Digging the Great Escape

Digging the Great Escape

Series 1 - Episode 1

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Review

Forget for a moment what the 1963 film of the great escape has burnt into popular consciousness: if you want a sense of the courage and ingenuity of the Allied prisoners who broke out of Stalag Luft III in 1944, try this. Engineers and archaeologists travel to Poland to excavate for the first time what is left of “Harry”, the tunnel from which 76 Allied airmen crawled on the night of 24 March 1944.

What the experts uncover is remarkable (including original air pumps, trolley parts and a radio), but even more striking are their re-creations of gear the original escapers managed to make out of old cans and bed-boards: it’s not until you see what is involved in digging a 100m tunnel seven metres below ground with improvised tools that the scale of the plan comes home to you.

Best of all are the veterans of the escape: Frank Stone, now 89, has a go on the re-created tunnel trolley system and Canadian airman Gordy King returns to Stalag Luft III for the first time since the war.

Summary

Engineers, archaeologists and serving RAF officers head to the site of the 1944 event to excavate the remains of the tunnel that allowed 76 men to escape from German PoW camp Stalag Luft III. The experts hope to understand how inmates managed to dig the tunnel - known as Harry - using only rudimentary tools right under the noses of their guards. Mystery also surrounds what happened to the 90 bunk beds, 635 mattresses and 3,424 towels stolen from the camp.

Cast & Crew

Director Paul Nelson
Executive Producer Simon Raikes
Producer Paul Nelson
Education