HistorySQ > European History > The Real Peaky Blinders – Who Were They And What Happened To Them

The Real Peaky Blinders – Who Were They And What Happened To Them

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Peaky Blinders has risen to become one of the most rated TV shows gathering so many fans around the world, including celebrities.

The action/crime based fiction film by Steven Knight has been a sensation based on a true story of the gangs that were in Birmingham.

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Thomas “Tommy” Shelby being the charismatic and smart leader of the Peaky Blinders is the leader of the gang according to the award-winning show.

BBC-Netflix Show

Steven Knight was inspired by the stories told to him about his father’s uncles who were the Sheldons.

In the 1920s where there were bad economic times, Thomas Shelby who was a war hero after World War I decided to use his wit to gain power and recognition in Birmingham and beyond England.

Flashbacks of the war and the loss of his wife haunt him and motivate him to become brutal and calculative on his moves.

Tommy Shelby and the Peaky Blinders have been shown to have a pretty decent and austere way of dressing.

Peak hats and well-tailored clothes and boots were their signature code of dressing just as it was with the real Peaky Blinders of Birmingham.

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According to the TV series, their hats had hidden razor blades that were used to cut an opponent across his forehead when used properly.

This would later blind him as blood cascades down his face and that would be the opportunity to attack them heavily. Peaky Blinders depicts how the gang grew to become one of the most feared and the rise of the Shelbys.

Original Peaky Blinders

Unlike the series, the gang was originally formed in the 19th century but became widely dominant in the 1890s.

An alliance was formed consisting of the middle and lower class because of the financial crisis that hit so many in England. They maintained a sophisticated yet elegant way of dressing.

The Peaky Blinders had their signature peak hats, silk scarves well-knit suits and boots.

The TV series got fans to believe that razor blades were a thing as it is portrayed but it is said to be a myth by history scholars in Birmingham.

Razor blades manufactured by Gillette came to the British market in the early 1900s.

The gang recruited young lads as young as 12 years old. Contrary to the TV show, the gang back then was ruthless.

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They were notorious for stealing, gambling, assaulting without discriminating women, the old or the young, protection rackets, robbery, and even the police were not spared.”Peaky” referred to the classic hats they used to put on and “Blinders” was slang for neatly dressed hence the name Peaky Blinders contrary to the TV series.

Escalating violence and crime saw many police constables leaving their jobs. Baiting was the term used in reference to attacking constables.

Gang wars were on a high as the sloggers (another Birmingham gang) and the Blinders clashed as they gained territory.

Weapons used in their era ranged from canes, knives, belt buckles and metal-tipped boots.


Kevin Mooney was an alias used by Thomas Gilbert, the most powerful gang member of the notorious Peaky Blinders.

Just as portrayed in the BBC-NETFLIX series, he was a smart man with ambition. He used to change his last name just to disguise himself.

Other top “officials” of the syndicate Peaky Blinders were Stephen McNickle, Earnest Haynes, David Taylor, and Harry “Baby faced Harry” Fowles.

They have all been behind bars for a couple of months on different occasions for racketeering, theft of a bicycle, drunken and disorderly behavior and assault.

Most of the very first people to join the Peaky Blinders were servicemen in the military who fought in World War I.

Henry Lightfoot, Henry Fowler, and Billy Kimberare some of the people who fought the war.

Henry Fowler who was the youngest suffered post-traumatic disorder (PTSD) after being buried alive after an explosion during the war.

He could not speak nor see for a while and became one of the most ruthless of members.

The Fall

A 19-year-old was sentenced to life in prison for having assaulted a police officer who was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital.

A stringent measures such as these helped to reduce the crime rate in Birmingham by the Peaky Blinders.

The Birmingham Boys, which was a larger gang, got word of the growing Peaky Blinders which led to a war scrambling for dominance.

Alliances were formed by the Birmingham boys and the Sabini gang which strengthened them against the Peaky Blinders.

After the war, Peaky Blinders moved to the countryside and died dow and the name Peaky Blinders was used on every gang that existed.

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