British and Poles mark 70th anniversary of the Great Escape


Blackleaf
#1
A ceremony to commemorate the Great Escape, the famous breakout of mainly British airmen from German prisoner of war camp Stalag Luft III on 24-25 March 1944, has taken place in Poland.

Survivors, families and UK and Polish officials gathered in Zagan in western Poland, 70 years after the escape plot.

Of those who broke out of the camp, only three reached safety and of the 73 recaptured, 50 were shot.

The ceremony was the first formal act of remembrance held in their honour.

A small number of survivors of the prisoner of war camp were among those who paid their respects.

The daring bid for freedom was immortalised in the classic 1963 Hollywood film The Great Escape, starring Steve McQueen, James Garner and Richard Attenborough. Despite McQueen playing an American in a leading role in the escape, in reality no Americans were involved in the escape at all.

According to the Daily Telegraph, the appropriately-named D ick Churchill, 94, is the last British survivor among the 76 escapees.

'The Great Escape' commemorated in Poland

BBC News
24 March 2014


Air Commodore Charles Clarke was a prisoner at the German camp immortalised in The Great Escape

A ceremony to commemorate the Great Escape, the famous breakout from German prisoner of war camp Stalag Luft III in 1944, has taken place in Poland.

Survivors, families and UK and Polish officials gathered in Zagan, 70 years after the escape plot.

Of those who broke out of the camp, only three reached safety and of the 73 recaptured, 50 were shot.

The ceremony was the first formal act of remembrance held in their honour.

A small number of survivors of the prisoner of war camp were among those who paid their respects.

Some 50 RAF service personnel will now march for four days to the cemetery at Poznan where they will lay wreaths at the graves of the 50 executed prisoners.

The RAF's Air Vice-Marshal Stuart Atha told those gathered the Great Escape was "an extraordinary chapter" in the history of the allied air forces "written by men with great courage and character".


During the war, Stalag Luft III was in Germany, but is now in western Poland


Those who escaped were "an exceptional band of airmen whose bravery, ingenuity and resilient spirit set an example for all time", he added.

"When first captured, they did not accept that for them the war was over.

"Far from it, they were not prisoners of war - they were prisoners at war.

"And through their activities, they opened another front that distracted and diluted enemy forces and demonstrated that no fence, no Stalag Luft, could contain allied airmen."

British ambassador to Poland Robin Barnett and former prisoner of war Charles Clarke were among others who spoke.

10,000 prisoners


RAF airmen were kept prisoner at Stalag Luft III

The daring bid for freedom was immortalised in the classic 1963 film The Great Escape, starring Steve McQueen, James Garner and Richard Attenborough.

Stalag Luft III, which was 100 miles south-east of Berlin on the Polish border, held about 10,000 prisoners at the height of its occupation.

Members of the RAF, the US Army Air Force and other allied forces were among prisoners at the camp.

Because of border changes, the location of the camp is now in Poland.

An escape committee was formed at the camp in spring 1943 and the escape plan hatched under the leadership of Squadron Leader Roger Bushell.

Three tunnels, codenamed Tom, D ick and Harry, were started in April 1943.

The tunnels were dug to a depth of 30ft and shored up with wooden boards from the prisoners' beds.

On the night of 24 March 1944, about 200 mainly British prisoners prepared to escape through Harry, a tunnel measuring over 300ft long, beneath Hut 104.

Only 76 were able to make their break for freedom using the tunnel.

Norwegian pilots Per Bergsland and Jens Muller, and Dutch pilot Bram van der Stok - who all died in the 1990s - made it to safety.

Of the 73 who were recaptured, 50 were subsequently shot by the Gestapo on Adolf Hitler's orders.

According to the Daily Telegraph, D ick Churchill, 94, is the last British survivor among the 76 escapees.

The Great Escape



Stalag Luft III opened in spring 1942
Air forces personnel only
At maximum it held 10,000 PoWs, covered 59 acres, with five miles of perimeter fencing
Wooden Horse escape on the night of 29/30 October 1943
Great Escape on 24-25 March 1944
Of three tunnels, only one, Harry, completed
Harry was 336 ft (102m) long, 28ft (8.5m) deep

READ MORE: BBC News - 'The Great Escape' commemorated in Poland (external - login to view)
Last edited by Blackleaf; Mar 24th, 2014 at 09:41 AM..
 
Most helpful post: The members here have rated this post as best reply.
lone wolf
+5
#2  Top Rated Post
It took a Canadian - Wally Floody - to master the tunnels....

