Great Train Robbery 1963

1963, 8 August: Train robbers make off with millions: Thieves have ambushed the Glasgow to Euston mail train and stolen thousands of pounds. Banks estimate they have lost over £2m in used, untraceable banknotes in the biggest ever raid on a British train.

The Post Office train - known as the Up Special - had run every night, without interference, for one hundred and twenty five years until it was brought to a halt by a red light at 0315 GMT in Buckinghamshire.

Driver Jack Mills, fifty eight, has been detained in hospital in Aylesbury with head injuries after being coshed by the raiders, who police believe were masked and armed with sticks and iron bars.

But most of the seventy five mail sorters working on the train were unaware of the twenty minute incident as the thieves uncoupled the engine and front two carriages of the train and drove them up to Bridego Bridge a mile away. There they broke into the second carriage - restraining the four postal workers inside - and loaded one hundred and twenty mail and money bags into a lorry waiting on the road beneath.

Investigators - including Buckinghamshire Police, the British Transport Police and the Post Office - were on the scene, near Cheddington, in the early hours of the morning and found signals had been tampered with and telephone wires cut. The Detective Superintendent of Buckinghamshire CID said: "This was obviously a brilliantly planned operation.".

1963: Winterfold House above Cranleigh where a raid took place for some of the train robbers – believed nothing found.

John Hurst: Surrey's involvement to the Great Train Robbery: I cannot remember the year but at one stage it involved over a hundred officers carrying out raids in Surrey. The biggest raid was at the Wintershall or Winterfold estate, near Cranleigh and I remember being involved in the communications vehicle, about the third vehicle in a line of seventy to ninety police vehicles. (No carriers except brown vans as they were called, often used to moved police officers home who had little or no furniture.)

This was meant to be a surprise swoop, in daylight. We were all stopped on the main road into Cranleigh close to the cricket green by the lead vehicle because DI Agger and Superintendent Hagley decided that they didn't know the way to the estate.

As a result of this massive convoy stationary in Cranleigh the press were soon onto it and by the time we reached the target premises several small fixed wing aircraft were above us taking photographs which appeared in the national papers the next day. No evidence was found to link it to the Great Train Robbery.

Bob Bartlett: I was in Guildford on foot patrol when collected by the Brown Van and whisked with a van full to Winterfold. Stood around and went back to Guildford! Absolutely no idea what was going on and why I was there!

On the 13 May 1966, one of the train robbers James White was on trial in Buckinghamshire where the Prosecution gave details of the £30,435 found in packs of twenty two times £25 notes in the caravan discovered by DC Wally Hammond on Box Hill. When the caravan was found it was taken to HQ where it was carefully taken apart and the money found.

1963, 16 August: £100,900 was found in a bag in Redlands Wood, a beauty spot two miles from Dorking. This was part of the train robbery money. On the 13 May 1966, one of the train robbers James White was on trial in Buckinghamshire where the prosecution gave details of the £25 notes in the caravan discovered by DC Wally Hammond.

Timber Wood: Two officers I think attended the caravan on Box Hill were Peter Morley and the force carpenter, Cecil Smith. Peter Morley of course was a Guildford Division dog handler. In those days the force had a constable who was employed as a 'chippy'. It was Cecil's job on this occasion to take down the panelling in the caravan where the cash was revealed.

As well as a 'chippy' we also had handyman/bricklayer in Constable Tom Travena. I believe Cecil and Tom came to HQ in the early days of the force taking over Mount Browne. This was in the days of Chief Constable Simpson, the jobs were to be temporary but they stayed at HQ for the rest of their service, which went well into the 1960's. I understand that Tom was always shown as on the strength of Farnham Division.

Pip Kerridge: I was on my "learner" when the money was found at Dorking. The CID section was either Ron Harvey or Basil West as DI and Nick Carter was DS. Alec Illing, John Maughan, and Denis Courtman were Detective Constables.

The couple that found the money at Coldharbour, came from the Horsham area and worked at AEI which was then on the Westcott Road, Dorking. We believed them when they said that their motorcycle had overheated! The money was counted in the little office just off the main reception area; there were bundles of fivers, two tiers about nine inches high stretching for about eight feet along the wall on the office floor.

The other cash on Box Hill was found in a caravan on one of the lesser sites, (I can't remember the name) believed to have been put there by White. The money had been placed behind the lining of the caravan walls. Alec Illing and I were there when the Metropolitan Police Scenes of Crime Officer undertook their inspection. Since CID officers in Surrey had to do their own scenes of crime at that time, Alec and I were not over impressed with his efforts.

Tony May: It was a travelling Post Office that was at the centre of the "Robbery of the Century" as it was known when it was held up and robbed in August 1963. This reminded me of the very tiny part I played in the Great Train robbery when I was stationed at Burpham Traffic Centre on patrol in what was then W2 area.

With Danny Shaw as my crewmate we were instructed to go to Box Hill one evening with the police Land Rover to tow a caravan, in which some of the stolen money had been discovered, back to Headquarters at Mount Browne. I believe it was then systematically taken completely to bits in an effort to find some of the stolen money.

Following on from this robbery it was part of our duty on the night shifts (11-7) to follow the progress of the TPOs which came through the County and I can well remember racing to either Brookwood or Walton-on-Thames railway stations just before or just after midnight to check that it had safely gone through. Each TPO was given a code name, like "Milan" and we had to report to M2HJ that we had seen it through. This went on for some time through the following winter.

1963, August: Dorking Advertiser:

After the Great Train Robbery, Dorking must have been the centre of operations for some members of the gang. This is now clear following the discovery of more than £100,000 in banknotes dumped in woodland at Coldharbour and in the search this week of a caravan site at Box Hill which revealed a further £30,000 in £5 notes which had been hidden inside the caravan. Scotland Yard now believe they know the names of the people concerned in dumping the £100,900 in Redland Wood, Coldharbour. It is not certain if they were the same people who hid the money in the caravan. The caravan dwellers were described as a young couple with a white toy poodle. The caravan was taken to Guildford before being taken to Aylesbury.

It was reported in the Dorking Advertiser that the finder of the money on Leith Hill was a Mr John Ahern of AEI, Milton Court Dorking accompanied by an office colleague Mrs Esa Hargrave. They were forced to stop when Mr Ahern's motorcycle engine became overheated and he noticed what appeared to be an abandoned picnic some twenty yards into the wood. The holdalls were opened, the cash discovered and the police called.

A local bank manager from the Midland, Mr ED Ford provided two of his best men to count the money. Later two more staff from the bank was called to the police station to help. It took until 7 pm for all the money to be counted after which it was loaded into cardboard boxes and driven to Buckinghamshire Police HQ.

Return to main text


Surrey Constabulary badge