This article relates the tale of the 96th Entry ‘enhancement’ of the fountains in Trafalgar Square London, which was carried out as their Entry prank according to Halton Apprentice tradition on the number of days before graduation as their entry number - i.e. in our case 96 days before the 31st July 1963 – therefore Saturday 27th April 1963, although memory is such that this cannot be confirmed.
Those owning up to, or being remembered as taking part were Messrs 'A', 3 x 'B', 'G', 'H', 'L', 2 x 'M', 2 x 'S', 'T' and 3 x 'W'. Full names of these 15 operatives have been withheld to preserve the covert nature of the operation.
Planning the fountain episode involved careful measurement of the fountains (necessary to calculate the water volume and thus the amount of colouring agent required), noting where all the pump inlets were (necessary to quantify and position the powder drop locations), all this allied to mixing trials in the bath to get the correct colour shade (pity the poor apprentice on that room job). The powder was bought in small quantities across London to preclude anyone being traced and then transferred to 1-lb bags. The actual powder drop was akin to an MI6 covert operation with stooges (site-watchers), a master of ceremonies with a newspaper on the steps of the National Gallery to signal the bag-droppers when to GO.
The drop took place and the raiding party scattered per the plan, returning after 10 minutes, but as nothing appeared to be happening to the water they left to contemplate why, vowing to return the next morning. The next day the sight of the sun playing on the purple/pink water spraying from the fountains was their reward, added to by a paper seller who told Mr 'W' that the Council sometimes did this for Royal occasions but they had never done it for a Ban-the-Bomb demo before. Much to our annoyance Ban-the-Bomb was accredited with the event in the national press.
The tailpiece is that the perpetrators undertook to meet on the steps leading to the National Gallery on a suitably notable date, hence 9 June 1996 (9.6.96), each with a newspaper in hand. Only one person turned up (Mr 'S') – well done Brian. The plan was then to try the meet up again 10 years later on 9 June 2006, but wary of the fact that if this were advertised in the personal column of the Times or Haltonian it may be picked up on by the security forces keen to make a late arrest in order to 'close this heinous case' or to foil a repeat performance.
No further attempts have been made to rendezvous since.
Footnote: Photo (Getty Images) - 2012 Boris Johnson (Mayor of London) turns the fountains pink as part of Breast Cancer awareness month and purple for the Olympics celebrations, employing what he describes as his 'magenta magicians'. I wonder if any of the original perpetrators were moonlighting.