The 1963 film The Great Escape is acknowledged as a classic for many reasons including the stellar ensemble cast, the stirring theme by Elmer Bernstein, and THAT motorcycle jump.
While a classic, not all of the events portrayed are true, though much is.
Hooch on July 4? Debateable. The tunnels Tom, Dick, and Harry? Yes. The “penguins” – the method for disposing of earth excavated from the tunnels? Yes. Escapes by aircraft and boat? No and yes.
The shooting – murder, actually – of 50 of the escapees by the Gestapo on the personal orders of Hitler? Yes.
March 24 sees the 80th anniversary of the ambitious and audacious mass escape from Stalag Luft III of 76 Allied airmen though Harry, and SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity is marking this event.
SSAFA has produced a tech polo shirt that remembers all 76, including the names of The Fifty as well as those who survived, including the three airmen – Norwegians Per Bergsland and Jens Müller, and Dutchman Bram van der Stok (all three were serving with the RAF) – who made a ”home run” back to their countries.
Proceeds from sales of this unique item will fund life-changing and life-saving work supporting generations of servicemen and women, veterans, and their families from all three services.
Priced at £34.99 each, the polo shirts are available at ssafastore.org.uk/categories/the-great-escape-80.
For more information on SSAFA’s work and how you can make a difference to the military family, visit ssafa.org.uk.