Thursday, 31 January 2013

The Three Who Got Away - The Journey Part One

Entrance to Tunnel 'Harry' -

Sagan Station -

Breslau Station During German Occupation-

Bram ‘Bob’ Vanderstok had made three unsuccessful attempts to get out of Stalag Luft 111 before he took part in the Great Escape. The first was in June 1942 and the last, a year later when he managed to reach the second gate of the camp dressed as a German Unteroffizier escorting six RAF senior officers through. They had followed a fake delousing party which had marched through and got clear of the camp. Unfortunately the guard at the gate recognised Vanderstok and the Germans quickly realised the first party was false . (The escapers were all recaptured, although Flt Lt. Johnny Stower crossed over an unguarded part of the border into neutral Switzerland, then inadvertently wandered back onto the German side and was arrested by a patrolling sentry.)
Vanderstok was one of about forty escapers who were designated to travel by train. This was based on the amount of German Reich marks that the escape committee had managed to accumulate and the escaper’s chances of success e.g. German and multilingual speakers, especially those native to occupied countries e.g Norwegians, Poles, French, Dutch etc. The rest would have ‘hardarse it’ on foot as the Kriegies termed it.

Vanderstok described what happened on 24 March 1944 in his secret MI9 Escape Report:
‘…a mass escape took place from the North Compound of Stalag Luft 3 by means of a tunnel, which had taken one year to construct. I was number 18 in the tunnel, priorities having been worked out by all the people taking part in the escape. Approximately 200 intending escapers were fitted out with clothing and papers, but I do not know how many of them were able to get out. …A rope was placed from the exit of the tunnel to a safe position in the woods about 15 yards from the exit, where a controlling officer gave the ‘all clear’ by a tug on the rope.
I got out of the tunnel without incident and made my way to Sagan station, where I had to wait for three hours as trains were delayed by a raid on Berlin. A timetable had been worked out and the controlling officer in the woods gave each man a definite train by which to travel. This plan was upset by the air raid.

On the way to the station I was accosted by a German civilian who asked what I was doing in the woods…. I was posing as a Dutch worker and carrying appropriate identity papers. I told this civilian that I was a Dutch worker and was afraid of the police arresting me for being out of doors during an air raid. He said ‘it is alright if you are with me.’ He escorted me to the railway station.

At the station, one of the German girl censors from the camp who was on duty there spoke to S/Ldr Kirby-Green’ (the girl had been routinely posted at the station to look for anyone suspicious). ‘This girl was suspicious of him and got a Hauptmann of the German Military police to examine his papers. While this was being done the girl spoke to me. She asked me a number of questions but I was able to satisfy her. The Hauptmann was satisfied with S/Ldr Kirby-Green’s papers. During the time I was waiting at the station at Sagan, I saw the officer who had been No 32 at the tunnel arrive.’
Vanderstok purchased a ticket for Breslau on the Polish border. It was east of Sagan and in the opposite direction of where he wanted to go, but a relatively short journey away. To buy a ticket straight to a place in Holland would be obvious to his pursuers once the breakout was discovered and the manhunt began.   

The MI9 Escape Report describes what happened next:
‘The train for Breslau arrived at approximately 03.30 hrs on 25 March. I travelled (second class) to Breslau where I arrived at 05.00 hrs. There was no control of papers. I saw about 8 of my fellow escapers there. They were  S/Ldr Bushell, Lt Sheidhauer, Lt Stevens, Lt Gouws,Flt. Lt Stower and at least three others whose names I do not know.

I purchased a second class ticket for Alkmaar (Holland). I had the necessary Urlaubschein (pass) to do this. I travelled from Breslau to Dresden where I arrived at 10.00 hours.’
The tunnel exit (with escapers still trying to exit) was discovered at 4.55am and by the time Vanderstock walked out of Dresden station the hunt was well under way.

The two Norwegians Sgt Per Bergsland and Lt Jens Müller came out of the tunnel at numbers forty three and forty four. They made their way through the trees to Sagan station without incident. Some escapers were unable to find the narrow station entrance in the dark and arrived late, consequently missing their trains.
Muller recounted his experience:

"It took me three minutes to get through the tunnel. Above ground I crawled along holding the rope for several feet: it was tied to a tree. Sergeant Bergsland joined me; we arranged our clothes and walked to the Sagan railway station.
Bergsland was wearing a civilian suit he had made for himself from a Royal Marine uniform, with an RAF overcoat slightly altered with brown leather sewn over the buttons, a black RAF tie and no hat. He carried a small suitcase which had been sent from Norway. In it were Norwegian toothpaste and soap, sandwiches, and 163 reichsmarks given to him by the Escape Committee.

