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Humpday History Highlight

By Wyatt Earp | November 21, 2011

Yes, I’m two days early, but this story was too good to wait.

We are standing in the notorious POW camp Stalag Luft III, built at the height of the Third Reich, 100 miles east of Berlin. Ten thousand prisoners were kept under German guns here on a 60-acre site ringed with a double barbed-wire fence and watchtowers.

You may remember the film The Great Escape, which was based upon the camp.

History comes alive!

They slept in barrack huts raised off the ground so guards could spot potential tunnelers, but the Germans did not count on the audacity of British Spitfire pilot Squadron Leader Roger Bushell, played by Sir Richard Attenborough in the 1963 film. He was interned at the camp in March 1943. With him were about 2,000 other RAF officers, many of whom were seasoned escapees from other camps, with skills in tunneling, forgery and manufacturing.

Three tunnels nicknamed Tom, Dick and Harry were constructed 30ft underground using homemade tools. While Tom was discovered and destroyed by the Germans, Dick was used for storage. The third tunnel, Harry, became the stuff of folklore on the night of March 24, 1944, when Allied prisoners gathered in hut 104 before crawling along the 100ft tunnel to a brief taste of freedom. Only three escaped; 73 were rounded up by the Germans and 50 were summarily executed.

Suffice to say, those recaptured did not sit on their hands.

Few could have blamed their devastated comrades for sitting out the remainder of the war. Yet far from being dispirited, a few men began work on a fourth tunnel nicknamed ‘George’, which was kept so secret that only a handful of prisoners knew about it. Incredibly, George has just been uncovered after a team of engineers, archaeologists and historians excavated the site, a project filmed for a Channel 4 documentary.

Check out the rest of the story at the link. It’s extraordinary.

Topics: HHH | 11 Comments »

11 Responses to “Humpday History Highlight”

  1. JT Says:
    November 21st, 2011 at 7:28 am


    A great way to start a week.

  2. L Frame S&W Says:
    November 21st, 2011 at 9:15 am

    I remember seeing a Discovery Channel special on some of these tunnels in soft sand 60 feet down. Incredible the ingenuity of these brave men, knowing the chances were very great that if caught they would be shot.

  3. Wyatt Earp Says:
    November 21st, 2011 at 10:20 am

    JT – It’s an awesome find, and I’m glad one of the former prisoners is heading the excavation. Must be a thrill for him.

    L Frame – Agreed. And to rebuild after getting caught is incredibly gutsy.

  4. Jack Rackim Says:
    November 21st, 2011 at 10:41 am

    I thought this was great. I can’t wait to read more and get to watch a special about it.
    It might be the only thing I agree with Tom Brokaw about, they were certainly the greatest generation.

  5. realwest Says:
    November 21st, 2011 at 11:08 am

    Howdy Wyatt – just a great story and a GREAT way to start off the week!!
    Incredibly BRAVE men, doing their sworn duty to escape, even though they had to know that most of them wouldn’t live to tell the tale.

    My admiration for them knows no bounds.
    Thanks again, Wyatt!

  6. Wyatt Earp Says:
    November 21st, 2011 at 12:44 pm

    Jack – Agreed. I hope it’s shown in the States, and if I know the History Channel/Military Channel, one of them will pick it up.

    Real – Not sure how realistic it was, but The Great Escape was a fantastic film. McQueen at his best.

  7. Old NFO Says:
    November 21st, 2011 at 9:53 pm

    They had balls, no question… and NEVER gave up!

  8. andycanuck Says:
    November 22nd, 2011 at 12:59 am

    Ontario’s version of PBS ran a documentary about the British cop who tracked down the Gestapo agents etc. who carried out the scattered executions. You’d probably like it, Wyatt, if you can find a copy somewhere or a U.S. documentary station airs it.

    The Great Escape: The Reckoning
    On the evening of March 24 1944, 76 airmen broke out of a German prison camp in a dramatic bid for freedom. Over the next few days, 50 were recaptured and murdered by the Gestapo on the orders of a vengeful Adolf Hitler. This is the untold story of the postwar investigation to hunt down the Gestapo officers responsible.

  9. Tuesday Morning Breakfast Links | Points and Figures Says:
    November 22nd, 2011 at 8:54 am

    [...] Remember the movie “The Great Escape”? One of my favs. Steve McQueen is the ultimate in cool. They are doing some archeology work on the prison camp. There were three escape tunnels, Tom, Dick and Harry. They found another, George. [...]

  10. Wyatt Earp Says:
    November 22nd, 2011 at 9:06 am

    Old NFO – I wish I had half their intestinal fortitude.

    Andy – I’ll definitely look for it. Sounds extremely interesting.

  11. Loki Says:
    November 22nd, 2011 at 1:17 pm