8 am on the 24th of October 1933, Reggie Kray was born. Ten minutes later
his identical twin Ronnie made an appearance.
The proud parents, Violet and Charlie Kray already had a 7 year old son,
young Charlie. Charlie
loved the twins but he was to see himself being pushed more and more into
the background. He didn't mind he knew his family loved him.
Twins had a sister who, sadly, died when she was a baby. Childhood deaths
were commonplace then, with Pneumonia and Tuberculosis the greatest Killers
followed by Diphtheria and Malnutrition.
Twins caught Diphtheria and were taken to hospital. Reggie recovered quite
quickly but Ronnie nearly died. His mother thought that he should be taken
home from hospital where she could look after him better. She was also
of the mind that being separated from his brother Reggie slowed down his
recuperation. She took him home and Ronnie was soon on the road to recovery.
lived in Stene Street in Hoxton, now called Shoreditch, until 1939, when
they moved to 178 Vallance Road, Bethnal Green. It was around this time,
at the start of the Second World War, that old man Charlie Kray was conscripted
into the Army. Old Charlie was a 'pesterer' a man who liked to go on the
'Knocker', roaming the country buying and selling Silver, Gold and Clothing.
This nomadic existence suited Charlie but deprived the boys of a stable
relationship with their father. Whenever old Charlie came home it was
a time of excitement,like Christmas, party time and presents. The best
tablecloth and crockery would be spread on the table something that was
usually only reserved for Sundays and special occasions.
Charlie was away quite a lot he earned enough money for Violet to be able
to stay at home and look after the children.
He was a man who didn't like to be tied down and joining the Army just
didn't fit into his plans. It wasn't that he was a coward, he came from
a family of boxers and enjoyed a good fight, but he had better things
to do than getting shot by some German in a foreign land.
was now on the run, a deserter from the British Army. The Police and the
Military were always calling at the house looking for him, sometimes in
the middle of the night, waking the whole family.
homecomings became less frequent, with the Authorities calling more times
than Charlie. Although on many occasions Charlie was in the house when
It was searched by the Police but they failed to find him.
Twins began to associate their father's absence with the Authorities which
instilled in them a deep hatred and resentment for anyone in a uniform.
was a hard life for Violet Kray with Old Charlie working away and then
on the run but she held the family together. She had time for everyone.
She was always singing and laughing, she had a great voice. Softly
spoken but with great willpower and perseverance. She never criticized
or complained about anything.
Her one ambition in life was to bring up her
children the best she could.
boys were always well dressed despite the apparent poverty of the local
taught them the value of prayer and to treat people less fortunate than
them with the respect that they deserved.
loved her family and being surrounded by family.
sisters Rose and May lived either side of her in Vallance Road, her brother
Jimmy slept downstairs in the living room, while Grandad Jimmy 'Cannonball'
Lee, Grandma Lee and their son John and his wife lived across the road
in their cafe.
Rose was the twins favourite. She was a great friend and confidante and
could do battle with the best of men. When Ronnie was teased in school
about his eyebrows being too close together, she told him that it was a
sign that he was 'born to be hanged'. It was her death in later years
that finally tipped Ronnie over the edge into madness.
Grandad 'Cannonball' Lee was a great character.
He was a bare knuckle fighter, a legend in his earlier years. Later he
became a showman and entreupener. He was a teetotaler which led to
frequent clashes with Old Charlie Kray.
Lee was also famous for sticking a white hot poker on his tongue, walking
on bottle tops, tap dancing, singing and playing a multitude of
used to fascinate the twins with stories of when he boxed, bare knuckle,
for a few shillings, in Victoria Park on Sunday Mornings.
had always been a great athlete. Once, when his son Johnny drove a coach
party to Southend, a distance of 42 miles, Grandad Lee turned up on his
bike. He cycled there just for the fun of it.
He was prepared to cycle home again but his son insisted he took the coach.
He was Seventy Five at the time!
Charlie Kray was born in 1926 into an East End that was hit hard by the
Depression. The family lived in Gorusch Street, Hackney.
went to Laburnum Street school, where he was picked for the football team.
Dad's passion was for boxing and when he wasn't down the pub he took Charlie
to boxing matches.
