RONALD BIGGS: THE MAN & THE MYTH
Who exactly is Ronald Arthur Biggs who was born in the London borough of Lambeth on August 8, 1929? Ron has out run and out lasted them all over four decades. He never intended to be the most famous element of the Great Train Robbery, neither did he plan to rob the train on his birthday, or become Britain's most wanted man. Life just happened like that for Ron and continues to for a man who has been called many things over the years, but deserves to be called a good father, a doting grandfather and a generous and caring friend to many of the people who have met him.
When he was born in Lambeth, Ron was the youngest of five. He had one sister and three brothers, one of whom, Terence, died at an early age. His family was working class but he never considered them poor or was left wanting for anything. In 1940, as the German bombing of London increased, Ron was separated from his family and evacuated to the safety of Devon and later to Cornwall. He returned to London at the end of 1942 and was sent to Santley Street School. In the May of 1943 his mother died. She was fifty-three.
It was not long after his return to London that the 15 year old Ron made his first appearance in court for stealing pencils from Littlewoods. That same year he made two further court appearances for petty pilfering but appeared to be back on the right track when in 1947 he volunteered for the Royal Air Force. It was during his time in the RAF that Ron learned how to cook. Cooking was something that his father, a professional cook at one time, had instilled in him and it is something he has never forgotten as he continues to work the gastronomic magic in his kitchen in Rio or around the barbecue pit in his garden.
However, after breaking into a chemist while AWOL from the RAF, Ron found himself up before the London Sessions in February 1949 which resulted in a six month prison sentence and a dishonourable discharge from the service. Released from Lewes Prison for Young Prisoners in June 1949 he was in court the following month for taking a car without the owner's permission. This time he was sent to Wormwood Scrubs and then on to Lewes where his path crossed for the first time with Bruce Reynolds, the man who would be the driving force and brains behind the Great Train Robbery. A life of crime, court appearances and imprisonment was to follow over the next 14 years.
Ron has never complained about those fourteen years between 1949 and 1963, perhaps because in October 1957 he met Charmian Powell, the future Mrs Biggs. The two married on February 20 1960, and a first son, Nicholas, who was tragically to die in a car crash in Australia in 1971, was born the same year. A second son. Christopher, was to come along in 1963 and a third, Farley, would be added when the couple were on the run in Australia in 1967.