- "With the benefit of hindsight, it seems astonishing that The Firm lasted as long as it did. It was brilliantly organised in an instinctive way, but hopelessly disarrayed when it came to expansion"
- ―Martin Short in his book with Albert Donoghue, The Kray's Lieutenant 1996
The Firm was an English crime gang based in East London, England, in the late 1950s to late 1960s. Participating mainly in protection rackets, fraud and other organised crime.
The Firm operated in Bethnal Green, Bow, Mile End, Whitechapel, Cambridge Heath and Haggerston, including many other areas surrounding East London.
They used 178 Vallance Road as the main base, and also venues such as The Lion public house and The Carpenters Arms to meet up and discuss plans. Led by twins Ronnie and Reggie Kray, with help from older brother Charlie Kray, The Firm had an array of members from its more than ten-year lifespan.
Many members came and went, and often some would have been present in The Firm years before another. In the height of The Kray's reign during the mid to late 1960s, the main inner firm consisted of:
- Ronnie Kray, also known as "The Colonel"
- Reggie Kray, Ronnie's twin brother
- Charlie Kray, the twin's older brother
- Albert Donoghue, Reggie's Right Hand Man
- Ian Barrie, Ronnie's right-hand man
- John Dickson, Ronnie's driver
- Ronnie Bender, Reggie's driver
- Ronnie Hart, the twin's distant cousin
- Pat Connolly, a well-built bodyguard
- Tommy Brown, also known as "The Bear"
- Leslie Payne, the brains behind The Firm
- Billy Donovan, brother-in-law of Albert Donoghue
- Dickie Morgan, a childhood friend of the twins
- Connie Whitehead, an occasional driver
- Billy Exley, a former boxer
With supporting 'fringe' members consisting of:
- Teddy Smith, one of Ronnie's lovers
- Tony Lambrianou, another Bethnal Green criminal
- Chris Lambrianou, Tony's older brother
- Limehouse Willy, an occasional doorman for The Kentucky Club
- Jack McVitie, an occasional hitman, later killed by Reggie Kray
- Micky Fawcett, a trusted outsider from the Silvertown area
- Frank Shea, occasionally a driver and brother of Frances Shea
- Sammy Lederman, a former Jack Spot mobster
- Nobby Clark, an old friend of Charles Kray
- Johnny Davis, publican and close friend
- Anthony Barry, owner of The Regency Club
- Lenny Hamilton, a jewel thief, burnt by Ronnie Kray
- Billy Frost, an occasional driver
- Tommy Cowley, another businessman
- Eric Mason, a long time associate
Charlie Kray didn't play a big part in the Firm and was often left out of many of the Twins enterprises, he was, however, a partner in the Double R club and ran others.
Leslie Payne and Tommy Cowley were the brains of the outfit, often giving credibility and respectability to many of their dubious deals. Some gang members were recruited after acts of violence had been inflicted upon them by the Twins. For example, Albert Donoghue had been shot in the leg by Reg for uttering a threat against them, weeks later he was welcomed into the Firm and put on a pension. He became one of their most trusted members.
The Firm worked on an information basis. The Twins would always help small-time crooks who had just been released from prison or when they were down on their luck in return for favours in the future. They were to be the eyes and ears of the Kray Firm. Nothing happened in London without the Twins knowing or without them getting their piece of the action. The Firm also worked on a sort of franchise system where certain members of the gang, such as Tony Lambrianou and Chris Lambrianou, who would use the Kray name and reputation to conduct their business activities. The Lambrianou brothers operated all over the country content in the knowledge that they had the backing and the muscle of the Firm. The Twins weren't interested in what they were doing so long as they received their percentage. It was felt by many that if the Twins had taken more of a back seat when it came to settling disputes, and recruited more able business partners then the history of gangland Britain would probably have to be rewritten. However, The Twins eventual downfall came about with the help of many of the "loyal and trusted" members of their the Firm.