Look and Read: Len and the River Mob

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started15th Jan 1968
ended25th Mar 1968
last rpt24th Mar 1972
5 school years
duration20 mins
subject 📚EnglishLanguage & Reading
age rangeAge 7-9
languageenIn English
Look and ReadHierarchyPrevious.gifPrevious series: Bob and Carol Look for TreasureNext series: The Boy From Space (1971)HierarchyNext.gif

Len and the River Mob is a unit of the BBC schools TV series Look and Read from the 1960s and 1970s, covering Language and Reading for primary school pupils.

The Story

Young Len Tanner has come to live in London with his friend Pat and her mum Mrs Green. He finds work in the river docks with Mr Moon, who is interested only in whether his boys can work hard. Len is pleased with the job, which involves shifting some sacks off of tugs and into Mr Moon's big shed, though unimpressed with his workmates Micky and the fat, slothful Dave.

Len wants to buy Pat a nice doll with his pay (Three pounds - that is a lot of money!) but when he goes to the toy shop, he finds it all smashed up. The policeman, Pat's Uncle Bill, tells him that all the toys have been stolen. At work that day, Len and the boys stash away several big heavy boxes, and when one of them breaks open Len spots all sorts of toys and dolls inside. Bill tells him that there is a gang operating on the docks called the River Mob that's suspected of stealing lots of things, including a valuable new engine, but there's no proof against them. Len is suspicious of Mr Moon and his gang but doesn't say anything.

Mr Moon's boys go to pick up a large crate, and Len sneaks a look at the code marking to check if it's the crate with the stolen engine - he's relieved to find that it isn't. Later Len and Pat hear singing coming from a large ship on the river and befriend the sailor responsible, called Roy. They spot the unpleasant captain of Roy's ship, Captain Grenko, in a secret meeting with Mr Moon. Len decides to have another look at the big crate, but he is spotted snooping around the wharf by Bill. Although Len legs it and gets away, Bill finds his penknife blade and shows this evidence to Mrs Green and Pat. Even though everyone is supicious of him, Len still won't tell them what's going on.

Roy turns up at Mr Moon's wharf to help them load up the big crate, and Len suspects he might be in the gang too. When Roy turns the crate over, Len suddenly recognises that the mark is in fact the one from the stolen engine, but he'd been looking at it upside down before. By now he is certain that the gang are the River Mob, but it's too late - when he tries to leave the wharf Moon, Micky and Dave jump on him and tie him up at the top of the big shed, despite Roy's protests. Len manages to throw a message out of the window and Bill collects it, but he can't see Len in the high window. Len tries to get down from his high perch, but falls down and hits his head.

Mr Moon and his gang are making a getaway, but Roy manages to send a message about what's happening over the boat's radio, sending the police rushing to Moon's shed to rescue Len. They all dash over to Captain Grenko's ship, where the stolen engine is to be taken, but find that it has already departed. Roy's message had been cut off before he'd finished, but Len works out that it tells them the boat is off Gravesend. Everybody rushes off to Gravesend, and just as the police close in Roy grabs the wheel of Moon's motor-boat, taking control until the River Police arrive to arrest the River Mob. The children wave to their friends and Roy's happy singing rings out across the water.

The Teaching Middle

Len tied and bound, and unable to introduce the programme

The teaching segments were presented by Len himself, except in the episode where he was captured, which was introduced by Mrs Green instead.

Robert Burgess has provided some memories of the programmes:
On the very fringes of my memory I can see George Layton sitting by a "teleprinter" and earnestly narrating the plot of "the river mob."
And also hazy memories of some song lyrics:
"Oh, in that London river......
Hear me sing that London song"

As well as:
"We're not sure about Mr Moon"


# Title Broadcast
1. A Job in the Docks 15 Jan 1968
2. The Dutch Doll 22 Jan 1968
3. The Missing Crate 29 Jan 1968
4. The Big Job 5 Feb 1968
5. Captain Grenko 12 Feb 1968
6. Is Len a Thief? 26 Feb 1968
7. This Way Up 4 Mar 1968
8. Tied and Gagged 11 Mar 1968
9. Find The S.S. Samba 18 Mar 1968
10. After Them! 25 Mar 1968


