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The real Great Escape
September 26, 2006 1:33 PM   Subscribe

One man: one plan, one stove, hundreds of accomplices, 200 tonnes of sand, 4,000 bed boards, 600 feet of rope.

76 men: 50 murdered, 23 recaptured, only three got away.

The real story behind the Great Escape.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane (24 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
wikipedia

Inspired by this post, especially the part about how officers from both side treated each other got me going. Thanks, exogenous and contributors in that thread.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 1:34 PM on September 26, 2006


This reminds me of one of my favorite childhood memories: Ray Rayner
posted by nightwood at 1:49 PM on September 26, 2006


I was thinking about the same movie when I read the other post as well. Mostly because you got the sense that some of the German guards were just biding their time, like those they were holding captive.
posted by ninjew at 1:53 PM on September 26, 2006


Google Video 1 and 2
posted by CynicalKnight at 2:11 PM on September 26, 2006 [1 favorite]


nightwood: This reminds me of one of my favorite childhood memories: Ray Rayner

Holy crap! I loved Ray Rayner as a kid; I even got to meet him in person once. I can't believe that my favoirte childhood tv host was held as a POW in that camp.
posted by Gamblor at 2:19 PM on September 26, 2006


Talked to a guy who was a POW in that camp. He said all he, and a bunch of other guys, did the whole time was make things out of the metal Klim cans they recieved from the Red Cross. All kinds of items. He didn’t know anything about the escape until later.
It took me about a week to realize ‘Klim’ is milk spelled backwards.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:26 PM on September 26, 2006


A great post, thank you. I've been thinking of doing something similiar myself. I've been fascinated with this story and WWII P.O.Ws in general since seeing the movie as a little kid.

Paul Brickhill's book is still where one needs to start when reading about this extraordinary event and the people behind it. Alan Burgess' The Longest Tunnel is a good update of it, not as detailed in the accounts of the preparations and daily life in the camp, but he uses some more sources, particularly things that came to light in former communist countries. Stalag Luft III by Arthur Durand is an adaption of his dissertation on the entire camp, full of mind-numbing detail, but a great read for the fanatic. His dissertation was always quoted in POW books and as a high school kid I didn't know how to get my hands on that stuff. I remember being disappointed in Vance's A Gallant Company but don't recall exactly why. I don't think there was anything new if you've read the above books. The book The Escape Factory details a lot of the James Bond kind of the stuff the prisoners governments did to smuggle in radios, etc.

Lots more has been written on this lately, plus more memoirs getting back in print I believe.

Thanks again for the post. Anyone done a Colditz post yet?
posted by marxchivist at 3:29 PM on September 26, 2006 [3 favorites]


i liked the take on the ww2 escape genre that showed up in rik mayall & adrian edmondson's *filthy, rich & catflap*:

You're right. We've gotta escape. I have a plan. What we have to do is set up a complicated system of stooges to find out exactly what the guards are up to. Then, we dig three tunnels and hide the dirt in our trousers. We forge some German documents and make the clothes of French peasant workers out of these blankets. Then we wheel the wooden horse into the exercise yard, we build a glider and we pole vault over the fence.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:02 PM on September 26, 2006


Good post - and as an aside they have 'Klim' in Singapore (or they use to when I was a kid) - it took me several years to figure out that it was milk in reverse though Smedleyman...

According to the wikipedia article it is also popular in Central America
posted by Samuel Farrow at 4:18 PM on September 26, 2006


Wow, I didn't know anything about this until now. Thanks for the great post!
posted by tentacle at 4:39 PM on September 26, 2006


I loved that story. I remember seeing the movie as a kid then getting books on the subject. I became quite inspired and obsessed by it... and impossible for authority figures to deal with as a result.

For instance when I got on campus detention or was grounded I would endlessly bounce a superball against the wall like Steve McQueen did in the cooler. I'd whistle the theme over and over. Or for no reason fill my pockets with dirt and empty them in the hall. Later I became a master at forging notes from my mom.

Funny. Never thought about it until now but I guess I viewed school as a prison camp.

Then there was my "Bridge Over the River Kwai" and "Planet of the Apes" phase.
posted by tkchrist at 6:15 PM on September 26, 2006 [2 favorites]


I went thru this weird phase in 7th grade where I read The Great Escape, Escape from Colditz, Diary of a Kriegie and a bunch of other titles on the subject I can't remember. I wanted to try being in a POW camp and tunneling out.
posted by pax digita at 7:24 PM on September 26, 2006


Inspired by this post

(Head back, goodnews, head back! For I have found (and posted), among other things, this, which mentions a POW watch from - Stalag Luft 3)
posted by IndigoJones at 7:36 PM on September 26, 2006


I went thru this weird phase in 7th grade where I read The Great Escape, Escape from Colditz, Diary of a Kriegie and a bunch of other titles on the subject I can't remember.
posted by pax digita at 10:24 PM EST on September 26


I'm still in that phase, 30 years later.
posted by marxchivist at 7:39 PM on September 26, 2006


Great post. I've loved the movie for as long as I can remember. It's one of the few on a short list that I simply can't stop watching once I've stumbled upon it. All channel surfing comes to a dead stop.

I'm going to have to add a couple of these books to my reading list.
posted by ssmith at 7:55 PM on September 26, 2006


Another neat thing about that movie: Elmer Bernstein's memorable score. Not just the main theme over the opening/closing credits, but the incidental stuff when the tunneling's happening and during Hilts' ride. Bernstein's work is one of several that got me interested in orchestral music while quite young, although I couldn't articulate why.
posted by pax digita at 8:10 PM on September 26, 2006


I am distantly related to Roger Bushell - the allied POW who led the breakout. And in a quirky twist of fate I recently found out that my girlfriend is distantly related to one of the SS officers involved in the execution of some of the prisoners.

FWIW I blogged about it - its an interesting story.
posted by TheOtherGuy at 10:59 PM on September 26, 2006 [1 favorite]


Great post - and the Paul Brickhill book is indeed fantastic.
posted by greycap at 11:19 PM on September 26, 2006


Oh and I had something similar to you, TheOtherGuy - a relative of mine flew on the Dambusters raid and was subsequently shot down and killed over the Ruhr; I recently discovered that one of my team at work knew the German pilot who shot him down. Strange, the connections you can make.
posted by greycap at 12:15 AM on September 27, 2006


*makes mental note to watch "The Great Escape"*

I've always been fascinated by jailbreaks, and this looks like the ne plus ultra of the genre - and it actually happened(!)

Excellent post, goodnewsfortheinsane :)
posted by flippant at 1:21 AM on September 27, 2006


Such a great movie.
posted by thecashcow at 2:23 AM on September 27, 2006


Great post goodnewsfortheinsane. And thanks for posting the links in the other post IndigoJones. I find all of this fascinating.
posted by exogenous at 7:09 AM on September 27, 2006


English Football (Soccer) fans whistle, hum or otherwise perform the theme music from the Movie every time they play Germany.
posted by Sk4n at 10:35 AM on September 27, 2006


Great post. Anyone else have the theme whistling through their head reading this thread?
posted by Pastabagel at 10:48 AM on September 27, 2006


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