CBC Digital Archives - Second World War General - Wally Floody and the Great Escape
 
Locutus
#3
Don't forget the sacrifice by Captain Virgil Hilts.
 
lone wolf
#4
...that poor bike
 
Twila
+1
#5
Quote: Originally Posted by lone wolfView Post

...that poor bike

That poor bike got to be ridden by Steve McQueen....I had such a crush on him when I was little. I think I still do....
 
Locutus
+2
#6
"In real life at Stalag Luft, the American prisoners were separated from the British before the actual escape was made. Several, though, were instrumental in the planning stages of the digging of the various tunnels. Of these, Flt.-Lt. George Harsh (who flew with the Royal Canadian Air Force rather than the USAAF), was perhaps the nearest equivalent to Hilts, though resemblances are very slight."

Hilts 'The Cooler King' (Character) - Biography (external - login to view)

 
Nuggler
#7
Quote: Originally Posted by TwilaView Post

That poor bike got to be ridden by Steve McQueen....I had such a crush on him when I was little. I think I still do....


too late, but, he would have had a crush on you too................Ah, young love..........the goodldaze
 
L Gilbert
#8
Quote: Originally Posted by TwilaView Post

That poor bike got to be ridden by Steve McQueen....I had such a crush on him when I was little. I think I still do....

Yeah, wifey, too. She said he was a cute little guy.
 
EagleSmack
+1
#9
 
Blackleaf
#10
Quote: Originally Posted by EagleSmackView Post


You do know that was fiction, don't you? Steve McQueen was celebrating his 14th birthday when the British were escaping from Stalag Luft III.

Quote: Originally Posted by lone wolfView Post

It took a Canadian - Wally Floody - to master the tunnels....

CBC Digital Archives - Second World War General - Wally Floody and the Great Escape

Nah. The Great Escape was organised and led by RAF Squadron Leader Roger Bushell. The character played by David's brother, Richard Attenborough, in the Great Escape film was based on Bushell.

Bushell was held in the North Compound where British airmen were housed. He was in command of the Escape Committee and channeled the effort into probing for weaknesses and looking for opportunities. Falling back on his legal background to represent his scheme, Bushell called a meeting of the Escape Committee and not only shocked those present with its scope, but injected into every man a passionate determination to put their every energy into the escape. He declared,
"Everyone here in this room is living on borrowed time. By rights we should all be dead! The only reason that God allowed us this extra ration of life is so we can make life hell for the Hun... In North Compound we are concentrating our efforts on completing and escaping through one master tunnel. No private-enterprise tunnels allowed. Three bloody deep, bloody long tunnels will be dug - Tom, D ick, and Harry. One will succeed!"

Stalag Luft III - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (external - login to view)
 
EagleSmack
+2
#11
Quote: Originally Posted by BlackleafView Post

You do know that was fiction, don't you? Steve McQueen was celebrating his 14th birthday when the British were escaping from Stalag Luft III.

Yes I am aware that it was a movie filmed in 1963.

Did you just figure that out? You've seemed to have difficulty differentiating fact from fiction and history from entertainment.
 
Blackleaf
#12
Quote: Originally Posted by EagleSmackView Post

Did you just figure that out? .

No. I already knew. I was just wondering if you did, considering the way the Yanks romanticise their history and believe historical fiction.

I'll just point out again - that was a movie. McQueen turned just 14 on 24th March 1944. He - and every other American - played no part in the Great Escape, despite what any Hollywood film would have you believe.
 
Locutus
#13
Quote: Originally Posted by BlackleafView Post

No. I already knew. I was just wondering if you did, considering the way the Yanks romanticise their history and believe historical fiction.

I'll just point out again - that was a movie. McQueen turned just 14 on 24th March 1944. He - and every other American - played no part in the Great Escape, despite what any Hollywood film would have you believe.

Quote: Originally Posted by LocutusView Post

"In real life at Stalag Luft, the American prisoners were separated from the British before the actual escape was made. Several, though, were instrumental in the planning stages of the digging of the various tunnels. Of these, Flt.-Lt. George Harsh (who flew with the Royal Canadian Air Force rather than the USAAF), was perhaps the nearest equivalent to Hilts, though resemblances are very slight."

Hilts 'The Cooler King' (Character) - Biography (external - login to view)

....
 
EagleSmack
#14
Quote: Originally Posted by BlackleafView Post

No. I already knew. I was just wondering if you did, considering the way the Yanks romanticise their history and believe historical fiction.

