Commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Great Escape

by admin on March 25, 2019

Frank Stone

Frank Stone(above) and Nigel Drever (below), two Stalag Luft III PoWs who worked on the Great Escape

Nigel Drever

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RAF Leads Commemorations On 75th Anniversary Of Great Escape

The RAF has led commemorations for the 75th anniversary of the Great Escape at two services in Poland.

In 1944, 76 prisoners of war (PoW) attempted to escape from a Nazi camp through tunnels they had painstakingly dug underground at Stalag Luft III.

Only three of the men managed to escape to safety, while 50 of the 73 who were recaptured were killed.

Many prisoners at the PoW camp were British airmen.

Each RAF Officer and Airman held a single photo of each of the 50 Great Escape members that were killed upon capture (Picture: MOD).
Each RAF Officer and Airman held a single photo of each of the 50 Great Escape members that were killed upon capture (Picture: MOD).

As part of the commemorations, the RAF took part in a flypast and formed a guard of honour alongside the Polish Air Force.

An RAF C130 Hercules from RAF Brize Norton flew over the ceremony at the Stalag Luft III camp alongside four Polish F-16s.

At the time, the camp was in Germany but is now in Poland.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said:  “We must never forget that in the fight for freedom, and in the hopes of liberating themselves and their comrades, 50 courageous lives were lost.

“Their bravery is a testament to the camaraderie and strength of the RAF, who worked tirelessly to liberate Europe from Nazi occupation. ”Sadly, we are slowly losing our heroes of the Second World War, so it is more important than ever that we preserve their legacies by continuing to tell their stories.”

 RAF personnel parade at the Old Garrison Cemetery in Poznan where 48 escapees are buried (Picture: MOD).

RAF personnel parade at the Old Garrison Cemetery in Poznan where 48 escapees are buried (Picture: MOD).

Air Commodore Charles Clarke, a PoW at the camp at the time of the escape, attended the service.

Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier, relatives of the escapees and Government representatives also attended.

Another remembrance service was held at Poznan Old Garrison Cemetery, where 48 of those executed are buried.

Mi Amigo memorial Endcliffe Park in Sheffield 220219 CREDIT PA .jpg
The story of the Great Escape heroes gained even more prominence in 1963 when it became the basis for a Hollywood film.

Last month Dick Churchill, the last surviving member of the 76-strong group who made it out of the camp, died aged 99.

Earlier this month Second World War pilot Jack Lyon, who was in the Stalag Luft III camp after his bomber plane was struck by flak near Dusseldorf, died aged 101.

Mr Lyon, who was a Flight Lieutenant, was recruited by other prisoners to carry out surveillance of the compound, but the plot was discovered before he could make his own escape.

Here are links to the stories of two of the men involved in organising the audacious escape:

https://www.scotsman.com/news/obituaries/obituary-nigel-george-drever-spitfire-pilot-and-great-escape-pow-1-4193429