Deemed as Britain’s most notorious gangsters; Ronnie and Reggie Kray (aka the Kray twins), wreaked havoc for over a decade as ganglord’s in London’s murky underworld. Their reign of terror presiding over the East End during the 1950’s and 60’s saw the subsequent murders of Jack McVitie (knifed) and George Cornell (shot). The disturbing and vicious antics of the pair served them well in the early stages of their brutal but nonetheless illustrious lives – building an empire that catapulted them into pseudo celebrity status and made them into East End legends – so much so, that there is even East End Tours! dedicated to their story. Trying to uncover the method behind the Kray twin’s unrelenting madness is something that has always been a something of a tantalising curiosity. Their apathetic and seemingly blasé bravado towards their atrocities begs, the question of simply…why? My mission in this article is to try and pick the brains of Ronnie and Reggie to uncover just why the Kray twins were so crazy.
Born in Hoxton (a suburb in the East End of London) 1933 barely 10 minutes apart, to mother Violet and father Charlie the twins were inseparable and had a close connection with one another, which continued into their later lives.
They took up boxing during the childhood and teens alongside their older sibling who shared their father’s name, which might’ve implied that they exhibited aggressive tendencies from early on. From there they developed a reputation for being troublemakers, narrowly escaping the eyes of the law. Their exploits spanned from racketeering and hijacking to armed robbery and arson. This, fundamentally helped to raise the profiles of the Kray twins on both sides of the law.
The growing notoriety must have fuelled the twin’s egos to no end, undoubtedly playing a part in their downfall in May 1968. Prior to this, they’d been able to conduct their activities virtually un-abetted. The twins had a way of striking fear into the heart of their victims, as a result making them more reluctant to contact the authorities. This domineering trait that flowed through both their veins would’ve definitely served them well especially when it came to amassing their gang members. Naming their posse “The Firm” was Ronnie’s idea who also acted as the main driving force behind the organisation. Ronnie was later to be known as “The Colonel,” embodying the materialistic aspect of the “gangster” lifestyle to match his thuggish demeanour. Ronnie’s focus was squarely fixed upon establishing the firm’s presence and he succeeded. The firm eventually became renowned as one of the most dominant crime syndicates of the time.
Taking a step back to the twin’s home lives, it was understood that their mother Violet was a strong – willed woman who placed her family at the heart of everything. The twins respected her dutifully. Their father Charlie was away from home most of the time, due to his army obligations. It is probable that this lack of fatherly attention could’ve fragmented their upbringing. Charlie later deserted the army before going on the run. The authorities made numerous calls on the family’s home often at precarious hours. This sort of dysfunction would be hard on any family. The twins especially.
Coming from a less than stable upbringing; one would assume that the twins were hit really hard – likely setting in motion their fall into the criminal world. This in no way justifies their actions, but may stand to clear some of the bloody mist that shrouds this dangerous duo.
Defiant until the end, it was publicised that Reggie Kray showed no remorse for the crimes he and his brother committed. Speaking to Jason Bennetto of The Independent back in 95’ he said, “I have got no regrets. My brother didn’t have any either.” He also went on to say, “I would not change anything. You can’t just select parts of your life and alter them. I know Ronnie would not have wanted to change anything as well. It does not mean to say that I enjoy the fact that I committed a murder but you can’t select the parts of life that you do and don’t want.”
Reggie’s frankness over his and his brother’s lives served as a direct insight into the mind of one London’s most infamous double acts of the 50’s and 60’s. With both brothers long dead, the answers to many other questions lay buried with them. If you are in the Capital then why not check some urban history with a London Tour.