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The Escapers Get Away

As night fell those allocated a place on the tunnel moved to Hut 104.  Prisoners, nerves at cracking-point, were terrified to see a German soldier enter the hut.  It was F/O Pawel Tobolski, (301 Sqdn, shot down over Bremen, 25/26-Jun-1942, Wellington IV, Z1479 GR:A) dressed for his escape as a German soldier, travelling in company with W/C Day.  (I was very pleased to receive emails from and subsequently meet F/O Tobolski’s son, Paul, who had seen this page.) On freeing up the frozen and swollen boards which protected the final upper section of the end vertical shaft at 2215, F/L Johnny Bull discovered that the tunnel mouth was short of the tree line.

The ‘shortage’ distance is variously quoted as 15 or 30 feet. Also it was within 15 yards of the nearest watch tower.  But guards were watchful towards the compound and did not shine their searchlights outside.  The first escaper went onto the trolley railway at 22:30. With all the forged documents bearing the current date, shutting down the tunnel to excavate another 15 or so feet was not an option.

None of the PoWs I have interviewed have been able to explain why the tunnel came up short, but the most likely explanation is a triangulation and measurement error. It was not easy to accurately measure the length of the tunnel or the angle at which it was being cut. In order to avoid being detected by buried microphones, the tunnel was so deep that the normal method of cautiously poking up a stick to the surface and having this observed and measured on the surface was not possible. Dead reckoning was the only solution, and unfortunately a 5% or 10% error over the 300 foot length proved to be serious. Bearing in mind the formidable difficulties involved with its construction, the PoWs did an astonishing job in completing it at all, without detection. Another likely answer is that a difference in the tunnel’s gradient between halfway houses was enough to skew the measurements and triangulation.

Prowling sentries circled outside the wire, passing at intervals between the tree line and the camp compound.  Snow lay on the ground and it was impossible for the escapers not to leave a trail as they hastily crawled out of the exit and into the cover of the trees.  This greatly slowed the passage of escapers, a situation worsened by an air raid which made the Germans switch off the power, forcing the use of fat lamps inside the tunnel.

Marshall and Bull were the first out with a length of rope for tugging and signalling and the exit of men was seriously slowed down by this method, and the need for experienced tunnellers to clear an unpected roof fall. It was soon apparent in Hut 104 that things were going badly wrong, but little news filtered back from the far end of the tunnel.  A request for a long length of rope was fulfilled, but the passage of men stalled.  Gordie King kept pumping away to keep air going down the tunnel shaft. Although the briefing had called for each man to ride the tiny railway trolley, being pulled by the previous man, once the tunnel had swallowed the first couple of dozen, no more were being called.  The dispatcher, waiting at the tunnel entrance, had no more idea what was wrong than did the long queue of impatient and highly-strung men.

The necessity to wait until the circuiting sentries were not close to the tunnel exit, and the need to exercise great discretion in sending the next man out, considerably slowed the throughput.  Instead of one man every minute, the escape was reduced to a dozen per hour.  Word was sent back that those men with escape numbers higher than 100 had no chance of escaping.  Since exiting Hut 104 during the curfew to return to their own huts would entail being shot at by the guards, they lay down where they could to await daylight.  By dawn, only 76 men had made their escape into the darkness beyond the trees.

At 04:55, by which time 87 escapers had left Hut 104, F/L Shand at the mouth of the tunnel was awaiting the signal to go.  In the woods was F/L Langlois (12 Sqdn, shot down 5-Aug-1941, Wellington II, W5421 PH:G) who could see that a patrolling sentry had deviated from his beat and would tread within a few feet of the tunnel.  He tugged at the signal rope, meaning “stay put.” Shand, thinking this was the opposite signal, emerged from the tunnel right under the feet of the guard, who until then had passed by. 

For some seconds he did not see the tracks in the snow and body-heat steam drifting upwards from the tunnel mouth.  Finally noticing the signs, he raised his rifle, fired a wild shot at Langlois (which missed) and blew his whistle.  F/L Laurence Reavell-Carter (49 Sqdn, shot down 26/27-Jun-1940, Hampden I P4305) and F/L Keith “Skeets” Ogilvie, waiting in the woods, ran for it and so did Shand.  The next man in the tunnel, S/L Robert Frederick McBride (415 Coastal Sqdn RCAF, shot down early November 1942) , was apprehended at rifle point, and S/L Len Trent (487 Sqdn, shot down 3-May-1943, Ventura II AJ209, EG:V) a holder of the VC and DSO, lying face down just inside the tree line, stood up and surrendered.

F/O Ken “Shag” Rees (150 Sqdn, shot down 23/24-Oct-1942, Wellington III BK309, JN:N) and S/L Clive Saxelby (103 Sqdn, shot down 7/8 Sep-1942, Halifax W1219 PM:S) were in the tunnel close to the foot of the final ladder, awaiting their turns to exit.  On hearing the shots, Sax together with Joe Moul (416 Sqdn, shot down 23 Oct 42, Spitfire Vb BL575), hared at top speed on all fours back the way they had come, closely followed by Rees, who believing a ferret might jump down the escape end and shoot along the tunnel, tried to kick out the shoring, with little success.  Ken said “As I was haring up the tunnel, all I could see was Sax’s bum blocking the way and I expected a bayonet or a bullet up my arse at any moment!”   S/L Denys Maw (218 Sqdn, shot down Gelsenkirchen, 25/26 Jun 43, Strirling EF430 HA:W) also made it back to Hut 104. Ken Rees was the last man up.

(I am sorry to report that Clive Saxelby died on March 22nd 1999.  When I interviewed him at his home in Torquay in August 1997, he was quite genuinely astounded that anyone was interested in his time with 103 Sqdn or his contribution to the Great Escape.  His comment at the end of the evening was “I’m sorry I can’t remember very much but I haven’t thought about, or considered important, any of this, for forty years.”

I am equally sorry to report that Ken Rees died on August 30th 2014, having been unwell for some time. I only met him the once at his home in Anglesey, but he was very entertaiing to listen to and gave me much information on 150 Sqdn and his time at Luft III.)

After a few minutes, all the men who had been waiting in the tunnel managed to return to Hut 104, where the shots had also been heard.  The escapers remaining, and those scrambling out of the tunnel entrance, burned their false papers and began to eat their carefully-saved rations, as the Germans would be sure to confiscate them.  However, the guards had no idea where the tunnel started and had searched Hut 104 so many times that they considered it safe; they therefore searched every hut and it was some time before they reached 104, by which time rations had been mostly eaten, false papers mostly burned and some escapers had even managed to return to their correct huts.

The ferrets in 104 could not find the entrance; their dog crawled into a pile of coats and fell asleep.  Finally, the ferret Charlie Pilz crawled down from the tunnel’s far end.  By this time the Germans were in Hut 104 and noises could be heard from underneath as Charlie shouted for help.  Taking pity on him, the prisoners opened the trap and Charlie emerged, full of praise for the superb tunnel. 

In the darkness, many of the escapers had not found the railway station entrance, which was unusually positioned in a dark recessed pedestrian tunnel, right under the actual platforms.  Consequently, many of them missed their trains and were very unhappily hanging round the platforms at first light, trying to ignore each other.  Eventually they caught the first trains out of Sagan, or having given up the wait, footslogged it over the horizon.  Due to this sad delay, they were nearly all caught in the Sagan area.


The Reprisal

The balloon went up in spectacular style.  A ‘Grossfahndung’ (national alert) was ordered with troops, police, Gestapo and Landwacht (Home Guard) alerted.  Hitler, incensed, ordered that all those recaptured were to be shot.  Goering, Feldmarschall Keitel, Maj-Gen Graevenitz and Maj-Gen Westhoff tried to persuade Hitler to see sense.  Eventually he calmed down and decreed that ‘more than half are to be shot and cremated.’ This directive was teleprinted to Gestapo headquarters under Himmler’s order, and a list of 50 was composed by General Nebeand Dr Hans Merton.

One by one the escapers were recaptured and on Himmler’s orders, handed over to the Gestapo.  This was not the normal practice; usually, recaptured PoWs were handed over to, and dealt with, by the civilian police.  Singly, or in small groups, they were taken from civilian or military prisons, driven to remote locations, and shot whilst offered the chance to relieve themselves.  The Gestapo groups submitted almost identical reports that ‘the prisoners whilst relieving themselves, bolted for freedom and were shot whilst trying to escape.’

Three escapers, Per Bergsland (aka Rocky Rockland, because he Anglicised his name as the authorities were unsure how Norwegians serving in the RAF and then becoming PoWs would be treated by the Germans), (332 Sqdn, shot down Spitfire VB AB269 AH:D, during the Dieppe Landings), Jens Muller (331 Sqdn, shot down 19th June 1942, Spitfire VB AR298 FN:N), and Bram (“Bob”) van der Stok (left, 41 Sqdn, shot down July 1942, Spitfire Vb BL595), succeeded in reaching safety.  Bergsland and Muller reached neutral Sweden, and van der Stock arrived in Gibraltar via Holland, Belgium, France and Spain.  Out of the 73 others, 50 were murdered by the Gestapo, 17 were returned to Sagan, four sent to Sachsenhausen, and two to Colditz Castle.  Word reached England of the atrocity; in mid July 1944 Anthony Eden, British Foreign Minister, made a speech in the House of Commons declaring that the perpetrators of the crime would be brought to justice.

At the camp, von Lindeiner-Wildau, the Kommandant, had surrendered to his superiors and been arrested.  He escaped execution, and was sentenced to fortress arrest, which he survived, partly by feigning mental illness to secure an early release. A new man, Oberst (Colonel) Erich Cordes, arrived.  On April 6th 1944 he called G/C Massey to his office.  Under different circumstances, von Lindeiner and Massey, both professional and honourable career Air Force officers, would have been friends.  Normally such meetings were as cordial as the peculiar circumstances allowed, and were preceded with a formal handshake.  This time and with a new man in command, there was none.  With a clear reluctance, the new Kommandant announced via the interpreter, S/L Philip ‘Wank’ Murray, (102 Sqdn, shot down 8/9-Sep-39, Whitley III K8950 DY:M) that he was ordered to inform the Senior British Officer that forty-one escaping officers had been “shot whilst trying to escape.” Massey couldn’t believe it.  “How many were wounded?” he asked, staggered.  “None, and I am not permitted to give you any further information, except that their bodies and personal effects will be returned to you,” was the stilted reply.

(Another source, Airmen’s Obituaries published by the Daily Telegraph, quotes Aidan Crawley as the interpreter at that time, and that the dreadful news was given to “G/C Wallis, the SBO”.)

“Shot whilst trying to escape” thereafter became an evil euphemism for cold blooded murder.

Prisoners and Luftwaffe alike were horrified.  Hauptmann Pieber, the adjutant, afterwards said to Murray, “You must not think the Luftwaffe had anything to do with this …  we do not wish to be associated …  it is terrible.” Later the list of names was posted and contained 47 names; an update a few days later added three more.  The aftermath was a grim time with the Gestapo investigators poking their noses everywhere and prisoners and guards alike were very edgy.  Pieber even told the PoWs to “be very careful, you are in great danger; no more tricks.”

Pieber, too, was respected by the PoWs, and habitually congratulated prisoners who were promoted whilst in captivity, usually shaking their hand.  Promotions which had been put into motion before a man was shot down would duly be notified to the Red Cross by the Air Ministry, and then word filtered down through the German High Command.

Peter Hynes reports that “the morning after the prisoners learned about the officers getting shot, every prisoner appeared with a black diamond sewn on their sleeves, some using their last pair of socks.”

Simoleit was a professor of History, Geography and Ethnology, spoke several languages including English, Russian, Polish and Czech.   Transferred to Sagan in early 1943, he was deputy Kommandant and ignored the ban on military courtesies to PoWs by providing full honours at the funeral of an RAF airman who was also Jewish.

Von Lindeiner died in 1963, aged 82; in his memoirs he expressed appreciation for the genuine sympathies of G/C Massey and the other Commonwealth officers when his Berlin apartment was destroyed by Allied bombers.

Later the Luftwaffe quietly allowed the prisoners to build a local memorial (view this on the ‘Modern Photos‘ page).  This was designed by Wylton Todd (169 Sqdn, shot down 15/16-Feb-44, Mosquito II, HJ707 VI:B), and two of the stonemasons who carved the names were Dickie Head (possibly 139 Sqdn, shot down  24/25-Nov-43, Mosquito IV DZ614) and S/L John Hartnell-Beavis (10 Sqdn, shot down 25/26-Jul-1943, Halifax II, JD207 ZA:V, a former architect) and erected in the local cemetery. John died in July 2004 but I am in touch with Wylton Todd’s grandson, Peter Hynes.