Introduced by George Layton (except Part 8)

Angela Crow (Part 8)

Captain Grenko
Narrated by Harvey Hall
Starring George Layton as Len Tanner

Philip Brack as Bill
Denise Powell as Pat
Christopher Chittell as Micky
Kenneth Colley as Mr Moon
Angela Crow as Mrs Green
Paul Sarony as Dave
Kenneth Gardnier as Roy
Leonard Kingston as Captain Grenko
Arthur Gross as the police inspector

Story by Roy Brown
Script by Leonard Kingston
Reading consultant Joyce M. Morris
Producer Andrée Molyneux

Who was in which episodes:

   C A S T   D E T A I L S

introduced by GEORGE LAYTON   1 2 3 4 5 6 7   9 10
introduced by ANGELA CROW                   8
narrated by HARVEY HALL       1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

starring                             EPISODES
GEORGE LAYTON                 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
PHILIP BRACK                  1 2 3     6 7 8 9 10
DENISE POWELL                 1   3 4 5 6     9 10
CHRISTOPHER CHITTELL          1 2 3 4     7 8 9 10
KENNETH COLLEY                1   3 4 5   7 8 9 10
ANGELA CROW                     2       6   8
PAUL SARONY                     2 3         8 9 10
KENNETH GARDNIER                      5   7 8 9 10
LEONARD KINGSTON                      5
ARTHUR GROSS                                  9 10


Pupil's Pamphlet

Pupil's pamphlet, 1968

A 48 page pamphlet, with text by Roy Brown and illustrations by James Hunt. Printed in black and green. At the end of each story are word exercises and questions about the plot so far.

If you would like a PDF copy of this story book for educational purposes, please email me [email protected].

There was an error with the original printing of the pamphlet in 1968 - on page 26 the police dog is accidentally referred to as "Rover", when his name was actually "Flash". "Rover" was not one of the context words that children should have been able to read, so it may well have stumped them! This was corrected in subsequent editions of the pamphlet.

Rover becomes Flash.

Teacher's Notes

Teacher's notes were published to accompany each broadcast of the story, although I do not currently have any pictures or information about them.

The Sequel

Three years later, the same producer and writer created a filmed adventure serial called Roy and the Danelli Job for the series Television Club, which was aimed at children about 3 years older than Look and Read's audience.

The main character, Roy Speed, was played by the same actor who played Roy in Len and the River Mob. Here is a list of similarities between the two stories. Taking all of these into account, it seems reasonable to theorise that Roy and the Danelli Job was a sequel, of sorts, to Len and the River Mob.

Len and the River Mob Roy and the Danelli Job
  • Written by Leonard Kingston (from a story by Roy Brown)
  • Written by Leonard Kingston
  • Produced by AndrĂ©e Molyneux
  • Produced by AndrĂ©e Molyneux
  • With Kenneth Gardnier as Roy
  • Starring Kenneth Gardnier as Roy Speed
  • Roy is a sailor from the West Indies
  • Roy is a sailor from the West Indies
  • Roy's ship berths at the London docks
  • Roy's ship berths at the London docks
  • Roy is seen flinging water over the side of his cargo ship, so he could be a cook
  • Roy is "second cook on a cargo ship" per the teacher's notes
  • Roy loves to sing and play his guitar
  • Roy loves to sing and play his guitar
Roy singing to Len and Pat
Roy singing to "Mr Slattery"

In The Archive

Children watching Len and the River Mob, in school

According to BBC archive catalogue, the BBC have only kept a few extracts from this story. They only seem to have kept a recording of episode 3 in its entirety.

There are the drama sequences and a teaching animation from episode 1 and very short (20 seconds or so) bits of film of the London docks that were used in episodes 2, 4 and 10.

The picture to the left shows children watching one of the later episodes of Len and the River Mob (since it features Captain Grenko, who only appears half way through), probably 5, 9 or 10. It seems that the bit they are watching no longer exists at the BBC, and can never be watched again!


If you remember this story from primary school, then you would have seen it in one of these terms. See the schedules section for precise dates and times.

Related programmes


Sources & References


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