Gang fights have gone on in Britain for centuries; but in the mid-1960s a tribal element arrived on the scene in the form of Mods and Rockers.
Mods were cool: they wore Italian-style suits beneath badge-bedecked parkas; they had carefully coiffed hair; rode Lambretta and Vespa scooters; and listened to new bands like The Who and The Small Faces and ska greats like Prince Buster. Rockers were grungier: they wore leathers as befitted ton-up bikers; had long and often greasy hair; and were fans of Elvis, Buddy Holly and Gene Vincent.
The two tribes went to war first – at least in a large scale fight – in Clacton over Easter 1964. But the Whitsun weekend of May 18 and 19 saw things escalate hugely. There were battles in Broadstairs , Bournemouth , Hastings , Margate , Clacton again, and most notably in Brighton . Thousands from each side had gathered in theory for a seaside break that turned into turf battles: deckchairs were a weapon of convenience; flick-knives favoured by many Mods; bike-chains by Rockers. As ever the poor police stood between the factions and had bottles thrown at them.
Middle Britain panicked into thinking civilisation was coming to an end. It didn’t; but hundreds of teenagers were fined, and some had short prison sentences for their part in the violence.
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