5O YEARS ON ….. HERE’S A BIT MORE INTERACTIVE MATERIAL , AND VIDEO FOOTAGE ETC RELATING TO THIS NOW TIMELESS AND ICONIC GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY
Police investigation into the Great Train Robbery is commemorated on 50th anniversary of infamous crime
Detectives who investigated the Great Train Robbery were praised for solving the ‘crime of the century – 50 years after the infamous heist took place.
Eighteen retired Buckinghamshire Constabulary investigators and backroom staff were reunited at Eynsham Hall in Witney, Oxfordshire.
They received commendations on the eve of the £2.6 million robbery’s 50th anniversary from Thames Valley Police chief constable Sara Thornton.
Twelve of the robbers were jailed for a combined total of more than 300 years after they stopped the Glasgow to Euston overnight mail train, which was carrying huge numbers of used bank notes, as it passed through the Buckinghamshire countryside close to Cheddington on August 8 1963.
Praised: John Woolley (left) and Keith Milner who worked on the case of the Great Train Robbery at a ceremony where they received commendations from current Thames Valley Police Chief Constable Sara Thornton
Anniversary: A cake made to mark the 50th anniversary of the Great Train Robbery
Well done: Keith Milner, who worked on the case of the Great Train Robbery, at a ceremony where he received a commendation from current Thames Valley Police Chief Constable Sara Thornton at Eynsham Hall, Witney, Oxfordshire
Evidence: A Monopoly board used by the robbers in their hideout and some notes stolen from the train were on show at last night’s celebration
Keith Milner, now 78, was the duty detective at Aylesbury on the night of the robbery.
Then aged 28, he was woken by a call at 5am letting him know there had been a burglary near Cheddington.
‘I said “what’s gone?” and they said “a train”,’ he explained last night.
‘An early call generally meant a long day and this was no exception. In those days we got dressed – suit, collar and tie – and off we went.’
After first collecting evidence on the railtrack, Mr Milner spent nine months attached to the investigation as the officer in charge of exhibits.
He was instrumental during the subsequent court case and worked shoulder to shoulder with Scotland Yard legends such as Leonard ‘Nipper’ Read, later responsible for bringing down the East End gangland empire ruled by the Kray twins.
Infamous: Detectives pictured at the scene near Cheddington following the most notorious heist of the 20th century, The Great Train Robbery
Manhunt: Police Superintendent Malcom Fewtrell of Buckinghamshire Constabulary C.I.D. is pictured (left) with Detective Gerald McArthur (right) of Scotland Yard investigating the mail train robbery
Looking for clues: Investigators are pictured examining the train after the robbery 50 years ago
Investigation: Police offfered a £10,000 reward for information on the robbery. Their investigation eventually saw 12 gang members jailed for a combined total of more than 300 years
Closing in: Detective Superintendent Gerald McArthur is pictured searching for clues in the grounds of the suspects’ hideout
John Woolley was a 25-year-old PC who had been on the job for four years when he discovered Leatherslade Farm, the abandoned hideout the men had used after committing their crime.
Now 75, he explained how he was sent to the property to investigate ‘suspicious comings and goings’ after police received a tip off.
Among items officers found at the scene was a Monopoly set which the robbers had used to kill time, playing with real £5 notes taken from their loot.
The original board game was on display last night at the commendation ceremony after it was discovered by TV’s Antiques Roadshow.
‘I just happened to be at that place at that time,’ Mr Woolley said at the ceremony.
‘What I did any of my colleagues could and would have done and perhaps done better.’
Asked about robber Ronnie Biggs, the former policeman said: ‘He is perhaps one of the robbers who got some enjoyment, some satisfaction, out of his share of the loot.
‘He did, for a while, live the high life in Brazil, no doubt about that.
How the scene of the infamous Great Train Robbery looks today
Success: The investigation led to 12 of the robbers being caught and jailed for their role in the crime. Here three of the suspects are pictured being led away from Linslade Court with blankets over their heads
Clues: Police officers look pleased with themselves as they load evidence from the gang’s hideaway into police cars
Breakthrough: Police stand guard outside Leatherslade Farm at Oakley in Buckinghamshire, used as a hide-out by the Great Train Robbers
Wanted: Police issued mugshots of the men wanted in connection with the robbery in the weeks that followed including this one of Buster Edwards and his wife June
Hunted: Mugshots of Bruce Reynolds (left) and Roy James (right) were also issued by detectives in the aftermath of the £2.6 million robbery
‘But he was finally arrested, he is now a very sick man and I’m surprised that he is making all these comments after we have been told time and time again that he is hardly able to speak.
‘Good luck to him, but he is a sick man.
‘Me? I’m still surviving, I shall be going home tonight to my home to my supper – he won’t.’
Mr Woolley also said he had been saddened to learn of Reynolds’ death and recalled how the criminal mastermind had even sent him a Christmas card one year.
Chief Constable Thornton said: ‘The coverage in the newspapers and the discussion is always about the offenders in this notorious crime.
‘I wanted to balance that by thanking the police officers and police staff who played a very important role in making sure that those men were brought to justice 50 years ago.’
Scene guard: Police officers are pictured at Leatherslade Farm hideout shortly after it was discovered by officers
Evidence: Items seized from Leatherslade Farm, including a Monopoly set used by the gang, are pictured
Hiding place: Police eventually found £35,000 stashed in the walls of a caravan owned by Great Train Robber James White
No regrets: Ronnie Biggs, whose Interpol notice is pictured (left) said recently that his only regret in connection with the robbery is that train driver Jack Mills (right) and the families of those involved suffered
Two of the robbers, Charlie Wilson and most famously Biggs, escaped jail, with Biggs spending more than 30 years on the run after returning to Britain in 2001 to face arrest.
He was eventually freed in 2009 on ‘compassionate grounds’ by then Justice Secretary Jack Straw.
The mastermind behind the gang, Bruce Reynolds fled to Mexico and later Canada following the crime but returned to the UK and was jailed for 25 years in 1968.
He served 10 years before his release and died back in February.
Two police officers who were involved in the investigation will attend tonight’s event alongside serving Thames Valley Police officers at Eynsham Hall in Witney, Oxfordshire.
Keith Milner was a detective at Aylesbury at the time of the robbery, while John Woolley was a PC and discovered Leatherslade Farm, where the men hid after committing the crime.
Memories: Retired Chief inspector John Wolley is pictured sharing a laugh with Bruce Reynolds, the mastermind behind the crime on the 40th anniversary of the heist ten years ago
Mastermind: Bruce Reynolds at Oakley Village Hall, Buckinghamshire, during a village fete on the 40th anniversary of the robbery
Last month Biggs insisted he was proud to have been part of the gang.
He is currently being cared for in a north London nursing home and said he has few regrets about the crime that made him a household name.
Biggs, who cannot speak and communicates through a spelling board, said: ‘If you want to ask me if I have any regrets about being one of the train robbers, my answer is, “No!”.
‘I will go further: I am proud to have been one of them. I am equally happy to be described as the “tea-boy” or “The Brain”.
‘I was there that August night and that is what counts. I am one of the few witnesses – living or dead – to what was The Crime of the Century.’
But although he is proud to have been involved in the headline-grabbing crime, he admitted he does have some regrets.
Half a century on: The scene of the Great Train Robbery near Cheddington, Buckinghamshire, today
‘It is regrettable, as I have said many times, that the train driver was injured,’ he said. ‘And he was not the only victim.
‘The people who paid the heaviest price for the Great Train Robbery are the families. The families of everyone involved in the Great Train Robbery, and from both sides of the track.
‘All have paid a price for our collective involvement in the robbery. A very heavy price, in the case of my family.
‘For that, I do have my regrets.’
A new book has been published to mark the 50th anniversary – The Great Train Robbery – 50th Anniversary – 1963-2103, and is said to explain first-hand the complete story of the robbery.
Both Biggs and Reynolds, who died in February, contributed to the book, which has been written by Reynolds’ son Nick, along with Biggs’ autobiographer Chris Pickard.
Mr Reynolds and Mr Pickard said the book was an aim at ‘setting the record straight’, and putting right any inaccuracies in a tale that has become folklore.
NICK REYNOLDS DEVOTED SON OF HIS FATHER BRUCE , HIS BOYS , FAMILY , FRIENDS , ACQUAINTANCES AND MANY OTHERS SAY FAREWELL TO ONE OF THE MOST ICONIC FOLKLORE FIGURES IN BRITISH MODERN HISTORY AT ST BARTHOLOMEW THE GREAT CHURCH, SMITHFIELDS , LONDON, UK .
FOLLOWED UP BY THE WAKE IN HIS HONOUR HELD AT THE KING’S HEAD PUB , KINGSLAND ROAD , LONDON.
ON A PERSONAL LEVEL I WOULD WISH TO ADD THAT IT WAS A GREAT DAY AND A GREAT SEND-OFF AND FURTHERMORE ALL THOSE THAT WERE THERE THROUGHOUT THE DAY AND EVENING HAD A FANTASTIC TIME .
BELOW IS THE ORDER OF SERVICE FRONT COVER , VARIOUS PERSONAL IMAGES TAKEN ON THE DAY AND THROUGHOUT THE EVENING BY OUR OWN ALWAYS LOYAL FACEBOOK ADMIN GEEZER………….. JULES, AS WELL AS SOME OTHER PRESS USED FEATURES AND VIDEO ETC RELATING TO BRUCE REYNOLDS AND HIS LIFE……../
NICK REYNOLDS AND HIS SONS SAY THEIR LAST FAREWELLS TO BRUCE
FOR MORE OF OUR IMAGES TAKEN BY JULES PLEASE VISIT
Two fingers to you all: Frail and wheelchair-bound, Ronnie Biggs, 83, makes a feeble gesture of defiance at the funeral of one of his train robber pals
The former criminal mastermind Bruce Reynolds died in his sleep last month aged 81
Reynolds referred to the train robbery as ‘his Sistine Chapel’, says his son Nick
Brains behind £2.6million robbery of mail train with 16 accomplices
Jailed for 25 years for role and later wrote of experiences in memoir
Fellow gang member Ronnie Biggs attended private funeral in city of London
Even half a century later, he speaks of it as ‘an adventure’.
Ronnie Biggs might be a pathetic figure in a wheelchair these days but he still has fond memories of the Great Train Robbery and his 36-year flight from justice.
