Slice of Life

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 February, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 February, 2008, 12:00am

From the South China Morning Post this week in: 1968

London, February 25

A gang of seven highly skilled crooks trained for weeks in a derelict Northern France monastery before they spirited the 'Great Train Robber', Charles Wilson, out of a heavily-guarded British jail. Master-minded by a former French Resistance fighter known as 'Frenchy', they engineered the breakout from Winson Green Prison near Birmingham for GBP50,000 in hard cash. Details of this fantastic plot to free Wilson, recaptured last month, are told by his wife Pat in an interview in The News of The World.

For days the men practised scaling the monastery walls. Among the seven were a pilot, a radio operator and a locksmith. On August 12, 1964, Frenchy and his gang were ready outside the 15-foot-high prison walls. They wore dark clothing, making themselves almost invisible at night. Three scaled the prison walls with grappling hooks and a collapsible ladder. Outside, the radio operator listened for police broadcasts before joining the climbers. The locksmith raced to Wilson's cell and spent eight agonising minutes picking the lock. Wilson donned dark clothes and quickly followed the group over the walls.

Wilson and two gang members hid in a special compartment in a petrol tanker. Within minutes it trundled off for a deserted landing strip and a waiting plane piloted by a Belgian member of the group.

Wilson, a 37-year-old bookmaker, was jailed for his part in what was known as the crime of the century - the GBP2,500,000 hijacking of the Glasgow-London mail train in 1963.

Hongkong, February 26

The official organ of the Chinese Communist Party has called for an end to the anarchic trend spreading among the ranks of Maoist supporters. At the same time, the Canton Southern Daily indicated the struggle for power was continuing in Kwantung even after the establishment of the Kwantung and Canton Revolutionary Committees.

The Peking People's Daily was quoted by Peking Radio as saying that anarchism was the 'political bridge that leads to counter-revolution'.

The Canton Southern Daily called for a united effort to combat and suppress anarchism and factionalism 'which are being used by class enemies to sabotage the newly formed revolutionary committees'. 'Class enemies, foreign agents and die-hard followers of party capitalist-roaders were mixed in the revolutionary ranks.'

Birkenhead, England, February 26

Mr Warner Williams, a grave digger, today failed to get a warrant for the arrest of Mr Harold Wilson, the Prime Minister, for treason. Magistrates told him they had no power to issue the warrant - alleging treason by the Prime Minister in conspiring with foreign powers to bring Britain into the Common Market.

But Mr Williams, head of the local branch of the right-wing National Front, said he was not deterred by this setback in his bid to get the Prime Minister behind bars. He will now write to the Attorney-General - and if that fails call on the Duke of Norfolk, hereditary High Steward of England, to convene his court of 25 Barons.

Washington, February 27

Police expect a summer of Negro rioting and are preparing with armoured cars, machine-guns, tear gas grenades and secret arsenals. Some police chiefs are pressing for tanks, armed helicopters and battle-line weapons and the Army is stockpiling equipment in strategic locations. Weapons being prepared for the Negros include some tested in Vietnam.

The Government commission on Civil Disorders this week completes a seven-month study into the causes of the Negro frustration. Commission insiders say it will be a harsh indictment of America's whites, holding them to blame for prejudice, neglect and injustice. Washington experts say more riots are inevitable, despite crash programmes already initiated to find 500,000 jobs, and to replace six million homes labelled as squalid and substandard.