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A replica of a classic World War II RAF aircraft has been discovered.

The Lancaster Bomber model was made from tin cans and matchsticks during World War II by a British pilot as he was held prisoner in Stalag Luft III - the camp featured in the movie "Great Escape".

The RAF pilot was shot down over Hungary in 1944 and arrived at the camp only months after the Great Escape when 76 Allied airmen made an audacious bid for freedom.

Only three made it home and 50 were executed by the Gestapo.

The RAF operated 7,377 Lancasters during the War. Known affectionately as the "Lanc" or the "Lankie" it became the most famous and most successful of the Second World War night bombers, delivering 608,612 tons of bombs in 156,000 sorties.

Pictured: The amazing tin can bomber made by British pilot in Great Escape POW camp


By David Wilkes
07th January 2009
Daily Mail

Skillfully crafted from tin cans, matchsticks and off cuts, one can only imagine the satisfaction a prisoner of war derived from finishing this stunning model aircraft as he languished in Stalag Luft III.

Constructed almost perfectly to scale, his detailed version of a Lancaster Bomber like the one he flew before his capture even bears what appears to be the skull and crossbones logo of RAF 100 Squadron, famous for its night-time raids.

Little is known about its maker, other than that he was an airman named E Taylor.



Remarkable: The scale version of a Lancaster Bomber was made out of items found by captured British World War II pilot E Taylor

The model was found during a clearance sale at house in the south of England along with his prison camp diary, in which he had drawn a map of where his plane was shot down over Hungary on August 28, 1944.

He was incarcerated in the prisoner of war camp in Sagan, 100 miles south-east of Berlin, during its strictest regime, having arrived there only months after the 'Great Escape' when 76 Allied airmen made an audacious bid for freedom.

Only three made it home and 50 were executed by the Gestapo. In 1963, the story was turned into a hugely successful film starring Steve McQueen, Richard Attenborough and James Coburn.

The pilot's model shows how prisoners were determined to keep their spirits up despite being made to go on forced marches and fed only meagre rations.

His diary includes morale-boosting songs, along with sketches of the camp so detailed they show the prisoners' sleeping arrangements and clothes hanging on a washing line. In it, he tells of his harsh treatment at the hands of his captors, referred to as the 'goons'.


The 1963 film The Great Escape, starring Steve McQueen, portrayed the camp where the pilot E Taylor was held

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The infamous Stalag Luft III prisoner of war camp where the Great Escape and Trjoan horse bids for freedom took place


Describing how he and his fellow prisoners were given an hour's notice before one forced march, he wrote: 'The first day we covered 20km. The ice on the roads was good and we pulled our kit along on homemade sleigh.

'Tired and hungry we put up at a school for the night. Next day. Until now no food was given us by the goons and it was hard going on the roads.

'We covered about 20km during the day and spent the night in a church it is pouring with rain.'

Elsewhere he writes: 'We got in the gates and an air raid started. There was panic by the goons and it was early morn when they searched us and put us in blocks.

'This is one of the unhealthy and dirtiest places I had seen. We are starving there is practically no food. Our food for the day consists of 3 slices of bread and a cup of soup, there is no need to say more.'

The model and diary are due to be auctioned in Ludlow, Shrosphire, later this month. Richard Westwood-Brookes, historical documents expert at at Mullocks Auctioneers said the plane is the finest example of 'trench art' he has ever seen.


E Taylor's diary, complete with drawings of the prisoner of war camp, will be auctioned alongside the model plane

He said: 'The model is beautifully slotted together and is constructed of a lot of different sections, which require some skill.

'While the main body is made out of wood, the moving propellors are fashioned by materials from a tin can and the cockpit section from glass or some kind of resin.

'Matchsticks underneath form the guns on the plane and the model is completed with realistic camouflage colouring. He will have managed to have got the paints whilst doing the painting duties around the camp.

'The guards will have let this kind of thing happen because the more time the prisoners were doing things like that, the less time they were spending on trying to escape.'

Mr Westwood-Brookes added: 'The model and diary just shows the remarkable spirit of the British troops. Mr Taylor has certainly left us with a fine legacy of his courage.'

READERS' COMMENTS

Was he a pilot or Flt Engineer?

That model is superb- it really shows the British skill of making the best from minimal rescources under hardship.

- Phil, Perthshire, Scotland
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Heartening

- L., Glos. England
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Wow, great find!

- Steve Smith, London


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Last edited by Blackleaf; Jan 7th, 2009 at 12:58 PM..