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The Great Escape

The Great Escape – the real thing

Untouched for almost seven decades, the tunnel  used in the Great Escape has finally been unearthed. The 111-yard passage nicknamed ‘Harry’ by Allied  prisoners was sealed by the Germans after the audacious break-out from the POW camp Stalag Luft III in western  Poland.  But at last British archaeologists have  excavated it, and discovered its remarkable  secrets.

Many of the bed boards which had been joined  together to stop it collapsing were still in position. And the ventilation shaft, ingeniously crafted from used  powdered milk containers known as Klim Tins, remained in working order. Scattered throughout the tunnel, which is 30ft below ground, were bits of old metal buckets, hammers and crowbars which were used to hollow out the route.

A total of 600 prisoners worked on three tunnels at the same time. They were nicknamed Tom, Dick and Harry and were just 2 ft square for most of their length. It was on the night of March 24 and 25, 1944, that 76 Allied airmen escaped through Harry.

Barely a third of the 200 prisoners – many in fake German uniforms and civilian outfits and carrying false identity papers – who were meant to slip away managed to leave before the alarm was raised when escapee number 77 was spotted.

Only three made it back to Britain. Another 50 were executed by firing squad on the orders of Adolf Hitler, who was furious after learning of the breach of security. In all, 90 boards from bunk beds, 62 tables, 34 chairs and 76 benches, as well as thousands of items including knives, spoons, forks, towels and blankets, were squirrelled away by the Allied prisoners to aid the escape plan under the

noses of their  captors. Although the Hollywood movie suggested otherwise, NO Americans were involved in the operation.  Most were British, and the others were from Canada, Poland, New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa

The latest dig, over three weeks in August, located the entrance to Harry, which was originally concealed under a stove in Hut 104.

The team also found another tunnel, called George, whose exact position had not been charted. It was never used as the 2,000 prisoners were forced to march to other camps as the Red Army approached in January 1945.


5 comments on “The Great Escape

  1. A Dog With Fleas
    October 2, 2012

    This is why I love your blog. You always bring something new, educational and interesting. I loved this so much and learned something from it as well!! Thanks for posting!


    • Judy
      October 2, 2012

      Thank you so much for your lovely words. That is so kind of you. Have a geat day.


      • A Dog With Fleas
        October 2, 2012

        You’re welcome!! And you have a great day too!! 🙂


  2. sharechair
    October 2, 2012

    So interesting! thank you!


  3. russtowne
    October 4, 2012

    I :LOVE this post! Thank you for sharing it!


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