Here’s look­ing at choo choo

The wife of train rob­ber Ron­nie Biggs gets to tell her story, writes Colin Vick­ery

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Newseries -

THE open­ing min­utes of Mrs Biggs make the re­la­tion­ship be­tween Ron­nie Biggs and his fu­ture wife Charmian Pow­ell look idyl­lic.

It’s 1957, when the pair meets on a Lon­don train. Ron­nie, played by Daniel Mays, wins Charmian (Sheri­dan Smith) over with his lad­dish charm.

Charmian is a staid of­fice worker who once had hopes of go­ing to univer­sity. Ron­nie tries to hide the fact that he is a trades­man and a petty crim­i­nal. ‘‘ Flash Harry’’, one of his co-work­ers calls him.

Ron­nie is the po­lar op­po­site of Charmian’s strict fa­ther, Bernard, a head­mas­ter. Maybe that is what makes him so at­trac­tive.

The ro­mance is like a day­dream. The mu­sic swirls, ev­ery­thing is bathed in a golden glow.

His­tory tells us the good times won’t last. Six years later, Ron­nie, in debt, takes part in one of the most fa­mous crimes in Bri­tish his­tory — The Great Train Rob­bery.

The con­se­quences dev­as­tate Charmian. Ron­nie is even­tu­ally caught and sen­tenced to 30 years in prison.

Charmian was a con­sul­tant to the pro­duc­tion.

‘‘ I knew about Ron­nie Biggs, but I didn’t know Charmian’s side of the story at all,’’ Smith says.

‘‘ When you first think of Mrs Biggs — the Great Train Rob­ber’s wife — you think of a gang­ster’s moll, but she is an amaz­ing woman. She stood by him for a long time, hop­ing it (mar­riage) might change, really want­ing it to work.’’

Charmian goes on the run with Ron­nie and their two chil­dren af­ter he es­capes from Wandsworth Prison.

Later, Charmian and her fam­ily se­cretly travel to Aus­tralia on false pass­ports.

‘‘ The first part of the se­ries was filmed in the UK and then sud­denly we’re in the boil­ing South Aus­tralian out­back cov­ered in flies with noth­ing for miles around,’’ Smith says.

‘‘ It gave you a feel­ing of how they must have felt all those years ago. It must have been scary for Charmian when she ar­rived on her own with Ups and downs: Sheri­dan Smith plays Charmian Biggs in

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