The Mods and Rockers

David Rowland
Mummy, are we mods or are we rockers?
Brighton Seafront
Photo by John Leach
Palace Pier
Photo by John Leach
Photo by John Leach

In 1964 I was working as a policeman in Brighton. My duties then were mainly  ‘plodding’ the streets of the town on the eastern side of Brighton. It is true to say that none of us were prepared on what was about to happen at Whitsun bank holiday in 1964.

It was the invasion of the ‘Mods and Rockers’ hitting the town.

We had all seen what happened at Easter in Margate when they went there. It had had great TV coverage. We knew they were coming to Brighton as the Metropolitan Police had found out through their intelligence that they were coming to ‘visit’ us. We were prepared and one of our officers was charged with working out a plan for us to keep them in check as much as we could. In Margate they had damaged so many police vehicles that it took weeks to get their fleet all back on the road. That wasn’t going to happen to us. The police hired a fleet of ‘Brighton waterworks’ vehicles. They were taken to Maidstone and fitted out with police radios tuned in to our Communications Room at Wellington Road Police Station.

The Mods and Rockers strted dribbling into Brighton on the Friday, they were monitored all the way down from London by the various Forces whose areas they went through and fed down to us. We had traffic controls on London Road who were stopping them and checking their driving documents and then checking their vehicles to make sure they were roadworthy. The idea was going to be to hassle them as much as possible. We were to stop them and check their driving documents and their vehicles as often as we could. In other words give them as much hassle as we could. We wanted to discourage them from ever coming back to Brighton. It was on the Saturday that things started to get interesting. We all came on duty at different times about an hour apart. I remember starting at 8am until finish, when ever that might be. We were all prepared for that as we had had briefings at the Town Hall when we booked on. We then all made our way to the seafront and to different points. I was on Madeira Drive to anywhere I might be needed. As others came on duty they were either walking or in the waterworks wagons. It was a joy to watch the mods faces when a waterworks wagon stopped and 10 burly policemen got out. They certainly were not very happy at causing any trouble then.

It was quite plain that a lot of these Mods were young 14, 15 and 16 years old. They were obviously older if they were driving a scooter. That was one of the reasons we were stopping these vehicles to see just how old the riders were. These were long shifts and we knew that’s what they were going to be. I got off about 7pm that day. I was tired and very weary and pleased to get home.

The following day another 8am start and this time it was a lot busier, there seemed to be thousands and thousands of them. Brighton had recruited a lot of policemen from adjoining forces, Kent, Surrey and a lot from the Metropolitan Police.

A day by the seaside

They were all enjoying a day by the seaside and getting paid for it too. Slowly but surely more and more kids were arrested. Some of the paper work was done for you by officers who were working in the cells. The object being to get you back outside onto the streets as quick as they could. Every so often they made a run for it along the beach and also every so often a policeman would get hurt by beach stones being thrown at us. At one time there were 7 police officers at A and E, at the RSCH receiving treatment. Those numbers grew as the day progressed.

On one occasion our group of a sergeant and six policemen were called to one of the slopes leading from the beach up to the roadway because a large group was trying to get up the slope. We spread ourselves along the top to stop them as about 150 Mods were coming up the slope. The sergeant ordered us to ‘Draw sticks.’ We  then produced our truncheons, the first and last time I ever drew my truncheon. I knew we were all going to get hurt; we couldn’t stop 150 of them. We looked as fierce as we could and when the first ones got near and we raised our arms with our truncheons in they had second thoughts and luckily they turned and ran back down the slope. We took one step forward and that deterred the rest of them. The first ones certainly didn’t fancy being struck by a police truncheon. We were very happy when we saw them running away.

All leave cancelled

All Police leave and days off had already been cancelled weeks before so that the maximum of police officers were on duty. There were plenty of fights between the mods and rockers and the police and two factions. I think it was close to 9pm when I finally got off duty. We all knew that The Bank Holiday was going to be our busiest. The bosses brought on a lot of policemen at 7am and another large group an hour later which included me. We heard from the night staff that they had continually woke up these kids and checked their details over and over again so that by the morning they would be to tired to fight, at least that was the thinking behind it. It worked to a degree. I spent part of the time in a waterworks wagon on this Monday but we didn’t drive very far, being stationed near the Palace Pier for most of the time. We had an police Inspector with us for part of the time. Around about teatime it wads decided that it was about time they all went home. But first let’s catch some of the ring leaders who we had picked out while they were on the beach. We had a number of policemen in civvies who made up our ‘snatch squads’ We would tell them who to arrest and us uniform bodies would bring them to our van and place them inside. They got quite a bit of hassle while in the van. Slowly we gathered a few more until we had 8 of them.

They had to sit on the floor of the wagon as we moved off. There was no bullying though. We drove northwards and up Dyke Road. We stopped on the road where you can drive down to the London  Road. There they were told to get out of the van one by one. Once they were out we removed their shoe laces. We then sent them on their way.

We stayed there watching them and when they were about 100 yards from us they started to thumb a lift from passing vehicles. We couldn’t have that so our sergeant said ‘stop the vehicles and suggest to the drivers that they don’t stop and pick up any hitch hikers they see. Many of the drivers understood why we said that and as we watched the vehicles just sped past these unfortunate people who just wanted to get away from us and go home. We stayed there for about half an hour until they were out of sight. It isn’t very comfortable to walk in shoes without laces in them.(Try it sometime.) We then returned back to the town and took up our position near the Palace Pier.

Non stop to london

Soon after we returned back to our position it started raining, just what we wanted. They started to come off the beach and with a vast number of policemen thye were herded together and marched up to the railway station. While this was happening a telephone call to Scotland Yard to let them know these people were on their way by train was done. Wherever any of them lived they were all going to London, even if they lived in Brighton they were London bound. They were packed onto trains as many as each carriage could take; many were standing room only. They were only put onto London non-stop trains. When they got to Victoria they were met by dozens and dozens of Metropolitan Policemen with their dogs. The vast queue of youths soon disappeared and they were off to London. Our work was almost finished. We came back to the sea front and there were just a few stragglers left. The town had got away with little dames although there was damage to shops in the Lanes area.

Our job from the start was to stop hordes of youths running through the town centre and we achieved that.

I know some people will think we weren’t very nice to them but you mustn’t forget that a lot of family people with their children came down to Brighton for a day on the beach and they were stopped being able to enjoy themselves due to the Mods and Rockers, is that right?

Police Cells

There were some nasty scenes recorded whereby a large group of Mods and beaten up a solitary rocker. At one stage in the cells at Brighton we had a total of 76 Mods and six Rockers in the cells at one time. Eventually they either went upstairs to the court or were bailed to attend the Police Station at a later date.

We were all glad when it was all over but – what a great weekend it was and we all enjoyed ourselves, we got away with a lot of things that policemen wouldn’t get away with in today’s world. People mustn’t judge what happened then to modern days. The world was an entirely different place and the people with it.

When you think that you had the old ‘Barrow Boys’ on your side and they were our sworn enemies – in a nice way. Then you can see no one wanted these people in our town of Brighton. They never came again for a few years when there was a different group of youths also growing up and they returned but in much smaller groups.

I think in total about 25 Policemen were injured and needed hospital treatment. DavidRowland

Welcome to the Finsbury Publishing

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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