The Great escape - Tunnel "Harry"

Discussion in 'WWII' started by KilroyCD, Mar 4, 2008.

  1. KilroyCD

    KilroyCD One Too Many

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    Many people have seen the Steve Mc Queen movie, "The Great Escape", at least once. It's one of my favourites. This is about that tunnel.
    This is a fascinating look at a tunnel that was built in an "escape proof" German POW Camp, a tunnel which allowed 76 Allied POWs to escape. Check it out. Run your cursor over each number # 1-16 and it will tell you about it. Then click on the word "NEXT" in the corner of the same site window and the story will unfold.
    http://www.kerman94.com/tunnelharry.html
     
  2. Spitfire

    Spitfire I'll Lock Up

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    Thanks for posting, Chris.
    From my teenage years - reading the Trojan Horse - escape stories like this and about Colditz, have always had my interest.
    Especially the creativity the POWs used to produce clothing, tools, papers etc.
    What an effort!
     
  3. Windsock

    Windsock A-List Customer

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    Thanks for posting this, i've sent it on to a friend who was in the camp and took part in the preparation of the Escape. I'm sure he will find it very interesting.
     
  4. Smithy

    Smithy I'll Lock Up

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    Many thanks Kilroy, fascinating.



    EDIT:

    Kilroy, I thought you might also like this if you are interested in Harry as it also includes a top view of the North Compound. This is from Jack Rae's autobiography "Kiwi Spitfire Ace", who was also a guest at Stalag Luft III. Perhaps fortunately he missed his chance to break out with "The Great Escape" as he was in solitary confinement for a previous solo escape attempt.


    [​IMG]
     
  5. PADDY

    PADDY I'll Lock Up Bartender

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    Stalag Luft III, ....fascinating stuff.

    Some of you will have seen the documentary of archaeologists who went back to the camp in Poland I think and actually dug down to break into one of the tunnels!! and if memory serves me right, they found a printing stamp that had been made by a prisoner to help forge official German documents. Amazing stuff!! Ever feel that fiction can NEVER outdo the REAL THING in life!!
     
  6. ethanedwards

    ethanedwards One of the Regulars

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    Excuse this aside, but when they made the film of the Wooden Horse,
    real life POW and future actor Peter Butterworth was turned down for a part,
    apparently because he wasn't considered athletic enough.
    Ironically, he was one of the real POW vaulters during the actual escape.

    'A crowd is not company' by Robert Kee - the best book of all on being a 'kriegie'. I love this book.
     
  7. Windsock

    Windsock A-List Customer

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    Tim, that page is excellent and I was actually planning to try to re-construct such a thing myself interviewing Alan Righetti next time I saw him! As an Architect I always think in spacial terms and prepare a mental 3D layout- it helps me understand things, but then I suppose everyone else does too. I'll still try to do it with the internal layout of the huts- but then you'll probably also have a drg of that too I bet!

    By the way, Paul Brickhill was a mate of his inside.
     
  8. Windsock

    Windsock A-List Customer

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    I'm reading this right now...good read however it's fact disguised as fiction isn't it? This event took place earlier in the Eastern Compound before the Northern was built so i'm told by Alan.

    I think I preferred RAAF Lancaster pilot Geoff Taylor's "A Piece of Cake" c1956 which I finished last month- but then I should give "The Wooden Horse" more of a chance. His story which is also true took place in Stalag IVb Muhlberg, which was for Other ranks. He planned a daring escape which was based around stealing a Ju88 from a nearby airbase. This story also featured a "Smithy"! I preferred the gritty and unglamourized description of the impoverished existence these guys led during their years in captivity. The conditions in a camp for officers were much better than those for other ranks- 8 to a room instead of a bunkhouse, 2 tiered bunks not 3, a stove per room, better rations, clothing, blankets, facilities, and activities, the list goes on.

    I must admit I am fascinated by this alternate life those guys led. So different from the former military life they led before being captured.
     
  9. ethanedwards

    ethanedwards One of the Regulars

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    I must admit I am fascinated by this alternate life those guys led. So different from the former military life they led before being captured.[/QUOTE]

    You're right Andrew, I remember in the preface that Kee says he was recommended to publish his book as a novel. I found it riveting, either way.
    The kriegies' captivity offers a great backdrop to some very compelling stories
    but I have read that for the majority it was an extremely arduous and distressing experience, which resonated throughout later life. (I saw a Red Cross 'parcel' in the IWM, London - it was about the size of a small shoe box. I also saw Desmond Hubble's chess set
    there, which was very emotive - Yeo Thomas took it with him when he escaped from Buchenwald.
    I'll get hold of Geoff Taylor's book Andrew, I always enjoy these memoirs. 'The tunnel', also by Eric Williams is a good read too. There's an interesting bit where he acquires an Irvin through somewhat surreptitious means - well, you can't really blame him.......
     
  10. Windsock

    Windsock A-List Customer

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    I watched "The Welsh Great Escape" friday night. What a great little doco which i'd never heard of before. Amazing similarities in some of the techniques used and the planned means of escape once on the outside- such as stealing an aircraft.

    Luckily for the Escapees they weren't treated as the 50 Stalag III Escapees who were made an example of.
     
  11. Stan

    Stan A-List Customer

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    Stalag Luft III Story

    Hi,

    Well, it's not the Great Escape. That one is the *big* story that we all know. This one is actually a little story. A story from my family. Please bear with it, as the most interesting part comes at the end. ;)

    Sometimes lost in the shadow of The Great Escape, is the fact that Stalag Luft III was actually two prison camps for captured enemy officers. One was, of course, British. The other was American. The British were in the North Camp, while the Americans were in the South camp.

    My uncle spent a lot of time in the South camp. He was 1st Lt. Lorin C. Disbrow, from the 381st Bomb Group, 535th Bomb Squadron. He became a 'guest' of Stalag Luft III after he lost his last engine on hs B17F over Belgium on the way home from a mission to Schweinfurt on Aug 17 1943.

    BTW, the entire crew survived the loss. One crewman evaded through Spain, while the rest were all captured. Ironically, it was their *13th* mission. :eek:

    During the evening of Jan 27, 1945 the Germans moved out all the Americans in the South camp as Hitler wanted to keep them as hostages, and not let the advancing Russians liberate them. They were moved to Stalag Luft VII-A in Moosburg - all the way across Germany - by a combination of marching and by cattle car.

    Now, let me introduce his brother, my father, PFC Stan Disbrow, Sr. He had to wait a bit to enlist - Lorin won the coin toss, you see - but he eventually did and entered the war in August of 1944 as part of the second invasion (Marseilles) with the 63rd Infantry Division, 254th Regiment. They were used as a replacement division, and the 254th was attached to the 3rd Infantry Division as soon as they arrived.

    Now, fast forward a bit to April 29, 1945. The 3rd Division liberates Stalag Luft VII-A. Dad was in with the first group of infantry that entered the camp, right behind the tanks. He never had a clue that his brother was there. When dad enlisted, Lorin was in Stalag Luft-III on the other side of Germany.

    A couple days later, dad (who was the 254th HQ Company radioman) was called back to the 3rd Div HQ by the brass. He figured he'd done something really bad, although he couldn't figure out what!

    Someone had recognized the name 'Disbrow' on the prisoner list and asked Lorin if he had a brother Stan. So, they wanted to reunite the two after so long. What a hoot! :)

    There was another Disbrow brother back home, ironically named Winston, and (also ironically) his birthday was April 29th! Dad said that his birthday parties after the war were always a little bit better than they had been. :D

    In yet another odd twist, I happen to share that birthday. :)

    Unfortunately, I never knew my Uncle Lorin, as he was lost before I was born. He stayed in the Air Force and was lost over the Sea of Japan flying a reconnisance B-50G on 10 Sep 1956.

