How a mail train was ambushed in England in 1963 and how the robbers got away with one of the biggest hauls in history.
The Great Train Robbery was the name given to the audacious robbery of The Royal Mail’s Glasgow to London traveling post office train on 8 August 1963 at Bridego Railway Bridge, Ledburn near Mentmore in Buckinghamshire, England.
The train was stopped by tampered signals and attacked by a 15-member gang, led by Bruce Reynolds along with Ronnie Biggs, Charlie Wilson, Jimmy Hussey, John Wheater, Brian Field, Jimmy White, Tommy Wisbey, Gordon Goody, Buster Edwards and three men only known as 'Number 1', 'Number 2' and 'Number 3'.
“The heist netted the gang £2.6 million and it was noted for its meticulous planning, with no guns being used.”
However, the train driver, Jack Mills, was struck on the head with an iron bar during a struggle. Mills never recovered from the attack and didn’t return to work. Although he died of leukemia in 1970, his family maintains that the attack contributed to his poor health.
No one knows for sure who first came up with the idea of robbing the Glasgow-to-London mail train, but one thing is certain, it led to one of the most audacious crimes in British history and turned the likes of Ronald 'Ronnie' Biggs, into an infamous celebrity.
Regardless of who thought of the idea it was Bruce Richard Reynolds, a London antique dealer and prominent thief who was serving time in 1962, who believed the plot had potential.
After his release, Reynolds discussed the plan with his accomplices in what was known as the South West gang. As his number two, Reynolds chose Douglas Gordon or ‘Goody’, a suave London hairdresser and part-time thief who had a reputation for keeping cool under pressure.
Another main player in the saga was former boxer and jester Ronald 'Buster' Edwards, who was a close friend of Reynolds and Goody. After a brief meeting it was agreed that the two gangs would join forces for the audacious heist.
Ronnie Biggs was keen to go straight and keep away from crime when he left prison. He’d set up a struggling carpentry business and was desperate for a loan. After been invited to Reynolds’ house, he was informed of the plan to rob the Royal Mail train and promised a staggering £40,000 for his efforts. Biggs eagerly accepted.
Biggs’ first task was to find a man who could drive a diesel locomotive train.
The complete line up included, Reynolds, Gordon Goody, Ronnie Biggs, Jimmy White, Buster Edwards, Tom Wisbey, Jim Hussey, Bob Welch, Brian Field and two other men Biggs referred only to as Mr One and Mr Two who, along with a Mr Three, who were never identified and avoided arrest. Others involved in the huge operation were Charlie Wilson, Roy James, Roger Cordrey and the unknown ‘Ulsterman’ who relayed important information to the gang.