The Hell's Angels
After WWII, thousands of disaffected US ex-servicemen banded together in gangs and roamed the countryside on motorcycles looking for "kicks". On July 4, 1947, bikers converged upon the town of Hollister (pop. 4,000) and let rip for four days straight. State troopers were called out, 50 were injured and Hollywood made The Wild One based on events. The next year, The Hell's Angels Motorcycle Club formed in Berdoo, California, as an offshoot of The Pissed Off Bastards club based in Fontana. Under the auspices of Sonny Barger, the Angels Oakland chapter boss, the gang has spread worldwide, its name now synonymous with lawlessness and hard living.
The Pagans rank among the fiercest outlaw bikers in the US with around 44 chapters spread from New York down to Florida. The Pagans are rumoured to make and distribute most of the methamphetamine and PCP in the north-eastern US - about $15m worth annually. They are also said to deal in cocaine, marijuana and "killer weed" (parsley sprinkled with PCP). Pagans act as couriers, enforcers, bodyguards and hitmen for the Genovese and Gambino families in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The Pagan enforcers are 13 gang members called the Black T-shirt Gang. A typical Pagan hit will involve stomping on the victim followed by two shots to the back of the head from a .38 calibre Colt automatic.
The Outlaws Motorcycle Club
In 1935, McCook Outlaws Motorcycle Club was formed in Matilda's Bar on Route 66. McCook, Illinois. Following the end of WWII, the membership grew, attracting bikers from all over the state. In 1963, the club became a member of the official "One Per Center Brotherhood of Clubs". Since then the club has been at war with main rivals The Hell's Angels. The feud culminated with the imprisonment of Angels' head honcho Sonny Barger in 1988 after he attempted to blow up Outlaws members using gelignite. The gangs' turf war continues today.
The Road Knights
Biker gangs such as this hold a high position in the New Zealand organised crime hierarchy. Based in the South Island and believed to have an affiliation with the Angels, in 1995 the gang set out to become the country's top biker fraternity and attempted to seize control of the nation's lucrative trade in illegal arms, prostitution and of course, drugs. Since then a war has been raging between themselves and The Epitaph Riders of Christchurch. Drive-by shootings and assassinations are now common between rival Australasian biker gangs, whose growing numbers also include The Gypsy Jokers, Highway 61, The Nomads, Satan's Slaves, Odin's Warriors and The Coffin Cheaters.
As with many original American biker gangs, the Bandidos have spread internationally to Europe and beyond. As The Hell's Angels have tried to control drugs and vice in Scandinavia, Estonia, Latvia and Russia, satellites of original US outfits such as The Bandidos have fought back. In October 1996, the Bandidos attacked the annual Angels' Viking Party at their clubhouse in Copenhagen with an anti-tank missile nicked from the Swedish Army. Attacks on Bandidos and Angels have taken place in airports, clubhouses, bars and prisons. Bandido leader Uffe Larsen was ambushed and killed at Copenhagen Airport and the subsequent retaliations and counter-shootings have left dozens killed and wounded on both sides.
UK Street Gangs
The Aldenham Glamour Boys
They attended Aldenham Boys Club in north London and fought turf wars with the likes of the rival Highbury and Somerstown mobs. They wore imported Levi's and silver spray-painted Doc Martens, loved Jamaican ska and became a top skinhead firm of the early Seventies. At least four members of Madness were AGB.
The Brick Lane Massif
Formed in 1979 by local Bengali and Bangladeshi youth to oppose the National Front, they are now London's top Asian gang and have a starring role in the ever-escalating British Asian gang wars.
The famed Millwall football firm began as the youthful Half Way Liners. They then became Treatment, who wore surgical headwear on the terraces, and then evolved into F Troop. Finally, they became the extremely lethal and racially-mixed Bushwhackers, scourge of football matches countrywide.
Formed in Glasgow's Gorbals in the late Fifties by Jimmy Boyle, Willie Smith and John McCue, the gang fought with other firms such as The Skull and The Clatty Dozen to become the city's top dogs through their liberal use of razors, hammers and the occasional bullet.
The Docks Boys
This multi-racial crew make up the vast majority of the formidable Cardiff City Soul Crew. When Glasgow Rangers fans had the affront to invade their beloved Docks, they set upon the interlopers setting fire to anything and everything they had travelled down in.
The Elephant Boys
In the Fifties, The Elephant Boys comprised some of London's hardest families such as the Reyburns, Brindles, MacDonalds and last, but not least, the Richardsons. Former member Brian MacDonald says they supplied "the heavy mob which kept the West End gang lords in power". The gang grew out of the squalor of the south London slums of Elephant And Castle and Berdmondsey in the early 1900s. For decades they fought long and vicious battles with Darby Sabini's gang from Little Italy in Clerkenwell over the profitable racecourse protection rackets. Their most famous altercation occurred at the Lewes racecourse in 1936. Some 60 combatants were involved and the battle hit the headlines inspiring Graham Greene to replicate the event in Brighton Rock. Today, the descendants of many of the same families control certain aspects of life in the area.