An engine driver coshed on the skull with an iron bar. A life on the run. A circle of friends including gangsters, hard-men, thugs and petty criminals.
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Partner-in-crime: Ronnie Biggs makes an obscene gesture as he attends the funeral of Bruce Reynolds, the mastermind behind the Great Train Robbery
Event: Hundreds of mourners attended the service which took place at St Bartholomew the Great, in London
Colourful life: Bruce Reynolds, left, was the brains behind the Great Train Robbery (pictured in 1963 right)
Notorious: Mourners comfort each other outside the church. The funeral was very well attended
Biggs said farewell to one of them yesterday – and found the strength to raise two fingers for the cameras.
Frail, 83, and unable to stray far from medical care, he made a rare public outing from his nursing home to join mourners at the funeral of his old pal Bruce Reynolds, fellow ex-fugitive and so-called ‘mastermind’ of the 1963 robbery.
In a tribute read out on his behalf, Biggs told a 200-strong congregation: ‘It was Bruce who set me off on an adventure that was to change my life, and it was typical of Bruce that he was there at the end to help me back from Brazil to Britain. I am proud to have had Bruce Richard Reynolds as a friend. He was a good man.’
Well-known associate of the Kray brothers Freddie Foreman (centre) leads a group of mourners to the funeral, including former celeb and football agent Eric Hall (right)
Respects: Mourners at the funeral of Bruce Reynolds who was jailed for 25 years for his part in the Great Train robbery
Underworld: Self-styled gangster Dave Courtney, who was jailed in the Eighties for attacking five men with a meat cleaver, at the funeral
A mourner makes a display of his underworld connections at the funeral of Bruce Reynolds
EastEnders actor Jamie Foreman – the son of former gangster Freddie Foreman, left, and another of the surviving Great Train robbers Bobby Welch, right
NICK REYNOLDS: GANGSTER’S SON WHOSE BAND FOUND FAME WITH THE SOPRANOS THEME TUNE
Nick Reynolds’ band, Alabama 3, was founded at an Acid House party in Brixton, London, in 1995, when members agreed that a fusion of country music with acid house was a possibility.
They were signed to Geffen Records for a million dollars which, in their words, was spent: ‘ on ‘various contraband items and with the rest we made an over-produced, brilliant situationist masterpiece called ‘Exile on Coldharbour Lane’
They achieved international fame when the producers of The Sopranos, a hit TV series about a Mafia family living in the U.S., chose their track ‘Woke Up This Morning‘ for the show’s opening credits.
That tune, written by band member Rob Spragg,’bought someone a swimming pool, but it sure wasn’t any of us…’, they claim.
Their music has also appeared in a number of films including Gone in 60 Seconds and A Life Less Ordinary.
That ‘good man’ was part of the gang that needlessly attacked train driver Jack Mills and left him bleeding in his cab.
Although Mills died seven years later from cancer, his family maintains the trauma never left him, insisting the blow contributed to his early death.
The robbery netted more than £2.6million in used bank notes, around £40million in today’s money and the biggest of its kind.
Despite the unnecessary brutality, it captured public imagination for decades, spawned a succession of films and books, and earned leading gang members dubious celebrity.
Hence, other names from the past joined Biggs yesterday for the private church service in St Bartholomew The Great in the City of London.
Among them were former Kray brothers’ henchmen Freddie Foreman, known as ‘Brown Bread Fred’ for the assistance he gave in disposing of one of the twins’ high profile victims; fellow member of ‘The Firm’, Chris Lambrianou; and self-proclaimed gangster Dave Courtney.
Yesterday Courtney said of Reynolds: ‘He was a real class act.
‘He used to wear the cravat and everything. He was a monarch for naughty people. The Great Train Robbery – that was the big one for him. He always used to call it his Moby Dick.’
Reynolds, an antique dealer nicknamed ‘Napoleon’, boasted that he wanted to pull off a crime that would go down in history and make him rich.
He succeeded in one of those ambitions – but was broke by the time he was arrested five years later in Torquay after returning to Britain from a succession of hideouts in Mexico and Canada.
He was convicted and sentenced to 25 years in jail. In the 1980s he was jailed again, for drug dealing.
He died in his sleep on February 28, aged 81, a few months before the 50th anniversary of the robbery.
It might have been hailed as one of the most audacious of the 20th century, but Reynolds, the service was told, was not looking forward to celebrating it. In his 1995 memoirs, he labelled it ‘a curse’ that followed him for the rest of his life.
Yesterday his son Nick described his father as ‘a romantic, a true adventurer… a journeyman who chose a lunatic path and paid the price.’
He added: ‘He was an artist at heart and although he referred to the train robbery as his Sistine Chapel, his greatest triumph was in reassessing himself and changing his attitude about what is important in life.’
Having left the church to the strains of Let’s Face the Music and Dance, guests were invited afterwards to remember Reynolds at an East End pub.
Biggs was joined by a number of associates of Reynolds. A note (left) placed by a mourner at the funeral of Bruce Reynolds
Nick Reynolds’ leads his family into the service where tributes and readings were made
An ailing Ronnie Biggs (left) shakes Nick Reynolds’ hand after an emotional service, while self-styled gangster Dave Courtney turns up with a toy train
Nick Reynolds performs with his band Alabama 3 during his father’s funeral
A statement read out on behalf of Ronnie Biggs described Bruce Reynolds as a ‘true friend’
Flowers left by well-known associate of the Kray brothers Freddie Foreman
A tribute from Reynolds’ deputy Gordon Goody was also read out at the service
Emotional: Tributes were read out by Bruce Reynolds’ son Nick and his friend and fellow robber Gordon Goody
The coffin leaves St Bartholomew the Great church followed by mourners in the City of London
Nick Reynolds paid tribute to his father describing him as his best friend and greatest inspiration
Ronnie Biggs, centre, said he was ‘proud’ to count Bruce Reynolds as a friend
Arrest: Reynolds being taken away by police in November 1968 after spending five years on the run
Family: Reynolds, left, with his wife Frances as well as fellow robber John Daly and his wife Barbara
Gang: Reynolds, centre, with his accomplices Buster Edwards, Tom Wisbey, Jim White, Roger Cordrey, Charles Wilson and Jim Hussey in 1979
Heist: The train which was targeted by the robbers pictured soon after the crime
Scene: The bridge where the bandits held up the train and attacked its workers
Carnage: Inside a carriage of the mail train in the aftermath of the robbery in 1963
Cash: Detectives search through sacks of banknotes which were stolen in what was then a record robbery
Investigation: A policeman picks up the train driver’s hat from the railway tracks near the ambush site
Father and son: Reynolds with his son Nick, an artist who is a member of the band Alabama 3
THE FUNERAL OF BRUCE REYNOLDS: A CONGREGATION OF MURDERERS AND ASSORTED VILLAINS
THE MEAT CLEAVER MAN
Dave Cortney (left) and Chris Lambriano attend the funeral of Bruce Reynolds, the mastermind behind the Great Train Robbery of 1963 at St Bartholomew The Great Church in Smithfield, London
Dave Courtney, 54, (pictured left – speaking to Chris Lambrianou, right) claims to have been shot, stabbed and had his nose bitten off. He also says he’s had to kill to stay alive.
The underworld hardman, who was jailed in the Eighties for attacking five men with a meat cleaver, is said to have been a debt collector for the Kray twins.
In this role, he cultivated a reputation for using the knuckleduster. He claims he was the model for Vinnie Jones’s character in the 1998 film Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. However, it’s been suggested that he’s embellished his past so his books sell better.
THE KILLER TURNED CHRISTIAN
Chris Lambrianou, 75, was involved in the attempt by the Krays to muscle in on Birmingham in the 1960s – but failed to wrest control of the city’s bars. He was handed 15 years in prison for his part in the 1967 murder of Jack ‘the Hat’ McVitie.
Lambrianou later turned to religion and after his release he moved to Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, to live a quiet life.
BROWN BREAD FRED
Freddie Foreman – aka ‘Brown Bread Fred’ – was a key associate of the Krays. Now 80, he was linked to the 1960s killings of ‘Mad Axeman’ Frank Mitchell and Tommy ‘Ginger’ Marks.
Foreman (right) has admitted he was asked by the Krays to kill Mitchell. He shot him in the back of a van and had his body dumped at sea.
Marks was killed for arranging the shooting of Foreman’s brother George. Foreman was jailed for ten years in 1975 as an accessory to the killing of McVitie and served six years from 1989 for his role in the 1983 £7million Security Express robbery.
Notorious: Ronnie Biggs, pictured left at the time of the robbery and right in 2011, is the best-known of the gang after escaping from prison and spending decades on the run
Injuries: Jack Mills, driver of the train which the gang targeted, after being beaten by the robbers
Police: Jack Slipper, left, and Gerald McArthur, right, were two officers intimately involved with the investigation
Audacious thieves who shocked the nation: Where the Great Train Robbers ended up
By James Rush
Ronnie Biggs (left): The most famous of the train robbers, even though he played a minor role as a contact for the replacement train driver. He is best known for his escape from prison in 1965 and living as a fugitive for 36 years. He voluntarily returned to the UK in 2001 and spent several years in prison. During this time his health rapidly declined and on August 6, 2009, he was released from prison on compassionate grounds.
Charles Frederick (Charlie) Wilson (right): The treasurer whose role was to give the robbers their cut of the haul. He earned the nickname ‘the silent man’ after he was captured because he refused to say anything during his trial. Jailed for 30 years but escaped after four months. Was captured in Canada four years later and served another ten years in jail. Moved to Spain in 1978 where he was shot and killed by a hitman on a bicycle in 1990.
Ronald ‘Buster’ Edwards (left): Fled to Mexico after the robbery but gave himself up in 1966. After nine years in jail he became a familiar figure selling flowers outside London Waterloo. Killed himself in 1994 at the age of 62. He was played by singer Phil Collins in the 1988 film Buster.
Roy James (right): The chief getaway driver left a fingerprint at the gang’s farm hideout and was caught following a rooftop chase. He moved to Spain after serving 12 years of a 30 year sentence. He was jailed again for six years in 1993 for shooting his wife’s father and hitting her with a pistol, and died soon after being released, at the age of 62.
Tommy Wisbey (left): One of the ‘heavies’ of the gang, Wisbey was there to frighten the train staff. Was jailed for 30 years and released in 1976 before being jailed for another ten years in 1989 for dealing cocaine. After being released he lived in north London, where he suffered a number of strokes.
