The ‘Great Train Robbery’, which occurred 50 years ago on 8 August 1963, has been labelled the ‘crime of the century’. A gang of thieves held up the Glasgow to London Travelling Post Office train and stole £2.6 million in used bank notes (around £50 million in today’s money). The robbers ambushed the train at Sears Crossing near Cheddington in Buckinghamshire, and then ‘holed up’ at Leatherslade Farm near Oakley. The heist was carried out with a degree of precision bordering on the military, but it all quickly unravelled for the thieves – by January 1964 there were 12 men on trial, and others on the run. Several of those found guilty received heavy sentences (30 years in some cases), and this sparked off a national debate about the fairness of the punishments administered, in relation to other types of crime.
Casualties of the raid
The crime captured the British public’s imagination (£2.6 million was an absolutely staggering amount of money in 1963) and has remained high in the national consciousness ever since, but it is has never been forgotten that this was not a ‘victimless crime’ (that phrase is definitely an oxymoron!); Jack Mills, the driver of the train, received head injuries during the raid, and it was also a traumatic experience for the fireman, David Whitby, and the Post Office staff on board the train (force was used by the gang to break into the ‘High Value Package’ coach, where the banknotes were stored). Continue reading »