The Full Wiki

Great Train Robbery (1963): Wikis

  
  

Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.

Encyclopedia

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Great Train Robbery is the name given to a £2.6 million train robbery committed on 8 August 1963 at Bridego Railway Bridge, Ledburn near Mentmore in Buckinghamshire, England.[1] The bulk of the stolen money was not recovered. At the time, it was probably the largest robbery by value in British history, until the Baker Street robbery of 1971.

Contents

The robbery

At 6:50 p.m. on Wednesday 7 August 1963 the travelling post office (TPO) "Up Special" train set off from Glasgow Central Station, Scotland en-route to Euston Station in London. The train was hauled by an English Electric Type 4 diesel-electric locomotive numbered at the time as D326. The train consisted of 12 carriages and carried 72 Post Office staff who sorted mail.

The mail was loaded on the train at Glasgow and during station stops en-route, as well as from line side collection points where local post office staff would hang mail sacks on elevated trackside hooks which were caught by nets deployed by the onboard post office staff. Sorted mail on the train could also be dropped-off and collected at the same time. This process of exchange allowed mail to be distributed more locally without delaying the train with more frequent station stops.

The second carriage behind the engine was known as the HVP (High Value Package Coach) where registered mail was sorted and this contained valuables including large quantities of money, registered parcels and packages. Usually the value of these items would have been in the region of £300,000, but because there had been a Bank Holiday weekend in Scotland, the total on the day of the robbery was £2.6 million -- worth a little over £40 million in 2010.[2]

View towards 'Sears Crossing' where the robbers took control of the train

At just after 3 a.m. the driver Jack Mills from Crewe stopped the train at a red signal at Ledburn, at a place known as 'Sears Crossing' between Leighton Buzzard in Bedfordshire and Cheddington in Buckinghamshire. However, unknown to him, the signalling equipment had been tampered with by members of the 15 strong gang of robbers from London led by Bruce Reynolds and included Ronnie Biggs, Charlie Wilson, A.J. Raffles, Jimmy Hussey, Roy James, Jimmy White (a former British Army paratrooper), Tommy Wisbey, Gordon Goody and Ronald "Buster" Edwards. The robbers had covered the green signal light and connected a six-volt Ever Ready battery to power the red signal light. The locomotive's second man, 26-year-old David Whitby (also from Crewe), climbed down from the cab to call the signalman from a signal-post telephone, only to find the cables had been cut. Upon returning to the train, he was thrown down the embankment of the railway track. The five postal workers in the HVP carriage were tied up and detained in a corner of the carriage.

Bridego Bridge, the scene of the robbery

The robbers now encountered a problem. They needed to move the train to a location where they could load their ex-army dropside truck with the money and had decided to do so at bridge No.127 (known as 'Bridego Bridge') approximately half a mile (about 800m) further along the track. One of the robbers had spent months befriending railway staff and familiarising himself with the layout and operation, but it was decided instead to use an experienced train driver to move the train from the signals to the bridge after uncoupling the unnecessary carriages. However, the person they selected (later referred to as "Stan Agate") was unable to operate the English Electric Class 40 diesel-electric locomotive, as he was unfamiliar with mainline diesel locomotives as he only drove shunting locomotives on the Southern Region. It was quickly decided that the original driver Jack Mills should move the train to the stopping point near the bridge which was indicated by a white sheet stretched between poles on the track. Mills was initially reluctant to move the train so one of the gang struck him on the head. "Stan Agate's" participation in the robbery was Ronnie Biggs's only task and when it became obvious that they were useless they were banished to the waiting truck to help load the mail bags.

At the bridge the robbers removed about 124 sacks which they transferred quickly from the HVP to the truck by forming a human chain. The gang departed 30 minutes after the robbery had begun and in an effort to mislead any potential witness in addition to their Austin Loadstar truck, they used two Land Rover vehicles both of which had the registration plates BMG 757 A. They then headed along back roads listening for police broadcasts on a VHF radio and arrived at Leatherslade Farm between Oakley and Brill in Buckinghamshire, which was a run down farm 27 miles from the crime scene that they had bought two months earlier as their hideout. There they began counting the proceeds of the robbery. £2.6 million was stolen in used £1, £5 and £10 notes.

Investigation, capture and trial

The robbers had cut all the telephone lines in the vicinity, but a trainman caught a slow train to Cheddington, which he reached at 4:30 a.m. to raise the alarm. At 5 a.m. Chief Superintendent Malcolm Fewtrell (1909–2005) of the Buckinghamshire Police arrived at the crime scene where he supervised evidence gathering and he then went to Cheddington Station where statements were taken from the driver and postal workers. One member of the gang had made the mistake of telling the postal staff not to move for half an hour and this suggested to the police that their hideout could not be more than 35 miles away. Fewtrell ascertained that about 15 hooded men dressed in blue boiler suits were involved and referred the case to Scotland Yard via his Chief Constable the next day. The police then undertook a major search fanning out from the crime scene, having failed to find any forensic evidence there and a watch was put on seaports.