The Vendetta Mob
The Vendetta tangled with The Coons, an East End Jewish firm led by Isaac "Darky The Coon" Bogard on September 10, 1911. Mr Justice Avery, when passing sentence on their leader Arthur Harding, stated: "The Vendetta Mob simply besieged Old Street." He added the incident was "a riot in which some of the accused were armed with revolvers and it took place within the precincts of a court of justice." Harding went on to later win the Military Medal for gallantry in World War 1.
Ruling Paris' criminal underworld at the turn of the 20th Century, they began as a Bellville street gang and then grew into a major force. Members sported striped shirts and inspired the famous Apache dance sequence in the film Singing In The Rain.
Mainly North African from the Val Fourre housing estate in Mantes-la-Jolie, Paris, the Grags fought a pitched battle with their sworn enemies from the La Cite de La Noye estate in Chanteloup in the biggest shopping complex in Paris. The encounter took place on a Saturday afternoon in February 2001 and lasted for over two hours. It involved 200 police, a battalion of the CRS riot squad and over 400 gang members.
During the occupation of France (1940-44), a gang of pacifist youths adopted a style akin to the zoot suit to defy German clothing restrictions. Collaborationist groups like Jeunesse Populaire decided to "scalp the Zazous" and went about with clippers to cut their clothes and hair.
Pre 20th Century Gangs
The Bowery Boys
One of New York's fiercest pre-Civil War gangs, The Bowery Boys were usually bouncers, butchers or mechanics, and most definitely volunteer firemen, Irish, huge and prone to stamping adversaries to death
Beginning their bank-robbing spree in 1866 at the Clay County Savings Association in Liberty, MO, near Kansas City, the gang terrorised the Midwest for eight years, stealing whatever they wanted and killing those in their way
The Charlton Street Gang
Led by the excellent "Sadie the Goat", this crew sailed the Hudson River between Manhattan and Poughkeepsie from 1869, robbing and kidnapping as they went. Sadie loved employing the headbutt, flew the Jolly Roger and was said to have made more than one victim walk the plank.
The Dead Rabbits
This lot went into battle with a dead rabbit skewered atop a pike for a standard and wore an identifying blue stripe down their trousers. One of their number, "Hell Cat Maggie", reputedly filed her front teeth to points and wore false fingernails of sharpened brass. One brawl between The Dead Rabbits and The Bowery Boys began on July 4, 1857, and raged over ten New York City blocks for two days involving 1,000 thugs armed with guns, swords, knives and even the odd cannon or two.
Canal Street Gang
To challenge The Hip Sing - the established Tongs who have ruled New York's Chinatown since the 1900s - these young Vietnamese immigrants allied themselves with another Vietnamese clique, the immensely powerful Born To Kill. Many of the gang members have parents who emigrated to America after the fall of Saigon. Traditionally, CSG like to use axes for killings - and usually employ them in public places for maximum effect.
Active until the 1890s in New York, The Whyos hung out at a Bowery boozer called "The Morgue", where the owner bragged that his booze "was equally efficient as a beverage or embalming fluid" Whyo member "Dandy" Johnny Noland, the Beau Brummell of gangland, would not appear in public unless his hair had been properly oiled and his forelock tastefully curled. He was also known for the invention of a copper eye gouger that when attached to the thumb "performed this important office with neatness and dispatch."
The Molasses Gang
Contemporaries of The Whyos, the Molasses Gang were led by Jimmy Dunnigan and Blind Maloney - in reality as blind as his name implies - and were in the main sneak thieves and cutpurses who distinguished themselves via a rather innovative if messy scam. They would enter a store and ask the shopkeeper to fill one of their hats with sorgh um molasses. Once the hat was full, they'd jam it over the grocer's head. Blinded, the storekeeper would struggle to free himself while the gang emptied his till.
The James/Younger Gang
As a teenager during the American Civil War, Jesse James rode with Quantrill's Raiders, pro-South guerrillas sabotaging Union trains and depots. At war's end he turned to crime, enlisting brother Frank and cousin Cole Younger to form the Wild West's most notorious outlaw gang. Beginning their bank-robbing spree in 1866 at the Clay County Savings Association in Liberty, MO, near Kansas City, the gang terrorised the Midwest for eight years, stealing whatever they wanted and killing those in their way. By 1873, the gang had moved on to holding up trains with their rich pickings of company payrolls, gold shipments and wealthy passengers. Jesse quit the outlaw life in 1881 and moved to St Joseph, MO, under an assumed name but one year later was discovered and shot dead for the bounty sill on his head.