Tuesday 9 November 2010

Extracts from ‘1938, Somerset’s Secret War’ By Dick Skeggs

The more I write the more I write. A lot of the source Books start in 1938 or just before, Dick's book go's back to the Great War. This piece covers the lead up to the war.
I hope you enjoy this.

…Like so many Irishmen before me I decided to go to America.
I started with a reconnaissance, travelling around prohibition America was fascinating. New York and Chicago were full of gangs fighting each other. Hollywood was out as I didn’t feel comfortable there, so I settled on Florida. It seemed open for business with the Keys, miles of coastline and the Bahamas so close.
As well as getting the booze ashore I knew I would need information, on local law enforcement, other gangs, things like that. All the gangs had police, judges and even mayors on their payroll, but this lead to shakedowns, double crosses and other trouble. I wanted to work around these people, so I got my information from the sheriff’s wife, his secretary, the mayor’s girlfriend, I even employed all the girls at a telephone exchange so they could listen in to people, these along with road house and cafe owners. This net work covered hunderds of miles and over 100 people.
I set up my own telephone exchange so all my contacts could phone in any information they got. We always took reverse charge calls so the contacts could phone in at any time. All this intelligence meant I could change the route of our bootleg convoys at a moment’s notice. To communicate with the convoys, each had a number of motorcycle outriders. These outriders would phone the telephone exchange regularly for up dates and change the route of the convoy if necessary.
It may sound like this organisation ‘just appeared‘; it didn’t, it took over a year to setup.
At sea we started with a fishing boat which was not good. A fishing boat is designed to have the fuel as the ballast, then the fish as the fuel goes down. When we had booze and fuel in the boat the boat wallowed, and when the booze was unloaded and the fuel used, it bobbed and rolled.
After a number successful deliveries I bought a schooner and renamed her the ’Diana’. She would be moored up on the Rum Row, 12 miles off the coast and we used small fast boats to run the booze ashore. The fast boats had aircraft engines so they could outrun the American Coastguard cutters. Defending our boats from the Coastguard and other gangs was a problem so I looked round for some suitable weapons. One member of the my gang had been in the American National Guard and he told me that security at National Guard depots could be very bad. This proved to be true, so we stole guns or bought them from underpaid storemen. Our fast boats now had .30 cal Browning as well as aircraft engines to keep them safe.
We would tow the speedboats behind the Diana to the 12 mile mark, load them and set off after dark. Skimming over the water at 35 mph was a thrill, high speed fire fights with the Coastguard an even bigger one. At other times I would be at the exchange making sure the convoy arrived alright. The exchange got more and more information, this was because I paid all my contacts every month, I also paid a bonus for each convoy that arrived safely. We could make $100,000 from a big shipment getting through, so a bonus of $50-$100 was small change to me, but a big incentive to all the people I had working for me.
When prohibition was repealed in December 1933 I had a holiday, then travelled around America to pay off all my contacts. I paid off the rest off the gang and then had another holiday, sitting on a beach in the Bahamas, this lasted about 6 months before I moved on to other adventures.

1 comment:

  1. Nice post Mort, I like to see a bit of back story to these things.