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Wotcha, me old china. How's your Ruby? Bit 'ot innit? Well, each to 'is own self. Me, I luv 'em.

Lemme tell ya 'baht a little caper that the criminal fraternity used to play in back in the day. You know, when people smoked that 'ganja or 'ad girls' 'air.

The blag. Now, this ain't what it means today. This weren't no getting access with a high-class set of bluffs. And it ain't some fancy name for your blog. A blag was an armed robbery done right, done old-school. Sometimes we done over the bank itself but more likely was tooling up a few villains to do over the security van moving the pay packets between em. One variant was them little sub-Post Offices that usually 'ad one pensioner serving and no thick glass, no thing. Piece of piss, that.

See, before you had your fancy-schmancy credit cards and online banking, you had all your money in readies. Proper cash.

So to get this money from the banks out to the works, they drove it about in security vans. Amateur transit-jobs squired about by flabby ex-Old Bill done for being on the take along with herberts thinking they was Bruce Lee. They'd 'ave a shatter-proof windscreen and a lockbox but none of your exploding coloured-dyes and time locks.

If you knew where the van was going to be and when (there were ways of getting that- like discovering someone at the company liked his girlie mags and making the consequences clear if he didn't help you), you could turn it over. This is what was called a "cash-in-transit robbery".

What you did then was get your sawn-off and some pickaxe 'andles, then attack it, Robin Hood/Lawrence of Arabia style, making sure your faces were covered. You coshed the guards (you didn't shoot anyone, no siree. Not back then) and slung yer hook with the take before the Sweeney showed up. They were armed and not very nice.

Of course, then you had to make sure no-one turned you in before you ended up in the Costa del Sol, sipping champers with your lovely lady. 'specially, you had to watch out for the big crooks.

Kind of dead now, cos of all the DNA and what not. Those were the days.

Translation into plain English:

A type of typically British Crime Caper revolving around the robbery of an armoured car carrying a company's payroll. For obvious reasons, it will be set in more primitive times when workers received a pay envelope (full of cash) rather than a pay cheque, necessitating the delivery of said cash by said armoured car. The cast is likely to be full of Violent Glaswegians and other British Undesirables, notably London Gangsters.

Compare Train Job. Subtrope of The Caper.


Cases for you to 'ave a butcher's at:

Anime & Manga


Comic Books

  • Knocking over armoured cars transporting cash was a staple of crooks in Batman comics until at least the 1980s.


Film


Live Action TV

  • Practically every other episode of The Sweeney.
  • Being an homage to the above, Life On Mars
  • Early seasons of The Bill.
  • The Professionals
  • One episode of The Last Detective deals with a retired London Gangster and centers around a past robbery similar to the actual Great Train Robbery.
  • The Season Two arc of Ashes to Ashes climaxes with a plot by a group of corrupt cops to step into an Armed Blag they've been tipped off to and take the money themselves.
    • Quite possibly inspired by a couple of Real Life incidents in the 70s and 80s, a period when the London Metropolitan Police in general and the Flying Squad in particularly might just as well have been another gang.
  • In one episode of Person of Interest, the Victim of the Week is part of an armoured truck's guard crew, and the heroes suspect someone will try an Armed Blag on the truck while it transports platinum. Someone does, but their "victim" is the ringleader and the Inside Man.


Video Games

  • In The Godfather game, you can ambush enemy mobsters' racket trucks in order to pry cash from the guards' cold dead hands. You can also interrogate the driver for the location of a racket. You then have to return the cash to your safehouse before it becomes usable currency. The main threat to you is not the cops but a Teleporting Keycard Squad or two of enemy mobsters, though.


Other

  • When this trope gets evoked in recent times, it's often re-dressed, with the armored car becoming a prison transport van, and the money, a prisoner who must either be freed by his accomplices or killed before he can testify against them. That, or it's a jewelry shipment.


Real Life

  • The most famous British Real Life example is the 1963 Great Train Robbery, which was actually woefully badly done and resulted in the arrests of nearly all involved.
  • Experienced a very brief renaissance during the early stages of the current recession, the most successful example being a subversion; rather than ambush an armoured van in transit, a party of robbers cut out the middleman and forced their way into the security firm's depot, driving off with several million pounds.
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