We caught the 2:04 train to Frankfurt. Our papers stated that we were Norwegian electricians from the Arbeitslager [labour camp] in Frankfurt working in the vicinity of Sagan. For the journey from Frankfurt to Stettin we had other papers ordering us to change our place of work from Frankfurt to Stettin, and to report to the Burgomeister of Stettin."
The two Norwegians travelled third class, merging in with the civilians. Both were good German speakers and would have no problems in conversing. They arrived in Frankfurt at 06:00 hours and after a two hour wait at the station they caught the train to Küstrin.

A massive hunt was on for all of the escapers. Many were quickly captured, especially those on foot, but for the three that got away they faced the possibility of more detailed examination of their forged papers in full daylight, and the whole of Germany looking for the escapers. With the public’s feelings towards Allied flyers because of saturation bombing running high and SS General Mueller’s   Kügel Order* (Mueller was Gestapo chief in Berlin)  these were dangerous times.
*The Kügel Order (which the POWs did not have full knowledge of) stated that recaptured escapee officers other than British and Americans were to be taken in chains to Mauthausen Concentration Camp.  Mauthausen was instructed that prisoners transferred to them under the Kügel Order were not to be entered on the camp books, but taken to the underground cells and either gassed or shot, whichever was convenient.

To Be Continued Next Week
The Great Escape  - Paul Brickhill

MI9 Escape Reports – National Archives at Kew

©Keith Morley

This blog claims no credit for any images posted on this site unless otherwise noted. Images on this blog are copyright to its respectful owners. If there is an image appearing on this blog that belongs to you and you do not wish it to appear on this site, please message me with a link to said image and it will be promptly removed.


Friday, 25 January 2013

The Three Who Got Away – Ten Facts

Per Bergsland (left) and Jens Müller (right) in Sagan 111   (Jonathan Vance, University of Western Ontario)

Bob Vanderstok after capture (

Bob Vanderstok false ID photo (

1  All three were RAF fighter pilots shot down in 1942 whilst flying Spitfires.

Bram ‘Bob’ Vanderstok (Dutch) RAF 41 Squadron took off from Tangmere 12 April 1942.

Lt. Jens Müller (Norwegian) RAF 331 Squadron North Weald 19 June 1942.

Sgt Per Bergsland  (Norwegian) RAF 332  Squadron North Weald 19 August 1942.

2  Bergsland joined the RAF under the English name of 'Peter Rockland' to protect his family in Norway if he was captured.

3  Jens Müller largely designed the famous air pump assembly for tunnels ‘Tom’, ‘Dick’ and ‘Harry’ which revolutionised the digging operation in Sagan 111. Air was drawn in via an inlet pipe, pumped into the tunnel and stale air taken out through an exhaust line. The pipes were made by joining empty powdered milk tins from Red Cross parcels, resulting in tunnellers staying underground for longer and in far better conditions.

4  Although not needed in his escape Bergsland was highly proficient in orienteering, finishing second in the Norwegian Championships of 1939.

5  All three escapers spoke good German with traces of their native accents and were multilingual. The two Norwegians also spoke excellent Swedish. This enabled a clear strategy for their escape routes and feasible cover stories for their forged papers.

6  Bergsland and Müller were to catch a train at Sagan and journey via various rail links to the port of Stettin. There they would attempt to board a Swedish ship. All of their papers needed to be excellent forgeries and back up their reasons for travel. Bergsland expanded:

 ‘Our papers stated that we were Norwegian electricians from the Arbeitslager (labour camp) in Frankfurt working in the vicinity of Sagan. For the journey from Frankfurt to Stettin we had other papers ordering us to change our place of work from Frankfurt to Stettin, and to report to the Bürgermeister of Stettin.’

7  Vanderstok’s false identity was Hendrik Beeldman, a Dutch draughtsman taking home leave from the electronics firm Siemens. He was to try and reach Holland, make contact with the Resistance and then journey south through Belgium, France and Spain to Gibraltar.  

8  The three escapers were familiar with how to behave when on the run. Vanderstok had lived under occupation in Holland, Bergsland had been a student in Germany in 1938 and witnessed the ‘Nazi way.’ They were all wary of mistakes and signs that escapers could make to give themselves away, including never sitting in a waiting room at a railway station unless a ticket had already been purchased, blending in without attracting attention, walking with a purpose and behaving with confidence when holding out and presenting papers for inspection.

