The Reverend Richard Cook led a special service of remembrance for the victims of the Great Train Robbery on 8th August 2013, 50 years after the event – at Crewe Station.
Former Crewe-based driver Jack Mills, who was coshed during the robbery, was remembered, along with his fireman David Whitby. The memorial service was held in their former booking on point at Crewe.
Railway chaplain, Richard Cook, spoke of the train crew’s bravery in attempting to defend their train and how he, Cook, as a former guard, worked mail train 1M44 on numerous occasions during his railway career. He also asked that those present forgive the robbers by saying that forgiveness, but never forgetting what they did, ‘sets us free and stops them having a hold over us.’
The Reverend Cook illustrated his point by quoting from Matthew’s Gospel chapter 5. ‘You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbour and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.’ The service was attended by relatives of Jack Mills and David Whitby and current station staff.
Driver Mills joined the railway in 1919, becoming a driver in 1942. He was driving the Glasgow to London Euston Royal Mail when it was stopped by the robbers who had tampered with Leighton Buzzard’s intermediate up home and distant signals, at Sears Crossing on 8th August, 1963.
Despite sustaining five head wounds he was forced to drive locomotive D326 (later to become 40126) a short distance to Bridego Bridge after the retired train driver brought along by the robbers was unable to blow off the vacuum brakes, following the uncoupling of the first two carriages from the rest of the train.
Jack Mills, who lived at the now demolished 35 Newdigate Street in Crewe with his wife Florence, was off work for several months. When he went back to work he was put on shunting duties. He died of leukaemia on 4th February 1970. Mills never returned to main line working – a point often overlooked by those seeking to romanticise the robbery.
David Whitby, also from Crewe, was badly traumatised by the assault and subsequent rough treatment. Whitby never fully recovered. He returned to work as a secondman but died aged 34 from a heart attack.
Jack’s son John Mills, speaking about his father some years after the robbery, said, ‘He got shingles, what the doctor said was delayed shock coming out. His right hand shook, it never stopped until the day he died and he started to sway. From that day he went downhill, he was not my dad of old.’