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The Great Escape

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The Great Escape

Old 24th Mar 2014, 20:11
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The Great Escape

(Not seen this started elsewhere)

Today is 70th Anniversary of this piece of our history .Fitting commemorations have been held at what remains of Stalag Luft 3 and a piece was broadcast on BBC 6 news this evening.

Am I being churlish in thinking that it was a bit PC of them not to mention the repercussions that were visited on those recaptured . I know Germany is now our friend and ally but it stuck in my craw that these brave men were , for want of a better word , executed. Alleged "crimes" against our ex-enemies , e.g. Dresden , Hamburg & Bomber Command in general are regularly raked over.
Just a thought.
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Old 24th Mar 2014, 20:33
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Executed by Nazis, not by 'Germans'...
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Old 24th Mar 2014, 20:40
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I would say that the better word is murdered.
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Old 24th Mar 2014, 20:52
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Executed by Nazis, not by 'Germans'...
I don't buy into the practice of refering to all Germans, during WWII, as Nazis. Not all Germans were members of the Nazi political party but many of them carried out it's evil deeds. We never refer to the British, during the war, as The National Coalition Party. Whatever political party one belongs to one is still British, French, German etc.
The Germans who carried out this execution were most likely members of the Nazi Party but they were still Germans!
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Old 24th Mar 2014, 20:57
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Mr Beagle, sir
Nazis, Huns, Prussians, Boche, Teds - call 'em what you will. It's not who killed these chaps that is the point for me but that they were executed for the "crime" of escaping. The fact that the order for this was given by the leader (at the time) of the German state has no bearing on the matter for me.
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Old 24th Mar 2014, 21:26
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I personally think the general German population of those years were as much victims as those in Britain and elsewhere. They were manipulated, conscripted and killed in their millions because of the Nazi high command.

It was travesty and I'm in awe that such population and their descendants managed to work themselves tirelessly to rebuild a reputation of good people and infrastructure to global accepted success.
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Old 24th Mar 2014, 21:33
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That is very true indeed.

Not only built a new country but made sure it wouldn't revert back.
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Old 24th Mar 2014, 21:48
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It's often overlooked that there was a large scale raid on Berlin on the same night with heavy losses. Partly that was due to exceptionally high unforecasted winds [ it became known as "the night of the big wind" in Bomber Command legend ]. It has a special meaning to me as an uncle, flying Lancaster ND565 with 44 Sqd., was shot down. His aircraft had strayed off course and was hit by flak over the Ruhr. I'll raise a silent toast to him and his crew at one minute after midnight - the time the records show he was hit.
I've never bothered to find out the political persuasion of those who manned the AA guns - I've always thought they were Jerries [we call them Germans now]
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Old 24th Mar 2014, 21:59
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I saw a report on TV news that mentioned some of the escapers being shot.
I agree with the Nazi rather than German idea as the camp commandant was appalled at what happened, and allowed the prisoners to build a memorial to the murdered men.
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Old 24th Mar 2014, 22:05
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I saw a report on TV news that mentioned some of the escapers being shot.
So, you never knew until then?
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Old 24th Mar 2014, 22:19
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I am going to regret writing this but the order to execute them was allegedly given by Hitler: So as part of a military machine, one normally carries out the orders of ones C in C, no matter what your personal opinion. Although I find what I write repulsive in this instant, we must practice the ethos of Commander commands, subordinate complies; it doesn't work any other way.

I'm off, sorry...
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Old 24th Mar 2014, 22:39
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No need to be sorry its a a fair point.

Also, wouldn't it be justified for the escapers to be shot because in effect they were dressed as spies? i.e. out of uniform and travelling with false documentation? IAW the Geneva Convention?
The Great Escape story was covered about 15 years ago in one of the weekend supplements, taken from a book. It dealt with the bit in which the RAF SIB absolutely ruthlessly tracked down and then the
subsequent execution of the Germans who carried out the original shootings.
My late father always seemed to think or rather remember actually listening to the news of the murders (or executions depending on your outlook on the war) of the RAF men was announced by the BBC radio as a communique, and said its shock value was absolutely horrendous, even after what 5 or 6 years of war. Can anyone confirm this? i.e. German communique was made and passed through to Britain.
Thought the original film now looks dated as...time for a proper modern remake by someone.
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Old 24th Mar 2014, 22:40
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Errr there is such a thing as an illegal order and carrying out that order makes you a war criminal.. True the option to say no and survive was probably slim, but some did. Personally I don't think I could live with myself murdering prisioners, let alone women and children. But they did.