    Anyway, I thought since folks here were into WWII, I'd share one of the little stories from back then. :)

    Later!

    Stan
     
  12. kampkatz

    kampkatz Practically Family

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    Stan,
    Thanks for the family story from WW2. It's always a treat to hear these personal accounts.
     
  13. Smithy

    Smithy I'll Lock Up

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    Many thanks from me too, always great to hear these family stories.
     
  14. AmateisGal

    AmateisGal I'll Lock Up

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    Kilroy, thanks for posting this. I've always been absolutely blown away by how intrepid these POWs were in building the tunnels. Amazing.
     
  15. Spitfire

    Spitfire I'll Lock Up

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    Just finished reading "Lie in the dark and listen" by Ken Rees. Fascinating story and very well written. The last part describes his life and tunnelwork in Stalag Luft III. He was in "Harry" about to get out in freedom, when the german guard found it.
    Which he later described as a great luck, sincve he believes that he would have been among the murdered 50 had he gone out.
    Rees was several times in "the cooler" and some of the guards had him marked out.
    I highly recommend this book to anybody interested in The Great Escape.
     
  16. drjones

    drjones A-List Customer

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    great escape

    Thanks for the heads up on this. I LOVVVVE the movie. Wore out my DVD. Ill be checking out the book soon.

    :)

    DRJONES
     
  17. Windsock

    Windsock A-List Customer

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    Spurred on by Smithy's post I recently bought a 1st ed copy of "The Great Escape" with an excellent dustjacket. Whilst the movie has and always will be a favourite of mine (so will Hogan's Heroes) these are just pure entertainment and should be appreciated for that. The book is full of incredible detail.

    My Mate who was in the camp was a good friend of the Author Paul Brickhill and he's going to kindly sign my copy. On our last meeting we went through a bunch of pics I'd gathered off the net and we discussed the details of the Camp through the plans of the buildings, the building dispositions, inaccuracies in representations of the layouts and he described in detail his job in the Escape. I also showed him shots of the Guards such as "Rubberneck"- he'd not seen that face since the War and he recalled him immediately. We also identified his own hut depicted in quite a beautiful watercolour seen below half way down the page;

    http://www.b24.net/pow/greatescape.htm

    He was a stooge and was located in hut 112 and it was his job to sit on the front step and watch the main gate. Whenever a "Goon" entered he was to walk across to the incinerator and place something on it. He was never aware who this basic gesture was intended for but they had a system of overlapping cones of vision and presumably the message would bounce back and forth and get to it's intended recipient. Something similar is shown in the book. The whole setup was so secretive he reckons he never knew who was involved in any particular bit of the whole plan, it was all so well concealed.

    I've just finished "The Tunnel" by Eric Williams. I take back any earlier crit- it was a great read too and it's just impossible to imagine how those guys managed to do what they did. Has anyone seen the 1950's film?

    For anyone interested in the US prisoners this is an interesting site. He's listed the rations issued...

    http://www.merkki.com/swartzrobert.htm
     
  18. handworn

    handworn New in Town

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    That's quite right; I have the documentary on DVD. They dug down to "Dick" which was filled in for storage space and materials when they were running low on shoring materials and needed to take the heat off the sand-dispersers; the Germans were watching very closely. That was the tunnel whose entrance was inside one hut's shower drain. They even found the original slab of concrete that formed Dick's door. I think the printing stamp was found in the storage area. A good documentary.

     
  19. Story

    Story I'll Lock Up

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    Tom, Dick and Harry famously had their stories told in the film The Great Escape, but more is soon to be learned about a little-known fourth tunnel. This spring, a British team is due to excavate "George", at the site of the Stalag Luft III camp in Zagan, Poland.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-12226521
     
  20. Stearmen

    Stearmen I'll Lock Up

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    Ingenious

    Does this forth tunnel really surprise any one? I swear, the Germans could have put two guards in every barracks 24-7, and the prisoners would have figured a way to tunnel while the guards watched! What an incredible group of men!
     

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