Urns containing ashes of the Fifty were originally buried there, but after the war were taken to the Old Garrison Cemetery at Poznan

Both still remain today. If you visit the camp you will find many traces of the wartime era. Take time to walk into the woods well beyond Hut 104 and explore the more distant parts. There is a local museum, of exhibits and items found at the camp.  Paul Tobolski on visiting the memorial, corrected a small error on his father’s initials, and liberated one of the tiles from Harry’s entrance.  He had never known his father.

If you go on one of these organised ‘Battlefield’ tours, the guide will probably know less about it than you, so print off this page, as well as the Modern Photos one, and take them with you. Insist on at least an hour on the site, and the same at the Museum.


The Fifty Victims

J/35233 F/L Henry J Birkland, Canadian, born 16-Aug-1917, 72 Sqdn, (shot down 7-Nov-1941, Spitfire Vb, W3367), recaptured near Sagan, last seen alive 31-Mar-1944; murdered by Lux and Scharpwinkel; cremated at Liegnitz.

(IWM)

(IWM)

61053 F/L E Gordon Brettell DFC, British, born 19-Mar-1915, 133 (Eagle) Sqdn (shot down 26-Sep-1942, Spitfire IX BS313), recaptured Scheidemuhl, murdered by Bruchardt 29-Mar-1944, cremated at Danzig.

43932 F/L Leslie George Bull DFC, British, born 7-Nov-1916, 109 Sqdn (shot down 5/6-Nov-1941, Wellington IC, T2565) recaptured near Reichenberg, murdered 29-Mar-1944 by unknown Gestapo, cremated at Brux.. (See the entry for Mondschein)

(IWM)

(IWM)

90120 S/L Roger J Bushell, South African born but in the regular RAF, born 30-Aug-1910, 92 Sqdn (shot down 23-May-1940, Spitfire I, N3194) recaptured at Saarbrucken, murdered 29-Mar-1944 by Schulz, cremated at Saarbrucken.

39024 F/L Michael J Casey, British, born 19-Feb-1918, 57 Sqdn (shot down 16-Oct-1939, Blenheim I, L1141), recaptured near Gorlitz, murdered 31-Mar-1944 by Lux and Scharpwinkel, cremated at Gorlitz.

(IWM)

(IWM)

Aus/400364 S/L James Catanach DFC, Australian, born 28-Nov-1921, 455 (RAAF) Sqdn (crash landed in Norway, 6-Sep-1942, Hampden I AT109), recaptured at Flensburg, murdered 29-Mar-1944 by Post, cremated at Kiel. Parents from Malvern, Victoria, Australia.

NZ/413380 F/L Arnold G Christensen, New Zealander, 26 Sqdn, born 8-Apr-1922, taken PoW 20-Aug-1942 after engine failure in Mustang AL977, recaptured at Flensburg, murdered 29-Mar-1944 by Post, cremated at Kiel.

(IWM)

(IWM)

122441 F/O Dennis H Cochran, British, born 13-Aug-1921, 10 OTU, shoty down and taken PoW 9-Nov-1942 (Whitley V, AD671) , recaptured at Lorrach, murdered 31-Mar-1944 by Priess and Herberg, cremated at Natzweiler.

39305 S/L Ian K P Cross DFC, British, born 4-Apr-1918, 103 Sqdn (shot down 12-Feb-1942, Wellington IC, Z8714 PM:N), recaptured near Gorlitz, murdered 31-Mar-1944 by Lux and Scharpwinkel, cremated at Gorlitz.

(IWM)

(IWM)

110378 Lt Halldor Espelid, Norwegian, born 6-Oct-1920, 331 Sqdn.  Shot down by flak 27 Aug 42, Spitfire Vb BL588 FN:A east of Dunkirk, recaptured at Flensburg, murdered 29-Mar-1944 by Post, cremated at Kiel.

42745 F/L Brian H Evans, British, born 14-Feb-1920, 49 Sqdn (shot down 6-Dec-1940, Hampden I, P4404 EA:R), recaptured at Halbau; last seen alive 31-Mar-1944, murdered by Lux and Scharpwinkel; cremated at Liegnitz.

(IWM)

(IWM)

742 2/Lt Nils Fuglesang, Norwegian, 332 Sqdn.  Shot down and belly landed in Holland (Spitfire IX BS540 AH:E) 2-May-1943, recaptured at Flensburg, murdered 29-Mar-1944 by Post, cremated at Kiel.  Photo of crashed aircraft, p.94 Volume 2, FIGHTER COMMAND LOSSES

103275 Lt Johannes S Gouws, South African, born 13-Aug-19, 40 Sqdn SAAF,shot down in Tomahawk AN377 and PoW 9-Apr-1942, recaptured at Lindau, murdered 29-Mar-1944 by Schneider, cremated at Munich.

(IWM)

(IWM)

45148 F/L William J Grisman, British, born 30-Aug-14, 109 Sqdn, (believed shot down 5/6-Nov-1941, Wellington IC, T2565) recaptured near Gorlitz, last seen alive 6-Apr-1944; murdered by Lux, cremated at Breslau.

60340 F/L Alastair D M Gunn, British, born 27-Sep-1919, 1 PRU, shot down in Spitfire PR.IVAA810 and PoW 5-Mar-1942, recaptured near Gorlitz, last seen alive 6-APR-1944, murdered by unknown Gestapo, cremated at Breslau.

(IWM)

(IWM)

Aus/403218 F/L Albert H Hake, Australian, born 30-Jun-1916, 72 Sqdn, shot down 4-Apr-42, Spitfire Vb AB258, recaptured near Gorlitz, murdered 31-Mar-1944 by Lux and Scharpwinkel, cremated at Gorlitz. Wife from Carlton, Sydney, Australia.

50896 F/L Charles P Hall, British, born 25-Jul-1918, 1 PRU, shot down in Spitfire AA804 and PoW 28-Dec-1941, recaptured near Sagan, murdered 30-Mar-1944 by Lux and Scharpwinkel, cremated at Liegnitz.

(IWM)

(IWM)

42124 F/L Anthony R H Hayter, British, born 20-May-1920, 148 Sqdn, shot down in Wellington BB483 and PoW 24-Apr-1942, recaptured near Mulhouse, murdered 6-Apr-1944 by Schimmel, cremated at Natzweiler.

44177 F/L Edgar S Humphreys, British, born 5-Dec-1914, 107 Sqdn (shot down 19-Dec-1940, Blenheim IV, T1860), recaptured near Sagan, last seen alive 31-Mar-1944, murdered by Lux and Scharpwinkel, cremated at Liegnitz.

(IWM)

(IWM)

J/10177 F/L Gordon A Kidder, Canadian, born 9-Dec-1914, 156 Sqdn (shot down 13/14-Oct-1942, Wellington III, BJ775) recaptured near Zlin, murdered 29-Mar-1944 by Zacharias and Knippelberg, with drivers Kiowsky and Schwartzer, cremated at Mahrisch Ostrau.

Aus/402364 F/L Reginald V Kierath, Australian, born 20-Feb-1915, 450 Sqdn, shot down Kittyhawk III FR477 and PoW 23-Apr-1943, recaptured near Reichenberg, murdered 29-Mar-1944 by unknown Gestapo, cremated at Brux.. (See the entry for Mondschein)

(IWM)

(IWM)

P/0109 Maj Antoni Kiewnarski, Polish, born 26-Jan-1899, 305 Sqdn (shot down 28-Aug-1942, Wellington X, Z1245), recaptured at Hirschberg, murdered there 31-Mar-1944 by Lux, place of cremation unknown. (See the entry forMondschein)

39103 S/L Thomas G Kirby-Green, British, born 28-Feb-1918, 40 Sqdn (shot down 16/17-Oct-1941, Wellington IC, Z8862 BL:B), recaptured near Zlin, murdered 29-Mar-1944 by Zacharias and Knippelberg, with drivers Kiowsky and Schwartzer, cremated at Mahrisch Ostrau.  Described to me as “a tall, suave aristocrat.”

(IWM)

(IWM)

P/0243 F/O Wlodzimierz Kolanowski, Polish, born 11-Aug-1913, 301 Sqdn (shot down 8-Nov-1942, Wellington IV, Z1277 GR:Z), recaptured near Sagan, shot at Liegnitz 31-Mar-1944 by Lux and Scharpwinkel, cremated at Liegnitz.

P/0237 F/O Stanislaw Z Krol, Polish, born 22-Mar-1916, 74 Sqdn (shot down 2-Jul-1941, Spitfire Vb, W3263), recaptured at Oels, shot at Breslau 14-Apr-1944 probably by Lux, cremated at Breslau.

(IWM)

(IWM)

J/1631 Patrick W Langford, Canadian, born 4-Nov-1919, 16 OTU, (shot down 28/29-Jul-1942, Wellington IC, R1450) recaptured near Gorlitz, last seen alive 31-Mar-1944, murdered by Lux and Scharpwinkel; cremated at Liegnitz.

46462 F/L Thomas B Leigh, Australian in RAF, born 11-Feb-1919, 76 Sqdn (shot down 5/6-Aug-1941, Halifax I, L9516), recaptured in Sagan area; last seen alive 12-Apr-1944, murdered by Lux and Scharpwinkel; cremated at Breslau.

(IWM)

(IWM)

89375 F/L James L R Long, British, born 21-Feb-1915, 9 Sqdn (shot down 27-Mar-1941, Wellington IA, R1335 WS:K), recaptured near Sagan, last seen alive 12-Apr-1944, murdered by Lux; cremated at Breslau.

95691 2/Lt Clement A N McGarr, South African, born 24-Nov-1917, 2 Sqdn SAAF, shot down Tomahawk AK513 and PoW 6-Oct-1941, recaptured near Sagan, last seen alive 6-Apr-1944, murdered by Lux, cremated at Breslau.

(IWM)

(IWM)

J/5312 F/L George E McGill, Canadian, born 14-Apr-1918, 103 Sqdn.  With 3 others, baled out of a damaged Wellington R1192 10/11-Jan-1942 over Germany, on an operation to Wilhelmshaven.  The Wellington managed to limp back to Elsham Wolds.  Recaptured in Sagan area, last seen alive 31-Mar-1944, murdered by Lux and Scharpwinkel; cremated at Liegnitz.

89580 F/L Romas Marcinkus, Lithuanian, born 22-Jul-10, 1 Sqdn, shot down 12-Feb-42, Hurricane IIc BD949 “JX:J”, recaptured at Scheidemuhl, murdered 29-Mar-1944 by Bruchardt, cremated at Danzig.

(IWM)

(IWM)

103586 F/L Harold J Milford, British, born 16-Aug-14, 226 Sqdn, believed shot down Boston AL743 and PoW 22-Sep-1942, recaptured near Sagan, last seen alive 6-Apr-1944, murdered by Lux; cremated at Breslau.

P/0913 F/O Jerzy Tomasc Mondschein, Polish, born 18-Mar-09, 304 Sqdn (shot down 8-Nov-1941, Wellington IC, R1215), recaptured in Reichenberg area, murdered Brux 29-Mar-1944 by unknown Gestapo, cremated at Brux. A Polish correspondent says “The killers are unknown but these executions were orchestrated by local Reichenburg Gestapo leader Bernhard Baatz, Robert Weissman and Robert Weyland. Baatz and Weyland lived on with impunity and with the complicity of the Russian authorities. Weissman was later arrested by the French military authorities but his fate remains unknown.”

(IWM)

(IWM)

P/0740 F/O Kazimierz Pawluk, Polish, born 1-Jul-06, 305 Sqdn (shot down 29-Mar-1942, Wellington II, W5567 SM:M), recaptured at Hirschberg, shot there on 31-Mar-1944 by Lux, place of cremation unknown.

87693 F/L Henri A Picard Croix de Guerre,Belgian, born 17-Apr-1916, 350 Sqdn, shot down Spitfire BM297 and PoW 2-Sep-1942, recaptured at Scheidemuhl, murdered 29-Mar-1944 by Bruchardt, cremated at Danzig.

(IWM)

(IWM)

NZ/402894 F/O John P P Pohe, New Zealander, born 10-Dec-1921, 51 Sqdn (shot down 22/23-Sep-1941, Halifax II, JN901) recaptured near Gorlitz, murdered 31-Mar-1944 by Lux and Scharpwinkel, cremated at Gorlitz.  Also known by his Maori name of Porokoru Patapu.

30649 Sous-Lt Bernard W M Scheidhauer,French, born 28-Aug-21, 131 Sqdn, ran low on fuel and landed by mistake on Jersey, 18 Nov 1942, Spitfire Vb EN830 NX:X, recaptured at Saarbrucken, murdered 29-Mar-1944 by Spann, cremated at Saarbrucken.

(IWM)

213 P/O Sotiris Skanzikas, Greek, born 6-Aug1921, 336 Sqdn, shot down Hurricane HW250 and PoW 23-Jul-1943, recaptured at Hirschberg, murdered 30-Mar-1944 by Lux, place of cremation unknown.