Jimmy Hussey (right): ‘Big Jim’ died last year after apparently making a deathbed confession claiming he was the gang member who coshed the train driver. He was sentenced to 30 years for the robbery. After he was released in 1975 he eventually opened a restaurant in Soho after working on a market stall. He was convicted for assault in 1981. He was then jailed for seven years, eight years later, for a drug smuggling conspiracy, along with Wisbey.
Roger Cordrey (left): Was jailed for 20 years after being arrested in Bournemouth. He was caught after renting a lock-up from a policeman’s widow. His sentence was reduced to 14 years on appeal. The florist returned to the flower business after he was released in 1971 and moved to the West Country.
Jimmy White (right): The ‘quartermaster’ for the robbery. The former Paratrooper was caught in Kent after being on the run for three years and was sentenced to 18 years, He moved to Sussex after being released in 1975.
Douglas Gordon Goody (left): Was released in 1975 after being sentenced to 30 years in jail. After being released the hairdresser moved to Spain to run a bar.
John Daly (right): Reynold’s brother-in-law was arrested after his fingerprints were discovered on a Monopoly set linked to the case, but was acquitted when he successfully argued this did not prove he was involved.
Bobby Welch: Was also jailed for 30 years and released in 1976. The nightclub boss was left crippled after an operation on his leg went wrong. After being released from jail he became a gambler and a car dealer in London.
Brian Field: The solicitor was used to make the arrangement to buy the farm hideout used after the robbery. Jailed for 25 years, which was later reduced to five. He later died in a motorway crash in 1979.
Bill Jennings: The criminal who was hired to decouple the carriage with the cash in it was never caught and brought to justice.
Four other people were believed to be involved in the heist, but have never been identified. They include ‘The Ulsterman’, a key figure whose real name is a complete mystery.
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. The bulk of the stolen money was not recovered. It was probably the largest robbery by value in British history.
The train robbers gang consisted of 17 full members who were to receive an equal share, including 15 people who were at the actual robbery and two key informants.The Train Robbers, Their Informants and Associates
The gang of 15 men from London was led by Bruce Reynolds, who was ably assisted by Gordon Goody, Charlie Wilson and Ronald “Buster” Edwards, with Roger Cordrey their key electronics expert who was an accomplished train robber already. The two key informants who brought the idea to robbers’ attention were Solicitor’s Clerk Brian Field and the unknown “Ulsterman” who was never identified or caught. The most famous member of the gang, Ronnie Biggs, had only a minor role, which was to bring the replacement train driver (who, it turned out, failed at his task).
The unofficial leader of the gang and the undoubted brains behind the strategy to rob the train, Bruce Richard Reynolds was born on 7 September 1931 at Charing Cross Hospital, the Strand, London, to Thomas Richard and Dorothy Margaret (née Keen). His mother died in 1935, and he had trouble living with his dad and stepmother, so he often stayed with either of his grandmothers. He was jailed for three years for several counts of breaking and entering, and upon his release quickly started re-offending. He quickly joined a gang with future best friend Harry Booth and future brother-in-law John Daly. Later on he did some work with Jimmy White and met Buster Edwards at Charlie Richardson’s club. Richardson in turn introduced him to Gordon Goody.
Douglas Gordon Goody is often described as the gang’s deputy leader, and he was definitely a key organiser. He was born in Putney in March 1930, and was of Irish descent, and in the early sixties he joined Buster Edward’s gang and helped rob various easy targets.
The most dangerous of the Great Train Robbers, ‘the Silent Man’ Charlie Wilson, was also the most popular. A biography has been written of Wilson: Killing Charlie (2004) by Wensley Clarkson, first published by Mainstream Publishing Co (Edinburgh) Ltd (ISBN 9781845960353).
With a heavy build and handsome appearance with piercing blue eyes, Charlie was an intimidating presence at an early age. He was born on 30 June 1932 to Bill and Mabel Wilson in Battersea. He was childhood friends with Jimmy Hussey and Tommy Wisbey and also with Bruce Reynolds and Gordon Goody. Later on he met Ronald ‘Buster’ Edwards and youthful driving enthusiasts and car thieves Mickey Ball and Roy James. From 1948 to 1950 he was called up for National Service, and in 1955 he married Patricia (Pat) Osbourne, with whom he had three children. From an early age he turned to crime and spurned his father’s legitimate but low-income wage. While he did have legitimate work in his in-laws’ grocer’s shop, he also was a thief and his criminal proceeds went into buying shares in various gambling enterprises. He went to jail for short spells for numerous offences, and on one occasion befriended Jimmy Rose who became a lifelong friend. In 1960 he began to team up with Bruce Reynolds and plan to make the criminal big league.
Ronald Christopher Edwards was born in 27 January 1932 at Lambeth, the son of a barman. After leaving school he worked in a sausage factory, where he began his criminal career by stealing meat to sell on the post-war black market. During his National Service in the RAF he was detained for stealing cigarettes. When he returned to south London, he ran a drinking club and became a professional criminal.
He married June Rose in 1952. They had a daughter, Nicky.
Brian Arthur Field was a solicitor’s managing clerk for John Wheater & Co. Although he was only 28 at the time of the robbery, he was already much more successful than his boss, John Wheater. Field drove a new Jaguar and had a house, “Kabri” (an amalgam of Karin and Brian Field), with his wife in Pangbourne, West Berkshire, while his boss owned a battered Ford and lived in a run down neighbourhood. Part of the reason for Field’s success was not that he was not averse to giving Goody and Edwards information about what his clients had in their country houses, making them prime targets for the thieves. On one occasion he described the contents and layout of a house near Weybridge where wife Karin had once been a nanny.
Prior to the robbery Field had represented Buster Edwards and Gordon Goody. He had arranged Buster’s defence when he had been caught with a stolen car, and had met Goody at a nightclub in Soho. Field was called upon to assist in Goody’s defence in the aftermath of the “Airport Job”, which was a robbery carried out on 27 November 1962 at a branch of Barclays Bank at London Airport. This was the big practice robbery that the South West Gang had done before the Great Train Robbery. Field was successful in arranging bail for Goody and Charlie Wilson.
Field was born on 15 December 1934 and was immediately put up for adoption. He served two years in the Royal Army Service Corps, seeing service in Korea. When discharged from the military it was with ‘a very good character’. The Korean War lasted from 25 June 1950 until an Armistice was signed on 27 July 1953, with 63,000 British troops involved (part of over a million troops on the South Korean side). Field was 18 when the war was over. While the Service Corps were considered combat personnel, they were primarily associated with transport and logistics.
Key Informant and Organised the mock purchase of Leatherslade Farm, the gang’s hideout
Solicitor’s Clark and organised the defense of Gordon Goody and Buster Edwards in previous court cases.
Key Informant and Organiser
Contact with Gordon Goody and Buster Edwards arranged through another man who contacted Brian Field.
Getaway Driver and Carriage Uncoupler
Train Stopper and Getaway Driver
Brother in Law of Reynolds and associate of South West Gang.
Bill “Flossy” Jennings
Associate of South West Gang
James Edward (Jimmy) White
Quartermaster and Carriage Uncoupler
Generally solitary thief who knew Reynolds
Associate of Jimmy White.
Roger John Cordrey
Electronics Expert and Train Stopper
South Coast Raiders
Organising and Muscle
South Coast Raiders
Thomas (Tommy) Wisbey
South Coast Raiders
James (Big Jim) Hussey
South Coast Raiders
South Coast Raiders
Contact for Replacement Train Driver
Associate of Reynolds
The Great Train Robbery
The robbery was planned by several parties with no overall mastermind, although the robbery operation itself was planned and executed by Bruce Reynolds, the target and the information came from an unknown individual dubbed the “Ulsterman”. The key field organisers were Gordon Goody, Buster Edwards, and Charlie Wilson, with Brian Field being the key link between the robbers and the informant.Planning the robbery
According to one account by Piers Paul Read (1978), in January 1963, shortly after the furore of the Airport Job had died down, Brian Field called Gordon Goody to a meeting at the Old Bailey and asked him whether he was interested in a large sum of money that only a large gang could steal. The following day, Goody and Edwards met with Field at his office at James and Wheater (New Qubec Street near Marble Arch). There they met with Field and another man called “Mark” who was well dressed, aged around 50, with hair turned silvery grey and who spoke with a smooth accent. “Mark” then convinced them to meet the actual informant and drove Edwards and Goody to Finsbury Park where they met another man they nicknamed the “Ulsterman”, who was a slightly balding middle aged man, who spoke with a Northern Irish lilt (where Goody had grown up). The “Ulsterman” told them about the night mail trains doing runs between London and Glasgow with large amounts of money. Edwards and Goody then went and discussed the matter with Reynolds and Wilson and it was agreed that they should make a serious attempt. In the meantime they would recruit others and do practice train robberies. On 31 July, Goody and Edwards met with the “Ulsterman” for one last strategy meeting in Hyde Park. They agreed that his share of the loot would be delivered at Brian Field’s house. It is at this meeting that Gordon Goody claimed that when he was in the toilet, Goody checked the pockets of his suit jacket and saw the name and address of the owner, presumably the “Ulsterman”.
The mail was loaded on the train at Glasgow and also 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 staff. Sorted mail on the train could also be dropped-off 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.
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 on West Coast Main Line at a red signal light in Ledburn, at a place known as ‘Sears Crossing’ between Leighton Buzzard in Bedfordshire and Cheddington in Buckinghamshire. However, unknown to him, the signal equipment had been tampered with by the robbers. 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 railway trackside telephone, only to find the cables had been cut. Upon returning to the train, he was thrown down the embankment of the railway track by one of the robbers.
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 mainline diesel-electric locomotive, because he was only experienced with shunting (switching) type locomotives on the Southern Region. It was quickly decided that the original locomotive 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. Since Ronnie Biggs‘ only task was to supervise “Stan Agate’s” participation in the robbery, when it became obvious that Stan was not needed to drive the train, he and Ronnie were banished to the waiting truck to help load the mail bags.
At Bridego bridge the train was stopped and the robbers’ assault force attacked the High Value Packages (HVP) carriage. Frank Dewhurst was in charge of the three other postal workers (Leslie Penn, Joseph Ware and John O’Connor) in the HVP carriage. Thomas Kett, Assistant Inspector in charge of the train from Carlisle to London Euston was also in the carriage. Both Dewhurst and Kett were hit with various coshes when they made a vain attempt to stop the robbers’ storming the carriage. Once the robbers entered the carriage, the postal workers were quickly detained in a corner of the carriage and made to lie face down on the floor. There was no real violent resistance however and there was not a single police officer or security guard in charge of securing nearly £3M pounds. Mills and Whitby were then brought into the carriage, handcuffed together and dropped beside the sorters.
