Jack Comer

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Jack Comer
Jack 'Spot' Comer.jpg
Born
Jacob Colmore

12 April 1912 (1912-04-12)
Mile End, London, England
Died12 March 1996(1996-03-12) (aged 83)
Other namesJack Spot
OccupationGangster

Jack "Spot" Comer (12 April 1912 – 12 March 1996) was an English anti-fascist and gangster.

Early life[edit]

Born Jacob Colmore in Mile End, London, the youngest of four children, Comer's father was a Jewish tailor's machinist who had moved to London with his wife from Łódź, Poland in 1903. To assimilate more into English society, the family changed their name from Comacho to Colmore, and later to Comer. His mother's maiden name was Lifschinska.

Comer grew up in a Jewish ghetto street in Fieldgate Mansions, Whitechapel, along the west side of Myrdle Street, across from the Irish in terraced houses along the east side. At the age of seven Jack had joined his first gang, which was made up of boys from the Jewish side of Myrdle Street who fought their Catholic rivals from the other end of the street. "Spot" soon started being called "spotty" because of a large black mole on his left cheek.

Career[edit]

On Sunday 4 October 1936 Comer took part in the Battle of Cable Street. He and his mob clashed with police and charged into the fascists with full power, injuring as many Blackshirts and police as possible. Comer found himself alone and was surrounded by police with truncheons. He was badly beaten and sent to hospital, then prison. In the post-war era, Comer was involved in funding the 43 Group, a group of anti-fascist Jewish ex-servicemen and women who took direct action to oppose the supporters of the Union Movement and other more minor far-right groups.[1]

Comer allegedly financed and masterminded the raid on BOAC's secure warehouse at Heathrow Airport on 28 July 1948. The raid was foiled by the Flying Squad in what became known as "The Battle of Heathrow".[2]

Decline and later years[edit]

Comer's control of the East End rackets waned in 1952 when his former partner, gangster Billy Hill, was released from prison after Comer's failed £1.25 million heist on Heathrow Airport. Off-course bookmaking was also about to become legal at this time, creating another dent in his income.

In 1954 Comer attacked Sunday People crime journalist Duncan Webb and was fined £50. He was accused of possession of a knuckle-duster and convicted of grievous bodily harm.[3] In 1955 he was arrested following a knife fight with Albert Dimes.[4] After Comer was cleared of the stabbing charge, he said it was because of "the greatest lawyer in history", his barrister Rose Heilbron.[5]

In 1956, Comer and his wife Rita were attacked about 100 yards outside their Paddington flat by "Mad" Frankie Fraser and Bobby Warren; they were each sentenced to seven years in prison. This was the second time and the most severely his face had been slashed during his criminal career, and this lead Comer to retire gradually from organized crime.[6] He undertook various jobs over the years including barman, fruit seller and an antique furniture dealer. He apparently died penniless in Isleworth at 84 without his wife and children by his side;[7] his ashes were spread in Israel.

In popular culture[edit]

Comer is a major character in the 2019 film Once Upon A Time In London.[8]

Comer is mentioned in the song “Ghosts of Cable Street” by The Men they Couldn’t Hang where he is referred to as ‘Jack Spot’.[9]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Graham Macklin, Very Deeply Dyed in Black, IB Tauris, 2007, p. 53
  2. ^ TVillains' Paradise: A History of Britain's Post-War Underworld: From the spivs to the Krays (John Murray 2006) ISBN 0-7195-6344-5. (Pegasus 2006) ISBN 1-933648-17-1.
  3. ^ The Times, News in Brief, 19 November 1954
  4. ^ The Times, Soho Wounding Charge Two Men For Trial, 30 August 1955
  5. ^ Brenda Hale, ‘Heilbron, Dame Rose (1914–2005)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Jan 2009; online edn, Jan 2011, accessed 5 Feb 2012
  6. ^ "Self-styled 'King of Soho', Jack 'Spot' Comer showing the scar on his..." Getty Images.
  7. ^ "Jack Spot Comer: Gang Attack on Cabell Street".
  8. ^ "Once Upon a Time in London review – unconvincing gangland saga". the Guardian. 19 April 2019. Retrieved 11 November 2021.
  9. ^ SongMeanings. "The Men They Couldn't Hang - The Ghosts Of Cable Street Lyrics". SongMeanings. Retrieved 4 April 2022.
  • Morton, James. Gangland Bosses: The Lives of Jack Spot and Billy Hill. London, 2004.
  • Clarkson, Wensley. Hit 'Em Hard Jack Spot, King of the Underworld. HarperCollins Publishers ISBN 0-00-712441-4