9  Vanderstok was early in the tunnel sequence at number 18 and the two Norwegians although 43 and 44 on the list took only three minutes to travel from end to end.

10  Despite being made from service uniforms and other ‘accessories, the escapers’ clothes appeared inconspicuous to the general eye. Vanderstok describes in his escape report how he was dressed:

‘I was wearing the following articles of clothing which had been altered in camp, Naval jacket and trousers, an Australian greatcoat, RAF escape boots with the tops cut off, and a beret which had been made in the camp.’

Next Week – The Journeys

The Great Escape  - Paul Brickhill
The Great Escapers – Tim Carroll
War Pilot of Orange – Bob Van der Stok
Article on ‘The Longest Tunnel’ by Alan Burgess
MI9 Escape Report – National Archives

©Keith Morley

This blog claims no credit for any images posted on this site unless otherwise noted. Images on this blog are copyright to its respectful owners. If there is an image appearing on this blog that belongs to you and you do not wish it to appear on this site, please message me with a link to said image and it will be promptly removed.

Friday, 18 January 2013

The Great Escape - Fact & Fiction Part Two

Richard Attenborough as Roger Bartlett - Mirisch Films

Roger Bushell - wikipedia

Donald Pleasence as 'The Forger' -
Mirisch Films
Alex Cassie - Forging-
Tim Walenn - The Forger - IWM

James Garner as 'The Scrounger' - Mirisch Films

Sagan 111 (IWM HU21013)

It was every serviceman’s duty in World War Two to try and escape from captivity. Conditions inside German Prisoner of War Camps and the daily strain of being behind the wire focused the mind on freedom, or at the very least, working with others to effect escape attempts. This would help the war effort in tying up enemy resources to keep prisoners behind the wire and hunting for escapers who were at large. Allied servicemen clung to the dream of breaking free of the immediate camp area and reaching safety in a neutral country. In reality the odds against escaping were low and of reaching a neutral country extremely remote.

Prisoners of War (kriegies) looked for anything to help them get through the long days. In The Great Escape film, education was one of the activities utilised to ‘put the goons to sleep’ whilst the escapers began to tunnel and make other preparations. Roger Bartlett (modelled on Roger Bushell – the actual Big X in Sagan 3) used this strategy as a ‘means to an end’ in the overall escape operation. The reality had some parallels, but Jimmy James said that in the camp, education, study and lectures also helped to pass the time.  

Sagan 111 had a large lending library with books provided by the Red Cross and YMCA. Harvey Vivian was the head of education in the camp. Examinations took place with papers being set by professional bodies and sent in through the Red Cross. Examinations were formally invigilated by other POWs from education backgrounds and lectures took place from qualified academics who were in the camp. Not all kriegies were hell bent on escaping, although Jimmy James observed that continual study within the confines of the camp had a blinkered effect on the person and as soon as the study was over, the kriegie became more acutely aware of the ‘barbed wire and goon boxes’, which in some cases led to temporary insanity.

Donald Pleasence* (Colin Blythe ‘The Forger’ in the film), used a lecture on bird watching as a ‘blind’ to cover the escape organisation’s work on forging documents if a ‘ferret’ (German guard specifically detailed to ferret out escape activity)  was sighted nearby. If there was danger of discovery, all documents were quickly hidden and an innocent lecture was seen to be in progress. Pleasence’s character was a combination of Flt Lt Desmond Plunkett, the map maker and a much younger man Flt Lt Gilbert William ‘Tim’ Walenn who sported a large ‘handlebar’ moustache and was head of the real forgery operation at Sagan 111. He had been a POW since September 1941, and possessed the ideal skills for that line of work, having been a graphic artist designing wallpaper and fabrics in his uncles’ business before moving into banking. The forgery department became known as ‘Dean and Dawson’ after a London travel agency.

The ornithology lecture was confirmed as occurring by escaper Bob Vanderstok, but there were other subjects. Alex Cassie was forced to quickly begin a fake lecture on psychology with the other forgers sitting around pretending to listen when a ferret nicknamed ‘Adolf’ was seen hanging around and looked in one of the hut windows.

