50 Years on from the draconian sentencing of the Great Train Robbers


On 16 April 1964, following on from the guilty verdict against Ronnine Biggs the previous day, the court reconvened at 10.30 a.m. The members of the Great Train Robbery gang in custody were not taken back to the court where the trial had been held, but instead were taken instead to the Assizes where they could all be held and locked in the cells before being brought in to court one by one for sentencing.

It takes Mr Justice Edmund Davies just 28 minutes to sentence 12 of the men. Most of the sentences are for two concurrent sentences, the crimes being: ‘robbery – being armed with an offensive weapon’ (30 years / 10,957 days) and ‘conspire / robbery with violence’ (25 years / 9,130 days).

Seven of gang get 30-year sentences, two get 25 years, one gets 24 years, one gets 20 years and one gets three years. The order of sentencing is Roger Cordrey (20 years) / William Boal (24 years) / Charlie Wilson (30 years) / Ronald Biggs (30 years) / Thomas Wisbey (30 years) / Robert Welch (30 years) / James Hussey (30 years) / Roy James (30 years) / Gordon Goody (30 years) / Brian Field (25 years) / Leonard Field (25 years) / John Wheater (3 years).

Twelve men are jailed for a total of 307 years, although the total sentences are for 573 years as some sentences run concurrently. On appeal they will be reduced from 307 years to 251 years.

The Great Train Robbery trial had lasted for 51 workings days over a period of 10 weeks. Evidence had been heard from 264 witnesses, and an estimated 2.5 million words had been spoken. There were 2,350 witness statements and 1,700 exhibits. The words filled over 30,000 foolscap pages. The cost of the trial was estimated at £38,733 (about £650,000 by 2013 values). The 12 jurors, all men, were paid 50 shillings a day (about £40 in 2013 values).

At no point in the trial was any evidence presented to prove that any of the accused had been at the scene of the robbery on the morning of 8 August 1963.

The trial over, the gang were split up amongst some of Britain’s most secure prisons. Bruce Reynolds watched the news of the sentencing on the 6 p.m. BBC TV News. His comment is: “They have created a monster that will haunt them forever.”

It is worth noting that on 30 September 1963, six months prior to sentencing the Great Train Robbers to 30 years,  Mr Justice Edmund Davies, had declared that a sentence of 15 years was “excessive” for a man involved in a robbery where a person was shot and killed. He reduced the sentence on appeal to 10 years. The robbers involved had expected to find £6,000 on the premises but only stole £517.

In 1968, when Reynolds was finally captured, it is noted in the press that a night porter who set fire to a Brighton Hotel to get rid of some late customers, and who caused the death of seven people, is sentenced to just five years. A man, who kills a barmaid by putting cyanide in her Guinness because she did not serve him a sandwich, also gets five years.

The true and full story of the Great Train Robbery

With the BBC about to screen a two part fictional drama series about the Great Train Robbery in December 2013, A Robber’s Tale and A Copper’s Tale, now is the time to get hold of a copy of The Great Train Robbery 50th Anniversary: 1963-2013, the 132 page ‘bookazine’ that contains the full story and timeline of the robbery with contributions from both Ronnie Biggs and Bruce & Nick Reynolds.

Check in The Great Train Robbery 50th Anniversary: 1963-2013 to see where fact and fiction collide, and see why truth is very often stranger than fiction.

On sale from Calm Productions or through Amazon

To see the first trailer to the BBC series CLICK HERE

How to buy “The Great Train Robbery 50th Anniversary: 1963-2013″ outside of the UK

It is now possible to buy The Great Train Robbery 50th Anniversary: 1963-2013 in a number of countries through Amazon and other stockists listed on the Amazon web sites.

Here are the links to the book in a few key countries:








and of course in the UK





The Great Train Robbery 50th Anniversary: 1963-2013


“There has never been anything quite so big, bold and crookedly brilliant as The Greatest Train Robbery” Daily Mirror

“History’s Greatest Robbery – There’ll always be an England” New York Herald Tribune

“Balaclava and the 40 Thieves” Daily Sketch

“Great Train Robbery, how’s that going?” John Lennon

This is it! For the first time in 50 years the full and complete story of what actually went on at the Great Train Robbery, in the planning of the robbery, and in the years that have passed since 8 August 1963.

