How does a little bit of safe-cracking history sound to you? Well, we have come across a really great story about Gentle Johnny, one of the most famous safe-crackers in the world! John Ramensky, was a Scottish war hero before he became a renowned safe-cracker. He’d won military honors for his services as a commando during WWII only to spend significant time in (and out) of Scottish jails. But let’s start at the beginning.
Johnny was born to Lithuanian parents in a Scottish mining village in 1906. After his parents moved to Glasgow while he was still a child, Johnny found himself drawn to a life of crime. This meant that he spent a significant portion of his adult life in jail, mainly for safe-cracking and his work with explosives. In 1934 when Johnny was 28 year old, he found out that his wife had died. The prison would not permit him to attend her funeral so he made his first of 5 jailbreaks from Peterhead Prison. He was the first person to ever escape from Peterhead Prison.
In 1943, Johnny enlisted with the Royal Fusiliers and became an instructor in safe-blowing. On several occasions, he parachuted behind enemy lines to crack safes and steal military documents from the other side. Even though he distinguished himself as a war hero, once the war was over Johnny reverted to his life of crime—getting back into gambling and safe cracking and spending much of his time in prison. Johnny earned the name “Gentle Johnny” because, despite his criminality, he was never violent. He even went so far as to warn others of explosives that he’d left active after he’d been caught for a safe-cracking. All told, Johnny spent over 45 years behind bars – from his first imprisonment in 1921 (at age 15) to his death in prison in 1972.
If you are interested in this sort of history, the National Archives of Scotland has more information on Gentle Johnny and other fascinating tales! You can also check out the book on Gentle Johnny (cover image above) on Amazon or at your local book shop.
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