The Postmaster General offered a £10,000 reward to "the first person giving information leading to the apprehension and conviction of the persons responsible for the robbery" and following a tip-off from a herdsman who used a field adjacent to Leatherslade Farm, a police sergeant and constable called there five days after the robbery. The farm was deserted but they found the truck used by the robbers which had been hastily painted yellow, the Land Rovers, a large quantity of food, bedding, sleeping bags, Post Office sacks, registered mail packages, bank note wrappers and fingerprints of the robbers, including those on a ketchup bottle and a Monopoly board game, used after the robbery but with real money. The investigation then continued under Detective Chief Superintendents Tommy Butler and Jack Slipper of the Metropolitan Police.

The first gang member to be caught was Roger Cordrey and his friend, William Boal, who had helped him to conceal his share of the stolen money. They were lying low in a rented furnished flat above a florist shop in Wimborne Road, Moordown, Bournemouth. Bournemouth CID were tipped off by police widow Ethel Clark, when Boal and Cordey paid rent for a garage, three months' up-front, all in used 10 shilling notes in Tweedale Road off Castle Lane West. Their arrests were made by Sgt. Stan Davis and Probationary Constable Gordon 'Charlie' Case.[3] Other arrests soon followed and thirteen of the gang members were caught.

The trial of the robbers began at Aylesbury Assizes, Buckinghamshire on 20 January 1964. Because it was necessary to accommodate a large number of lawyers and journalists, the existing court was deemed too small and the offices of Aylesbury Rural District Council were specially converted for the event. The defendants were brought to the court each day from Aylesbury Prison in a compartmentalised van out of view of the large crowd of spectators. Mr Justice Edmund Davis presided over the trial that lasted 51 days and included 613 exhibits and 240 witnesses. On 15 April 1964 the proceedings ended with the judge describing the robbery as "a crime of sordid violence inspired by vast greed" and passing sentences of 30 years imprisonment on Charlie Wilson, Roy James, Gordon Goody, Jim Hussey, Thomas Wisbey, Robert Welch and Ronnie Biggs. Four others received shorter sentences.[4]

Aftermath

Ronnie Biggs escaped from prison 15 months into his sentence, with a considerable amount of the money. He escaped while he was outside training. Biggs scaled a 30-ft (9 m) wall with three other prisoners using a ladder thrown from the outside during the prisoners' afternoon exercise. Biggs climbed the ladder and lowered himself into a waiting van. The escapers were driven from the prison in three cars. Biggs fled to Paris, where he acquired new identity papers and underwent plastic surgery. In 1970, he quietly moved to Adelaide, Australia, where he worked as a builder and lived a relatively normal life. He was tipped off by persons unknown and moved to Melbourne, later escaping to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, after police discovered his Melbourne address. Biggs could not be extradited because the UK did not benefit from reciprocity of extradition to Brazil, a condition for the Brazilian process of extradition. Additionally, he became father to a Brazilian son, which afforded him greater legal immunity (which a daughter would not have conferred). As a result he lived openly in Rio for many years, untouchable by British authorities. In May 2001, aged 71 and having suffered three strokes, he voluntarily returned to England. His son, Michael Biggs, said in a press release[5] that, contrary to some press reports, Biggs had not returned to the UK simply to receive health care. According to Michael, health care was available in Brazil and he had many friends and supporters who would certainly have contributed to any such expenses. Biggs's stated desire was to "walk into a Margate pub as an Englishman and buy a pint of bitter".[6] Biggs was aware that he would be arrested and jailed. After detention and a short court hearing he was sent back to prison to serve the remainder of his sentence. On 2 July 2009, Ronnie Biggs was denied parole by British Justice Secretary Jack Straw, who considered Biggs to be still "wholly unrepentant." [7] However, on 6 August 2009, Ronnie Biggs was granted release from prison on "compassionate grounds" due to a severe case of pneumonia, after serving only part of the sentence imposed at trial.[8] Ronnie Biggs' son has said publicly that his father expressed remorse for the robbery, but not for his life on the run.

Charlie Wilson escaped in August 1964[9] and took up residence outside Montreal, Canada on Rigaud Mountain. In the upper-middle-class neighbourhood, where the large, secluded properties are surrounded by trees, Wilson lived under the name Ronald Alloway, a name borrowed from a Fulham shopkeeper. He joined an exclusive golf club and participated in his local community activities. It was only when he invited his brother-in-law over from the UK for Christmas that Scotland Yard was able to track him down and recapture him. They waited three months before making their move, in hopes that Wilson would lead them to Reynolds, the last unapprehended suspect. Wilson was arrested on 25 January 1968 by Tommy Butler. Many in Rigaud petitioned to allow his wife and five daughters to stay in the Montreal area.[10] He was released from prison in 1978 and was found shot dead at his villa in Marbella, Spain on 24 April 1990.