*Donald Pleasence had personal experience of the era, as he had been a member of wartime aircrew and a POW. 
Activities in preparation for escapes were carried out with a chain of lookouts known as ‘stooges’ strategically placed and covering all sight lines to spot ferrets, guards and other potential dangers. A sophisticated system of signals to warn of impending danger was passed down the chain to give the operation time to shut down and cover up. This is illustrated in the film and also described by Paul Brickhill:
‘When the stooge in 103 saw a ferret approaching, he opened a window, the man in 109 immediately saw this and put a folded paper against the window. The stooge next to the library caught the signal, knocked on the wall, and the stuff was out of sight in a few seconds.’
Another method of signalling was for a stooge to sit outside a hut with a towel around his neck, which meant all clear. The towel on his knees meant ‘German in sight’ and if he sat on the towel it meant that a ferret was near or a German was approaching the hut.
The scene with James Garner as ‘The Scrounger’ (a representative character, as the camp had a number of such operators) and the ferret Werner was illustrative of a whole raft of incidents involving ferrets and guards who were subject to bribery, blackmail and general softening up by the POWs.

The contents of ‘The Scroungers’ cupboard in his hut was from Red Cross parcels. They were the POWs lifeline, given the inadequate German rations, and contained coffee, biscuits, chocolate and other luxuries that the guards and ferrets could not obtain.  As the numbers of POWs in the camp were high, in addition to their own Red Cross parcels, the escape organisation was able to skim off a selection of goods from others to tempt the enemy; after softening them up with a few regular visits to a hut for a cup of real coffee, a chat and cigarette, plus maybe some chocolate to take away for their families.
The scene in the film portrays this well and although Werner does not succumb to bribery, he has his pocket picked and loses his wallet with papers, Ausweiss and identity card in. He is hardly going to report it, so in desperation returns to ‘The Scrounger’ who promises to help him find the missing wallet - the alternative for Werner is ‘The Russian Front.’ The trade-off is a 35mm camera with a 2.8mm lens and focal plane shutter. Copies of Werner’s documents would be taken by the forgers before they were ‘found.’
In 1943, the course of the war was shifting in the Allies favour. Outside of the German hardliners in the camp, some of the Luftwaffe ferrets and guards had become more pliable. Many were family men themselves and this proved to be a useful line to pursue when gradually trying to befriend them. The escape organisation had a whole network of POWs working on the weaker ferrets and guards, often with individuals being targeted with specifics in mind. Paul Brickhill describes a typical straightforward example:
‘There was a very young Obergefreiter (private) who was persuaded to bring in a pair of pliers and was paid very generously in chocolate. His contact explained apologetically that he had to draw the chocolate from his room mess and had to account for it. Would the Obergefreiter mind signing a receipt for it? Just a formality. Why no, the Obergefreiter wouldn’t really mind at all, pocketed the chocolate and signed on the dotted line.

He came to regret it. Later he brought in passes, money, files, maps, tools and even some German uniform buttons and badges. It was much better than having his receipt handed over to the Lageroffizier and getting a bullet for trading with the enemy.’
The escape organisation obtained numerous items and information this way, including the geography around the camp, train times, places to avoid – even details of planned searches of huts.
One incident not included in the film was the 1943 Christmas/New Year’s Eve* agreement brokered with the Camp Commandant to give the POWs and  guards more freedom over the festive days in return for a promise that there would be no attempts to escape.  *Accounts vary as being Christmas or New Years Eve, but it is likely to have been the former. For the kriegies, snow, frozen ground and sub-zero temperatures made escape virtually impossible anyway and there was a temporary lull in activities. Various versions describe what happened that evening.    
Jimmy James reported that eighty seven per cent camp distilled alcohol (often made with raisins from Red Cross parcels) was offered to the guards. One collapsed unconscious and got dragged across the compound by the two dogs in his charge; whilst another fell out of a ‘goon tower.’

Ken Rees says he remembered little about it, as it took him three days to recover, whilst Bob Vanderstok said that many guests could not attend his planned ‘banquet’ because of starting early at the various ‘bars’ that had been set up in some of the huts:

‘Some guards lingered after appel and in many places were invited to the banquet, but the ferrets did not participate……It wasn’t long after dinner that we heard an excellent duet of Lili Marlene outside our window. When I looked to see who had done us the honour, I saw that…one of our Dutch roommates and a guard had performed the lovely serenade. Both were beyond the stage of normal comprehension.’
In the South Compound an American walked over the warning wire and started to climb the fence under one of the sentry towers. He was heard singing ‘Silent Night’ in the tower with the guard before climbing down the ladder, making his way to the main gate on the outside of the fence and asking permission to enter. The guards who had also ‘lost their edge’ were taken aback as they had been told there would be no escape attempts and must not shoot. They opened the gate as they thought he had come to give them cigarettes. The incident was hurriedly resolved by Colonel ‘Bub’ Clark who was an American assigned to RAF 31st Fighter Group at Tangmere and the first US POW to arrive at Sagan 111. He had watched events develop, intervened apologised to the Germans and escorted the American away.

