The Great Train Robbery, which took place in the early hours of Thursday, 8 August 1963, is the most famous robbery in British criminal history. It is also one of the best-known robberies throughout the world.
Much has been written about the Great Train Robbery and Ronnie Biggs, sadly a great deal of it is strewn with errors, inaccuracies, and at times half-truths and downright lies.
Part of the reason is that at the time of the robbery, and even during the trial, few of the actual facts relating to who was involved, how it was planned and executed, were really known. So both the robbers and the establishment spun their own versions of events to suit their audiences.
There was nothing sinister in this from the point of view of the robbers. They knew the police were not clear as to exactly how many people had been involved in the robbery, or whom they were, so even those robbers that were captured and convicted were not about to give out any information that might help the police and their inquiries. And even when they did, in the case of Bill Boal, an innocent man who was sent to prison as one of the robbers, they were ignored.
The robbers continued to put out their own misinformation, even when they published their own story in 1978. The Train Robbers, a book written by Piers Paul Read and published by W.H. Allen, is full of fiction and factual errors planted by the robbers.
From the point of view of the police, they were under tremendous pressure from the government of the day to resolve the case, have a show trial, and convict the train robbers by whatever means. So when the Great Train Robbery trial started on 20 January 1964 the public and press were not aware that it was just nine of the sixteen men who had been at the track on 8 August 1963 that were in the dock. Seven men were still on the run, and four of these would never ever be captured and brought to justice. For them it was the perfect crime. Something the police did not want the public to know.
Many of the errors written and published at the time of the robbery, continue to be regurgitated by the media who seem to be incapable at times of going back to their archives and correcting the errors. For some, it seems, they just can’t handle the truth and accept the fact they were made fools of by both the establishment and the robbers.
What follows is a very brief overview of the Great Train Robbery and what actually happened, or as much as we are allowed to say! For a full account of Ronnie Biggs part in the robbery you need to read his autobiography, “Odd Man Out: The Last Straw”.
Next: Planning and Preperation