The story of Ronald "Buster" Edwards, who fled to Mexico but later surrendered to authorities, was dramatised in the 1988 film, Buster, which starred Phil Collins in the title role. Edwards became a flower seller outside Waterloo Station on release from prison. He committed suicide in 1994.

Jack Mills' assailant was one of two members of the gang who was never identified but is thought to be "Buster" Edwards. Frank Williams (at the time a Detective Inspector) claims to have traced the man, but he could not be charged because of lack of evidence. Mills had constant trauma headaches the rest of his life. He died in 1970 from leukaemia.

Roy James, following his release, acquainted with Bernie Ecclestone, became an established silversmith. He produced trophies for the Formula One World Championship.[11][citation needed]

Bruce Reynolds was released from jail after serving 10 years on 6 June 1978.

One of the Post Office carriages involved is preserved at the Nene Valley Railway at Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, and is being restored. The locomotive was no. D326 (later no. 40126). It was involved in a number of serious operating incidents throughout its operational life.[12]

The robbery was investigated by Detective Chief Superintendent Jack Slipper of the Metropolitan Police (known in the press as "Slipper of the Yard"), who became so involved with its aftermath that he continued to hunt many of the escaped robbers in retirement. He believed Biggs should not be released after returning to the UK in 2001 and he often appeared in the media to comment on any news item connected with the robbery before his death on 24 August 2005 at the age of 81.

In popular culture

  • The book The Robbers' Tale by Peta Fordham tells the story. Published by Hodder & Stoughton, London 1965.
  • The robbery was mentioned in the 1965 film adaptation of Ian Fleming's Thunderball.
  • A comedy version was staged in the film The Great St Trinian's Train Robbery
  • In the 1965 film, Help!, John Lennon makes a snide reference to The Great Train Robbery in Scotland Yard. "Great Train Robbery, how's that going"?.
  • Supposedly, Biggs returned to England several times during the making of a documentary about the Great Train Robbery, always in disguise.[citation needed]
  • The 1966 German 3-part TV mini series Die Gentlemen bitten zur Kasse tells a fictionalised version of the story more or less close to the facts, but changes the names of those involved and of locations.[13]
  • The 1967 film, Robbery, is a heavily fictionalised version based on the events of 1963 directed by Peter Yates. The movie launched Yates' Hollywood career after it attracted the interest of Steve McQueen who got the British director to make his next feature Bullitt.
  • The 1969 French film The Brain stars David Niven as a British master criminal who perpetrates in France a heist based on the Train Robbery. The script implies him to be the real planner of the 1963 robbery.
  • Ronald Biggs recorded vocals on two songs for The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle, Julien Temple's film about the Sex Pistols. The basic tracks for "No One is Innocent" (aka "The Biggest Blow (A Punk Prayer)") and "Belsen Was a Gas" were recorded with guitarist Steve Jones and drummer Paul Cook at a studio in Brazil shortly after the Sex Pistols' final performance, with overdubs being added in an English studio at a later date. "No One is Innocent" was released as a single in the UK and reached #6 on the British singles charts, with the sleeve showing Martin Bormann playing bass with the group (in actuality this was American actor James Jeter).
  • The 1978 book The Train Robbers by Piers Paul Read recounts a very detailed version of the story based on an exclusive account given by seven of the then-paroled robbers. The book reveals the funding source for the heist as former SS officer Otto Skorzeny and other Germans who had escaped to South America and other countries after the war. As the story unfolds in the book, however, these allegations are dismissed and there was no SS involvement. Published by W.H. Allen and Company, 1978. ISBN 0-397-01283-7
  • Paul Hardcastle released a song in 1985 titled "Just For Money" which is about the robbery.
  • In 1981, Biggs's Brazilian son eventually became a member of the successful band Turma do Balão Mágico, bringing a new source of income to his father. In a short time, however, the band faded into obscurity and dissolved, leaving father and son in relatively dire straits again.
  • In 1988, Buster Edwards' experiences were made into the comedy-drama Buster, starring Phil Collins.
  • In 1991, Ronald Biggs sang vocals for the song "Carnival In Rio (Punk Was)" by German punk band Die Toten Hosen.
  • A popular skit from the comedy revue Beyond the Fringe starring Peter Cook and Dudley Moore deals with the efforts to catch the criminals behind the robbery.
  • Following the extradition attempt, Biggs collaborated with Bruce Henry (an American double-bass player), Jaime Shields, and Aureo de Souza to record Mailbag Blues, a musical narrative of his life that he intended to use a movie soundtrack. This album was re-released in 2004 by whatmusic.com.[14]
  • British group, Alabama 3, recorded a tribute to Bruce Reynolds about the robbery, "Have You Seen Bruce Richard Reynolds" on which he appears, on their 2005 album, Outlaw.
  • In February 2006, Channel 4 aired a documentary about the 1981 plot to kidnap Biggs and take him to Barbados. The programme featured a dramatisation of the attempt and an interview with ex-soldier John Miller, one of the men responsible. In the programme, security consultant Patrick King, who led the team, claimed that the kidnapping may have in fact been a deniable operation.[15]
  • American rock band, Mountain, recorded the song "The Great Train Robbery" on their Nantucket Sleighride album, circa 1971.
  • RuneScape, a popular MMPORG owned by Jagex, came out with a quest for its members called "The Great Brain Robbery".[16]
  • In several 1963 episodes of The Navy Lark, the robbery was referred to via expressions of surprise – by various characters – of seeing Chief Petty Officer Pertwee free, and not in police custody for committing the robbery.