With your never ending whining about American movies I highly doubt it.

Quote:

I'll just point out again - that was a movie. McQueen turned just 14 on 24th March 1944. He - and every other American - played no part in the Great Escape, despite what any Hollywood film would have you believe.

Case in point.

It was a movie made in 1963. I would think you would by now you would have figured it out.

And if the Americans hadn't made the movie this would be no more than a foot note in the US defeat of Germany and Japan in WWII.
 
Blackleaf
#15
Quote: Originally Posted by LocutusView Post

....

The Great Escape is just one of many Yankee "historical" films which credit Yanks for things they didn't do in real life.

Despite what you see in The Great Escape, no Yanks whatsoever took part in it.

Here is the complete list of the escapees: List of Allied airmen from the Great Escape - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (external - login to view)

Of the 76 escapees, 53 were British, 7 were Canadian, 4 were Australian, 3 were New Zealanders, 3 were South Africans, 2 were Norwegians, 1 was Greek, 1 was Polish and none were American.
Last edited by Blackleaf; Mar 25th, 2014 at 08:59 AM..
 
EagleSmack
+1
#16
No Americans involved? No wonder you all got caught!

The movie should have been called

The Great Roundup

Escape FAIL
 
Blackleaf
#17
Quote: Originally Posted by EagleSmackView Post

No Americans involved?

None whatsoever. You wouldn't think when you watch The Great Escape though. It's like that movie which credits Americans for capturing a certain enigma machine from Jerry, even though it was, in reality, the sailors from HMS Bulldog who captured it.

Quote: Originally Posted by EagleSmackView Post

And if the Americans hadn't made the movie this would be no more than a foot note in the US defeat of Germany and Japan in WWII.


I think The Great Escape was already a big event before the propaganda film was made.
 
EagleSmack
#18
Quote: Originally Posted by BlackleafView Post

None whatsoever. You wouldn't think when you watch The Great Escape though. It's like that movie which credits Americans for capturing a certain enigma machine from Jerry, even though it was, in reality, the sailors from HMS Bulldog who captured it.

No wonder you all got bagged!

The Not So Great Escape

Quote: Originally Posted by BlackleafView Post


I think The Great Escape was already a big event before the propaganda film was made.

The Great German Roundup
 
Blackleaf
#19
Quote: Originally Posted by EagleSmackView Post

No wonder you all got bagged!

The Not So Great Escape


Yeah. The reason why The Great Escape failed was because no Yanks managed to escape. Yeah. It's obvious.
 
EagleSmack
#20
Quote: Originally Posted by BlackleafView Post

Yeah. The reason why The Great Escape failed was because no Yanks managed to escape. Yeah. It's obvious.

That's right... the Yanks would have led everyone to freedom!

Boom!

 
Blackleaf
#21
Quote: Originally Posted by EagleSmackView Post

That's right... the Yanks would have led everyone to freedom!

Boom!

Considering American soldiers' bad record in battle situations I think everyone would have preferred to follow the intelligent British out of Stalag Luft III rather than the brainless, gung-ho Yanks.
 
captain morgan
#22
Quote: Originally Posted by BlackleafView Post

Considering American soldiers' bad record in battle situations I think everyone would have preferred to follow the intelligent British out of Stalag Luft III rather than the brainless, gung-ho Yanks.


Didn't work out so well, did it?
 
lone wolf
+1
#23
Quote: Originally Posted by BlackleafView Post

You do know that was fiction, don't you? Steve McQueen was celebrating his 14th birthday when the British were escaping from Stalag Luft III.
Nah. The Great Escape was organised and led by RAF Squadron Leader Roger Bushell. The character played by David's brother, Richard Attenborough, in the Great Escape film was based on Bushell.
Bushell was held in the North Compound where British airmen were housed. He was in command of the Escape Committee and channeled the effort into probing for weaknesses and looking for opportunities. Falling back on his legal background to represent his scheme, Bushell called a meeting of the Escape Committee and not only shocked those present with its scope, but injected into every man a passionate determination to put their every energy into the escape. He declared,"Everyone here in this room is living on borrowed time. By rights we should all be dead! The only reason that God allowed us this extra ration of life is so we can make life hell for the Hun... In North Compound we are concentrating our efforts on completing and escaping through one master tunnel. No private-enterprise tunnels allowed. Three bloody deep, bloody long tunnels will be dug - Tom, D ick, and Harry. One will succeed!"
Stalag Luft III - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia...

