THE HAMMER OF THE GANGS
THE HAMMER OF THE GANGS
Percy Joseph Sillitoe, the Gangbuster, became the Chief Constable of Glasgow in 1931. He went there after a stint sending down the serious offenders of the steel hard city of Sheffield. He believed Glasgow was "a city being overrun by gangsters terrorising other citizens and waging war between themselves in the streets".
Sillitoe fought fire with fire and recruited the toughest men he could find from the Highlands. Given basic training and uniforms, their brief was simple. Take down the gangs. The ‘boot and baton’ approach of the now 1,500 strong Glasgow police force meant they became known as "the biggest gang in the world".
But Sillitoe didn’t just use brute force. He introduced radio cars, police boxes, a modern fingerprint lab; and the chequered band round cop caps - now used throughout the world - is called the Sillitoe Tartan because he introduced it to help identify police officers, even in riots.
Sillitoe wouldn’t just wade into the middle of a fight. His police waited till both sides had worn themselves out. Then they would wade in to sweep up the survivors.
And if he couldn’t arrest Billy Fullerton for violence, he would take him down another way.
Sillitoe first arrested Billy Fullerton in the late thirties. Billy, fond of the drink and of his family image, was parading through the streets with forty of his followers whilst cradling a baby in his arms. So Sillitoe arrested him for being found drunk in charge of a child. He was jailed for 10 months. Sillitoe then confiscated £600 from Billy’s bank account draining the financial lifeblood of the Billy Boys.
On release Billy formed a 200 strong Glasgow branch of the Mosley Black Shirts. Billy’s attacking of communists (by belief, anti nationalist) all fitted with their image as defenders of the faith, and their nation. In reality, they were thugs who had found in Moseley a new paymaster and Moseley had found much needed bodyguards. But when the Fascist leader was interned, Billy signed up for the navy as World War II broke out. There, he served with distinction, as did many other Billy Boys.
However, on returning to Glasgow, he went onto form Glasgow’s own branch of the Ku Klux Klan. On top of the predictable anti-Semitism, and with few racial minorities to attack, Catholics were once again targeted.