References

  1. ^ "The Great Train Robbery, 1963". Time (magazine). http://www.time.com/time/2007/crimes/8.html. Retrieved 2007-08-21. "The 15 thieves who held up the Royal Mail train between Glasgow and London on August 8, 1963 netted 120 bags packed with the equivalent of $7 million and were treated like folk heroes by the press and public. Although the operation took 15 minutes, it was not as smooth as people remember it. It wasn't non-violent, for one thing (the driver of the train was hit on the head and never fully recovered); nor was it carefully executed (the thieves left fingerprints everywhere). The case has lived on in memory because of the adventures of one of its minor players, Ronnie Biggs, whose escape from prison and long years of eluding justice were constant fodder for the British newspapers. Readers were fascinated that a small-time hoodlum could be part of the biggest heist in British history and the only one to get away with it. Biggs eventually gave himself up in 2001, returning voluntarily from Brazil to serve the 28 years remaining in his sentence. Despite pleas for leniency, Biggs remains incarcerated and in failing health." 
  2. ^ "British Transport Police History: The Great Train Robbery". British Transport Police. http://www.btp.police.uk/History%20Society/Publications/History%20Society/Crime%20on%20line/The%20Great%20Train%20Robbery.htm. Retrieved 2007-07-25. 
  3. ^ "Historic fiver’s up for sale". http://www.bournemouthecho.co.uk/mostpopular.var.1800494.mostviewed.historic_fivers_up_for_sale.php. Retrieved 2007-11-01. 
  4. ^ Jean Archer (1992). Buckinghamshire Headlines. Countryside Books. ISBN 1-85306-188-3. 
  5. ^ "Statement from Michael Biggs made in London". Prnewswire.co.uk. 2001-05-08. http://www.prnewswire.co.uk/cgi/news/release?id=66752. Retrieved 2010-03-06. 
  6. ^ "2001: Biggs wants to return". The Sun. http://www.guardian.co.uk/pictures/image/0,8543,-10704180185,00.html. 
  7. ^ Michael Holden. "Great Train Robber is refused parole". Reuters. http://www.reuters.com/article/oddlyEnoughNews/idUSTRE5613K620090702. Retrieved 2010-03-06. 
  8. ^ "UK | England | Norfolk | Train robber Biggs wins freedom". BBC News. 2009-08-06. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/in_depth/8188479.stm. Retrieved 2010-03-06. 
  9. ^ "Great Train Robber Escapes from Jail.". BBC. 12 August 1964. http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/august/12/newsid_2996000/2996402.stm. Retrieved 2007-08-12. "A massive manhunt is underway across Britain after one of the so-called Great Train Robbers escaped from Winson Green Prison in Birmingham. Charlie Wilson, 32, was apparently freed by a gang of three men who broke into the jail in the early hours of the morning." 
  10. ^ "Coolopolis: Montreal's connection to the Great Train Robbery". Coolopolis.blogspot.com. 2008-03-17. http://coolopolis.blogspot.com/2008/03/montreals-connection-to-great-train.html. Retrieved 2010-03-06. 
  11. ^ "The power brokers: the battle for F1 ... - Google Books". Books.google.co.uk. http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=FPqeAmtopGwC&pg=PA68&lpg=PA68&dq=Roy+James+formula+junior&source=bl&ots=NPMH0ONiuE&sig=jTopXmYLlCLmHK-f9hs5MM-tuiM&hl=en&ei=ds5-SvjSHqHLjAeA88XwAQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=7#v=onepage&q=Roy%20James%20formula%20junior&f=false. Retrieved 2010-03-06. 
  12. ^ "CFPS Class 40 story". Cfps.co.uk. http://www.cfps.co.uk/class40story.htm. Retrieved 2010-03-06. 
  13. ^ "Germany's contribution to the Great Train Robbery's fame". Trainrobbery.de. 1965-09-12. http://www.trainrobbery.de/en/gentlemen.html. Retrieved 2010-03-06. 
  14. ^ "rare brazilian euro jazz bossa breaks on LP & CD". Whatmusic.com. http://www.whatmusic.com. Retrieved 2010-03-06. 
  15. ^ "Kidnap Ronnie Biggs- Documentary". Channel4. 2006-02-09. http://www.channel4.com/more4/documentaries/doc-feature.jsp?id=3. 
  16. ^ "The Great Brain Robbery". RuneScape Knowledge Base. http://www.runescape.com/kbase/guid/sym_the_great_brain_robbery_members_a_m. Retrieved 2009-10-08. 

