 1603, English Catholics who had experienced a rough time under her reign had hoped that her successor, King James I, would be more tolerant of their religion. Unfortunately he wasn't, and that angered a number of young men who decided violent action was the answer. The 'Gunpowder Plot' was then hatched as a protest against these penal laws.

Guy Fawkes was one of 13 conspirators chosen because of his military experience and knowledge of munitions. He was thought to have a cool head, and because of that, he was trusted to carry out the plot.

The Plot

The plot, which was masterminded by Robert Catesby, began with renting lodgings close to Parliament House. They hoped to tunnel through to the Parliament Buildings but that proved unrealistic due to the water from the Thames and also the thickness of the Parliament walls.

Then, a cellar was acquired within the Parliament Building and over time 36 barrels of gunpowder were smuggled there and carefully hidden beneath wood and coal.

The idea was for Guy Fawkes to ignite those barrels using a long fuse. That would allow him enough time to escape from the building.

The Discovered Plot

It's thought the gunpowder plot was discovered due to an anonymous letter sent to Lord Montague, one of the House of Lords members. It was an attempt to warn the Lord not to attend the opening of Parliament because "a great calamity would consume it".

Word of the letter spread to the conspirators, and they thought they had a traitor in their midst. Once they felt things had calmed down and that the letter had not alerted the government, they decided to go ahead with the plan.

In the early hours of Nov. 5, Fawkes was arrested in the cellar near the 36 barrels of gunpowder. He also had the equipment needed to ignite them. He was immediately arrested and taken before the king. He endured horrific torture before finally being publicly hanged in March 1607.

The Results

Word spread around London of the foiled plot and the residents began to light fires in celebration that the king had been saved, and the tradition has continued for 400 years.

To this day, a search of the Houses of Parliament takes place before the official opening by the reigning monarch.

Safety Points

-- Remember to keep your pets indoors on bonfire night as the noise and lights can distress them.
-- It's illegal for people under 16 to purchase fireworks.
-- Never set off fireworks in areas where there is danger to people or property.
-- Consider going to an organized display. Fireworks are expensive to buy and organized displays can be spectacular for a reasonable admission fee. Safety is also strictly maintained.


Brandon - Nov. 2
Brandon Town Bonfire and Firework Display
The Manor, Crown St., Brandon
Web site:

Midsummer Common, Cambridge - Nov. 5
'The Largest Free Firework Display in East Anglia'. Held since 1930
Contact: Ms Sarah Jones, Marketing and Press Manager, Cambridge City Council, The Guildhall, Cambridge CB2 3QJ
Tel: (01223) 457521
Web site: