Lest We Forget: The Great Escape

Image result for pics of poppiesLest We Forget………………………………Never


From the Royal Canadian Air Force Web Site:

You may have heard of the Great Escape. You may have seen the 1963 Hollywood movie starring Steve McQueen as a United States Air Force officer named Virgil Hilts – the “Cooler King”. And if you’ve seen the movie, you may think that the story is a British and American story.
But it’s not. It’s a British and Canadian story. There were no Americans in the North Compound at Stalag Luft III near Sagan (now Zagan), Poland, when the mass breakout occurred. Rather, most of the officers in the compound were members of the Royal Air Force (RAF), Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) and the South African Air Force (SAAF). Others hailed from nations such as Greece, Norway, the Netherlands, Czechoslovakia, Greece, Lithuania, Poland, Belgium and France.

The idea to build tunnels to break out of Stalag Luft III was conceived by RAF Squadron Leader Roger Bushell in the spring of 1943. One of his most important co-conspirators was RCAF Flying Officer Wally Floody from Chatham, Ontario, who has become known as the architect of the Great Escape.

Flying Officer Floody worked in the mining industry at Kirkland Lake, Ontario, which gave him the expertise he needed in the prison camp to survey, design and engineer the tunnels. According to his obituary, his role in the project was so highly valued that the camp’s leaders forbade him to join an earlier escape attempt with a delousing party.

“We need you for the tunnels,” he was told.

Shortly before the breakout, he was moved to a nearby camp – Beria – along with several other key figures on the escape committee. The German guards had become suspicious, but they didn’t find “Harry”. Flight Lieutenant Floody thus survived the war; he gave evidence at the Nuremberg Trials, founded the Royal Canadian Air Force Prisoners of War Association and later became an advisor on the film set of “The Great Escape”. King George VI also made him an officer of the Order of the British Empire for his “courage and devotion to duty”.


Home Run
Sergeant Per Bergsland, RAF (Norwegian)
Second Lieutenant Jens Müller, RAF (Norwegian)
Flight Lieutenant Bram “Bob” van der Stok, RAF (Dutch)


Flying Officer Henry “Hank” Birkland, RCAF
Flight Lieutenant Edward Gordon Brettell, RAF
Flight Lieutenant Leslie George “Johnny” Bull, RAF
Squadron Leader Roger Joyce Bushell, RAF
Flight Lieutenant Michael James Casey, RAF
Squadron Leader James Catanach, RAAF
Flight Lieutenant Arnold George Christensen, RNZAF
Flying Officer Dennis Herbert Cochran, RAF
Squadron Leader Ian Kingston Pembroke Cross, RAF
Sergeant Haldor Espelid, Royal Norwegian Air Force
Flight Lieutenant Brian Herbert Evans, RAF
Lieutenant Nils Fuglesang, Royal Norwegian Air Force
Lieutenant Johannes Gouws, SAAF
Flight Lieutenant William Jack Grisman, RAF
Flight Lieutenant Alistair Donald Mackintosh Gunn, RAF
Warrant Officer Albert Horace Hake, RAAF
Flight Lieutenant Charles Piers Hall, RAF
Flight Lieutenant Anthony Ross Henzell Hayter, RAF
Flight Lieutenant Edgar Spottiswoode Humphreys, RAF
Flying Officer Gordon Arthur Kidder, RCAF
Flight Lieutenant Reginald “Rusty” Kierath RAAF
Flight Lieutenant Antoni Kiewnarski, RAF (Polish)
Squadron Leader Thomas Gresham Kirby-Green, RAF
Flying Officer Wlodzimierz A Kolanowski, PAF (Polish)
Flying Officer Stanislaw Z. “Danny” Krol, RAF (Polish)
Flight Lieutenant Patrick Wilson Langford, RCAF
Flight Lieutenant Thomas Barker Leigh, RAF
Flight Lieutenant James Leslie Robert “Cookie” Long, RAF
Flight Lieutenant Romas “René” Marcinkus, RAF
Lieutenant Clement Aldwyn Neville McGarr, SAAF
Flight Lieutenant George Edward McGill, RCAF
Flight Lieutenant Harold John Milford, RAF
Flying Officer Jerzy T. Mondschein, RAF (Polish)
Flying Officer Kazimierz Pawluk, RAF (Polish)
Flying Officer Porokoru Patapu “Johnny” Pohe, RNZAF
Pilot Officer Sotiris “Nick” Skanzikas, Royal Hellenic Air Force (Greek)
Lieutenant Rupert J. Stevens, SAAF
Flying Officer Robert Campbell Stewart, RAF
Flying Officer John Gifford Stower, RAF
Flying Officer Denys Oliver Street, RAF
Flight Lieutenant Cyril Douglas Swain, RAF
Flight Lieutenant Henri Albert Picard, RAF (Belgian)
Lieutenant Bernard W. M. Scheidhauer, Free French Air Force
Flying Officer Pawel “Peter” Tobolski, Polish Air Force (Polish)
Flight Lieutenant Arnost “Wally” Valenta, RAF (Czechoslovakian)
Flight Lieutenant Gilbert William “Tim” Walenn, RAF
Flight Lieutenant James Chrystall Wernham, RCAF
Flight Lieutenant George William Wiley, RCAF
Squadron Leader John Edwin Ashley Williams, RAAF
Flight Lieutenant John Francis Williams, RAF

Returned to Stalag Luft III

Flight Lieutenant R. Anthony Bethell, RAF
Flight Lieutenant Bill Cameron, RCAF
Flight Lieutenant Richard S. A. “Dick” Churchill, RAF
Wing Commander Harry Melville Arbuthnot “Wings” Day, RAF
Major Johnnie Dodge, British Army
Flight Lieutenant Sydney Dowse, RAF
Flight Lieutenant Bedrich “Freddie” Dvorak, RAF
Flight Lieutenant Bernard “Pop” Green, RAF
Pilot Officer Bertram “Jimmy” James, RAF
Flight Lieutenant Roy B. Langlois RAF
Flight Lieutenant H. C. “Johnny” Marshall, RAF
Flight Lieutenant Alistair T. McDonald, RAF
Lieutenant Alastair D. Neely, Royal Navy
Flight Lieutenant T.R. Nelson, RAF
Flight Lieutenant A. Keith Ogilvie, RAF
Flight Lieutenant Desmond Lancelot Plunkett, RAF
Lieutenant Douglas A. Poynter, Royal Navy
Pilot Officer Paul G. Royle, RAF
Flight Lieutenant Michael Shand, RAF (the last to emerge from “Harry”)
Flight Lieutenant Alfred B. Thompson, RCAF
Flight Lieutenant Ivo P. Tonder, RAF
Squadron Leader Leonard Henry Trent, RNZAF
Flight Lieutenant Raymond L. N. van Wymeersch, RAF (French)

With files from Sara Keddy, editor of The Aurora newspaper, 14 Wing Greenwood, Nova Scotia. Recommended reading: The Great Escape: A Canadian Story by Ted Barris