The Great British Train Robbery is one of the most infamous heists in British history. On August 8, 1963, an armed gang intercepted and raided a Royal Mail train, making away with £2.6 million (equivalent to around £50 million today). This audacious crime captured the imagination of the public and remains a defining moment in the annals of British crime.
Background: The target of the robbery was the Glasgow to London Royal Mail Train. The train was transporting large quantities of cash and valuables, which had been collected from banks in Scotland and were en route to London.
The Plan: The gang, which consisted of 15 members, hatched a meticulous plan to stop the train. They tampered with the railway signal lights using a battery, causing the train to halt at a remote location called Sears Crossing near Mentmore in Buckinghamshire.
The Heist: As the train came to a stop, the robbers, wearing masks and helmets, overpowered the driver, Jack Mills, and his assistant. They then proceeded to the High Value Packages carriage, where they quickly and efficiently transferred 120 mail bags filled with cash into their getaway vehicles. The entire operation took less than 30 minutes.
Aftermath: The gang retreated to Leatherslade Farm, a hideout they had acquired for the job. Here, they divided the loot and went their separate ways. However, their time at the farm became one of the significant factors that led to their capture. They had left behind numerous clues, and the police were soon on their trail.
In the days and weeks that followed, members of the gang were arrested one by one. Jack Mills, the train driver, never fully recovered from the assault and passed away a few years later.
Trials and Sentences: The trial of the robbers is another chapter in this story. In 1964, 12 members of the gang stood trial. They were represented by some of the best legal minds in the country. After a high-profile and lengthy trial, most of the gang members received sentences ranging from 20 to 30 years in prison.
Legacy: Despite the arrests and the recovery of a significant portion of the stolen money, a substantial amount remains unaccounted for. Over the years, the story of the Great British Train Robbery has been the subject of numerous books, films, and documentaries. The audacity of the crime, combined with the characters involved, has ensured its place in British criminal folklore.
The Great British Train Robbery was more than just a heist; it was a moment that captured the zeitgeist of an era. The boldness of the crime, the personalities involved, and the subsequent manhunt and trials, all combined to make it a story that continues to fascinate and intrigue even today.