The robbery is explained first hand over 132 pages by Bruce Reynolds, the mastermind of the crime, and by Ronnie Biggs, the most famous of the robbers and the man who admits that he was the most privileged spectator to the entire robbery. Both men give their exclusive views on the anniversary, and on the crime.

What you will read in The Great Train Robbery 50th Anniversary: 1963-2013 is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, because it comes from the people who know what happened. They were there, and they were involved. And from both sides of the law.

You will read shocking new revelations about the crime, of foul play, and about those implicated in it. Facts that will make you question what you thought you knew about the robbery, and the people caught up in it.

The book looks at the secrets and lies that surround Britain’s most famous and culturally iconic robbery. The myths and legends that range from the strange, to the downright bizarre.

The Great Train Robbery is the story that refuses to die, and one that fifty years on still fascinates and entertains a nation.

Death of John Daly

Sad to report the death of John Daly. John was Bruce Reynolds’ brother-in-law and married to Barbara, sister of Angela Reynolds, or Frances as Ron knew her.

John was the only member of the Great Train Robbery gang to be acquitted at the trial. Ron, and all the gang, thought good luck to him, although luck did not always follow John in life, and most of his share of the train robbery money was stolen from him.

It was John who brought the famous Monopoly set to Leatherslade Farm, and it was John who drove Ron from the farm to the site of the robbery.

For the story of John, read Mike Sullivan’s feature in The Sun.

Form Odd Man Out: The Last Straw:

One mid-morning Roger (Cordery) and I heard the main prison gate opening. We went to the window of the dormitory and saw a police car drive in. Minutes later Johnny Daly, the man who wanted to plead guilty, came to the door, trembling and pale faced,

‘What’s the trouble, John?’ I asked, ‘are you ill?’

‘No, I’m not ill. I’ve been acquitted!’

‘Christ! You’ve been chucked? That’s fantastic!’ said Roger delightedly ‘How? Why?’

‘Reaburn (John’s counsel) made a submission to the effect that the Monopoly set could have been taken to the farm after I left my prints on it. The judge accepted that fact and acquitted me. I’ve just come back to pick up my belongings. I’m free! – but I can’t believe it!’

Too bad I wasn’t able to share the lucky Irishman’s good fortune. My fingerprints were also found on the Monopoly set but also a sauce bottle (I never thought they would ‘ketchup’ with me). It was the sauce bottle that tied me to the farm. A previous resident at Leatherslade Farm was the key witness and he swore that no such item had been left there.

In loving memory of Bruce Richard Reynolds

The funeral of Bruce Reynolds took place at St Bartholomew the Great, close to Smithfield Market, on 20 March. The service was presided over by the Reverend Dr Martin Dudley and the Reverend Dave Tomlinson. Over 250 guests attended the funeral.

Tributes and readings were given by:

  • Bruce’s son, Nick Reynolds
  • Bruce’s grandsons, Ziggy and Otto
  • Actor Ray Stevenson
  • Sky News Crime Correspondent Martin Brunt
  • Author Jake Arnott
  • Actor David Thewlis

The poet John Cooper Clarke read a special poem that he had written on hearing of the death of Bruce.

Alabama 3 performed Too Sick to Pray.

The Choir of St Bartholomew the Great, under the direction of Nigel Short, also performed pieces by Henry Purcell and Gabriel Fauré.

A reception for family and friends was held after the service  at The King’s Head in Kingsland Road in Hoxton.

Funeral directors, Leverton & Sons, lead by Lori MacKellar, helped Nick Reynolds to organise the funeral and the day.

St Bartholomew the Great, funeral of Bruce Reynolds (Jules Annan)

Too Sick To Pray – Alabama 3′s tribute to Bruce Reynolds


Alabama 3 performing at Bruce Reynolds funeral (Jules Annan)

One of the many highlights of Bruce Reynolds’ funeral was a moving acoustic performance by Alabama 3 of Too Sick to Pray. Bruce Reynolds son, Nick, who is a member of the band, performed with them, playing harmonica.

Several recordings of the song are available including on iTunes. The more acoustic version is the one on the album The Last Train to Mashville Vol 2.

The band is, of course, responsible for the theme to The Sopranos. That track is Woke Up This Morning.

There is also a short video clip of the performance at the funeral on You Tube.