The Krays: Britain's Most Notorious Gangsters

London, East End, 1945.

The East End of London in the 1940s was a post-war landscape. Poverty and crime were rife. People struggled to make ends meet and opportunities to escape were few and far between.

Houses were cramped due to increased immigration and from the bombing during the war. Food was still scarce as rationing didn’t end until 1954 and cheese production was slow for many years after. In addition to this the Suez crisis lead to a period of petrol rationing from late 1956 until May 1957.

All of this lead to a feeling of unease about people’s futures. No-one knew where the next full meal was coming from. The black market was in full force, although this was not a new phenomenon.

The East End of London was a notorious breeding ground for criminals from as far back as the 17th century, so it wasn’t limited to just the aftermath of the war causing social issues. The high levels of poverty in the area made it an easy way to make a living when jobs were scarce.

Some people resorted to collecting scrap to increase their income, while others resorted to less legal ways to achieve financial stability. Extortion rackets, muggings and random acts of violence made the streets of the East End a largely unsafe place. The streets became notorious for dangerous activity and the shadow of violence was always around the next corner.

Of course the notoriety didn’t become a national sensation until the 1950s and 1960s, when arguably the most famous East End gangsters were plying their trade. Ronald and Reginald Kray - The Kray Twins.