These were rare moments where the war was pushed aside for a few hours. Matters had got out of hand that night as a number of American and British POWs had also climbed the wire fences separating their compounds, prompting the Camp Commandant Colonel Friedrich-Wilhelm Von Lindeiner in his letter of 27th December to Senior Officers, RAF Group Captain Herbert Massey and US Colonel Charles Goodrich to remove the concessions granted over the Christmas period and prohibit the possession and use of drinks containing alcohol immediately.
Near the end of the film, fifty of the captured escapers are taken in three Lorries to separate locations and machine gunned. The reality was that under Gestapo orders they were taken out singly or in small groups from various locations and shot. The differences between fact and fiction here are unimportant – fifty unarmed men were murdered for doing their duty in trying to escape.  


Moonless Night - B A 'Jimmy' James
The Great Escape - Paul Brickhill
Lie In The Dark And Listen - Ken Rees
War Pilot Of Orange - Bob Vanderstok
Web Site The Great Escape -Rob Davis-

©Keith Morley
THIS BLOG claims no credit for any images posted on this site unless otherwise noted. Images on this blog are copyright to its respectful owners. If there is an image appearing on this blog that belongs to you and you do not wish it to appear on this site, please message me with a link to said image and it will be promptly removed

Sunday, 13 January 2013

The Great Escape - Fact & Fiction Part One

Bob Vanderstok (Ian Le Seur)

B A 'Jimmy' James   'IWM'

Sagan 3

It was every serviceman’s duty in World War Two to try and escape from captivity. Conditions inside German Prisoner of War Camps and the daily strain of being behind the wire focused the mind on freedom, or at the very least working with others to effect escape attempts. It would tie up enemy resources in preventing escapes or hunting for escapers who were at large. Allied servicemen clung to the dream of clearing the immediate area, striking out for freedom and reaching safety in a neutral country. In reality the odds against escaping from a camp were low and of reaching safety in a neutral country extremely remote.

‘The Great Escape’ of Allied prisoners of war from German camp Sagan 111 in Silesia has arguably been the most documented POW breakout in history, and the subject of one of Hollywood’s most watched films. MGM’s work was a fitting dedication to the fifty men who were murdered by the Gestapo, and although not an exact portrayal of all events and personnel, it did get close to life in the camp, the true heroes and in many cases actual events. 

Because of the film’s success, actual events in the camp and around The Great Escape have sometimes become clouded, producing popular misconceptions. Additionally some unusual happenings have slipped under the wire with barely a mention. This is the first of two posts taking a random look around fact and fiction:  

1) The film portrays American servicemen involved in the actual tunnel escape. The reality was that Americans had been heavily active with tunnel digging and all aspects of the escape operation until 8 September 1943 when they were re-housed in a new South Compound in the camp (six months before the actual Great Escape).

Dutchman Bob Vanderstok, one of only three escapers to break out and reach safety, described what actually happened and its resultant effect:

‘Without warning it was announced that American prisoners would be transferred to the new south compound. This measure did far more harm to our Big X organisation than they (the Germans) would ever know. Almost half of the Kriegies in the North compound were Americans; consequently half of our best talent was American. The tailor’s ‘shop’ (the tailor who made civilian clothes out of virtually anything), the false paper forgers, the diggers, the stooges, the engineers and the carpenters all lost their best workers. It was a true disaster. We were in the middle of producing clothes and false papers for two hundred escapees. It was not the kind of work which one could recruit new helpers in a short time.’

2) In the film, the ‘covers’ to the tunnel entrances for ‘Tom’, ‘Dick’ and ‘Harry’ are accurately portrayed, except for them being attributed to the wrong named tunnel.

The film shows ‘Tom’ being discovered on 4 July 1943 in one of the huts after a German search , when a ‘ferret’ (specially trained German prison guard to discover escape attempts) accidentally drops a drink of hot coffee onto the tiles around the stove. The liquid disappears between cracks in the tiles because the cover containing the tiles is false and effectively the tunnel ‘cover.’

