While researching for BLOOD ON THE SHRINE (to be published soon!) I came across The Eastcastle Street raid which took place on 21st May 1952. At the time it was Britain's largest post-war robbery. Seven masked men held up a post office van, just off Oxford Street, and got away with £287,000, worth over seven million pounds, by today's calculations.
Morris Commercial Post Office van
The robbers used two cars to sandwich the van; the two attendants were dragged out and coshed, and the van was stolen. It was later found abandoned; 18 of the 31 mailbags were missing. For some time it was thought to be an inside job, as the van's alarm had been tampered with. However, no-one was convicted, the robbers were never caught and none of the money was ever recovered.
Billy Hill's mugshots
For a start it was meticulously planned. The gangsters pretended they were making a film in the area, whilst planning the raid. Also they set up a roadblock so the van had to divert, making it easier to trap it. Churchill, the prime minister at the time, was so concerned that not only did the government offer a £25,000 reward but he insisted on daily updates and a thousand police officers took part in searches.
Terry 'Lucky Tel' Hogan
In my book, a local felon, Tommy Atkins, is organising a raid on a mail train in the mid 1950s (some years before the Great Train Robbery which took place in 1963) and claims that he was a lookout on the Eastcastle Street Raid. He said that he learned from Billy and Tel that, 'you've got to stick to a plan.' And that, 'you've got to keep it simple, keep it small and, above all else, keep it quiet.'