The robbers removed all but 7 of the 128 sacks from the HVP carriage, which they transferred quickly in about 25 minutes to the waiting truck by forming a human chain. The gang departed 30 minutes after the robbery had begun and in an effort to mislead any potential witnesses, 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.
At the farm they counted the proceeds of the robbery and divided it into 17 full shares and several ‘drinks’. The precise amounts differs according to the source, but the full shares were around 150,000 pounds.
It quickly became apparent that the police believed that they were still in the area rather than fled to London, so the plans changed from leaving on Sunday to leaving on Friday, and the vehicles they had at the farm could no longer be used because they had been seen by the train staff. Brian Field came on Thursday and took Roy to London to pick up his share of the loot and to take Roy James to London to find an extra vehicle. Bruce Reynolds and John Daly picked up cars, one for Jimmy White and the other for Bruce, John, Ronnie Biggs and the replacement train driver. Brian, wife Karin and his associate “Mark” brought the vans and drove the rest of the gang that remained to ‘Kabri’ to recover. This was far from ideal as he had not planned to get this involved, but his pretty wife Karin cooly accepted the change in plans.
The clean-up of the farm had been arranged with “Mark” by Brian Field to be carried out after the robbers had left (although the robbers spent much time wiping the place down to be free of prints). According to Buster Edwards, he nicked 10,000 pounds in ten shilling notes to help pay “Marks” drink. On Monday however, Charlie Wilson rang Brian Field to check whether the farm had been cleaned, and did not believe Field’s assurances. He called a meeting with Edwards, Reynolds, Daly and James and they agreed that they needed to be sure. They called Brian Field to a meeting on Tuesday where he admitted he could not be sure that the farm had been cleaned. Wilson would have killed him there and then but was restrained by the others. By the time they got ready to go back to the farm however, they heard some bad news.
£2,631,684 was stolen from the train. The bulk of the haul was in £1 notes and £5 notes (both the older white note and the newer blue note which was half its size). There were also 10 shilling notes and Irish and Scottish money.
At 5 a.m., Chief Superintendent Malcolm Fewtrell (1909–2005), head of the Buckinghamshire Police Crime Investigation Department (CID), arrived at the abandoned postal carriages, the crime scene, where he supervised evidence-gathering. 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. Upon interviewing the witnesses, it appeared that about 15 hooded men dressed in blue boiler suits were involved, but there was little extra that could be gleaned.
By lunchtime of the following day, it became obvious to Fewtrell that extra resources were needed to cope with the scale of the investigation and the Buckinghamshire Chief Constable referred the case to Scotland Yard. George Hatherill, Commander of the C Department and Earnest (Ernie) Millen, Detective Chief Superintendent, and Head of the Flying Squad were initially in charge of the London side of the investigation. They sent Detective Superintendent Gerald McArthur and Detective Sergeant John Pritchard to assist the Buckinghamshire Police.
The police then undertook a major search, fanning out from the crime scene after having failed to find any forensic evidence there. A watch was put on the seaports. The Postmaster GeneralReginald Bevins offered a £10,000 reward to “the first person giving information leading to the apprehension and conviction of the persons responsible for the robbery”.
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 a monopoly set.
It was determined that while the farm had been cleaned for fingerprints, there were some finger and palm prints found (presumably of the robbers), including those on a ketchup bottle and a Monopoly board game (which was used after the robbery but with real money).
The London side of the investigation then continued under Detective Chief Superintendent Tommy Butler who replaced Ernest (Ernie) Millen as the head of the flying squad shortly after Millen became promoted to Deputy Commander to George Hatherill. On Monday, 12 August 1963 Butler was appointed to head the Police investigation of the London connection and quickly formed a six man Train Robbery Squad.
With Leatherslade Farm finally found on 13 August 1963, the day after Tommy Butler was appointed to the head the London investigation, the police were confident of a breakthrough. Unfortunately the decision to publish photos of the wanted suspects was already made by Hatherill and Millen, despite strong protests from Tommy Butler and Frank Williams. This resulted in most of the robbers going to ground.
Tommy Butler was a shrewd choice to take over the Flying Squad and in particular the Train Robbery Squad, and became arguably the most renowned head of the flying squad in its history. He was known variously as “Mr Flying Squad”, as “One Day Tommy” for the speed with which he apprehended criminals and as the “Grey Fox” for his shrewdness. He was Scotland Yard’s most formidable thief taker, and as an unmarried man who still lived with his mother, he had a fanatical dedication to the job. Butler worked long hours and expected all members of the squad to do the same. The squad later had to work out rotations whereby one member would go home to rest as otherwise they were getting only 3 hours of sleep per night and no time to eat healthily or see their families. When the squad tried to get him to ease off on the working conditions, Butler was enraged and threatened to send them back to their normal roles. Butler was very secretive, with Jack Slipper claiming in his book ‘Slipper of the Yard’ (1981) that “he wouldn’t even tell his own left hand what the right one was doing”. This meant that often the Train Robbery Squad were dispatched on specific errands with no knowledge of how they fitted in with the overall investigation.
The six man Train Robbery Squad was: Detective Inspector Frank Williams, Detective Sergeant Steve Moore, Detective Sergeant Jack Slipper, Detective Sergeant Jim Nevill, Detective Sergeant Lou Van Dyck and Detective Constable Tommy Thorburn. Frank Williams, a quiet man, was the senior officer and his specialty was dealing with informants, and had the best working knowledge of the South London criminal fraternity in the force. One of the squad, Jack Slipper would later became Head of the Flying Squad, and would still be involved in the case many years into the future.
The first gang member to be caught was Roger Cordrey, who was with his friend, William Boal, who was helping him lie low, in return for the payment of old debts. They were living in a rented fully furnished flat above a florist’s shop in Wimborne Road, Moordown, Bournemouth. The Bournemouth police were tipped off by police widow Ethel Clark, when Boal and Cordrey 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.
Other arrests soon followed and eight of the gang members and several associates were caught.
On 16 August 1963, two people who had decided to take a morning stroll in Dorking woods discoved a brief case, a hold all and a camel skin bag, all containing money. They called police, who also discovered another brief case full of money in the woods. All up there was 100,900 pounds. They also found a camel skin bag with a receipt made out in favour of Herr and Frau Field by the Cafe Pension Restaurant, Sonnenbichel, Hindeland, Prov. Allagaen. The Surrey police delivered the money and the receipt to Fewtrell and McArthur in Aylesbury, who knew by then that Brian Field was a clerk at James and Wheater who had acted in the purchase of Leatherslade Farm. They quickly confirmed through Interpol that Brian and Karin Field had stayed at the Pension Sonnebichel in February that year. In addition they knew that Field had acted for Gordon Goody and other criminals.
Several weeks later, the police went to “Kabri” to interview Field who calmly (for someone whose relatives had dumped a large part at least of the loot) provided a cover story that implicated Lennie Field as the purchaser of the farm and his boss John Wheater as the conveyancer. He admitted to visiting the farm once with Lennie Field, but assumed it was an investment of his brother (Alexander Field) who Brian Field had unsuccessfully defended in a recent court case. Field, not knowing of the receipt, readily confirmed that he and his wife had been to Germany on a holiday and gave them the details of the place they stayed. On 15 September 1963 Brian Field was arrested, with his boss John Wheater arrested on 17 September. Lennie Field had already been arrested on 14 September.
Charlie Wilson (22 August 1963)
Ronnie Biggs (4 September 1963)
Jimmy Hussey (7 September 1963)
Tommy Wisbey (11 September 1963)
Brian Field (15 September 1963)
Gordon Goody (10 October 1963)
Bob Welch (25 October 1963)
John Daly (3 December 1963)
Roy James (10 December 1963)
Jack Slipper (who later became Head of the Flying Squad), was involved in the capture of Roy James, Ronald Biggs, Jimmy Hussey, and John Daly which he describes in detail in his autobiography.
1964 Aylesbury Trial of the Great Train Robbers
The trial of the robbers began at AylesburyAssizes, 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 which lasted 51 days and included 613 exhibits and 240 witnesses. The jury retired to the Grange Youth Centre in Aylesbury to consider their verdict.
On 11 February 1964, there was a sensation, when John Daly was found to have no case to answer when his councel, Mr. W. Raeburn QC claimed that the evidence against his client was limited to his fingerprints being on the monopoly set found at Leatherslade Farm and that he went underground after the robbery. He went on to say that Daly had played the Monopoly game with his brother in law Bruce Reynolds earlier in 1963, and that he had gone underground because he was associated with people publicly sought by the police. This was not proof of involvement in a conspiracy. The judge agreed, and the jury were directed to acquit him. Frank Williams was shocked when this occurred, because due to Tommy Butler’s refusal to share information, he had no knowledge of the fact that his prints were only on the monopoly set. If he had of known this, he could have asked Daly questions about the monopoly set and robbed him of his very effective alibi. Daly was also clever however, in avoiding having a photo taken when he was arrested until he could shave his beard. This meant that there was no photo to show the lengths he had gone to, in order to change his appearance. No action was taken against Butler however, for his mistake in not ensuring the case against Daly was more thorough.
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 seven of the robbers.
The eleven men sentenced all felt aggrieved at the lengthy jail time, particularly Bill Boal and Lennie Field who were innocent of the charges against them. The other men (aside from Wheater) were aggrieved at the excessive nature of the sentences, which were worse than what many murderers were given. At that stage there was no parole system in place and so sentences tended to be shorter, but the prisoners served 100% of the sentence.
