The 8th of August 2023, marks 60 years since the infamous Great Train Robbery. While for most it was an ordinary summer bank holiday in Scotland, 15 outlaws were getting ready to execute one of the most ambitious and memorable heists in British history.

The Day of the Robbery

Aboard the Travelling Post Office train were the usual cargo of letters and parcels en route from Edinburgh to London Euston. Along with staff who worked tirelessly through the night to sort the mail.

The robbers had their sights set on the carriage of High-Value Packages, which was carrying £2.3 million (which would be worth roughly £30 million today).

The train was heading through Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire when an unexpected red signal drew the train to stop. But this signal was fake, put in place by the outlaws as step one of their master plan.

Masterminds at work

David Whitby, the train’s co-driver became the first victim of the crime. He was attacked as he innocently hopped off the train to report the supposed signal problems, then hurled down the steep embankment at the side of the tracks.

With the absence of the co-driver, the outlaws continued with their master plan – to drive the train and the carriages containing the High-Value Packages to Bridego Bridge, where they could safely remove the money.

How might an outlaw know how to drive a train, you may ask? This was no spur-of-the-moment plan. Before the 8th of August, a member of the gang spent months moonlighting as a train enthusiast, befriending local train drivers, who even taught him how to operate a locomotive.

This sadly makes the train driver,  Jack Mills, the next target. While a few of the outlaws worked together to disconnect the unwanted carriages, another jumped aboard the train and hit Mills so hard that he was left unconscious. The train was theirs for taking… or so they thought.

It turns out that this train was a little more complicated to operate than the railway cars the outlaw was used to. The robbers had no choice but to awaken the driver to continue the trip to Bridego Bridge, where they swiftly unloaded 120 sacks containing two-and-a-half-tons of money.

The manhunt begins

The intricate details of the plan continued to unravel slowly. With the money secured, they warned the Royal Mail workers they must wait half an hour before reporting the robbery. Little did they know that they had just revealed an all-important clue – their hideout must be close to the crime scene.

The team of outlaws took cover at a farmhouse in Buckinghamshire, where they split the money and lay low for a few days – even partaking in a game of Monopoly (another mistake!). Despite planning to stay at the farmhouse for a few weeks, the gang fled early when RAF planes flew overhead, assuming they were part of the manhunt.

Noticing movement at the farm, a local resident contacted the police, who proceeded to

investigate the farmhouse. All that was left behind were sleeping bags, remnants of the unwanted mail and fingerprints on the Monopoly board.

One by one, the outlaws were tracked down, arrested and sentenced to 307 years in prison, unable to benefit from the rewards of their masterplan.