The 15 thieves who held up the Royal Mail train between Glasgow and London on Aug. 8, 1963 netted 120 bags packed with the equivalent of $7 million and were were treated like folk heroes by the press and public. Although the operation took all of 15 minutes, the caper was not as smooth as people remember it. It wasn't non-violent, for one thing (the driver of the train was conked in the head and never fully recovered from the trauma); nor was it as carefully executed (the thieves left fingerprints everywhere). The case has lived on in memory because of the further adventures of one of its minor players, Ronnie Biggs, whose escape from prison and long years of eluding justice were constant fodder for the British tabs. Readers were fascinated that a small-time hood could end up being part of the biggest heist in British history and be the only one to get away with it all. Biggs eventually gave himself up in 2001, returning voluntarily from Brazil to serve the 28 years remaining in his sentence. Despite pleas for leniency, Biggs, now 77, remains incarcerated and in failing health.
From the Archive:
The Cheddington Caper