In Glasgow's underworld, most criminals are given nicknames that reflect their propensity for violence.

However, one of the city's most infamous crooks was instead known as Gentle Johnny who became one of the most notorious safebreakers in Britain with a criminal career spanning six decades.

Though Johnny Ramensky was a hardened criminal he hated violence and had his own code of ethics.

Glasgow Times:

Though he enjoyed breaking into banks, building societies and post offices he would never break into people's homes Large organisations and institutions were his targets, with Ramensky taking the view that they were well insured and could take the loss.

Ramensky was also unusual in that he often pled guilty to his crimes in the hope of a lighter sentence and to save the time of the court.

His strong ethical code meant whenever he came upon pension or savings books in safes, he would post them back to their owners.

While serving one of many sentences he wrote to the authorities, warning he had left an undetonated explosive charge in a safe.

Prisoners respected him as the clever Ramensky would take up their causes and write letters on their behalf. His skills meant he was always in demand from Glasgow's crime bosses.

Glasgow Times:

If one of the city godfathers like Arthur Thompson snr needed to bust a safe, he would call on Ramensky.

But he was never a gangster or a hard man like those had hired his services Ramensky was born Yonas Ramanauckas on April 4, 1906, in Glenboig, Lanarkshire, to a poor immigrant couple from Lithuania.

He lost his miner father at an early age and his mother moved the family to the Gorbals where Ramensky, then a pupil of Rutherglen Academy, soon fell into a life of crime.

It wasn't long before he found himself imprisoned - something he would soon get used to - when he was sent to Glenochil Young Offenders Insitution at the age of 16.

He famously escaped five times from Peterhead Prison - then the country's toughest jail.

Firstly in 1934, again in 1952 and three times in 1958 turning him into the first ever criminal celebrity.

However the authorities were not so impressed with this habitual offender.

After he cracked a garage safe and stole the takings in Glasgow's Castlemilk judge Lord Carmont told him: "You are a menace to society. Any sentence of less than 10 years would be useless."

His 1934 escape had followed the death of his young wife die when he was refused permission to attend the funeral.

Wearing only his underpants, Ramensky fled his Peterhead cell and even swam across a freezing river before being discovered in Aberdeen a few days later.

It was the first time anyone had managed to escape from the high security jail.

Upon returning to the prison Ramensky was shackled in irons as punishment.

MP John McGovern, of Shettleston Glasgow, campaigned for the chains to be removed.

Ramensky thus became the last man to be shackled inside a Scottish prison.

It was while in Peterhead in 1942, as war raged across Europe, that Ramensky's life took a dramatic turn.

Glasgow Times:

His prowess as a safecracker brought him to the attention of the Armed Forces, who offered him a pardon if he used his skills to the benefit of the war effort.

He agreed and enlisted with the Royal Highland Fusiliers, where he was given commando training to complement his safe cracking skills.

Ramensky became a key weapon for the British as part of a crack commando unit, dropped behind enemy lines, breaking into Nazi strongholds to steal important German documents.

In Italy, he blew open the safes of 14 foreign embassies in Rome - all in one day. That feat earned him a medal..

It's also been said that Ramensky also blew the safes of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, Herman Goering, Joseph Goebbels and even Adolf Hitler.

While successfully obtaining key documents to aid the war effort, there are claims he also helped himself to some Nazi treasures.

Rumours persist to this day that some loot plundered by Ramensky included a treasure trove of artwork, jewellery and gold which ended tip in a military storage deport in Carfin, Lanarkshire.

Ramensky was demobbed in 1946 and he tried to start a career as a bookmaker.

His second wife, Lily Mulholland who he married in 1955, tried to keep him on the straight and narrow but Johnny had become institutionalised and found it difficult to adapt to a life without crime He returned to safe cracking and was active right up to the early 1970's often with comical consequences In 1964 at the age of 58 Ramensky blew the safe at Woolworths in Paisley.

But it was an American safe and he used too much explosives and the blast blew out every window in the building. Unfortunately, the explosion was so loud that officers in the local police station heard the blast.

For that, Johnny received two more years - a modest sentence considering his record.

READ MORE: Glasgow Crime Stories: The story of the Pollokshields railway murders

Glasgow Times:

His lawyer the legendary Joe Beltrami secured the lenient disposal with a plea in mitigation in which he said: "He has asked me not to refer to his wartime exploits, but after the war he had difficulty, like thousands of others, re-establishing himself. Broken promises, suspicion and false adulation were the elements of this man's experience."

In 1967, aged 62, he staged a bank job on the night safe in a bank in Main Street, Rutherglen.

Again, it was a loud blast and his getaway was hampered because the haul was largely in old half-crown coins.

He had no chance of outrunning the police. Two officers were on patrol nearby and the force of the blast blew them on to their backs. They recovered quickly, gave chase and captured him with Ramensky later given four more years.

However, his age was about to catch up with him in devastating fashion.

In 1970, he tackled the strongroom of the Stirling Burgh Factors office. His luck ran out when he fell from the building. After 14 weeks of recuperation he was jailed again.

This time he was sentenced to two years inside after appearing in court in a wheelchair.

After his release, he was caught on a shop roof in Ayr, which resulted in another year inside.

While serving that sentence in Perth Prison, Ramsay collapsed in 1972 and died in hospital.

Such was the respect Ramensky had, both sides of the law attended the war hero's funeral at St Kentigern's Cemetery in Glasgow's Lambhill and his obituary appeared in every Scots newspaper.

Over the years tales of his life became the subject of songs, books and movies despite spending 40 of his 67 years behind bars.

His various escape attempts evoked widespread sympathy from the public, illustrated in the song, "The Ballad of Johnny Ramensky", by the late Labour MP Norman Buchan.

It was also said that the classic World War Two adventure novel The Guns of best selling Glasgow author Alistair McLean - and Hollywood movie adaptation - was based on some of Johnnys commando exploits.

It's also believed that Ramensky's character was the inspiration behind the film The Safecracker, a 1958 movie starring Ray Milland as an expert on locks who turns safecracker.

Ramensky's strong code of ethics, his daring feats during World War II and his charisma despite his criminal record have earned him in a place in the history books.

Even Peterhead Prison, where he famously spent many years, has created an exhibition in their museum to chart the different aspects of his life and career.

One law enforcement adversary was Detective Superintendent Robert Colquhoun of the City of Glasgow Police.

READ MORE: The Glasgow airgun killer who murdered Easterhouse tot, 2, Andrew Morton

After he took took ill Ramensky had once sent him a note wishing him well and suggested he had perhaps been working too hard trying to catch him.

Mr Colquhoun said at the time:"Like most policemen who have come in contact with Ramensky, I find him an engaging character, the kind of man who, applying his brain to another, more acceptable, type of occupation, could probably have made good." As a skilled safe cracker Ramensky was a victim of his own success with police officers immediately suspecting him.

While his distinctive appearance made it easy for eye witnesses to pick him out at ID parades.

Another senior cop who knew Ramensky well Det Chief Supt James Binnie of Glasgow CID once said: "Although he was a criminal, he was the type of man for who you had to have a certain respect and fondness."