''THE Battle of Gresson Street'' has often been compared with ''The Siege of Sidney Street'', when Winston Churchill, aided by the Metropolitan Police and the Scots Guards, fought a ferocious gun battle with ''Peter the Painter'' and his Russian anarchists. Sidney Street is in London's East End: Gresson Street, named after a Jardine's Taipan, is in the heart of Wan Chai. On January 22, 1918, a party of unarmed police officers under Inspector O'Sullivan and Sergeant Clarke entered No 6 Gresson Street in search of stolen property. They were met by a fusillade of lead. O'Sullivan and Clarke were shot dead; PCs Sun Tai, So Kai and Kwong Sans were all wounded. The police arrived in force. Sergeant McWalter saw two robbers burst out of the house. He opened fire. The gunmen retaliated and shot PC Tang Wui in the arm. One of the desperados, who had a revolver in either hand and another clenched between his teeth, managed to escape after killing PC Mullah Singh and wounding PC Tana Singh. The other ran into Hill Terrace. Sergeant ''Kid'' Marriott of the Royal Naval Police and his wife, who lived nearby, rushed to the window to see what was happening. They spotted the robber climbing up a drain-pipe. He shot at Mrs Marriott and missed. The ''Kid'' grabbed his service rifle and shot him dead. The robber was found to have four revolvers tied to his wrist by a piece of tape. The siege of Gresson Street ended when Major Robertson of the Army Ordinance Corps hurled a smoked bomb through the window and the police stormed the building. The police thought that the robbers were Northern Chinese. They were dressed in identical blue European suits, complete with gold cuff links and natty fob watches. The Hong Kong Telegraph had its own theory as to who they were: ''From all appearances they seem to belong to the class which are commonly seen going through the streets doing conjuring tricks.''