47341 Rupert J Stevens, South African, born 21-Feb-1919, 12 Sqdn SAAF, Shot down in Martin Maryland AH287 and PoW 14-Nov-1941, recaptured at Rosenheim, murdered 29-Mar-1944 by Schneider; cremated at Munich.

(IWM)

(IWM)

130452 F/O Robert C Stewart, British, born 7-Jul-1911, 77 Sqdn (shot down 26/27-Apr-1943, Halifax II, DT796) recaptured near Sagan, last seen alive 31-Mar-1944, murdered by Lux and Scharpwinkel; cremated at Liegnitz.

107520 F/L John G Stower, British, born 15-Sep-1916, 142 Sqdn (shot down 16/17-Nov-1942, Wellington III, BK278, QT:C), recaptured near Reichenberg, murdered 31-Mar-1944 by unknown Gestapo; place of cremation unknown.

(IWM)

(IWM)

123026 F/L Denys O Street, British, born 1-Apr-1922, 207 Sqdn (shot down 29/30-Mar-1943, Lancaster I, EM:O), recaptured near Sagan, last seen alive 6-Apr-1944, murdered by Lux; cremated at Breslau.   Street is the only victim whose ashes are not at Poznan; his rest at the Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery.

37658 F/L Cyril D Swain, British, born 15-Dec-1911, 105 Sqdn (shot down 28-Nov-1940, Blenheim IV, T1893), recaptured near Gorlitz, last seen alive 31-Mar-1944, murdered by Lux and Scharpwinkel; cremated at Liegnitz.

(IWM)

(IWM)

P/0375 F/O Pawel Whilem Tobolski, Polish, born 21-Mar-1906, 301 Sqdn (shot down 25/26-Jun-1942, Wellington IV Z1479, GR:A), recaptured at Stettin, shot at Breslau 2-Apr-1944 probably by Lux, cremated at Breslau.

82532 F/L Arnost Valenta, Czech, born 25-Oct-1912, 311 Sqdn (shot down 6-Feb-1941, Wellington IC, L7842 KX:T), recaptured near Gorlitz, last seen alive 31-Mar-1944, murdered by Lux and Scharpwinkel; cremated at Liegnitz.

(IWM)

(IWM)

73022 F/L Gilbert W Walenn, British, born 24-Feb-1916, 25 OTU, shot down Wellington N2805 and PoW 11-Sep-1941, recaptured at Scheidemuhl, murdered 29-Mar-1944 by Bruchardt, cremated at Danzig.

J/6144 F/L James C Wernham, Canadian, born 15-Oct-1917, 405 Sqdn (shot down 8/9-Jun-1942, Halifax II, W7708 LQ:H), recaptured at Hirschberg, murdered 31-Mar-1944 by Lux, place of cremation unknown.

(IWM)

(IWM)

J/7234 F/L George W Wiley, Canadian, born 24-Jan-1922, 112 Sqdn, shot down Kittyhawk III 245788 and PoW 12-Mar-1943, recaptured near Gorlitz, murdered 31-Mar-1944 by Lux and Scharpwinkel, cremated at Gorlitz.

40652 S/L John Edwin Ashley Williams DFC, Australian in RAF, born 6-May-1919, 450 Sqdn, shot down Kittyhawk III FR270 and PoW 31-Oct-1942, recaptured near Reichenberg, murdered 29-Mar-1944 by Lux, cremated at Brux.

(IWM)

(IWM)

106173 F/L John F Williams, British, born 7-Jul-1917, 107 Sqdn (shot down 27-Apr-1942, Boston III Z2194), recaptured near Sagan, last seen alive 6-Apr-1944, murdered by unknown Gestapo; cremated at Breslau.

Here is a private tribute to the 50; and here is a link to some archived photographs of four of the escapers.

Ian Le Sueur reports that a memorial to Bernard Scheidhauer was unveiled by his sister on September 17th 1999, the service was attended by over 300 people including members of his family, Free French Air Force veterans, and also Great Escape’s Sydney Dowse (left) and Raymond Van Wymeersch (174 Free French Sqdn, shot down Hurricane IIc BP299 XP:U).   The service ended with a fly past by a Spitfire MkVb and two Mirage 2000 of the French Air Force.