On August 8, 1963, a crew of 17 men hijacked the Royal Mail train in Buckinghamshire, England. After taking the train to Bridego Bridge, they removed £2.6 million from it. Then they vanished into the night. Were they captured? And what happened to the money from the Great Train Robbery?
The Chaos Book Club
So, today marks Day 3 of the Chaos book club. Chaosis an adventure thriller along the lines of Indiana Jones or books written by Clive Cussler, James Rollins, Douglas Preston, or Steve Berry. If you haven’t already done so, please consider picking up a copy at one of the following locations:
The Great Train Robbery
So, in the wee hours of the morning of August 8, 1963, conductor Jack Mills stopped his Royal Mail train at a mysterious red signal. His second, David Whitby, attempted to call the signalman from a nearby telephone only to discover that the line had been cut. Suddenly, fifteen robbers swarmed the locomotive.
They forced Mills to drive the train to Bridego Bridge and proceeded to attack the “High Value Packages” carriage. Guards offered some resistance but were quickly overwhelmed. Over the next twenty-five minutes, the robbers unloaded 121 mail sacks from the train and brought them into a waiting truck. The sacks contained £2.6 million in bank notes (roughly £40 million or $63 million in today’s money), many of which were going to be removed from circulation due to old age.
The robbers transported the money to Leatherslade Farm, which was located about 27 miles from the scene of the crime. They divided it into 17 shares (15 robbers, 2 informants) and used it to play Monopoly. Soon after, they fled the farm but they left behind plenty of fingerprints which were discovered by the police. By December, police had arrested nearly a dozen of the robbers as well as numerous associates.
What happened to the Money?
The ensuing trial was marked by controversy. One robber was freed for lack of evidence. The other ten robbers, for the most part, received 20-30 years in prison, far longer than the typical sentences handed out to murderers. Most egregiously, two innocent men were wrongfully convicted and given stiff sentences for a crime they didn’t commit.
As of today, seven robbers have escaped punishment, at least for a little while. As I mentioned, one man was freed. Two men escaped from prison – one stayed on the run for three years while the other waited until 2001 to turn himself in. Three robbers escaped as did a mysterious informant known only as “Ulsterman.”
Out of the original £2.6 million haul, about £0.4 million was recovered. The location of the remaining money has led some to believe that there is a hidden fortune, still waiting to be discovered. This is possible but unlikely. Most scholars believe that this money was spent fleeing the police or paying for lawyers. Also, large portions were probably spent by family members or were stolen outright.
The Great Train Robbery remains a partly-unsolved mystery. At least four participants were never captured. There is also the matter of the missing money, assuming that any of it is still around.
The Great Train Robbery & Chaos
The Great Train Robbery of 1963 was a monumental crime and has inspired countless books and films. On a more personal basis, it served as a partial inspiration for the prologue of Chaos.
“A loud high-pitched shriek reverberated across the tunnel, ping-ponging from wall to wall. Jenson glanced to his right. The Omega stood quietly in the semi-darkness.
Metal rasped against metal. Then, three shadows hopped out of the subway car’s side and ventured to the front. ‘Running rails,’ one of the figures announced. ‘How the hell…?” ~ David Meyer, Chaos
I’ve always been fascinated by train robberies and the 1963 case is particularly interesting, thanks to the large cast of characters and the unsolved mysteries that still surround it. So, when I first sat down to write Chaos, I knew I wanted to set the stage with my own “Great Subway Train Robbery.” But instead of money, my robbers make off with a different sort of cargo…one that could wreak havoc not just on New York, but on the world as well…
Well, that’s it for today. Make sure you come back tomorrow when we will discuss a topic near to my heart…the conflict between Treasure Hunting and Archaeology.
Chaos Book Club
- October 17: Chaos has Arrived!
- October 24: The Story of Chaos
- October 25: The Great Train Robbery?
- October 26: Is Treasure Hunting Immoral?
- October 27: What was Operation Paperclip?
- October 28: Nazi Treasure & ODESSA?
- October 29: Do the Mole People Exist?
- October 31: FDR’s Lost Subway Car?
- November 1: Do Alligators Live in New York City Sewers?
- November 2: The Mysterious Minamata Disease?
- November 3: Die Glocke & Nazi Wonder Weapons?
- November 4: Buildering: The Art of Climbing…Skyscrapers?
- November 5: The Strange Case of Red Mercury?
- November 6: The Island of Stability?
- November 7: The Nazi Atomic Bomb?
- November 8: The Nth Country Experiment?
- November 9: Why did America really bomb Hiroshima?
- November 10: New York’s Forgotten Subway Tunnel?
- November 11: Alfred Ely Beach’s Last Secret?
- November 12: The Strange Science of Superconductors?
- November 13: What’s Next for Cyclone Reed?