In this months Britain at War there is the story of one of those that died and his young wife who never got over his death and died having never remarried. Oddly enough he was an Austrailian Warrant Officer who rightly believed he would have an easier life in an officers camp so concealed his rank when his uniformed was burnt abandoning his Spitfire.

Hangar shuffle, the person I mentioned manufactured compasses for all of the escapers and marked them all made in Stalag luft 3 thus showing they were prisoners and not hiding that fact to prevent that happening. The camp commandant was so horrified he allowed the prisoners to build the memorial.

Last edited by NutLoose; 24th Mar 2014 at 22:52.
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Old 24th Mar 2014, 22:44
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I have a personal interest in the Great Escape, by a strange set of coincidences. I sat at a dinner once next to a woman who had been widowed by the murder of one of the 50 - and let's not confuse murder and (legally justified) execution. Later on, one of the members of the Yacht Club of which I was Secretary died and we held his wake in the Clubhouse, and scattered his ashes from the Club pontoon. But for being in the "cooler" at the time, this Naval observer would have been in the tunnel. At the wake were three other former inhabitants of Stalag Luft 3. I shall never forget any of them, nor the sad story told me by the widow. Men of great courage, all of them.
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Old 24th Mar 2014, 22:50
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Err doesn't that get ever so blurry nutloose?
There's a picture of the actual shooting/murder/execution of one of the SF teams of German partroopers on here somewhere (on the net). The ones who were dropped in behind lines (in Allied uniform) to wreck mischief during the Ardenne Counter Offensive. Its a well know tale. Caught, tried, shot by American Firing Squad (but hushed up until after the war).
What's the difference, really? Both brave sets of young lads doing as ordered or expected.
Anyway I'm drifting the thread too much. Those RAF escapees were brave beyond words. RIP.
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Old 24th Mar 2014, 23:01
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Errr there is such a thing as an illegal order and carrying out that order makes you a war criminal.. True the option to say no and survive was probably slim, but some did.
I agree with the view, but I believe that definition and response to an illegal order is relatively (& surprisingly) recent; see the 1945 London Charter that set up the IMT and Nuremburg Trials.
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Old 24th Mar 2014, 23:19
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True HS..

One here was lucky as he was spared because of his name, as they thought he may have been related to the other Churchill.

Last British 'Great Escaper' tells how he escaped execution - Telegraph
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Old 24th Mar 2014, 23:20
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Looks are sometimes everything

It so happened that one of the escapers became my flight commander after the war. He seldom spoke of his experiences but did relate how he and a companion were subsequently caught after the escape. Interrogated by the Gestapo, he was returned to captivity and his companion was chosen to be shot. One was tall, fair, nordic and typically aryran in looks. His fellow escapee was sallow and swarthy in complexion and mediterranean in appearance. He honestly believed he survived because of the accident of genes.
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Old 24th Mar 2014, 23:54
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MightyGem

Of course I knew, but I was referring to the part of post #1 that mentions this being left out of media coverage.

I also heard a report on the anniversary of the escape that said only three men survived, which is confusing making a home run with surviving, but that isn't the point of the thread.

Although both sides in WW2 had times when no prisoners would be taken alive, I still feel there is a difference here (being in mind I wasn't there and am sat comfortably in England).

I feel that many in the Waffen SS were happier to shoot unarmed solders or civilians than the average Brit, Canadian or American may have been when ordered that no surrendered Axis troops were to be taken as live prisoners in the early stages of the D day OP.
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Old 25th Mar 2014, 00:07
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Errr there is such a thing as an illegal order and carrying out that order makes you a war criminal..
if you were ordered to carry out an execution of a "spy", as we also did in the 40s, would you have demanded all the evidence and "court" documents to peruse and review before deciding whether your order was legal or not?
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