Quote has been trimmed, See full post: View Post
There is nothing novel or new about a Brit (or anyone else, for that matter) trying to escape a bad situation. Brit tunnels kept caving in as they dug through the sand. Without Floody's expertise, there'd just have been more cave-ins.

Face it, the world doesn't revolve around Britain.
 
Blackleaf
#24
Quote: Originally Posted by captain morganView Post

Didn't work out so well, did it?

Why does that matter? All that matters is that the escape was attempted.

In WWII British POWs were expected to try and escape. It wasn't, as many believe, their actual duty to try and escape, but the attempt to escape was an expectation of how British airmen should behave, even if it was nigh on impossible.

As one former PoW has said: “There was a kind of corporate policy of intent that it was part of our duty to play a part in escape arrangements.”

The fact is that the British POWs in Stalag Luft III did what was expected of British POWs - to try and escape. It didn't matter whether it was successful or not. The only thing that mattered was that they tried.

In fact, the Great Escape was just one of many escape attempts by British POWs. The British attempted 11 before March 1944.

One example is the March 1943 escape from the PoW camp at Szubin, Poland, in which 43 mainly RAF airmen tunnelled out. All the men were recaptured, apart from one, who drowned.

Quote: Originally Posted by lone wolfView Post

Without Floody's expertise, there'd just have been more cave-ins.

And where was Floody in the other ELEVEN escapes that British POWs made before the Great Escape?

The world didn't revolve around a little-known Canadian mysteriously named Floody.
 
captain morgan
#25
Quote: Originally Posted by BlackleafView Post

Why does that matter? All that matters is that the escape was attempted.

In WWII British POWs were expected to try and escape. It wasn't, as many believe, their actual duty to try and escape, but the attempt to escape was an expectation of how British airmen should behave, even if it was nigh on impossible.


So, what you're really accomplishing with this OP is to celebrate a British failure during WW 2?

You Britons are one confusing bunch, I'll say
 
Blackleaf
#26
Quote: Originally Posted by captain morganView Post

So, what you're really accomplishing with this OP is to celebrate a British failure during WW 2?

It's the 70th anniversary of the Great Escape and it was marked by the British and Poles.

Five myths of the WWII Great Escape

Friday 21st March 2014
BBC History Magazine
Guy Walters



On the eve of the 70th anniversary of the Great Escape, Guy Walters, author of a book on the famous breakout from Stulag Luft III, dispels some popular misconceptions about the events.

One night in late March 1944, 76 Allied airmen escaped through a tunnel from their prisoner of war camp in what was then Germany (it's now in Poland).

Their aim was not only to get back to Britain and rejoin the war, but also to cause as much inconvenience for the German war machine as possible.

Within a few days, all but three of the escapees were recaptured, having been hampered by incorrect papers, bad weather and bad luck. The escape so infuriated Hitler that he ordered 50 of them to be shot.

Memorably depicted in the famous 1963 movie The Great Escape (itself based on former PoW Paul Brickhill’s 1950 book), the breakout from Stalag Luft III has become an iconic event of the Second World War, enshrining both Allied bravery and Nazi evil.

But how much of what we know is true?

Myth 1: Allied airmen had a duty to escape from their PoW camps

One of the most enduring myths about the Great Escape is that the PoWs had a duty to escape. Indeed, the myth is so persistent that even some former prisoners maintain they had an obligation to break out of their camps. The short answer is that there was none.

When they were shot down, Allied airmen were indeed expected to avoid being captured, but once they were in the hands of the enemy, there was no formal expectation that they should try to escape. Instead, as one former PoW has said: “There was a kind of corporate policy of intent that it was part of our duty to play a part in escape arrangements.”

In other words, the duty to escape was an expectation of how airmen should behave – rather like the expectation that they should be brave – and there was nothing in the King’s Regulations that stipulated that the men had to escape.

Indeed, surprisingly, two-thirds of PoWs had little or no interest in breaking out, and regarded escape activities with wariness – an attitude that is certainly at odds with the common celluloid depiction of Allied PoWs all being desperate to escape. Many were glad not to have to fight anymore, and felt that they had ‘done their bit’, and had no wish to risk their lives once more. Others felt that they lacked the necessary escape skills – such as languages or simple physical ability – and that their time could be better spent studying or improving themselves.

In fact, there was often hostility between the ‘stayers’ and the ‘goers’. In one camp, it grew so bad that one PoW threw over the wire a tin containing a note which informed the Germans that there was a tunnel being built.

