The Great Train Robbery 1963
A huge train robbery - now a true part of British history
In the nineteen sixties, many people in England were secretly admiring the gang of men who had stolen almost three million pounds from a mail train. They have now become part of history and are seen by many as folk heroes.
I remember it well
I was very young when the robbery took place but nevertheless, I remember it being on the television news and for weeks, it headlined in every newspaper. Everyone was talking about it. It was referred to as the crime of the century.
The plan was quite uncomplicated but thorough. The men stopped the train by the simple device of covering a green-for-go light on the railway embankment and adding a red stop light. They overpowered the driver and his mate, moved the train a short way to a bridge where they had hidden their vehicles. Quickly and efficiently, they transferred mail bags containing used banknotes to the vehicles and fled to a nearby remotely located farm that they had bought as their hideout.
As soon as the robbery became known, the manhunt began. The police were sure that the men were hiding out locally and began to comb the area. The train robbers had planned to stay at the farm until the heat died down but were forced to flee.
It's important to note that the gang had no firearms. They were armed with coshes only. There was just one injury - a gang member coshed the train driver on the head although not hard enough for his victim to become unconscious. In fact, it was the driver who moved the train to the bridge.
It was only a matter of time before the police found the farm and when they did, they also found fingerprints. Several of the robbers were identified; they were all on the run.
The story continues
For those of us who were following the story, we learned about who these men were. We discovered that some had fled abroad. We heard of a few arrests too, but largely the general public had a sneaky admiration for the men. Author Graham Green wrote to the Daily Telegraph about his admiration.
When the robbers who had been caught were tried and sentenced for their crime, the public couldn't believe the sentences they received, many of which were thirty years. Remember, this wasn't even an armed robbery. These harsh sentences added to the public's view of the men as folk heroes.
Escape and extradition
The story wasn't over. Some of the prisoners escaped from jail. Some used their new-found wealth to pay for plastic surgery to change their appearances. Some went to Spain, others to Mexico, Canada and Australia.
The story of the men, and their eventual fates still captures the public's imagination. Many films and books were produced and are still appearing.
But you can't buy happiness
The robbery itself is a fascinating subject. The later escapes from jail are equally thrilling.
But a factor that became obvious is that money isn't everything.
Would it be possible to live in the lap of luxury and still be unhappy?
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© 2013 Jackie Jackson