Charlie was brought up on stories about fighting and boxing, and often
dreamt of winning the Lonsdale Belt as Champion of the world. Fighting
was a way of life in the East End. It ran in the family so it was inevitable
that Charlie would keep up the tradition.
1932 the family moved to Stene street, near Kingsland road, Hackney.
Charlie was seven the twins were born. Everybody would fuss over them
and ask if they could take them for a walk. Charlie too would take them
out in their pram and he felt so proud when people would lean over and
he grew up he got more and more involved in sports such as football, athletics
played football for his senior school in Scawfell street, Hackney and
was in the team when they won the district finals.
the start of World War 2 In 1939, the family moved again, this time to
178 Vallance road , Bethnal Green.
1940 Charlie, the twins and his Mum were evacuated to Hadleigh, a little
village in Suffolk which they grew to love . After
about a year away from home, Violet began to miss her friends and family
and decided to take the boys back home to London. They were devastated.
Young Charlie soon took up boxing again.
When his Dad went on the run from the Army,
Charlie was left as 'The Man of The House' a role he wanted to fill as
best he could.
He got a job as a messenger at Lloyds in the city
where he worked five and a half days a week.
began to play a bigger part in his life. He trained in the local gyms
and his Grandad set up a punch bag in the top back room in Vallance road.
a spell of rheumatic fever, he joined the Naval Cadets, where he continued
training seriously. Then he joined the Navy where his boxing career really
took off. He boxed for the Navy as a Welterweight. After the war bouts
were arranged to keep the men entertained while they were waiting to be
started to get terrible headaches and it wasn't long before he was discharged
unfit from the Navy, on medical grounds, due to chronic migraine.
Charlie came out of the Navy he worked with his Dad on 'The Knocker' and
carried on his boxing as a professional fighter.
twins by this time, had also been making a name for themselves in the
ring and on one occasion all three brothers appeared on the same bill.
Charlie lost his fight, the last professional fight he ever fought.
Twins, Ronnie and Reggie loved the attention they received as young kids
growing up. They came to expect it and when it wasn't forthcoming it was
demanded. Charlie says "Sometimes they looked up at me in a strange, adult
sort of way, and I'd have this weird feeling that they knew all about
me and what was going on around them. Their dark eyes seemed to lack that
childlike innocence. It was as if each boy knew more than he ought. The
mental and physical relationship between them was intense"
always liked the company of others, while Ron was more of a loner. He
loved nothing better than going off with his Alsatian Freda, searching the
bomb sites to see what he could find.
loved listening to the old Relay radio which their mother rented on a
weekly basis. It had only two dials, one to switch it on and the other
for the two stations that were available. 'Dick Barton, Special Agent'
and 'Just William' were there favourites.
Their first school was Wood Close in Brick Lane and then to Daniel Street
School at the age of 12. School days were happy times for the twins, they
got on with the Teachers as well as the other kids. Ron's best subject
was general knowledge and Reg's was English. They both played football
and boxed for the school.
Dad used to take them to the Robert Browning Youth club, in South London
for boxing lessons three times a week. From there they went on to join
other clubs including the Repton Boys Club, which years later was to be
the scene of a famous murder mystery.
war disrupted their education when they were evacuated to Suffolk, a place
which they grew to love. When their mother decided to return to London
they were devastated.
was still being bombed and at nights they would make their way to the air
raid shelter, which were in the Railway Arches across the road. They
showed no fear at the events taking place around them. The Twins would
just hold hands and shut their eyes.
Lee would entertain all the people in the Arches with his tricks and others
would do a turn, singing or reciting. It was party time. Reggie gained
a great love for the theatre through these war time theatrical evenings.
houses and factories left derelict by Hitler's bombs were their playground
and pieces of shrapnel their treasure.
would push each other around the cobbled streets in a home made go cart,
with a spike at the front to do damage to any rival cart that happened
to crash into them.
the Twins were about ten years old their uncle used to take them to Billingsgate
Market on his cart pulled by two shire horses. Each trip a great adventure
for the imaginary cowboys.
aged ten they would hire a horse and cart, take it to where the old tar
road blocks were being taken up, buy it by the sackful for a few shillings
and then sell it for firewood around the houses. Even at a very young
age they knew how to make a few bob.
they were fifteen they worked in Billingsgate Market for six months, the
longest job they ever had. Reg was training to be a salesman and Ron was
an Empty boy, collecting all the empty boxes for his employers.
