Whitsun Bank Holiday, May 1964.

David Rowland private collection

These are a few Evening Argus reports that appeared in the newspaper on Whit Monday and the following few days after the Mods and Rockers clash.

Monday 18th May 1964

It was reported that 27 youths, mostly from the London area appeared before a Special  Court on Bank Holiday, Monday 18th May 1964, during the afternoon.

At least another 20 were expected to appear before Magistrates in the evening.

The charges included five of possessing offensive weapons, two of stealing milk, seven for obstructing Police, one for assaulting a Policeman, one of throwing stones, eleven for using threatening or insulting behaviour, one for wilful damage to a deckchair and three for discharging missiles.

This was a variable assortment of the type of offences that occurred at that time and in the main the youths deserved to be arrested and receive their just punishment.

However, looking back the 40 years that have now passed I wonder just what actually happened with two of the most popular offences. The two I refer too are the ‘Obstructing the Police,’ of which seven youths were arrested for this offence and more seriously, the offence of ‘assaulting a Policeman.’

I mention these two particular offences although I have no particular knowledge or information of those arrested on this day for them. However, I would like to point out that it did seem at times that the same Police Officers were often those that were assaulted or obstructed. Let me make it quite clear that I am not saying that in these cases there was anything untoward.

During almost 27 years of Police service in Brighton I was assaulted only three times and obstructed only once. These were genuine offences and those arrested were punished.

One of the more famous newspaper photographs on the day was one showing a fight on the Aquarium Sun Terrace between a large group of youths who were throwing deckchairs. This led to one youth going to prison and it was reported as follows: –

Robert Peel, 19 years, of Broderick House, Kingswood Estate, West Dulwich SE 2; was jailed for 3 months and fined £2 at Brighton Magistrates Court on Monday 25th May 1964 for using Insulting behaviour and discharging a missile, – namely a deckchair on the Aquarium Sun Terrace during the Whit Monday disturbances. 

James Shiels, 19 years of Grenville Place Brighton pleaded ‘Not guilty,’ to a discharging a missile, — namely a deckchair. Police Constable Peter Gregory said, “A fight, involving a large number of girls and youths suddenly broke out (on the Aquarium Sun Terrace) and deckchairs were thrown. He went on, I saw Shiels take up a deckchair and throw it over the balcony to the pavement below.”
Giving evidence, Shiels said, “I and three friends were surrounded by 200 Mods, who were shouting, ‘Rockers.’ They started throwing stones and I picked up a deckchair to protect my face.”
Shiels friend, Tony Fowler of Ryde Road Brighton, who was called as a witness said,” we were surrounded, there was nothing we could do, we didn’t throw deckchairs, it wasn’t worth it against a crowd like that.”

The Magistrates found Shiels guilty and he was fined £2 for the offence. 

Christopher John Withers, 17 years of Portland Road Hove pleaded ‘Not Guilty’ to using insulting behaviour during the Whitsun disturbances and having an offensive weapon, — a belt.
It was alleged that he told Police, “If I got into a fight with the Mods and Rockers, I would have used it, wouldn’t you?”
Police Constable Basil Baverstock said in court,” I saw Withers, who was dressed as a Rocker among a group in West Street, Brighton. They were jostling pedestrians and forcing them to walk around the group. I saw Withers put his hand inside his jacket and thought he had an offensive weapon.”
Police Sergeant Roy Storey said,” I saw Withers running up Little Russell Street with what appeared to be a leather belt in his hand. He was waving his arms about and shouting. I saw him again in Upper Russell Street and after being chased I caught him and he was arrested.”
At the Police Station, Withers was found to be wearing the belt around his waist.
Withers denied having the belt as an offensive weapon, he said,” I had worn it at a youth camp just before coming to Brighton. I wore it to hold up my trousers and I had not taken it off at all.”

The Magistrates found Withers guilty and he was fined £20.

Withers, which it was said had previous convictions, had lost both parents in ‘tragic circumstances’ the Court was told and was now going to Wales to live with an aunt.

A 16 years old youth was remanded in custody, until Wednesday, 27th May by Brighton Magistrates accused of carrying an offensive weapon, a sheaf knife and a studded belt. It was alleged that he had the weapon on the Lower Esplanade on Whit Monday.

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David Rowland has just launched his 15th and final book, “The Spirit of Winsome Winn II”, all about the B-17 Flying Fortress which crashed at Patcham after being hit by anti-aircraft fire over Germany.


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