Myth 2: The Great Escape took place in beautiful weather

In the movie The Great Escape, the action is played out in glorious spring sunshine that really shows off the use of coloured film stock.

However, in reality, the escape took place in unseasonably bad conditions, with the temperature hovering around zero, and a thick layer of snow on the ground. According to one PoW, it was the coldest winter that that part of Germany had suffered for 30 years, and it was these conditions that did more to hamper the efforts of the escapees than anything else.

Many were equipped with totally unsuitable clothes, such as lightweight trousers that would normally only be issued in the desert, and boots quickly became waterlogged as the escapees tramped through woods and streams. Many came close to suffering from frostbite, and were forced to sleep in obvious shelters such as barns, which only increased the likelihood of them being captured.



Myth 3: The escape opened up a new front inside Germany

One of the supposed objects of the Great Escape was that it would help the war effort by wasting German time and manpower – resources that would otherwise be used on the frontline. Unfortunately, such thinking was misguided. When the Germans searched for the escapees, they only used whatever existing capacity they had within the Reich. They certainly did not requisition fighting men for the hunt.

The escape actually helped the German war effort, as during the large-scale hunts, thousands of other escaping PoWs, regular prisoners, and absent foreign workers were rounded up in the dragnet. In fact, as a result of the Great Escape, the Nazis tightened the Reich’s internal security, and thus made it harder for other Allied prisoners of war also trying to escape. Therefore, the idea that the Great Escape somehow ‘opened a front’ inside Germany is simply wishful thinking.

Myth 4: The Great Escape was unique

It wasn’t. Throughout the war, there were plenty of mass escapes organised by Allied PoWs. There were some 11 ‘great escapes’ carried out by British prisoners alone before March 1944.

One example is the March 1943 escape from the PoW camp at Szubin, Poland, in which 43 Allied airmen tunnelled out. All the men were recaptured, apart from one, who sadly drowned.

The Germans ridiculed mass breakouts, dismissing them as futile acts of bravado – and the resulting increase in security made mass escapes less likely to succeed. In fact, in Stalag Luft III, one German advised PoWs to escape in twos and threes to improve their chances of getting home!

Myth 5: There was a motorbike chase

Of all the scenes in The Great Escape, that of Virgil Hilts, played by Steve McQueen, trying to jump over the border wire on his motorbike while being chased by hundreds of Schmeisser-toting Germans is the most memorable. It’s certainly a thrilling sequence, but it has no basis in truth.

None of those who escaped from Stalag Luft III even used so much as a bicycle to get away. The motorbike scene is so gross a misrepresentation of the true escape that former PoWs booed it when they were shown the movie!

Hilts’s nationality also flags up another myth about the escape – that Americans were part of the breakout. Although US airmen watched out for patrolling Germans during the tunnel’s construction, the commandant moved them to a different compound a few months before the escape.

As The Great Escape is an American film, it is unsurprising that the hero is an all-American boy complete with baseball glove and ball. But, in reality, there was no Virgil Hilts.



To read about the first Great Escape, which took place in July 1918, click here (external - login to view).

Five myths of the WW2 Great Escape on the eve of the 70th anniversary | History Extra (external - login to view)
Last edited by Blackleaf; Mar 25th, 2014 at 11:03 AM..
 
captain morgan
#27
It wasn't really an escape now, was it.

Maybe it can be renamed "The Great Attempt "
 
Locutus
#28

Two prominent members of the Escape Committee (left to right), Flight Lieutenant George Harsh (an American RAF officer) and Wing Commander Bob Tuck, meet with Bill Webster of the USAAF. Copyright: Imperial War Museum.
 
lone wolf
+1
#29
Quote: Originally Posted by BlackleafView Post

W
And where was Floody in the other ELEVEN escapes that British POWs made before the Great Escape?

The world didn't revolve around a little-known Canadian mysteriously named Floody.

He was captured in 1941 - and transferred through several prisons before he got there?

You constantly prove the Brit tendency toward deceit and treachery. Are you that ashamed and insecure on your mouldy little island?

Here.... Be informed. No need to be a ninny all your life:

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wally_Floody (external - login to view)

proposedwebsite.weebly.com/cl...at-escape.html (external - login to view)
Last edited by lone wolf; Mar 25th, 2014 at 10:54 AM..Reason: insert links
 
Twila
+1
#30
REGARDLESS of what nationality these men were, they and many others in other attempts from other POW camps, attempted something I couldn't even begin to imagine having to do. It's worth knowing the (true) sacrifice men have made for each other because this is where stories of heros' come from. Not fiction.
 
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