N/A – No Case To Answer
Ronald Arthur BIGGS
30 years (25 years for Conspiracy to rob and 30 years for Armed Robbery)
Douglas Gordon GOODY
30 years (25 years for Conspiracy to rob and 30 years for Armed Robbery)
Charles Frederick WILSON
30 years (25 years for Conspiracy to rob and 30 years for Armed Robbery)
Thomas William WISBEY
30 years (25 years for Conspiracy to rob and 30 years for Armed Robbery)
30 years (25 years for Conspiracy to rob and 30 years for Armed Robbery)
30 years (25 years for Conspiracy to rob and 30 years for Armed Robbery)
Roy John JAMES
Racing Motorist and Silversmith
30 years (25 years for Conspiracy to rob and 30 years for Armed Robbery)
Roger John CORDREY
20 years (20 years for Conspiracy to rob and various receiving stolen goods charges)
Brian Arthur FIELD
25 years (20 years for Conspiracy to rob and 5 years for obstructing justice)
Leonard Denis FIELD
25 years (20 years for Conspiracy to rob and 5 years for obstructing justice)
On 13 July 1964, the appeals by Lennie Field and Brian Field (no relation) against the charges of Conspiracy to Rob were allowed. This meant that their sentences were effectively reduced to 5 years only. On the 14th July 1964, the appeals by Roger Cordrey and Bill Boal were allowed, with the convictions for Conspiracy to Rob quashed, leaving only the receiving charges. Justice Fenton Atkinson concluded that a miscarriage of justice would result if Boal’s charges were upheld, given that his age, physique and temperament made him an unlikely train robber. Luckily as the oldest robber, Cordrey was also deemed to be innocent of the conspiracy as his prints had not been found at Leatherslade. Brian Field on the other hand was only reluctantly acquitted of the robbery with Justice Atkinson stating that he was not surprised if he was not only part of the conspiracy, but also one of the robbers. The charges against the other men were all upheld. In the end Lennie Field and Bill Boal got some measure of justice, but it was not enough – Boal died in prison in 1970 after a long illness.
Immediately after the trial, two of the Great Train Robbers, Charlie Wilson and Ronnie Biggs escaped from captivity.
On 12 August 1964, Charlie Wilson escaped from Winson Green Prison in Birmingham in under 3 minutes, with the escape being unprecedented in that a 3 man team broke into the prison to extricate him. His escape team were never caught, and the leader nicknamed “Frenchy” disappeared from the London criminal scene by the late 60s. Two weeks after his escape Wilson was in Paris for plastic surgery and to grow out his prison haircut. By November 1965, Wilson was in Mexico City visiting old friends Bruce Reynolds and Buster Edwards. Wilson’s escape was yet another dramatic twist in the train robbery saga.
Eleven months after Wilson’s escape, in July 1965, Ronnie Biggs escaped from Wandsworth Prison, only 15 months into his sentence, with a furniture van parking alongside the prison walls and a ladder dropped over the 30 foot wall into the prison during outside exercise time, to allow four prisoners to escape, including Biggs. The escape was planned by recently released prisoner Paul Seaborne, with the assistance of two other ex-convicts Ronnie Leslie and Ronnie Black and support from Charmian Biggs. The plot saw two other prisoners interfere with the warders, and allow Biggs and friend Eric Flower to escape. Seaborne was later caught by Butler and sentenced to 4 and 1/2 years and Ronnie Leslie 3 years for being the getaway driver. The two other prisoners who took advantage of the Biggs escape were captured after 3 months. Biggs and Flower paid significant money to get smuggled to Paris for plastic surgery. Biggs said he had to escape because of the length of the sentence and the severity of the prison conditions.
The escape of Wilson and Biggs meant that five of the robbers were now on the run, with Tommy Butler in hot pursuit.
With the other four robbers on the run fled out of the country, only Jimmy White was left in the United Kingdom.
Jimmy White was a renowned locksmith/thief and had already been on the run for ten years before the robbery, and had “a remarkable ability to be invisible, to merge with his surroundings and become the ultimate Mr Nobody.” He was a wartime paratrooper and a veteran of Arnhem. According to Piers Paul Read in his 1978 book “The Train Robbers”, Jimmy White was a solitary thief, not known to work with either firm, he should have had a good chance of remaining undetected altogether, yet was known to be one of the Train Robbers almost at once – first by other criminals and then by the police. He was unfortunate in that Brian Field’s relatives dumped luggage containing 100,000 pounds only a mile from a site where White had bought a caravan and hidden 30,000 pounds in the paneling. In addition, a group of men claiming to be the Flying Squad, broke into his flat and took a brief case with 8,500 pounds in it. Throughout his 3 years on the run with wife Sheree, and baby son Stephen he was taken advantage of or let down by his friends and associates. On 10 April 1966 a new friend recognised him from photos in a newspaper and informed police. They arrested him at Littlestone while he was at home. He only had 8,000 pounds to hand back to them, with the rest long gone. He was tried in June 1966 at Leicester Assizes and Justice Nield only sentenced him to 18 years jail (far less than the original terms of 30 years).
Charlie Wilson 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.
The last of the robbers to be caught was the mastermind, Bruce Reynolds.
Bruce Reynolds was released from jail on 6 June 1978 after serving 10 years. Reynolds, then aged 47, was helped by Gordon Goody to get back on his feet, before Goody departed for Spain. By October 1978, day release ended and he had to report to a parole officer. Frank Monroe, one of the three robbers who was never caught, temporarily gave Reynolds a job, but did not want to attract undue attention by keeping him on for long. Reynolds later got back together with his wife, Angela and son Nicholas. He was arrested in 1983 for drug related offenses (Reynold denies having any involvement) and was released again in March 1985, and dedicated himself to helping his wife recover from a mental breakdown. In 2001, with son Nicholas travelled with The Sun to take Ronnie Biggs back to Britain. In 2010 he wrote the afterward for Signal Red, a novel based on the Great Train Robbery and he regularly comments on the robbery.
He was released from prison on 23 December 1975, aged 46 years old and went to live with his ill mother in her small cottage in Putney. Unlike the other robbers, Goody was exceptionally lucky in that the man he left in charge of his affairs was exceptionally loyal and successful so he was able to live a relatively well-off life. He later moved to Majorca, Spain, where Goody bought property and a bar and settled down, believing it safer to be out of the United Kingdom.
Edwards was released from prison in 1975 and became a flower seller outside Waterloo Station. He committed suicide in November 1994, perhaps fearing arrest for alleged involvement in a crime. His family continued to run the flower stall after his death. The story of Ronald “Buster” Edwards was dramatised in the 1988 film, Buster, which starred Phil Collins in the title role.
After being sentenced on 16 April 1964, Field served 4 years of his 5 year sentence until being released in 1967.
While Brian Field was in prison, his wife Karin divorced him and married a German journalist. Karin wrote an article for the German magazine Stern. She confirmed that she took Roy James to Thames Train Station so he could go to London and that she led a convoy of two vans back to Kabri, where the gang were joined by wives and girlfriends to have a big party.
When Bruce Reynolds returned to Great Britain in 1968, he tried to get in contact with Field who was the only way he could get in touch with the Ulsterman. It seems that Field was ambushed upon his release from prison by a recently released convict “Scotch Jack Buggy” who presumably roughed up or even tortured Field with an eye on getting some of the loot from the robbery. Subsequently Field went to ground and “Buggy” was killed shortly after. Reynolds gave up trying to find him.
Field changed his name to Brian Carlton, in order to disappear. He died aged 44 years, in a car crash on a motorway in May 1979, a year after the last of the robbers had completed their sentence.
Roy James (born August 1935), following his release on 15 August 1975 went back to motor racing, however he soon crashed his cars and his chances of becoming a driver quickly faded. After the failure of his Formula One career, he went back to being a silversmith. He produced trophies for the Formula One World Championship due to his acquaintance with Bernie Ecclestone. In 1982, he married a younger woman, but the marriage soon broke down. By 1983, James with Charlie Wilson had become involved in an attempt to import gold without paying the excise. Roy was acquitted in January 1984 of his part in the scam. In 1993, he shot and wounded his father in-law and pistol whipped and partially strangled his ex-wife, after they had returned their kids for a day’s outing. He was sentenced to 6 years in jail.
In 1996, James underwent triple bypass surgery, and was subsequently released from prison in 1997, only to die almost immediately afterwards on 21 August after another heart attack. When James died he was the fifth of the Train Robbers to do so, despite being the youngest.
The South Coast Raiders did not fare too well in general. Bob Welch (born March 1929) was released on 14 June 1976 (the last of those convicted in Aylesbury to be released). Bob moved back in with his wife June and his son. He had to threaten the man left in charge of his money to retrieve the remainder of his share of the robbery loot. A leg injury sustained in prison saw him undergo several operations until he was left semi-crippled as a result.Frank Monroe, who was never caught, worked as a film stunt man for a while before starting a paper and scrap metal recycling business. Jim Hussey was released on 17 November 1975 and married girlfriend Gill (who had met just before the robbery). His share of the loot had been entrusted with a friend of Frank Monroe and had been squandered despite Monroe periodically checking on its keeper. Roger Cordrey (born May 1922) was the first of the robbers released, but his share of the money had almost entirely been taken by the police. He went back to being a florist at his sister’s business upon his release.
Tommy Wisbey (born April 1930) was luckier than most of the others, in that his share had been entrusted to his brothers, and when he emerged, he had a house in South London and a few other investments to keep him going. Unfortunately during his prison stint, his daughter Lorraine had died in a car accident and his stint in prison was the most traumatic of the robbers. He took a while to learn how to live harmoniously with his wife Rene (his daughter Marilyn moved out upon his return). Shortly after his release Wisbey was imprisoned on remand over a travellers’ cheques scam, where the judge acknowledged the minor nature of the role.
Thomas Wisbey and James Hussey fell back into crime and were jailed in 1989 for cocaine dealing, with Wisbey sentenced to ten years and Hussey for 7 years. In her book Gangster’s Moll, Marilyn Wisbey recounts that on 8 June 1988, after returning home from a visit to the abortion clinic and lying down for a nap they got raided by the Drugs Squad. Her parents were staying with her and her son Jonathan while their tenants moved out of their house (they had been away on a long trip to the USA). The raid uncovered 1 kg of cocaine, and Rene and Marilyn Wisbey were arrested along with Jimmy Hussey who had been spotted accepting a package from Tommy Wisbey in a park. Wisbey himself was captured a year later in Wilmslow, Cheshire (allegedly staying with another woman to the shock of his wife and daughter). In return for Hussey and Wisbey pleading guilty the two woman were unconditionally freed. Upon their release from prison, both retired from work.
Tommy Wisbey later explained: We were against drugs all our lives, but as the years went on, towards the end of the ’70s, it became more and more the ‘in’ thing. Being involved in the Great Train Robbery, our name was good. They knew we had never grassed anyone, we had done our time without putting anyone else in the frame. On 26 July 1989, the two men pleaded guilty and admitted at Snaresbrook Crown Court, London that they were a part of a £500,000 cocaine trafficking ring. Wisbey’s grandson has also had trouble with the law in Cyprus.
