Ever wonder about the actual history behind some of Hollywood’s biggest hits?
Take the Great Escape for example. Starring Steve McQueen, this movie tells the story of the Allied prisoners at Stalag Luft III who lead a mass escape and the resultant massacre of 50 prisoners – an event that saw the British Intelligence smuggle in instructions to the remaining POWs not to make another attempt. But as the Allied forces drew closer, fear of SS reprisals grew, leading many to chance discovery as they continued digging. Named George – a ruse which allowed the POWs to discuss their plans openly – the tunnel was never finished, as the prisoners were marched off at gunpoint in January 1945 before the advancing Red Army reached them.
Until recently the final tunnel had remained lost, with only survivor accounts detailing its existence. That is until a group of British archaeologist discovered the tunnel thanks to some ground-scanning radars. This find proved a treasure trove of materials chronicling the life of a WWII POW. From yards of wire stolen to run electric light down the tunnels, and the numerous tin milk containers they’d converted into wall candle hangings for when the power failed, reveal the ingenuity of these men, and their determination to be free. While speculation remains as to whether the prisoners were intending on overrunning the German guards barracks in a bid to arm themselves before fleeing the prison, before escaping deeper into the forest, it’s clear they were going to keep trying.
Of the remaining 2,000 prisoners who were force marched in January 100km west to Spremberg where they were divided up and sent on to further camps, some 200 died due to the freezing weather or their German guards.