On March 31 1964, the front-page headline of the Daily Mirror was about mods and rockers rioting in Clacton. They were fuelled by ‘pep pills’ but, on the same page, was a story about a bit of bovver overseas, caused by an intoxicant closer to our heart.
“It was the Belgian beer that was mainly responsible,” according to a 17 year-old who witnessed an entire Easter weekend of rioting by English youths on a football tour in Ostend.
The epicentre of the trouble was what sounds like an English pub, the White Horse Inn, where, according to young Ken Calder “a Liverpool beat group were playing”. (A Belgian police spokesman described most of the rioters as looking rather like the Beatles, too.)
Anyone who’s ever been to Belgium will nod in recognition when they hear what kicked the violence off: “English people had been swearing and shouting at the waiters and staff, because the service of drinks was slow.” Even today, Belgian waiters have a knack for avoiding eye contact until they think you’re ready for another beer.
We don’t know what the English rioters were drinking, but could this be considered an early example of ‘lager lout’ behaviour by Brits abroad?