March 24, 1944: The Great Escape

Seventy-five years ago was a busy time at Stalag III, a German POW camp near the town of Sagan.  76 Allied pows escaped the camp in the largest mass escape of Allied prisoners during the War.  The plan of the escape was conceived by RAF Squadron Leader Roger Bushell, the officer in charge of the camp escape committee.  He announced his plan to the committee in the Spring of 1943 beginning with these words:

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.

The plan involved three tunnels, Tom, Dick and Harry.  More than 600 POWs were involved in the construction.  In the midst of the construction of the tunnels, the American POWs were moved to another compound and, contra Hollywood, no Americans as a result participated in the actual escape, although they had helped with the construction of the tunnels prior to their move.

On March 24, 1944, a moonless night, 76 men made good their escape.  The Germans realized what was going on when the 77th man was seen climbing out of the tunnel.  73 of the prisoners were eventually recaptured, with three making good their escape.  Hitler was enraged by the escapes and ordered the execution of the escapees.  German officers up to and including Reichsfuhrer Herman Goering were appalled, arguing that such executions would violate the Geneva Convention.    Hitler eventually compromised with fifty of the recaptured escapees murdered by the SS, including Squadron Leader Bushell.  It should be noted that the German officers at Stalag III strictly observed the Geneva Convention, and one can imagine their feelings at having their military honor stained by the SS.  Indeed a later camp commandantn Oberst Franz Braunen allowed a memorial to the murdered men to be erected by the prisoners and he contributed to it. (In regard to the East Front both sides waged a war of extermination with prisoners starved to death and murdered by the hundreds of thousands.) (more…)

Published in: on March 24, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on March 24, 1944: The Great Escape  
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Last of the Escapees Passes

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.

RAF Squadron Leader Roger Bushell, the officer in charge of the camp escape committee that carried out The Great Escape.  He and 49 of the other escapees were murdered by the SS.

 

Sad, but inevitable:

 

Tributes have been paid to the last surviving member of the real-life Great Escape team after his death at the age of 99. Former squadron leader Dick Churchill was one of the 76-strong group who escaped from the Stalag Luft III camp in Germany in 1944. The site is now part of Poland.

Their feat of courage became one of the most famous stories from the second world war, and was immortalised in the 1963 Hollywood film starring Steve McQueen. Churchill, who lived in Crediton, Devon, died on Wednesday.

The chief of the air staff, Sir Stephen Hillier, said: “On behalf of the RAF as a whole, I would like to offer my condolences to the friends and family of Flt Lt Richard ‘Dick’ Churchill, one of the RAF personnel involved in the Great Escape.

“He was from a selfless generation who offered bravery and sacrifice to secure our freedom. He will be sorely missed. Per ardua [through struggle].”

Go here to read the rest.  Rest in peace Squadron Leader, and may you be present now in the Kingdom no one attempts to escape from.

 

Published in: on February 28, 2019 at 3:30 am  Comments Off on Last of the Escapees Passes  
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