TWO former police officers who worked in Kidlington and trained near Witney were commended for their work on catching Great Train Robbers.
The commendation ceremony at Eynsham Hall, formerly a police training centre, marked 50 years since one of Britain’s most famous heists, in which 15 London gang members stole £2.6m from a Royal Mail train in Ledburn, Buckinghamshire on August 8, 1963.
Keith Milner, 78, from Islip, and John Woolley, 75, from Buckinghamshire, worked on the case as a detective constable and a police constable respectively.
Mr Woolley was responsible for finding the robbers’ abandoned hideout at Leatherslade Farm in Buckinghamshire.
Among the items found at the farm five days after the crime was a game of Monopoly which had been played by the robbers using real £5 notes stolen from the train.
Mr Woolley, who later worked as a civilian manager at Kidlington in the 1980s and 1990s, said: “I just happened to be in the right place at the right time.
“I feel quite emotional about the commendation, but I’m even more delighted about the reunion with people I haven’t seen for 50 years.
“I think Thames Valley Police have come up with a marvellous idea that lets us reminisce.”
He added that the pleasant surroundings of Eynsham Hall brought back memories of when he did his basic 10-week police training at the age of 25 in 1959.
“It’s the first time I’ve been back and it’s very much the same as it was 50 years ago,” he said.
Eynsham Hall was leased by the Home Office from 1946 to 1981 to train a large number of recruits after the Second World War.
Mr Milner, who was head of Thames Valley Police CID in Kidlington between 1979 and 1987, said: “I cannot believe it’s been 50 years.
“It’s quite amazing to think how much publicity this crime has had – it’s stayed with me throughout my career.”
Eighteen retired Buckinghamshire Constabulary and Thames Valley Police investigators and staff were at the event on Wednesday to receive their commendations and hear speeches by Thames Valley Police Chief Constable Sara Thornton and Police and Crime Commissioner Antony Stansfeld.
Mr Stansfeld, from Newbury, said: “The officers really did not get the recognition they deserved.
“There’s not been a heist of its kind since and I think they are all absolutely delighted to be commended.”
Criminals involved in the heist received a combined total of 300 years’ imprisonment when they were sentenced on March 25, 1964.
Famously though, Ronnie Biggs served just 15 months before escaping from Wandsworth Prison on July 8, 1965.