Twins also took turns working for Grandad Jimmy Kray on his second hand
clothes stall in Brick Lane.
now, the Twins were boxing at an amateur level, helped by brother Charlie
who first introduced them into boxing.
a fairground came to Bethnal Green with its Dodgems, Roller coaster and
Boxing Booth. In those days the audience were invited to fight any of the
fairground fighters for a cash prize. If they could last three rounds they
won a pound.
During the interval the crowd were invited to
fight each other for cash. Reg and Ron stepped into the ring and proceeded
to batter hell out of each other. They collected seven shillings and
sixpence between them for the fight and ran home to tell the family. They
considered themselves as paid fighters.
the Twins were very close, they would often fight each other toe to toe.
After one of the many rows they had Ronnie climbed onto the Roof of a
train station and threatened to kill himself by throwing himself onto
the tracks. He never did but that was the intensity of their relationship.
the age of fifteen the local papers were writing about the Twins' exploits
in the ring. In 1948 Reg was the Schoolboy Champion of Hackney and went
on to win the London Schoolboy Boxing Championships as well as being a
finalist for the Great Britain Schoolboys Championship. In 1949 he became
the South Eastern Divisional Youth Club Champion and the London ATC Champion.
was also the Schoolboy Champion of Hackney and won the London Junior Championships,
and a London ATC title.
brother Charlie recalls "As boxers, the Twins were quite different from
each other: Reggie was the cool, cautious one, with all the skills of
a potential champion and importantly, he always listened to advice. Ronnie
was a good boxer too, and very brave. But he would never listen to advice.
He was a very determined boy with a mind of his own. If he made up his
mind to do something, he'd do it, no matter what, and unlike Reggie he
would never hold back. He would go on and on until he dropped".
same characteristics shown in the ring were to be seen later on in their
business activities to devastating effects.
the age of sixteen Ronnie and Reggie were becoming notorious in the East
End. They had their own gang and caused mayhem in the surrounding areas.
They were barred from most of the cinemas and dance halls in the area.
were always gang fights in the East End so it was commonsense to have
a weapon at hand or be able to get one pretty quick. The Twins usually
carried a knife but could call on almost any weapon from their arsenal
underneath their bed at Vallance Road. They were just as happy to use
a weapon as use their fists, and they wouldn't stop until their opponents
were completely subdued.
they were twelve they had their first real brush with the law. They were
put on probation for firing an air rifle in a public place.
sixteen, they were arrested and charged with Grevious Bodily Harm for an
attack on a rival gang outside a dance hall in Mare Street, Hackney. The
Rev R. N. Hetherington stood as a character witness for the Twins. He ran
a small youth club in the area and the boys would run errands for him.
This association really paid off. They were acquitted of all charges due
to lack of evidence!
Judge remarked "Dont go around thinking you are the Sabini brothers" (well
known gangsters of the time). Years later the Sabini brothers and the
Krays became friends.
seventeen the Twins were in trouble again. They were standing outside
a cafe in Bethnal Green Road with some friends when a policeman told them
to move on and he pushed Ron in the back. Ron didn't let anyone push him
around, he hit the policeman and they all ran off. Later when the police
tried to arrest Ron, Reggie got involved and they were both arrested and
charged with assault. But thanks again to the Rev Hetherington they received
were now boxing professionally. Ron had six fights, won four of them and
lost two. Reg had seven fights and won them all. They could have made
a career out of boxing had they not been called up into the Army a few
At eighteen years of age the Twins were called up
to do their National Service. It wasn't something they wanted to do but
thought that if the Army were to let them be Physical Training Instructors
then they would suffer it. This wasn't to be and they spent the next two
years either on the run or locked up in the guardhouse.
While on the run they ended up in court again for
assaulting a policeman. This time they were given a month in Wormwood
Scrubs and on release they were sent to Canterbury barracks to be court-martialled.
They escaped before they reached their destination but were captured
twenty four hours later. They spent the rest of their National Service in
the glasshouse at Shepton Mallet.
was here that the Twins first met Charlie Richardson, who, in later years
became their gangland rival.