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The Great Train Robbery 1963

Updated on August 17, 2015
The Great Train Robbery of 1963
The Great Train Robbery of 1963 | Source

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 robbery

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.

The manhunt

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.

Unarmed

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.

Arrest

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.

Sentencing

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.

Even today

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?

Scroll down and see another movie about the Great Train Robbery that might interest you.

© 2013 Jackie Jackson

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    • profile image

      truecrimeauthor 

      4 years ago

      Four Great Train Robbers are still alive today (July 2014) even after Bruce Reynolds and Ronnie Biggs passing away, the Legend of the 1963 Great Train Robbery lives on, its the 51st Annivbersary on 8th August, and a new film is being released soon 'A Tale of Two Thieves' with Train robber Gordon Goody telling his side of the story for the very first time.Mike Gray (Author: The Great Train Robbery Quiz Book, Ronnie Biggs The Inside Story, The Great Train Robbery Quiz Book, 101 Interesting Facts on Ronnie Biggs and The Great Train Robbery)

    • stereomike83 profile image

      stereomike83 

      4 years ago from UK

      I grew up not much more than 5 miles from where the Great Train Robbery occurred and although it was many years before I was born, it was still something I grew up knowing all about. I regularly ran under "Train Robbers" bridge where the crime took place and it is so uninspiring that it seems strange that such a well known heist took place there!

    • BritFlorida profile imageAUTHOR

      Jackie Jackson 

      4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @SimonJay: It's a fabulous story isn't it? And the robbers were far from organized!

    • SimonJay profile image

      SimonJay 

      4 years ago

      I loved the great train robbery story, I can't believe people haven't heard of it i saw a movie and i also know of two songs about the great train robbery, One of the songs i like very music but can't find it anywhere i used to have it but lost a lot of files on my pc so now its gone. Cool lens thanks.

    • BritFlorida profile imageAUTHOR

      Jackie Jackson 

      4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @ChristyZ: I'll put that on my list :) The sentences were crazy, weren't they? Especially considering that the men were unarmed.

    • profile image

      ChristyZ 

      4 years ago

      I've never heard of this before, it's an interesting story. The sentence they received was definitely pretty harsh that's for sure. The plastic surgery disguise reminds me of the Johnny Depp movie The Tourist!

    • BritFlorida profile imageAUTHOR

      Jackie Jackson 

      4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @sousababy: It's fascinating.What's interesting is that they weren't criminal masterminds; they were largely petty criminals who got lucky. In the UK there's a saying that's still often used by men who have been married for over thirty years - they say "yes, married 32 years.Even the great train robbers didn't get that". :)

    • sousababy profile image

      sousababy 

      4 years ago

      Really? Some had plastic surgery and fled to Canada? Hmmm, would LOVE to know what happened to these men. I'd love to read the untold story (last book you feature). Sounds fascinating. And whoa, 30 year sentences (today they'd probably get 2 years less a day).

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