In later years, the Robbers generally came together only for the funerals of their colleagues. At Wilson’s funeral on 10 May 1990, Reynolds saw Roy James (who got into a verbal stoush with the press), Buster Edwards, Bob Welch (hobbling on crutches) and Jimmy White (who went unnoticed by most due to his ability to blend into the background). At Edward’s funeral in 1994, Reynolds only saw Bob Welch there, with Hussey, Wisbey and James all in prison.
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 that, contrary to some press reports, Biggs had not returned to the UK simply to receive free 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“. 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.” Biggs himself has stated that the thirty-year term was “out of order” for the crime committed, and that is why he planned an escape.
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. Ronnie Biggs’ son has said publicly that his father expressed remorse for the robbery, but not for his life on the run.
The legacy of the Great Train Robbery of 1963 is in many ways a sad one. Very little of the money was ever recovered and the driver Jack Mills suffered greatly as a result of the robbery. While his death in 1970 was nothing to do with the head injury he sustained, he got very little compensation for putting up a fight and was often accused of exaggerating the severity of the injury.
Very few of the robbers got to enjoy their share of the money with most of it either lost, stolen, spent on lawyers, or on escaping justice. Once most of the gang were sentenced in 1963, their associates stopped paying their expenses with the stolen loot. Many of the robbers re-offended when they were released, and Reynolds, Wilson, James, Hussey and Wisbey were all jailed later on in life.
The robbery and the aftermath were yet another scandal for an already scandal-plagued Macmillan government.
Mills had constant trauma headaches the rest of his life. He died in 1970 from leukaemia. Mills’ assailant was one of three members of the gang who was never identified. Frank Williams (at the time a Detective Inspector) claims that at least three men who were directly involved are still at liberty and enjoying to the full their share of the money stolen and the profits from the way they invested it. One of them is the man responsible for the attack on the train driver. The train driver’s assailant is not some phantom figure lurking in the criminal underworld. Williams traced him, identified him and took him to Scotland Yard where, with Tommy Butler, Williams questioned him. They were certain of their facts but he could not be charged because of lack of evidence suitable for presentation in a court; he had left no fingerprints or identifiable marks anywhere. None of those arrested informed on him although he had completely disobeyed instructions and used violence during the robbery.
After his success in securing White and Edwards, Tommy Butler got Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Joseph Simpson to suspend his retirement on his 55th birthday so he could continue to hunt the robbers which paid off with the arrests of first Wilson, then Reynolds. When asked by a reporter after the sentencing of Reynolds whether that was the end of it, Butler replied that it was not over until Biggs was caught. In 1969 he was finally forced to accept compulsory retirement, and later died in 1970, aged 57 years (ironically on the same days, Biggs’ memoirs were published in the Sun).
Frank Williams, Butler’s deputy was overlooked to be his replacement as head of the Flying Squad because of his deal with Edwards (which he thought would seal his promotion) and his deal with another of the robbers who was never caught. Following being overlooked for Butler’s position he left the force to become head of security for QANTAS. He wrote his autobiography “No Fixed Address” which was published in 1973.
Jack Slipper of the Metropolitan Police was promoted to Detective Chief Superintendent (known in the press as “Slipper of the Yard“), became so involved 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.
Detective Chief Superintendent Ernest Malcolm Fewtrell, Head of the Buckinghamshire Crime Investigation Department (CID) was born on 29 September 1909, and died on 28 November 2005, aged 96 years. He retired on the last day of the trial after the verdicts were handed down (at the then compulsory retirement age of 55). This allowed him (with Ronald Payne of The Sunday Telegraph who was involved in the paper’s coverage of the case) to be the first of the investigators to write a book ‘The Train Robbers’ on the robbery investigation in 1964. In the book he expressed some frustrations with some of the Flying Squad although he mostly had praise for individual officers. His one regret is that he had the search for the hideout done from the scene of the robbery outwards rather than an inwards search from a 35 mile perimeter. He worked as an Accommodation Officer for Portsmouth Polytechnic before retiring to live near Swanage by the sea. He continued to express disgust at any film that he felt glamourised the robbers. It has been said that he bore a striking resemblance to John Thaw who was the star of Inspector Morse, which, perhaps coincidentally was a television series about a detective in the Thames Valley Police Force (the modern day successor to Buckinghamshire Constabulary).
George Hatherill (1898–1986) had his service extended by one year because of the need to complete the investigation of the Great Train Robbery. He visited Canada and the USA as a lecturer on police matters. He died on the 17th June 1986 at the age of 87.
Gerald MacArthur died aged 70 years on 21 July 1996. He was famous for breaking up the Richardson Gang at a time when many London based detectives were known to be corrupt.
Ernest (Ernie) Millen (1911–1988) was regarded as one of the finest detectives from Scotland Yard ever by the time of his retirement.
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. The retrieved Monopoly board used by the robbers at their Leatherslade Farm hideout, as well as a genuine £5 note from the robbery, are on display at the Thames Valley Police museum in Sulhamstead, Berkshire.
The audacity and scale of the robbery was yet another controversy that the Conservative government of Harold Macmillan had to cope with. Macmillan resigned in October 1963, claiming poor health. He did not re-contest his seat at the next election in September 1964, where the Labour Party claimed victory under Harold Wilson.
Ronnie Biggs was twice made example of, largely for embarrassing the authorities. He got 30 years for being a minor player in the robbery and despite living a crime free life after his escape from prison he served another 8 years upon his return to the United Kingdom. By the time he was released he had served more jail time than any of the robbers, despite his relatively minor role.
£2,631,684 pounds was stolen from the train (although the police report claims that £2,595,997 was the actual amount stolen). The bulk of the haul was in £1 notes and £5 notes (both the older white note and the newer blue note which was half its size). There were also 10 shilling notes and Irish and Scottish money. The five pound notes were in stacks of £2,500 and the one pound notes were in stacks of £500 and the ten shilling notes in stacks of £250. With the exception of a few ‘drinks’ for associates, the loot was split into 17 equal shares of around £150,000 each (George Hatherill claims that there were 18 shares).
While within 6 months of the robbery, 10 of the robbers were locked up awaiting trial and 3 others were wanted criminals on the run, very little of the money had actually been recovered. This has caused speculation that there is a great fortune of robbery loot still out there. While it was a fortune in today’s terms (the approximate equivalent of £40M pounds or $63M), the money was quickly spent and stolen by predatory gangsters and greedy associates, relatives and lawyers. So the proceeds of the greatest cash robbery in British history were quickly used up, with few robbers actually benefitting in the long run from the stolen money to any great degree.
Less than £400,000 pounds was eventually recovered with bulk of the money being the shares of Roger Cordrey (£141,017 pounds) and (allegedly) Brian Field (£100,900 pounds). A further £36,000 was recovered from Jimmy White’s caravan. Roy James was carrying £12,041 when captured. The final major sum recovered was £47,245 that was found in a telephone box, in Great Dover St, Newington, South London.
The £47,245 recovered from a telephone box, included 57 notes whose serial numbers had been recorded by the bank in Scotland. This money was allegedly as part of a deal struck with Frank Williams by ‘Alf Thomas’. In the Train Robbers by Piers Paul Read, he claimed that the police were feeling the pressure because while they had caught many of the robbers, they had failed to recover much of the money. While no evidence had been found against Alf, who only had a reputation as a minor thief, some of the identifiable bank notes had been traced back to him through his friends who were charged with receiving. Given they had no evidence against Thomas, either at Leatherslade Farm or connections with either of the two gangs, Butler was prepared to let him go. Williams convinced Butler to pull “Alf” in for questioning and in return for releasing him and not charging his friends with more serious crimes, £50,000 was to be returned. On 3 December 1963, which happened to be the same day that Roy James was taken into custody, the police received an anonymous tip directing them to the money in the phone box. The money was driven up to Aylesbury and taken into custody by Detective Superintendent Fewtrell who wondered how his London colleagues could know how much money there was. He had to bring in bank clerks to count the damp and musty money to determine the final sum.
Williams however made no admission to the money being a result of a deal with “Alf Thomas“. Despite claiming that his negotiations were responsible for the return of this money, Williams in his book ‘No Fixed Address’ (1973) claimed not to know the identity of who had returned the money, although he made mention of several robbers that he had offered deals to through intermediaries. He did note that it seemed that Butler was sceptical of his efforts and that at the press conference Hatherill and Millen did not reveal the circumstances behind the find and that he was never asked to talk with them about it. Despite Alf Thomas being the man identified as the assailant of the Train Driver by Bruce Reynolds (albeit indirectly), Williams only makes mention of the assailant once in his book. In this section (often quoted by other sources), he confirms that with Tommy Butler he questioned the man they knew to be the assailant but that they had no evidence to convict him. Strangely however, he makes no further mention of him, which seem to lend credence to the claim that a deal done with “Alf Thomas” was done which caused outrage amongst the hierarchy later on. It is hinted in several of the books that the deals done by Williams were responsible for him being overlooked for promotion and Williams was aggrieved that his efforts were not being openly recognised by Butler who he claimed hid them from superiors.
For his part George Hatherill, in his book “A Detective’s Tale”, states that the motive behind the return of the money was not known for sure but that his theory was that the money was returned by “one about whom extensive inquiries had been made and who in fact was interrogated at length. But in spite of our strong suspicions, nothing could be proved against him and so no charge could be brought. My belief is that he thought we knew more about him than we did, and thinking things were getting hot, he decided to get rid of the money to avoid being found in possession with it”Hatherill does not mention Williams at all in his book, and retired on the last day of the Trial at Aylesbury.
The money was quickly laundered or divided by friends, family and associates of the robbers with a few notable exceptions. A great deal was laundered through bookmakers (Wilson and Wisbey were themselves bookmakers), although in fact astonishingly only a few hundred pounds were identifiable by serial number so the robbers could have spent the money without fear of being traced. There were 1,579 notes whose serial numbers were known and the rest of the fortune was completely untraceable.
The five pound notes on the train were of two different kinds, because in 1957 the British Government had begun to replace the extra large white notes with smaller blue ones, with the final changeover not yet complete at the time of the robbery. The white notes quickly became far more conspicuous to use, making it harder for them to be spent.