Coordinates: 51°52′N 0°40′W / 51.867°N 0.667°W / 51.867; -0.667

Bibliography

External links


The Great Train Robbery is the name given to a £2.6 million train robbery committed on 8 August 1963 at Bridego Railway Bridge, Ledburn near Mentmore in Buckinghamshire, England.[1] The bulk of the stolen money was not recovered. It was probably the largest robbery by value in British history, until the Baker Street robbery of 1971.

Contents

The robbery

At 6:50 p.m. on Wednesday 7 August 1963 the travelling post office (TPO) "Up Special" train set off from Glasgow Central Station, Scotland en-route to Euston Station in London. The train was hauled by an English Electric Type 4 (later Class 40) diesel-electric locomotive numbered at the time as D326 (later renumbered 40126). The train consisted of 12 carriages and carried 72 Post Office staff who sorted mail.

The mail was loaded on the train at Glasgow and during station stops en-route, as well as from line side collection points where local post office staff would hang mail sacks on elevated trackside hooks which were caught by nets deployed by the onboard post office staff. Sorted mail on the train could also be dropped-off and collected at the same time. This process of exchange allowed mail to be distributed locally without delaying the train with more frequent station stops.

The second carriage behind the engine was known as the HVP (High Value Package) coach where registered mail was sorted and this contained valuables including large quantities of money, registered parcels and packages. Usually the value of these items would have been in the region of £300,000, but because there had been a Bank Holiday weekend in Scotland, the total on the day of the robbery was £2.6 million -- worth a little over £40 million in 2010. [2]


At just after 3 a.m. the driver Jack Mills from Crewe stopped the train at a red signal at Ledburn, at a place known as 'Sears Crossing' between Leighton Buzzard in Bedfordshire and Cheddington in Buckinghamshire. However, unknown to him, the signalling equipment had been tampered with by members of the 15 strong gang of robbers from London led by Bruce Reynolds and included Ronnie Biggs, Ronald "Buster" Edwards, Gordon Goody, Jimmy Hussey, Roy James, Jimmy White (a former British Army paratrooper), Charlie Wilson and Tommy Wisbey. The robbers had covered the green signal light and connected a six-volt Ever Ready battery to power the red signal light. The locomotive's second man, 26-year-old David Whitby (also from Crewe), climbed down from the cab to call the signalman from a signal-post telephone, only to find the cables had been cut. Upon returning to the train, he was thrown down the embankment of the railway track. The five postal workers in the HVP carriage were tied up and detained in a corner of the carriage.

The robbers now encountered a problem. They needed to move the train to a location where they could load their ex-army dropside truck with the money and had decided to do so at bridge No.127 (known as 'Bridego Bridge') approximately half a mile (about 800m) further along the track. One of the robbers had spent months befriending railway staff and familiarising himself with the layout and operation, but it was decided instead to use an experienced train driver to move the train from the signals to the bridge after uncoupling the unnecessary carriages. However, the person they selected (later referred to as "Stan Agate") was unable to operate the English Electric Class 40 diesel-electric locomotive, as he was unfamiliar with mainline diesel locomotives as he only drove shunting locomotives on the Southern Region. It was quickly decided that the original driver Jack Mills should move the train to the stopping point near the bridge which was indicated by a white sheet stretched between poles on the track. Mills was initially reluctant to move the train so one of the gang struck him on the head. "Stan Agate's" participation in the robbery was Ronnie Biggs' only task and when it became obvious that they were useless they were banished to the waiting truck to help load the mail bags.

At the bridge the robbers removed about 124 sacks which they transferred quickly from the HVP to the truck by forming a human chain. The gang departed 30 minutes after the robbery had begun and in an effort to mislead any potential witness in addition to their Austin Loadstar truck, they used two Land Rover vehicles both of which had the registration plates BMG 757 A. They then headed along back roads listening for police broadcasts on a VHF radio and arrived at Leatherslade Farm between Oakley and Brill in Buckinghamshire, which was a run down farm 27 miles from the crime scene that they had bought two months earlier as their hideout. There they began counting the proceeds of the robbery. £2.6 million was stolen in used £1, £5 and £10 notes.

Investigation, capture and trial

The robbers had cut off the telephone lines in the vicinity, but a trainman caught a slow train to Cheddington, which he reached at 4:30 a.m. to raise the alarm. At 5 a.m. Chief Superintendent Malcolm Fewtrell (1909–2005) of the Buckinghamshire Police arrived at the crime scene where he supervised evidence gathering and he then went to Cheddington Station where statements were taken from the driver and postal workers. One member of the gang had made the mistake of telling the from a herdsman who used a field adjacent to Leatherslade Farm, a police sergeant and constable called there five days after the robbery. The farm was deserted but they found the truck used by the robbers which had been hastily painted yellow, the Land Rovers, a large quantity of food, bedding, sleeping bags, Post Office sacks, registered mail packages, bank note wrappers and fingerprints of the robbers, including those on a ketchup bottle and a Monopoly board game, used after the robbery but with real money. The investigation then continued under Detective Chief Superintendents Tommy Butler and Jack Slipper of the Metropolitan Police.

