The Great Escape is one of the most iconic military stories, but most people’s association is with an American Steve McQueen jumping over a barbed wire fence on a motorbike.
However, in the real story no Americans even attempted the escape from Stalag Luft III, although several did help dig the iconic tunnels that almost brought hundreds of prisoners of war back homes.
But what is true is the incredible feats the prisoners went to in engineering their escape attempt.
We put together an interactive and animated web microsite that showcases their ingenuity and displays some of the key statistics, such as that the 4000 bed boards used in supporting the earth around the tunnels limited its size; around two feet high and wide. Incredibly cramped working conditions.
These cramped conditions along with the sheer length the tunnels would need to be also led to more issues, such as how to get fresh air to the head of the tunnel? This led to an engineering marvel; an air pump made of beds and hundreds of powdered milk tins.
Unfortunately, we hear that of the 76 POWs that managed to exit the tunnel, all but three were caught with 50 ultimately executed for their attempted escape.