8th August 1963, I (David) was twelve years old and remember it well. As the news broke the nation was stunned. Stunned but there was a bit of excitement and even admiration for the bravado of those involved.
A train carrying used bank notes for destruction was robbed right here at Bridego Bridge, South of Milton Keynes. The robbers got away with £2.6 million - £53.5 million in today's money.
The bridge has not changed a lot in fifty-six years and is, rightfully, a legend. But what is not known is how Bletchley features in this legend.
In 1971, shortly after I moved to live in Milton Keynes, I was given a tour of Bletchley by the man who had been the editor of the Bletchley Gazette at the time of the robbery. He told me the train was towed into sidings at Bletchley Station for the police to investigate.
Bletchley played a major part in the investigation.
In 1981 I was called to jury service at Aylesbury Crown Court where I sat in the very courtroom where The Great Train Robbers were sentenced.
8th August 2019 I drove to Bridego Bridge and looked at the scene.
The bridge has not changed but the railway has, Virgin Trains raced across it at speeds approaching 100mph. The train that was robbed was a TPO - Travelling Post Office. Postal Workers sorted the mail as the train moved along. Mail was picked up and dropped off along the way.
Do you know W H Auden's poem The Night Mail ?
This is the night mail crossing the border,
Bringing the cheque and the postal order.......
It was a night mail that was robbed. A night mail that was also being used to transport old bank notes for destruction.
Phillip Dell says how he was only one year old at the time yet remembers n his childhood his father telling him Bletchley was swamped with police.
When you put a letter into a post box it becomes the property of The Queen until it is delivered. So, in effect, The Great Train Robbers were stealing from The Queen. Ronald Biggs, Charles Wilson, Douglas Goody, Thomas Wisbey, Robert Welch, James Hussey and Roy James - were jailed for 30 years each. Incredibly harsh sentences but set as an example to other would-be train robbers.
It's about ten miles from Bletchley to Bridego Bridge yet both are locked together in history and in legend.