The first gang member to be caught was Roger Cordrey and his friend, William Boal, who had helped him to conceal his share of the stolen money. They were lying low in a rented furnished flat above a florist shop in Wimborne Road, Moordown, Bournemouth. Bournemouth CID were tipped off by police widow Ethel Clark, when Boal and Cordey paid rent for a garage, three months up-front, all in used 10 shilling notes in Tweedale Road off Castle Lane West. Their arrests were made by Sgt. Stan Davis and Probationary Constable Gordon 'Charlie' Case.[3] Other arrests soon followed and thirteen of the gang members were caught.

The trial of the robbers began at Aylesbury Assizes, Buckinghamshire on 20 January 1964. Because it was necessary to accommodate a large number of lawyers and journalists, the existing court was deemed too small and the offices of Aylesbury Rural District Council were specially converted for the event. The defendants were brought to the court each day from Aylesbury Prison in a compartmentalised van out of view of the large crowd of spectators. Mr Justice Edmund Davis presided over the trial that lasted 51 days and included 613 exhibits and 240 witnesses. The jury retired to the Grange Youth Centre in Aylesbury to consider their verdict.[4] On 15 April 1964 the proceedings ended with the judge describing the robbery as "a crime of sordid violence inspired by vast greed" and passing sentences of 30 years imprisonment on Ronnie Biggs, Gordon Goody, Jim Hussey, Roy James, Robert Welch, Charlie Wilson and Thomas Wisbey. Four others received shorter sentences.[5]

Aftermath

Ronnie Biggs escaped from prison 15 months into his sentence, with a considerable amount of the money. He escaped while he was outside training. Biggs scaled a 30-ft (9 m) wall with three other prisoners using a ladder thrown from the outside during the prisoners' afternoon exercise. Biggs climbed the ladder and lowered himself into a waiting van. The escapees were driven from the prison in three cars. Biggs fled to Paris, where he acquired new identity papers and underwent plastic surgery. In 1970, he quietly moved to Adelaide, Australia, where he worked as a builder and lived a relatively normal life. He was tipped off by persons unknown and moved to Melbourne, later escaping to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, after police discovered his Melbourne address. Biggs could not be extradited because there was no reciprocal extradition treaty between Britain and Brazil, a condition for the Brazilian process of extradition. Additionally, he became father to a Brazilian son, which afforded him greater legal immunity (which a daughter would not have conferred). As a result he lived openly in Rio for many years, untouchable by British authorities. In 1981, Biggs's Brazilian son became a member of the successful band Turma do Balão Mágico, bringing a new source of income to his father. In a short time, however, the band faded into obscurity and dissolved, leaving father and son in relatively dire straits again. In May 2001, aged 71 and having suffered three strokes, Biggs voluntarily returned to England. His son, Michael Biggs, said in a press release[6] that, contrary to some press reports, Biggs had not returned to the UK simply to receive health care. According to Michael, health care was available in Brazil and he had many friends and supporters who would certainly have contributed to any such expenses. Biggs's stated desire was to "walk into a Margate pub as an Englishman and buy a pint of bitter".[7] Biggs was aware that he would be arrested and jailed. After detention and a short court hearing he was sent back to prison to serve the remainder of his sentence. On 2 July 2009, Ronnie Biggs was denied parole by British Justice Secretary Jack Straw, who considered Biggs to be still "wholly unrepentant." [8] However, on 6 August 2009, Ronnie Biggs was granted release from prison on "compassionate grounds" due to a severe case of pneumonia, after serving only part of the sentence imposed at trial.[9] Ronnie Biggs' son has said publicly that his father expressed remorse for the robbery, but not for his life on the run.

Charlie Wilson escaped in August 1964[10] and took up residence outside Montreal, Canada on Rigaud Mountain. In the upper-middle-class neighbourhood, where the large, secluded properties are surrounded by trees, Wilson lived under the name Ronald Alloway, a name borrowed from a Fulham shopkeeper. He joined an exclusive golf club and participated in his local community activities. It was only when he invited his brother-in-law over from the UK for Christmas that Scotland Yard was able to track him down and recapture him. They waited three months before making their move, in hopes that Wilson would lead them to Reynolds, the last suspect still to be apprenhended. Wilson was arrested on 25 January 1968 by Tommy Butler. Many in Rigaud petitioned to allow his wife and five daughters to stay in the Montreal area.[11] He was released from prison in 1978 and was found shot dead at his villa in Marbella, Spain on 24 April 1990.

The story of Ronald "Buster" Edwards, who fled to Mexico but later surrendered to authorities, was dramatised in the 1988 film, Buster, which starred Phil Collins in the title role. Edwards became a flower seller outside Waterloo Station on release from prison. He committed suicide in 1994.

