The confidential files, which were closed under the 75-year rule but have been released early, show that senior officers tried to convince the then home secretary, “Rab” Butler, that there had not really been a racial element to the rioting.
Crowds of white youths, reportedly numbering 400, chased the Caribbean population in the area. Petrol bombs and milk bottles were launched as missiles, and some rioters armed themselves with iron bars and butcher’s knives. There were counter-attacks by Black youths similarly armed in self defense.
Tensions between members of the white working class and the new African Caribbean residents broke into open violence in 1958 and 1959 with attacks by white youths (‘Teddy Boys’) on Caribbean people and properties, followed by counter-attacks by members of the Caribbean population.