Birmingham Boys

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Birmingham Boys
Founding locationBirmingham, England
Years active1910s–1930
TerritoryNorthern England, The Midlands, and some neighbourhoods in London
Criminal activitiesBookmaking, assault, extortion, fraud, murder, fencing, hooliganism, bribery, smuggling, hijacking and robbery
AlliesElephant and Castle Mob and Hoxton Gang
RivalsSabini gang

The Birmingham Boys (also known as the Brummagem Boys) were a street gang whose power extended from the North of England to London's underworld, between the 1910s and 1930. They lost control of the South East racecourses to the Sabini gang.[1][2][3]



Following the Gaming Act 1845, the only gambling allowed in England was at race tracks. The introduction of special excursion trains meant that all classes of society could attend the new racecourses opening across the country. Cash was concentrated in the hands of bookmakers, who employed bodyguards against protection gangs operating within the vast crowds.[4]

William "Billy" Kimber, born 1882[5] in Summer Lane, Aston in Birmingham was head of the Birmingham Boys.[6] With gangs in Uttoxeter and Leeds he controlled racecourses in the Midlands and the North. For several years Kimber was probably the biggest organised crime boss in the UK. He set up a secondary base in Islington, North London to concentrate on the racetracks in the South of England, teaming up with London gang boss Charles 'Wag' McDonald. Kimber died in 1942 at Mount Stuart Nursing Home in Torquay, after a long illness.[7]

Kimber formed alliances with smaller organisations such as the Hoxton Gang[4] and the Elephant and Castle Mob. Now at racecourses in the South East, one group the Brummies began to prey on were the Jewish bookies from London's East End, who turned to local underworld boss Edward Emmanuel, who in turn recruited the Italian Sabini Gang as protection.[6]

In March 1921, the Brummagems ambushed Sabini at Greenford Park Trotting Track. A few days later, Kimber was found shot and beaten in Kings Cross, London,[5] having gone to visit Sabini. The violence escalated, but Sabini gained the upper hand when 23 Birmingham boys were locked up following the "Epsom Road Battle".[6][8]

Epsom Road Battle[edit]

Kimber's gang believed that a group of Leeds bookmakers travelling in a Crossley tender at Ewell, near Epsom, on Coronation Cup day were in fact the Sabini Gang. The tender was rammed by a taxi, and 60 men set upon the occupants with hatchets, hammers, and bricks. The attack was led by a man with a revolver, and initial reports suggested it was a Sinn Féin riot.[9] The gang had used taxis and a blue motor coach to both follow their victims and escape. The police located the coach at the George and Dragon pub (now the Kingston Lodge Hotel) on Kingston Hill and were able to muster 50 officers.[10]

In popular culture[edit]

In the BBC television series Peaky Blinders a fictionalised version of Billy Kimber was portrayed by Charlie Creed-Miles.[11]


  1. ^ "UK Chaps". 2002. Archived from the original on 2007-12-05. Retrieved 2006-12-06.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  2. ^ Barley, Nick (2001). "The Times - London A-Z Series No.1 (A Sample....) "G for Gangland London"". The Times. Archived from the original on December 30, 2006. Retrieved 2006-12-06.
  3. ^ Shore, Heather (2001). "Undiscovered Country': Towards A History Of The Criminal 'Underworld'". School of Cultural Studies: Leeds Metropolitan University. Archived from the original (.doc) on September 29, 2007. Retrieved 2006-12-06.
  4. ^ a b Dick Kirby (July 2002). "The Race Track Gangs". The Peeler. Friends of the Met Police Museum (7).
  5. ^ a b The Times, News in Brief on 29 March 1921
  6. ^ a b c Carl Chinn, ‘Sabini, (Charles) Darby (1889–1950)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-09-06. Retrieved 2015-09-04.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  8. ^ "Epsom Road Battle. 28 Men On Trial". The Times. 20 July 1921.
  9. ^ "Epsom Races Affray. Alleged Attempt To Bribe A Witness". The Times. 17 June 1921.
  10. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-07-21. Retrieved 2011-07-05.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  11. ^

Further reading[edit]

  • Chibnall, Steve. Brighton Rock. London: I.B. Tauris, 2005. ISBN 1-85043-400-X
  • Donaldson, William. Brewer's Rogues, Villains, and Eccentrics: An A-Z of Roguish Britons Through the Ages. London: Orion Books Ltd., 2004. ISBN 0-7538-1791-8
  • Huggins, Mike. Horseracing and the British, 1919-39. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2003. ISBN 0-7190-6529-1
  • Moonman, Eric. The Violent Society. London: Frank Cass & Co., 1987. ISBN 0-7146-3309-7
  • Wright, Alan. Organised Crime. Portland: Willan Publishing, 2006. ISBN 1-84392-140-5