Jack Mills' assailant was one of two members of the gang who was never identified but is thought to be "Buster" Edwards. Frank Williams (at the time a Detective Inspector) claims to have traced the man, but he could not be charged because of lack of evidence. Mills had constant trauma headaches the rest of his life. He died in 1970 from leukaemia.

Roy James, following his release, acquainted with Bernie Ecclestone, became an established silversmith. He produced trophies for the Formula One World Championship.[12][citation needed]

Bruce Reynolds was released from jail after serving 10 years on 6 June 1978.

One of the Post Office carriages involved is preserved at the Nene Valley Railway at Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, and is being restored. The locomotive was no. D326 (later no. 40126). It was involved in a number of serious operating incidents throughout its operational life.[13]

The robbery was investigated by Detective Chief Superintendent Jack Slipper of the Metropolitan Police (known in the press as "Slipper of the Yard"), who became so involved with its aftermath that he continued to hunt many of the escaped robbers in retirement. He believed Biggs should not be released after returning to the UK in 2001 and he often appeared in the media to comment on any news item connected with the robbery before his death on 24 August 2005 at the age of 81.

In popular culture

  • The book The Robbers' Tale by Peta Fordham tells the story. Published by Hodder & Stoughton, London 1965.
  • The robbery was mentioned in the 1965 film adaptation of Ian Fleming's Thunderball where it's stated SPECTRE earned a £250,000 consultation fee.
  • A comedy version was staged in the film The Great St Trinian's Train Robbery
  • In the 1965 film, Help!, John Lennon makes a snide reference to The Great Train Robbery in Scotland Yard. "Great Train Robbery, how's that going"?.
  • Supposedly, Biggs returned to England several times during the making of a documentary about the Great Train Robbery, always in disguise.[citation needed]
  • The 1966 German 3-part TV mini series Die Gentlemen bitten zur Kasse tells a fictionalised version of the story more or less close to the facts, but changes the names of those involved and of locations.[14]
  • The 1967 film, Robbery, is a heavily fictionalised version based on the events of 1963 directed by Peter Yates. The movie launched Yates' Hollywood career after it attracted the interest of Steve McQueen who got the British director to make his next feature Bullitt.
  • The 1969 French film The Brain stars David Niven as a British master criminal who perpetrates in France a heist based on the Train Robbery. The script implies him to be the real planner of the 1963 robbery.
  • Ronald Biggs recorded vocals on two songs for The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle, Julien Temple's film about the Sex Pistols. The basic tracks for "No One is Innocent" (aka "The Biggest Blow (A Punk Prayer)") and "Belsen Was a Gas" were recorded with guitarist Steve Jones and drummer Paul Cook at a studio in Brazil shortly after the Sex Pistols' final performance, with overdubs being added in an English studio at a later date. "No One is Innocent" was released as a single in the UK and reached #6 on the British singles charts, with the sleeve showing Martin Bormann playing bass with the group (in actuality this was American actor James Jeter).
  • The 1978 book The Train Robbers by Piers Paul Read recounts a very detailed version of the story based on an exclusive account given by seven of the then-paroled robbers. The book reveals the funding source for the heist as former SS officer Otto Skorzeny and other Germans who had escaped to South America and other countries after the war. As the story unfolds in the book, however, these allegations are dismissed and there was no SS involvement. Published by W.H. Allen and Company, 1978. ISBN 0-397-01283-7
  • Paul Hardcastle released a song in 1985 titled "Just For Money" which is about the robbery.
  • In 1988, Buster Edwards' experiences were made into the comedy-drama Buster, starring Phil Collins.
  • In 1991, Ronald Biggs sang vocals for the song "Carnival In Rio (Punk Was)" by German punk band Die Toten Hosen.
  • A popular skit from the comedy revue Beyond the Fringe starring Peter Cook and Dudley Moore deals with the efforts to catch the criminals behind the robbery.
  • Following the extradition attempt, Biggs collaborated with Bruce Henry (an American double-bass player), Jaime Shields, and Aureo de Souza to record Mailbag Blues, a musical narrative of his life that he intended to use a movie soundtrack. This album was re-released in 2004 by whatmusic.com.[15]
  • British group, Alabama 3, recorded a tribute to Bruce Reynolds about the robbery, "Have You Seen Bruce Richard Reynolds" on which he appears, on their 2005 album, Outlaw.
  • In February 2006, Channel 4 aired a documentary about the 1981 plot to kidnap Biggs and take him to Barbados. The programme featured a dramatisation of the attempt and an interview with ex-soldier John Miller, one of the men responsible. In the programme, security consultant Patrick King, who led the team, claimed that the kidnapping may have in fact been a deniable operation.[16]
  • American rock band, Mountain, recorded the song "The Great Train Robbery" on their Nantucket Sleighride album, circa 1971.
  • In several 1963 episodes of The Navy Lark, the robbery was referred to via expressions of surprise – by various characters – of seeing Chief Petty Officer Pertwee free, and not in police custody for committing the robbery.
  • In the online mulitplayer game RuneScape, there is a quest called "The Great Brain Robbery", with similar plot elements.
  • In the computer video game, Starcraft 2, there is a mission that is entitled "The Great Train Robbery".

