Play / pause The Great Escape

The Great Escape

  • Ley Kenyon


It's easy to imagine that

the escape attempts from Stalag Luft

Plucky Brits and wisecracking Americans

in a game of cat and mouse

In reality,

the prisoners were starving, demoralized

For some, the physical and emotional toll

There were breakdowns and suicides

at escape,

Escape is not only a matter of duty,

not only a chance to frustrate and hamper

It was the only thing that gave men hope.

You needed stamina and strength

on one elbow, scraping away at the sand

30 feet down, diggers worked in pairs.

Digger number

pushing the earth down

could scrape it towards him

Air was pumped in along

a tube made from tin cans,

It was filthy, exhausting work.

And when they came up,

On a good day,

Elsewhere in the camp,

a whole illicit industry

Forgers faked permits and passes,

tailor made civilian outfits


and made tools from whatever materials

Guards were bribed with chocolates

Once tamed, a guard could be effectively

the prisoners, providing information

Eventually, after over a year of digging,

broke ground outside the camp

from the tunnel entrance in huy 104.

On the moonless night of March 24th, 1944,

76 allied officers from 12 nations

through the filthy tunnel

But the success was short lived.

The mass escape enraged Hitler, and

Thousands of German troops

73 men were recaptured as they tried

On Hitler's personal instructions.

50 Allied airmen were shot

the Gestapo.

  • Ley Kenyon's sketches

    © RAF Museum

  • Ley Kenyon's sketches

    © RAF Museum

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