Jan 272016

Having carefully studied the criminal gangs of the first three decades of 20th century Britain, I would like to pass on some useful things I learned, in case you… You know, get stuck in the TARDIS and find you’ve travelled back to 1919 and your only hope of survival is to join a gang in Camden.

These things do happen, you know. Or could happen. Maybe.

A selection of tough boys in 1919, including Billy Kimber, the McDonalds and the Sabinis, on an outing to Hammersmith.


– bring a hammer if you’re visiting the race tracks, in case you run into some South Londoners who want you to pay a half-crown for something you don’t want. Or, in case you want a South Londoner to pay you a half-crown for something they don’t want.
– wear a belt with a big heavy brass buckle. It’s an efficient weapon that is easy to carry around with you, as well as a fashion statement.
– endeavour to be called Charlie, George, Henry, Billy or Alf. If you aren’t already, just tell people you are (unless you are called Bert, in which case the thing to do seems to be to use an Italian alias, like Carlo).
– ask your Mum to save you her empty cans. Filled with lead and attached to a rope they make for a formidable weapon (especially good for use against officers of the law).


– go to pubs in Clerkenwell, Farringdon or anywhere near King’s Cross (unless you don’t mind being shot at, stabbed, or slashed with a razor).
– be afraid of wearing a boater (set at a rakish angle, obviously).
– try to mess with Jewish fruit & veg sellers.
– pull a gun on someone unless you at least have some idea about how to hit something the size of a barn door. At best you’ll look stupid, at worst you’ll make a very ugly, mutilated corpse.
–  invite a bunch of rival gang leaders to a party with lots of booze and expect them to hug it out. It’ll only end with Alfie Solomons shooting someone.
– also, don’t be a bookie. Just don’t.

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