Monday, 11 March 2013

Scuttling, Slogging & Big Brawls

During the late 19th century, mass brawls seemed to be a feature of everyday life in some of our major cities.  The gangs involved in these brawls and the general criminality had various names and descriptions.  In Liverpool, they were known as "Cornermen", in Manchester, they were known as "Scuttlers" and in Birmingham, they were known as "Sloggers" & "Peaky Blinders."  Huge brawls between streets and areas were commonplace, and this echoes the gang culture in the USA where a person could get killed by simply being on the wrong side of the street.  With these gangs, obviously murder was nowhere as commonplace as it is in the States but killings did happen.

    However, these activities did die out before the time of the first world war, and riots did break out sporadically, with them coming to the fore in the early 1980`s.  One big brawl did take place but was not on the mainland.  It happened in 1941 in South Africa.  Two huge Capital ships were on their way to Singapore to act as a deterrent against the Japanese, but as history knows, this did not work, with both ships being sunk.  The ships were the Battleship "Prince of Wales", badly damaged in the sea battle with "Bismarck" two years before, and the BattleCruiser "Repulse."

    Whilst the "Repulse" was docked in Durban, sailors off the ship were being viciously attacked by Australian soldiers, for no reason other than being "Pommie bastards."  The hard man of the ship a scouse stoker, ordered all the ratings ashore to extract revenge.  This they did.  The only targets were Aussies, and the scouser lead the revenge attacks.  This form of hatred between Australians and British sailors carried on right through the 1950`s, and led to many bar-room brawls.