For the 17 principal gang members, the ten who were arrested within three or four months after the robbery, each had to spend a fortune on legal fees (approximately £30,000). This meant that one-fifth of their shares was spent on lawyers shortly before nine of them were sentenced to lengthy jail terms. Ironically several associates of the robbers were charged with receiving several hundred pounds of the money, when the lawyers defending the robbers got many times more money.
The robbers who spent much time on the run overseas – Reynolds, Wilson and Edwards had very little left when finally arrested, having spent the money to avoid capture and having to fund lavish lifestyles without having to find paying jobs while on the run. Much of Jimmy White’s money was stolen.
According to Marilyn Wisbey, her father’s share was hidden by his father Tommy Wisbey Snr in the panels in the doors of his home. Butler raided them three times but he never found the train money. The majority of the money was reputedly entrusted to Wisbey’s father and also his younger brother Ron who coincidentally had saved some money of his own that was confiscated by the police although it was returned 3 months later. By the time Wisbey was released from jail all of his share had either been spent or invested. Marilyn agrees with Piers Paul Read’s assessment of how her father’s share of approximately £150,000 pounds was spent. Although the Wisbey share was one that was not stolen again by other criminals, Marilyn Wisbey is still bitter that her relatives got to spend a fair amount of the loot while the overall sum dwindled away. Her grandfather used some of the money to buy them a house in Upper Norwood, however.
There were six of the robbers who got away in one form or another – the mysterious “Ulsterman” whose fate is unknown, three robbers who were never caught, John Daly who was lucky enough to get his charges dismissed at the trial and Ronnie Biggs who escaped jail and managed to avoid being taken back to the UK. John Daly had entrusted his money to another crook who had betrayed him to the police and had absconded with the money and died before Daly could recover his money. Upon the release of the others in the mid 70s, “Bill Jennings” got in touch with Buster and “Frank Monroe” got in touch with the South Coast Raiders both to say that they had no money left. “Alf Thomas” had disappeared and John Daly at the time was said to be living on the dole in West Country.Ronnie Biggs quickly spent his share getting a new life (the ultimate goal of some criminals) and loved his new life in Australia, although by the time his family got to Australia in 1966, all but £7,000 had been spent, with £55,000 having been paid as a package deal to get him out of the UK, and the rest having gone on legal fees and expenses.
Details of the Great Train Robbery and the Robbers
These books were written in the immediate aftermath of the 1964 trial and before the capture of several of the gang.
The Robbers’ Tale (1965) by Peta Fordham and first published by Hodder & Stoughton, London (ISBN ). It told the story of the robbery only shortly after the conclusion of the initial trial. The author was the wife of one of the lawyers involved in the case. The book mostly involves a description of the trial. The author constantly hints that she knew more than she was prepared to write, yet it was written before most of the facts emerged.
Autobiographies and Biographies of the Investigators
These are predominantly the books written by the senior police in the early 1970s after they had just retired from the force, which are largely confined to the story of the investigation, trial and capture of the robbers.
The Train Robbers (1964) by Malcolm Fewtrell (with Ronald Payne), first published in London by Arthur Barker Limited (ISBN 9B64173210).
A Detective’s Story (1971) by George Hatherill, first published in London by Andre Deutsch Limited (ISBN 0-2339-6322-7) is part autobiography and part description on what makes a detective. Chapter 14, the last chapter of the book is dedicated to the Great Train Robbery the final major investigation before Hatherill’s retirement.
Specialist in Crime (1972) by Ernest Millen , first published by George G. Harrap & Co. Ltd (ISBN 0245505075). An Autobiography. When he retired, Millen was Deputy Assistant Commissioner of Scotland Yard and Commander of the CID. A unique inside story of his career as a detective.
No Fixed Address (1973) by Frank Williams, first published by W.H. Allen & Co Ltd (ISBN 0-4910-0524-5). It tells the story of the aftermath of the robbery from Williams point of view, in particular describing the mistakes made in the early days by senior officers, and the autocratic nature of Tommy Butler. The book is targeted at Ronnie Biggs in the hope that he will contact Williams for a deal, similar to the one arranged by Buster Edwards. The book mistakenly identifies Bill Boal as a robber (although it concedes his role was a support role), and it also mistakenly identifies Biggs as one of the leaders.
Slipper of the Yard (1981) by Jack Slipper, first published by Sidgwick and Jackson Ltd (ISBN 0-2839-8702-2). This book is an autobiography of the police career of Jack Slipper, who had retired the year before as one of the most decorated and well known detectives in the Metropolitan Police Force. It includes a chapter on his participation in the Train Robbery Squad hunting for the robbers and has details on the arrests of Roy James, John Daly and Jimmy Hussey. It also has a chapter on the mission to recover Ronnie Biggs from Brazil and denounces the press version of events.
Autobiographies and Biographies of the Robbers
Slip Up (1975) by Anthony Delano and first published by Quadrangle / The New York Times Book Co. (ISBN 0-8129-0576-8).
The Train Robbers (1978) by Piers Paul Read and first published by W.H. Allen and Company (ISBN 0-397-01283-7). This book recounts a very detailed version of the story based on an exclusive account given by eight of the then-paroled robbers (Edwards, Goody, Hussey, Wisby, Welch, James, White and Cordrey with contradictory versions by Reynolds and Biggs). Despite revealing more than previous accounts, the book is flawed in that it includes outright lies that the funding source for the heist was former SS officer Otto Skorzeny. As the story unfolds in the book, however, the German connection was proved to be false.
Crossing The Line: Autobiography of a Thief (1995) by Bruce Reynolds, first published by Bantam Press (ISBN 1-8522-7929-X).
Odd Man Out (1994) by Ronald Biggs, first published by Bloomsbury Publishing Limited (ISBN 0-7475-1683-9). This book is an autobiography of the life of Ronald Biggs, particularly his life on the run after the Great Train Robbery.
Keep On Running (1996) by Ronald Biggs and Christopher Pickard, first published by Bloomsbury Publishing Limited (ISBN 0-7475-2188-3). This book is a novel that strongly draws on the events of the Great Train Robbery and identifies what may have happened to the three men who were never caught.
Gangster’s Moll – Living with a life of crime – from the Great Train Robbery to ‘Mad’ Frankie Fraser. (2001) by Marilyn Wisbey, first published by Little Brown and Company (ISBN 0-3168-5208-2). This is an autobiography of the daughter of Tommy Wisbey, and includes details on how his share was hidden and later spent, and the effect of the life of crime on the family of the criminals.
Killing Charlie (2004) by Wensley Clarkson, first published by Mainstream Publishing Co (Edinburgh) Ltd (ISBN 9781845960353). This book serves as a biography for the great train robber, Charlie Wilson.
These books are mostly literature reviews of the earlier books, combined with some research of the archival material.
The Great British Train Robbery (2003) by Tim Coates, first published by Tim Coates in 2003, (ISBN 1843810220). Contains the extracts from the report of Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary, which was submitted to the Home Office in 1964.
The Great Train Robbery (2008) by Peter Guttridge (ISBN 9781905615322). Looks at the big questions: were there three other robbers that were never identified, and what became of all the crooks and the bulk of the money?
Signal Red (2010) by Robert Ryan, first published by Headline Review (ISBN 9780755358182). A novel based on the Great Train Robbery with a postscript by Bruce Reynolds.
The Great Train Robbery – History Making Heist (2011) by Brenda Haugen, first published by Compass Point Books, a Capstone Imprint (ISBN 9780756543600). A novel based on the Great Train Robbery with a postscript by Bruce Reynolds.
Movies of the Great Train Robbery and the Robbers
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.
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.
In 1988, Buster Edwards’ experiences were made into the comedy-drama Buster, starring Phil Collins.
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.
British group, Alabama 3, recorded a tribute to Bruce Reynolds about the robbery, “Have You Seen Bruce Richard Reynolds” (originally recorded by The Fylde Folk) 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.
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”.
BRUCE REYNOLDS- MASTERMIND OF THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY 1963- WITH ANDY JONES OF THE CRIME THROUGH TIME COLLECTION AT A PRIVATE FAMILY GATHERING BACK IN JAN 2011
On August 8 1963, a Royal Mail train was making its way to London from Glasgow. It was intercepted at Ledburn, Bucks by a gang of masked men who escaped with £2.6million, equivalent to at least £50million in today’s money. The incident would enter British folklore as ‘The Great Train Robbery’. The police took just a few weeks to find the gang members, arrest them and put them behind bars, and their work was hailed as the pinnacle of policing.
However, three months into a 30-year sentence, Ronnie Biggs, one of the gang members, escaped from Wandsworth prison and overnight became Britain’s most wanted man. The police and the establishment were left embarrassed, and ordinary people started to root for this antihero. The media rolled out the Biggs story like a soap opera – and he has rarely been out of the media ever since.
Despite his notoriety, the truth behind his escape has remained a mystery. Biggs has been involved with a number of heavily managed appearances and sensationalised interviews for the tabloid press. However, none of these has revealed anything new or got remotely close to finding out what Ronnie really got up to in his years in exile. Now, over four hours of previously unheard tapes recorded by ‘Daily Express’ journalist Colin Mackenzie – who tracked him down in Rio, Brazil in 1974 – reveal the real Ronnie Biggs for the first time.
BELOW IS A VERY BRIEF PICTORIAL INSIGHT INTO SOME OF THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBER – RONNIE BIGGS PERSONALLY SIGNED ITEMS HERE ON DISPLAY AT THE CRIME THROUGH TIME COLLECTION AT LITTLEDEAN JAIL .
AN OLD BUILDERS MERCHANT RECEIPT SIGNED BY RONNIE BIGGS WHILST COLLECTING SOME CHIPBOARD MATERIALS FOR A JOB HE PROBABLY NEVER FINISHED FOR TURBO MACHINES LTD. (WHO WERE BASED IN STATION ROAD , DORKING, SURREY ) DATED 28TH AUGUST 1963 , ONE WEEK BEFORE CAPTURE AND POLICE ARREST AND SOME 20 DAYS AFTER THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY TOOK PLACE . CLEARLY RONNIE BIGGS SIMPLY STAYED LOW KEY AND CARRIED ON HIS NORMAL GENERAL BUILDING ACTIVITIES .