In reality, Tom was discovered in September 1943, just before the Americans were moved to their new compound in the camp. The tunnel entrance was concealed within a concrete floor in Hut 123 in a small passage near the hut kitchen.  Tunneller Wing Commander Ken Rees describes the set up:

‘Some Polish officers headed by Minskiewitz were the trap experts, par excellence….Tom’s trap was to be situated in a dark corner of the concrete floor just outside the kitchen. The Poles had liberated some cement left behind by careless German workers, and this was used to cast a concrete slab in a wooden mould about twenty four inches square. Minskiewitz chipped out the concrete in a darkened area outside the kitchen in Block 123, the exact size of the slab he had made. He handled the chisel with great precision, and when the block was finished, with two lugs set in its sides, it fitted in the hole perfectly. When it was laid in place, any minute cracks were filled with cement paste and dusted with dirt, it was almost impossible to detect.’

The actual discovery occurred when one of the ferrets (Paul Brickhill refers to him as ‘Herman’) was taking part in a search of Hut 123, jabbing his probe around the concrete floor listening for hollow sounds, when the tip suddenly stuck in the concrete. Startled, the ferret pulled the tip away and a small chip of concrete came away. As he was short sighted he got down on his hands and knees, felt around and made out the faint outline of a trapdoor. Tom was discovered. 

Tom’s stove and tile arrangement in the film was actually used by the escapers in Hut 104 for ‘Harry’,  which the escapers used to finally break out of the camp. The film shows ‘Harry’ as starting in the washhouse. Tunnel ‘Dick’ was in the washhouse of Hut 122 as Ken Rees describes:
‘In the middle of the concrete washroom floor in Block 122 was an iron grating about twenty inches square, into which water flowed from showers and washing clothes. Under the grating was a small chamber about three feet deep with a pipe about a foot from its bottom to carry away the water, which meant that there was always about a foot of water in the chamber. Minskewicz lifted the iron grating, baled out the water and chipped away one blank side… Once again he cast a slab to fit the side he had chipped out, and when this was put in place, the cracks filled with soap and sand, and the chamber filled again with water, it was, we considered, impossible for the ferrets to detect.’

3) There is a scene where the Fourth of July is celebrated in the compound by the Americans with their own distilled alcohol. RAF escaper Jimmy James described the events:

‘From dawn on the fourth of July the camp began to resound to the beating of drums and the blare of bugles as a bunch of  ‘Red Indians’ followed by an army of ‘Colonists’ emerging howling from their blocks to re-enact the Boston Tea Party with kriegie brew….the Americans were joined by the British and together we marched round the compound and through the barracks, singing and whooping as we celebrated American Independence – to the astonishment of the Germans who could not understand, why the British or for that matter, or for that matter any nation would want to celebrate the loss of colonies.’

This culminated in three Allied ‘High ups’ and a few others being thrown into the fire pool. (As the huts were wooden, a pit was always filled with water in case of fire.)     

4) The film shows the character ‘Ives The Mole’ who is on the point of going ‘wire crazy’ stepping over the warning wire after he learns of ‘Tom’s’ discovery. He attempts to climb the barbed wire fence and is machine gunned from one of the sentry towers (k/a ‘Goon Towers by the POW’s.) As with a number of characters in the film, ‘Ives’ is a compilation of real POWs in Sagan 111. There is a reference to him as ‘Piglet’ which is a link to Flt Lieutenant Henry W "Piglet" Lamond, who was a regular tunneller and escapee but who did not escape in this breakout. Other character traits link in with 'Shag' Rees and 'Red' Noble, the frequent ‘goon baiters’ (antagonising the Germans) who spent many days in the camp ‘cooler’. (solitary confinement – the word ‘cooler’ became used by both prisoners and captors.)

 The actual wire incident did not occur on the fourth of July, but was intended to be representative of a number of similar occurrences, including as Bob Vanderstok recalled, an Irishman called Mcintosh who thought he could make himself invisible, saying that he could climb the fence without being seen by the guards. Despite Kriegies trying to stop him, verbal warnings and three warning shots being fired by the guards, Mcintosh reached the inner fence, climbed to the top and jumped over onto the upper barbed wires of the outer fence before being machine gunned. 

Life in a POW camp was often on the edge.

Sources & Recommended Reading

Moonless Night - B A 'Jimmy' James
The Great Escape - Paul Brickhill
Lie In The Dark And Listen - Ken Rees
War Pilot Of Orange - Bob Vanderstok
Web Site The Great Escape -Rob Davis-

© Keith Morley

This blog claims no credit for any images posted on this site unless otherwise noted. Images on this blog are copyright to its respectful owners. If there is an image appearing on this blog that belongs to you and you do not wish it to appear on this site, please message me with a link to said image and it will be promptly removed.