On this day in history : 30th March 1964 – Pitched battles are fought in the seaside resort of Clacton-on-Sea, Essex – between gangs of rival ‘Mods’ and ‘Rockers’….

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‘Clacton Disturbances’. A photograph of a group of Mods near the seafront at Clacton-on-Sea, Essex on 30 March 1964 – Image Credit: National Science and Media Museum – Photographer: C. Smith – Mirrorpix

At least that is how the Press conveyed it at the time…. All out rioting and warfare between two groups hell-bent on killing each other…. The Mods, in their sharp suits and parkas, riding on their scooters against the leather-clad Rockers, roaring around on their motorbikes…. But just how bad was it really…?

It was the Easter weekend – Clacton Council had gone to great lengths to attract the youngsters – who had money in their pockets to burn…. They laid on attractions – Freddy and the Dreamers were playing the Blue Lagoon on the Pier, Shane Fenton and the Fentones were booked for the Princess Theatre and the Westcliff Hotel was the venue for Johnny Pilgrim and the Classics….

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Freddie and the Dreamers performing in the film ‘Seaside Swingers’ – Public domain

Large campsites had been organised in anticipation of the vast crowds expected to descend on the town for the weekend….

Good Friday….and a trickle of young people began to arrive…. It wasn’t long before word got out that Clacton was the place to be…. By Saturday afternoon a steady stream was arriving from all around, including London…. On Saturday evening around 1,200 watched Freddie and the Dreamers – it was then that the first ‘aggro’ kicked off…. Fists flew, bottles were thrown, batons swung and the boot put in…. But the police were on hand and soon stepped in to separate the two groups….only for themselves to become the target…. No matter how much the two warring tribes detested each other – they were both united in that they hated the police more….

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1960s Scooter Mania! – Image credit: Paul Townsend via Flickr

The fighting continued into the night but stopped around dawn…. However, just after breakfast-time things erupted again when someone decided to smash the windows of the Pavilion…. Extra police had to be drafted in….

During Sunday afternoon a crowd of around 1,000 gathered in the Pier area….dozens of arrests were made but the police maintained control and the crowd began to disperse…. By Monday there was still the odd skirmish but on the whole things had calmed down….

This was not quite how the National Press portrayed it…. Some reports suggested the town had been practically obliterated…. An enquiry was held by the Council; out of the thousands of youths who had descended on Clacton for the weekend there were just 60 arrests….only 12 of these ended in prosecution – with fines amounting to a combined £243…. The damage inflicted on the town by the rampaging ‘yobs’ totalled up to £213….and the police emphasised that they were never out of control of the situation….

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(Hastings) – Image credit: Phil Sellens via Flickr

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