New details of Great Escape PoW camp revealed

The most comprehensive account yet of life inside the notorious prisoner of war camp made famous by the Great Escape has been unearthed in a government report which has finally been published after 74 years.

The document includes first hand accounts by 26 of the men who took part in the epic escape and were recaptured but not executed by the Germans.

One man, Lieutenant Alexander Neely, details how he made it all the way to Berlin on a train only to be recaptured after he was given the address of a brothel instead of a rendezvous point with a Swede who was supposed to get him out of Germany.

Another, Flight Lieutenant Sydney Dowse, tells of how his group walked for 12 days and nights and ticked a farmer into believing they were Polish workers before eventually being discovered by a member of the Hitler Youth. 

A report on the British escape from German PoW camp Stalag Luft III (pictured), made famous by The Great Escape, has finally been published 74 years after it was written and gives unprecedented detail about the plot

A report on the British escape from German PoW camp Stalag Luft III (pictured), made famous by The Great Escape, has finally been published 74 years after it was written and gives unprecedented detail about the plot

It details how the Planning Committee, which was established RAF Squadron Leader Roger Bushell, had a panel of experts in each form of escape who would review suggestions from prisoners for Bushell's approval (file image, men at the camp)

It details how the Planning Committee, which was established RAF Squadron Leader Roger Bushell, had a panel of experts in each form of escape who would review suggestions from prisoners for Bushell's approval (file image, men at the camp)

Prisoners who escaped but were returned to the camp were taken to the Planning Committee for a debrief, when they shared information on the outside world, gave tips to improve future attempts, and revealed any flaws in forged papers

Prisoners who escaped but were returned to the camp were taken to the Planning Committee for a debrief, when they shared information on the outside world, gave tips to improve future attempts, and revealed any flaws in forged papers

On the night of March 24, 1944, up to 200 prisoners were supposed to escape from the camp in a tunnel dug underneath the surrounding fence. In reality 76 men made it out before the plot was foiled

On the night of March 24, 1944, up to 200 prisoners were supposed to escape from the camp in a tunnel dug underneath the surrounding fence. In reality 76 men made it out before the plot was foiled

The information was in a 250-page report prepared for the War Office in the aftermath of the Second World War but never released to the general public.

Instead, it was hidden away in the national archives before historian Martin Mace stumbled upon it by chance while researching another project.

Now, 74 years after the Great Escape, the report has been published in a new book, Stalag Luft III, An Official History of the 'Great Escape' PoW Camp, which analyses in unprecedented detail what went on in the camp and the logistics behind the daring escapes.

As well as the accounts of the escapees, the book also contains a comprehensive summary of how the camp's Planning Committee - the brains behind the escape plot - operated.

It also explains the German administration and running of the camp, the conditions the prisoners endured and the means by which morale was maintained amongst them.

The camp in question was Stalag Luft III at Sagan in Poland, which was built with the barracks raised off the ground to make tunneling easier to detect.

But this did not stop the ingenious prisoners digging through more than 100 yards of loose sand in preparation for the Great Escape.

On the night of March 24-25, 1944, it was planned that 200 Allied airmen should escape through the tunnel nicknamed 'Harry'. Seventy-six men made it out before the escape was rumbled by guards.

All but three of the 76 men were recaptured. Under orders from Adolf Hitler 50 of them were shot by the Gestapo. 

Left is Officer Thomas Malcolm, who was one of the many RAF men to be held at Stalag Luft. Right is Camp Kommandant Friedrich Wilhelm Von Lindeiner

The huts at Stalag Luft were built up on stilts (remains, pictured), to make tunneling easier to detect. Despite this the British escapees were able to dig three of them - code named Tom, Dick and Harry

The huts at Stalag Luft were built up on stilts (remains, pictured), to make tunneling easier to detect. Despite this the British escapees were able to dig three of them - code named Tom, Dick and Harry

The men disguised the tunnel entrances and used pouches sewn into the inside of their trousers in order to hide the excavated soil, which they slowly poured out as they walked around (pictured, the remains of a washroom)

The men disguised the tunnel entrances and used pouches sewn into the inside of their trousers in order to hide the excavated soil, which they slowly poured out as they walked around (pictured, the remains of a washroom)

One of the survivors was Lieutenant Neely, who was the 28th man out of the tunnel.

Writing of his escape, flight to Berlin, and eventual recapture, he said: 'I wandered around Berlin until 16.20 hours, when I caught a train to Stettin.

'I arrived at 19.30 hours and after several attempts found a hotel where I could stay the night.

'I left at 10.00 hours next morning, 26th March, and went to an address I had been given in Camp, 16 Klein Oder Strasse.

'It became obvious when I spoke to the girls in the house that this was the wrong number, and that I should go to number 17.

'I had lunch in a restaurant and then returned to number 17, which was a brothel.

'The people there told me they could not help me and advised me to wait until the arrival of a Swede.

'I waited until 17.30 hours and then left the house. I contacted a Frenchman in the street and he took me to a friend of his who worked in the kitchen of a hospital in Stettin.

The report is published for the first time in this book after it was uncovered by historian Martin Mace

The report is published for the first time in this book after it was uncovered by historian Martin Mace

'I spent

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