Peaky Blinders: Policeman who brought down Tommy Shelby’s real gang unmasked

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Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight has announced that season six will be the final installment of the BBC crime drama. He promised that the show would come “back with a bang” and revealed that Tommy Shelby’s gang would face “extreme jeopardy”. The gangster flick, which first aired eight years ago, achieved a personal-record for viewing figures during its finale two years ago when 3.84 million people tuned in.

News of Peaky Blinders coming to an end has left some fans scrambling online for theories about how the show’s final storylines could unfold. 

Some have taken a closer look at the history behind the real-life Birmingham gangs that inspired the drama, which Mr Knight based his stories upon. 

Professor Carl Chinn, who has written two books about the Peaky Blinders, explained that there were a number of discrepancies between the criminals’ fictional portrayal and their real counterparts.

He told “First of all the series has been a tremendous success, a global sensation and very good for Birmingham.

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“But there is a dark reality behind the dramatisation and the reality was not glamorous, the gangs were vicious, vile and brutal.”

Professor Chinn said that the real Peaky Blinders did not form “one gang but numerous gangs” that operated from the late 19th Century until World War 2.

He explained that they were “not big-time gangsters but backstreet thugs and petty criminals who preyed on the hard-working, respectable poor they lived among”.

Prof Chinn pointed to a number of reasons why their “bloody reign” came to an end, including the police, the church, sport and World War 1.

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Sir Charles Houghton Rafter, who was appointed chief constable of Birmingham, was credited with a lot of the measures that curtailed the Peaky Blinders’ reign.

He went on a “rapid recruitment drive” to find “up to 500 fit and young men” to combat the brutal thugs. 

Sir Charles’ three requests were that the men were able to “read, write and fight”.

Prof Chinn told “They needed to have a certain standard of education and had to be tough lads with physical training.”

The recruitment drive meant that two police officers could patrol together and cover greater ground, which allowed them to interrupt more criminal activity. 

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Prof Chinn explained that there “were literally battles going on in the backstreets” that they had to break up. 

Not only that but Sir Charles campaigned for harsher sentences to be handed out to those who committed violent criminal activity. 

This in-turn gave the public more trust in the police force, which helped to break the wall of silence due to the fear of retribution.

Prof Chinn explained: “More police and stronger sentencing gave confidence to the law-abiding poor to come to the police with information.

“Before they were reluctant and too scared to come to police in case the Peaky Blinders would attack them.”

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Prof Chinn also believed the “horrors of World War 1” left a number of men who had previously been involved in gangs unwilling to return.

In another bid to reduce the number of young men who could be coerced into entering the criminal fold, churches and communities provided sports teams. 

Prof Chinn continued: “They set up youth clubs and they provided football teams, some of them even had rudimentary boxing clubs. 

“So these sports are really important for drawing away young men from gangs.”

Those alive at the time of the Peaky Blinders told Prof Chinn that they “respected Sir Charles and the police for the job that they did”. 

He continued: “It was a very dangerous time, several police officers were killed in Birmingham, others were viciously assaulted and some had to retire because of their injuries.”

While the real-life Peaky Blinders came to an end due to a number of factors, the end of the TV adaptation still remains unknown.

At the end of season five in 2019, Tommy Shelby’s gang seemed to be in deep trouble after they failed to assassinate the British fascist Oswald Mosley.

Last year, Mr Knight told NME that the final installment of Peaky Blinders would focus on the “occult” and whether the Shelby family was “cursed”.

This week, he teased fans further by stating that the show would come to an end after season six but added that “the story will continue in another form” during an interview with the BBC.

The release date for season six is yet to be announced after coronavirus stalled the show’s filming schedule. 

Director Anthony Byrne confirmed that filming had resumed but warned fans that it could be 2022 before the show is ready to be aired. 

On Twitter, executive producer Caryn Mandabach thanked “all the Peaky fans” for being “so unwaveringly supportive and patient” amid the delays last year.

Peaky Blinders seasons one to five are available to watch on Netflix. 

Professor Carl Chinn’s books on the Peaky Blinders and other Birmingham subjects can be found here. 

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