An old article from CBL Magazine’s annals by Jim Nash of the Millwall Supporters Club
Well we are now way past Bonfire Night which commemorates the Great Gunpowder Plot, but way back in the 60s Millwall had a notorious gang of four. If they read this article, they will certainly know it refers to them. The aim of the gang of four was not to go around beating up opposition fans, but to gain notoriety by other means…
Plot 1: The success.
This was the now infamous hand grenade incident away to Brentford on November 6th 1964.
Millwall fans had essentially two big enemies, flash opposition goalkeepers and referees . At that time, Brentford had a bit of a fancy Dan goalkeeper called Charlie (Chic) Brodie who delighted in winding up Lions fans. And so on the Friday before the game, it was decided to give up throwing coins etc at him and come up with something a bit more tasty. One of the gang, had recently found a hand grenade in his Father’s old kit bag which had been in the loft since the end of World War Two. And so the plot was hatched – yes this would give Brodie a serious fright…
And so on the morning of the match, said hand grenade was loaded into the back of a Mini Cooper which then headed to West London. How do I know this? Simply because I was offered a lift to the match, and only became aware of the plot en route. Ad it’s a bit difficult to bail out of a Mini doing 70mph on the Hammersmith flyover
But success it was. Brodie was terrified, pictures of a police officer putting the missile into a bucket of sand were broadcast on the BBC and the Daily Sketch Newspaper – sadly no longer with us – headlined on its front page: “HAND GRENADE SHOCKS SOCCER”
Yes the gang of four had triumphed beyond their wildest dreams.
Plot 2: The failure
A few weeks after the Brentford match, the old Millwall Social Club for some reason organised a Sunday booze up to Ramsgate. Now these were the days when you could put 30 cases of lager in the luggage hold of a coach, no questions asked. The old Social Club and its members were serious drinkers and the Sunday Beanos were a regular feature. We even went to Blackpool to see the illuminations, only to find out they had been switched off six months earlier. So there we were, 50 Millwall supporters looking for somewhere to stay in an off season Blackpool, on a windswept winter’s night. But that’s a story for the future.
Anyway let’s get back to the Ramsgate trip – which as usual ended in an alcoholic haze. Just before we left, one of the gang of four noticed that near the harbour was displayed an old ocean going mine. The sort that looked like a giant hedgehog. From what I recall, this was a wartime relic retrieved from the sea off Ramsgate.
Suddenly an idea was born by one of the gang of four. Next week we are playing the Alice at Selhurst Park , If we could get the mine into the back of the coach, somehow get it into the ground, then we could roll it down the terrace towards their goalkeeper. Within minutes and without the drivers knowledge, the ocean mine was heaved into the back of the coach, and we headed back to New Cross. All to the sounds of “maybe it’s because I am a Londoner” which is something all Millwall fans sang when you got south of Eltham
A couple of hours and several hundred pints later, the coach pulled into Pepys Road which was the only alighting point. Out jumped the gang of four almost wetting themselves with anticipation. But suddenly the joy turned to despair. Where the mine should be … was a dirty great hole in the back of the coach. Yes the mine had fallen through the floor.
After a minute or so, reality kicked in. Somewhere on the A2 between New Cross and Ramsgate was an ocean going mine. As it was now dark, what would happen if a coach drove into it? Earlier in the day we had had a skirmish with a coach load of Palace fans who were in Ramsgate. So if they drove into it, that would be OK. But what if a coach load of human beings drove into it?
Suddenly everybody put their heads down and disappeared into the night air fearing the worst. We all expected the worst, but next morning nothing appeared on TV or in the newspapers. The weeks went by and still nothing, which was almost inexplicable. But I remember going back to Ramsgate a year later, and there it was back in its place by the harbour. Even today, how it get back there is a complete mystery
Plot 3: It wasn’t all right on the night.
As mentioned earlier, goalkeepers and certain referees were our biggest enemies in the 60s. You may think today’s referees are bad, but there were some real rubbish ones around at that time. One particular referee who clearly hated us was Leo Callaghan from Merthyr Tydfil in South Wales. For some inexplicable reason, we seemed to get him on a regular basis, and we all lost count of the last minute goals he denied us – along with turning down clear penalties.
So the plot was hatched once again. This time to kidnap Mr Callaghan on his way back home. In those days, nearly all referees travelled by train. So it was not difficult to work out that any train travelling to Cardiff (where you changed for Merthyr Tydfil) and that departed Paddington after 7pm on a Saturday Evening, would have Mr Callaghan on board.
And so after a home game, where Mr Callaghan true to form denied us a late equaliser, the gang of four headed straight to Paddington. Bought a ticket to Cardiff – and waited. Sure enough, the little round figure that was Callaghan walked up the platform and boarded the next train to Cardiff. Stripped of all their Millwall colours, the gang of four sat close enough to Callaghan to keep him in vision – but far enough away not to raise suspicion.
Several hours later as the train was approaching Cardiff where Callaghan would have changed trains, he was “invited” by the gang of four to inspect the empty Guards van at the back of the train. Before subsequently being tied up, not big time, but just enough to make him miss the last train back to Merthyr Tydfil.
The gang of four were jubilant. The plot was a success! However one thing was overlooked. There were no trains back to London until Sunday morning. So a long cold (but triumphant) night was spent sleeping on Cardiff station. Around 5am, the first Sunday papers began to arrive. And there to everybody’s horror on the front of the South Wales Post, was the bizarre story of an accountant from Glasgow who for some reason was abducted by a bunch of football hooligans and locked in a Guards van on Cardiff station, The gang of four had failed to stop Callaghan catching his last train, and had actually locked up a passenger who had no connection with football, they had somehow snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. The journey back to London seemed very long indeed.