References

  1. ^ "The Great Train Robbery, 1963". Time (magazine). http://www.time.com/time/2007/crimes/8.html. Retrieved 2007-08-21. "The 15 thieves who held up the Royal Mail train between Glasgow and London on August 8, 1963 netted 120 bags packed with the equivalent of $7 million and were treated like folk heroes by the press and public. Although the operation took 15 minutes, it was not as smooth as people remember it. It wasn't non-violent, for one thing (the driver of the train was hit on the head and never fully recovered); nor was it carefully executed (the thieves left fingerprints everywhere). The case has lived on in memory because of the adventures of one of its minor players, Ronnie Biggs, whose escape from prison and long years of eluding justice were constant fodder for the British newspapers. Readers were fascinated that a small-time hoodlum could be part of the biggest heist in British history and the only one to get away with it. Biggs eventually gave himself up in 2001, returning voluntarily from Brazil to serve the 28 years remaining in his sentence. Despite pleas for leniency, Biggs remains incarcerated and in failing health." 
  2. ^ "British Transport Police History: The Great Train Robbery". British Transport Police. Archived from the original on 2007-07-01. http://web.archive.org/web/20070701111011/http://www.btp.police.uk/History+Society/Publications/History+Society/Crime+on+line/The+Great+Train+Robbery.htm. Retrieved 2007-07-25. 
  3. ^ "Historic fiver’s up for sale". http://www.bournemouthecho.co.uk/mostpopular.var.1800494.mostviewed.historic_fivers_up_for_sale.php. Retrieved 2007-11-01. 
  4. ^ Hodson, Tom (3 May 2007). "The crime of the century". The Buckingham and Winslow Advertiser. http://www.buckinghamtoday.co.uk/the-great-train-robbery/The-crime-of-the-century.2852468.jp. 
  5. ^ Jean Archer (1992). Buckinghamshire Headlines. Countryside Books. ISBN 1-85306-188-3. 
  6. ^ "Statement from Michael Biggs made in London". Prnewswire.co.uk. 2001-05-08. http://www.prnewswire.co.uk/cgi/news/release?id=66752. Retrieved 2010-03-06. 
  7. ^ "2001: Biggs wants to return". The Sun (London). http://www.guardian.co.uk/pictures/image/0,8543,-10704180185,00.html. 
  8. ^ Michael Holden (2009-07-02). "Great Train Robber is refused parole". Reuters. http://www.reuters.com/article/oddlyEnoughNews/idUSTRE5613K620090702. Retrieved 2010-03-06. 
  9. ^ "UK | England | Norfolk | Train robber Biggs wins freedom". BBC News. 2009-08-06. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/in_depth/8188479.stm. Retrieved 2010-03-06. 
  10. ^ "Great Train Robber Escapes from Jail.". BBC. 12 August 1964. http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/august/12/newsid_2996000/2996402.stm. Retrieved 2007-08-12. "A massive manhunt is underway across Britain after one of the so-called Great Train Robbers escaped from Winson Green Prison in Birmingham. Charlie Wilson, 32, was apparently freed by a gang of three men who broke into the jail in the early hours of the morning." 
  11. ^ "Coolopolis: Montreal's connection to the Great Train Robbery". Coolopolis.blogspot.com. 2008-03-17. http://coolopolis.blogspot.com/2008/03/montreals-connection-to-great-train.html. Retrieved 2010-03-06. 
  12. ^ "The power brokers: the battle for F1 ... - Google Books". Books.google.co.uk. http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=FPqeAmtopGwC&pg=PA68&lpg=PA68&dq=Roy+James+formula+junior&source=bl&ots=NPMH0ONiuE&sig=jTopXmYLlCLmHK-f9hs5MM-tuiM&hl=en&ei=ds5-SvjSHqHLjAeA88XwAQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=7#v=onepage&q=Roy%20James%20formula%20junior&f=false. Retrieved 2010-03-06. 
  13. ^ "CFPS Class 40 story". Cfps.co.uk. http://www.cfps.co.uk/class40story.htm. Retrieved 2010-03-06. 
  14. ^ "Germany's contribution to the Great Train Robbery's fame". Trainrobbery.de. 1965-09-12. http://www.trainrobbery.de/en/gentlemen.html. Retrieved 2010-03-06. 
  15. ^ "rare brazilian euro jazz bossa breaks on LP & CD". Whatmusic.com. http://www.whatmusic.com. Retrieved 2010-03-06. 
  16. ^ "Kidnap Ronnie Biggs- Documentary". Channel4. 2006-02-09. http://www.channel4.com/more4/documentaries/doc-feature.jsp?id=3. 

Coordinates: 51°52′N 0°40′W / 51.867°N 0.667°W / 51.867; -0.667

Bibliography

External links








Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address
Message