On the night of the 24th of March in 1943, seventy-six prisoners from Stalag Luft III escaped. Squadron Leader Roger Bushell RAF conceived the plan to dig three long tunnels 9 metres (30 feet) below the surface to allow them to escape, wearing civilian clothes and carrying maps and forged papers. Six hundred men helped to create the tunnels, even though only some 200 would be able to escape. One of the tunnels was discovered only a short time before completion. The prisoners bided their time and then finished “Harry” and planned the escape for the 24th of March: the next moonless night.
One of the escapees was Pilot Officer Jimmy James, who told the BBC his story as a part of the WAr Behind the Wire series.
Not long before 10pm we were all in there and the doors were shut and they started to get out, but there were four things which held up the breakout. One was icing on the trap. The trap got iced up and it took them an hour and a half to break out of it. When they got out they found that the exit hole was about 20 or 30 feet short of the woods, which meant that coming out in the snow you were quite near the guard on the wire and there was a flashlight with a guard box and all that and you would have stood out like a sore thumb if the sentry had seen you. So Roger said, “Put a man behind the bush.” A ferret bush [aka. Ferret Fence] they would call it, where the ferret used to lie and watch with a rope, and hang the rope down the exit hole and just signal to people when they can come up. The chap would give a tug on the rope, and if it was okay to go he would give one tug and if it was not he would give two tugs.
Despite numerous set-backs, 76 men crawled through the tunnel that night. The 77th was spotted by the guards. Of the escapees, 73 were re-captured.
The events were dramatised in 1950 in the blockbuster film The Great Escape although, contrary to the film, there were no Americans involved in the escape, no motorcycle chases and no exciting aircraft scenes.
James’ story of being a Prisoner of War, including a later escape attempt, is fascinating story in itself and well worth a read.
Meanwhile, on the 24th of March in 2012, thirty-eight great scenes were recorded and submitted for posterity:
Take a moment and follow those people who submitted them:
Shouldn’t you save a photograph of your day-to-day life for posterity? It’s easy!
- Take a photograph on a Saturday
- Upload the photograph
- Send a tweet to @SatScenes with the url and the location
- Bookmark http://twitter.blog.me.uk/ for future descendants to find
I’m looking forward to seeing your photograph on Saturday!