HERE IS A PERSONAL PICTURE OF THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBER RONNIE BIGGS WITH ANDY JONES OF THE CRIME THROUGH TIME COLLECTION WHEN WE RECENTLY VISITED RONNIE AT HIS NURSING HOME , HE IS STILL UNDER LICENCE WITH THE HOME OFFICE PRISON AUTHORITIES .
HERE AT THE JAIL THERE ARE SEVERAL EXHIBITS RELATING TO THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY FOR WHICH BRUCE REYNOLDS (THE MASTERMIND) AND RONNIE HAVE CONTRIBUTED TO OVER THE YEARS .
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Ronald Arthur Biggs
8 August 1929 (age 82) Lambeth, London, England, United Kingdom
Farley Paul Michael
Ronald Arthur “Ronnie” Biggs (born 8 August 1929) is an English criminal, known for his role in the Great Train Robbery of 1963, for his escape from prison in 1965, for living as a fugitive for 36 years and for his various publicity stunts while in exile. In 2001, he voluntarily returned to the United Kingdom and spent several years in prison, where his health rapidly declined. On 6 August 2009, Biggs was released from prison on compassionate grounds.
Great Train Robbery
Biggs was born in the London Borough of Lambeth, England. In 1947, at age 18, he joined the RAF but was dishonorably discharged in 1949 for desertion, serving for only two years. In 1960, he married Charmian Brent, with whom he had three sons (one deceased). In 1963, Biggs participated in the Great Train Robbery. Together with other gang members, he stole £2.6 million from a mail train, the equivalent of around £40 million (US$67 million) today, after holding up a mail train from Glasgow to London in the early hours of the morning on 8 August 1963 (his 34th birthday).Jack Mills, the engine driver, was badly beaten with an iron bar in the course of the robbery. 11 of the 15-strong gang were jailed for the crime but Biggs was given the heaviest sentence because the judge “decided he was the brains behind the crime”, receiving concurrent sentences of 25 and 30 years. Biggs served 19 months before escaping from HM PrisonWandsworth on 7 July 1965 by scaling the wall with a homemade rope ladder and dropping on to a waiting removal van. He initially fled to Brussels via boat, then to Paris with his wife Charmian and two sons, Farley and Chris, where he acquired new identity papers and underwent plastic surgery.
In 1966, Biggs took a BOAC flight to Sydney, where he lived for several months before moving to the seaside suburb of Glenelg in Adelaide, South Australia. He was soon joined by his wife and two children. In 1967, just after their third child was born, Biggs received an anonymous letter from England telling him that Interpol suspected that he was in Australia and that he should relocate. In May 1967, the family moved to Melbourne, Victoria where he rented a house in the suburb of Blackburn North. In Melbourne, he had a number of jobs before undertaking set construction work at the Channel 9 TV studios. In October 1969, a newspaper report by a Reuters correspondent claimed that Biggs was living in Melbourne and that police were closing in on him. The story then led the 6 o’clock news at Channel 9, so Biggs immediately fled his home, staying with family friends in the outer eastern suburbs of Melbourne. Five months later, Biggs fled on a passenger liner from the Port of Melbourneusing the doctored passport of his friend. Biggs’ wife and sons stayed behind in Australia. Twenty days later, the ship berthed in Panama. Biggs disembarked and within two weeks flew to Brazil.
In 1970, when Biggs arrived in Rio, Brazil did not have an extradition treaty with the United Kingdom. In 1971, Biggs’ eldest son, Nicholas, aged 10, died in a car crash.
In 1974, Daily Express reporter Colin MacKenzie received information suggesting that Biggs was in Rio de Janeiro and a team consisting of MacKenzie, photographer Bill Lovelace and reporter Michael O’Flaherty confirmed this and broke the story. Scotland Yard detective Jack Slipper arrived soon afterwards but Biggs could not be extradited because Biggs’ then girlfriend (Raimunda de Castro, anightclub dancer) was pregnant: Brazilian law at the time did not allow the parent of a Brazilian child to be extradited.
In April 1977 Biggs attended a drinks party on board the British frigate Danae, which was in Rio for a courtesy visit, but surprisingly he was not arrested. While for the time being safe from extradition, Bigg’s status as a known felon prevented him from working, visiting bars or being away from home after 10 pm. To supplement their income, Biggs’s family hosted barbecues at his home in Rio, where tourists could meet Biggs and hear him recount tales of his involvement in the Robbery (which was in fact minor). It was not just tourists, however. Biggs had heard that ex-footballer Stanley Matthewswas in Rio and invited him to his apartment. “We had tea on the small balcony at the rear of his home, and one of the first things he asked was, ‘How are Charlton Athletic doing?’ It turned out he had supported Charlton from being a small boy and had often seen me play at The Valley.” “Ronnie Biggs” mugs, coffee cups and T-shirts also appeared throughout Rio.
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 as a movie soundtrack. This album was re-released in 2004 by whatmusic.com.
In 1981, Biggs was kidnapped by a gang of ex-British soldiers and smuggled into Barbados. The kidnappers hoped to collect a reward from the British police but Barbados had no extradition treaty with the United Kingdom and Biggs was sent back to Brazil. In February 2006, Channel 4 aired a documentary featuring dramatisations of the attempted kidnap and interviews with John Miller, the ex-British Army soldier who carried it out. The team was headed by security consultant Patrick King. In the documentary, King claimed that the kidnapping may have in fact been a deniable operation.
Biggs’ son by de Castro, Michael Biggs, eventually became a member of the successful children’s program and music 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 financial difficulty again.
In 1997 the UK and Brazil ratified an extradition treaty. Two months later, the UK Government made a formal request to the Brazilian government for Bigg’s extradition. Biggs had stated that he would no longer oppose extradition. English lawyer Nigel Sangster QC travelled to Brazil to advise Biggs. The extradition request was rejected by Brazilian Supreme Court, giving Biggs the right to live in Brazil for the rest of his life.
In 2001 Biggs announced to The Sun that he would be willing to return to the UK. Biggs was aware that he would be detained upon arrival in England and returned voluntarily on 7 May 2001, whereupon he was immediately arrested and re-imprisoned. His trip back to England on a private jet was paid for by The Sun, which reportedly paid Michael Biggs £20,000 plus other expenses in return for exclusive rights to the news story. Ronald Biggs had 28 years of his sentence left to serve. Since his return he has had a number of health problems, including two heart attacks. His son said in a press release that, contrary to some press reports, Biggs did not return to the UK simply to receive health care because health care was available in Brazil and Biggs had many friends and supporters who would certainly have contributed to any such expenses. Biggs’ stated desire was to “walk into a Margate pub as an Englishman and buy a pint of bitter“. John Mills, Jack Mills‘ son, was unforgiving: “I deeply resent those, including Biggs, who have made money from my father’s death. Biggs should serve his punishment.” Mills never fully recovered from his injuries sustained during the robbery. He died of an unrelated cause (leukaemia) in 1970.
On 14 November 2001, Biggs petitioned Governor Hynd of HMP Belmarsh for early release on compassionate grounds based on his poor health. He had been treated four times at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Woolwich in less than six months. His health was deteriorating rapidly and he asked to be released into the care of his son for his remaining days. The application was denied. On 10 August 2005, it was reported that Biggs had contracted MRSA. His representatives, seeking for his release on grounds of compassion, said that their client’s death was likely to be imminent. On 26 October 2005, the Home SecretaryCharles Clarke declined his appeal stating that his illness was not terminal. Home Office compassion policy is to release prisoners with three months left to live. Biggs was claimed by his son Michael to need a tube for feeding and to have ‘difficulty’ speaking.
On 4 July 2007, Biggs was moved from Belmarsh prison to Norwich prison on compassionate grounds. In December 2007, Biggs issued a further appeal, from Norwich prison, asking to be released from jail to die with his family: “I am an old man and often wonder if I truly deserve the extent of my punishment. I have accepted it and only want freedom to die with my family and not in jail. I hope Mr.Straw decides to allow me to do that. I have been in jail for a long time and I want to die a free man. I am sorry for what happened. It has not been an easy ride over the years. Even in Brazil I was a prisoner of my own making. There is no honour to being known as a Great Train Robber. My life has been wasted.”
In January 2009, after a series of strokes that were said to have rendered him unable to speak or walk, it was claimed in the press that Biggs was to be released in August 2009 and would die a ‘free man’. His son Michael has also claimed that the Parole Board might bring the release date forward to July 2009. On 13 February 2009, it was reported that Biggs had been taken to hospital from his cell at Norwich Prison, suffering from pneumonia. This was confirmed the following day by his son Michael, who said Biggs had serious pneumonia but was stable. News of his condition prompted fresh calls from his son Michael Biggs for his release on compassionate grounds.
On 23 April the Parole Board recommended that Biggs be released on 4 July, having served a third of his 30-year sentence. However, on 1 July Jack Straw did not accept the Parole Board’s recommendation and refused parole, stating that Biggs was ‘wholly unrepentant’. On 28 July 2009, Biggs was readmitted to Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital with pneumonia. He had been admitted to the same hospital a month earlier with a chest infection and a fractured hip but returned to prison on 17 July 2009. His son Michael said, in one of his frequent news releases: “It’s the worst he’s ever been. The doctors have just told me to rush there.”
On 30 July 2009, it was claimed by representatives of Biggs that he had been given ‘permission’ to challenge the decision to refuse him parole. However, the Home Office stated only that an application for the early release on compassionate grounds of a prisoner at HMP Norwich had been received by the public protection casework section in the National Offender Management Service. Biggs was released from custody on 6 August, the day before his 80th birthday, on ‘compassionate grounds’.
Following his release from prison, Biggs’ health improved, leading to suggestions that he might soon be moved from hospital to a nursing home. In response to claims that Biggs’s state of health had been faked, his lawyer stated, “This man is going to die, there is going to be no Lazarus coming back from the dead, he is ill, he is seriously ill.” However, Biggs himself stated, “I’ve got a bit of living to do yet. I might even surprise them all by lasting until Christmas, that would be fantastic.”
On 29 May 2010, Biggs was again admitted to hospital in London after complaining of chest pain. He underwent tests at Barnet General Hospital. His son Michael stated, “he’s conscious but he’s in a lot of pain”.
In August 2010, it was announced that Biggs would be attending a gala dinner where he would be collecting a lifetime achievement award for his services to crime.
On 10 February 2011, Biggs was admitted to Barnet General Hospital with another suspected stroke. His son Michael said he was conscious and preparing to have a CT scan and a series of other tests to determine what had happened.