Peaky Blinders finale could see public turn on Shelby gang and Tommy dethroned

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Creator Steven Knight confirmed that Peaky Blinder’s upcoming season will be the last in the saga. Previously, he revealed that the storyline would focus on the “occult” and “supernatural” world and Tommy Shelby would question whether his family was “cursed”. Season six, which faced multiple delays due to the coronavirus pandemic, could return to screens as late as 2022.

Since Mr Knight announced the show’s end to the BBC this week, fans poured over previous episodes and searched online for hints about what is in store for the Shelby family. 

While the screenwriter’s story is based on real-life criminals who terrorised the police and public, the show is not a historical account. 

Professor Carl Chinn, a Birmingham historian, dispelled a number of myths to including that ‘Peaky Blinders’ was not a gang but actually a term “similar to hooligan”. 

He also revealed that there was not one gang named The Peaky Blinders – instead, there were multiple criminal groups referred to by that name.

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Far from the “glitz and glamour” of Tommy Shelby’s organisation, Prof Chinn told that the actual criminals were “vicious, vile and brutal”.

He said: “The Peaky Blinders were not big-time gangsters but backstreet thugs and petty criminals who preyed on the hard-working, respectable poor they lived among”.

Prof Chinn’s research into the gangs, which he published in two books, could give hints about how the popular TV adaptation will end. 

The true Peaky Blinders operated from the late 19th century and had largely vanished just before World War 2. 

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Meanwhile, the BBC’s adaption began shortly after World War 1 and is now edging closer to Britain’s stand against Nazi Germany. 

Prof Chinn explained that many of the men who would have been considered real Peaky Blinders were so affected by the “horrors of war” that they turned away from crime. 

Those set to replace them were kept at arms-length from the gangs thanks to community groups, which were largely organised by local churches.

Prof Chinn told “They set up youth clubs and they provided football teams, some of them even had rudimentary boxing clubs. 

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“So these sports are really important for drawing away young men from gangs.”

However, the biggest change that made it harder for people to savour a life of crime was the appointment of a new chief constable.

Sir Charles Houghton Rafter, who was knighted for his services in 1927, was brought in to combat the gangs.

He launched a “rapid recruitment drive” that would double the number of policemen on the streets.

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Sir Charles asked three questions to the 500 men he hired: “Can you read? Can you write? And, can you fight?”

Prof Chinn explained: “They needed to have a certain standard of education and had to be tough lads with physical training.”

Sir Charles also urged courtroom judges to impose stricter sentences for violent and gang-related crimes. 

An increase in the number of criminals being put away and longer sentences led the public to have more trust in the police. 

Prof Chinn told “More police and stronger sentencing gave confidence to the law-abiding poor to come to the police with information.

“Before they were reluctant and too scared to come to police in case the Peaky Blinders would attack them.”

Prof Chinn praised the bravery of those who joined the police force at the time because of the risk it posed to their lives. 

He continued: “There were literally battles going on in the backstreets where the gangs operated with near-impunity.

“It was a very dangerous time, several police officers were killed in Birmingham, others were viciously assaulted and some had to retire because of their injuries.”

Prof Chinn explained that the “main objective” of the Peaky Blinders was to “show-off their fighting prowess” and claimed they “didn’t fight fair”.

He added: “They fought using boots, belts wrapped around their wrists to slash with buckle, knives, brickends, cobblestones, anything they could find. 

“They hated the police and preyed on hard-working respectable poor among whom they lived.”

Peaky Blinders seasons one to five are available to watch on Netflix. 

Professor Carl Chinn’s books on the Peaky Blinders and other Birmingham subjects can be found here.

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