Monday, 2 January 2012

Digging the Great Escape - Dick's story

With the 'Great Escape' once more in the public eye through archaeology, it is amazing to think what can still be revealed through this science. In fact, the dig at the site of Stalag Luft III just last year wasn't the first by any means. I was fortunate to lead a team that discovered the site of tunnel 'Dick' just a few years before in 2004, and which can still be seen on the Nova website (here). Having first discovered the entrance slab (this was the one with the sliding slab door in the washroom sump), using geophysics - and a big digger - we found the shaft, and were able to look in detail at the construction of the gallery, and its airline made from tins ('Klim' milk tins, we thought, but now most likely 'Maple Leaf' butter tins). While digging the shaft we found mutton fat lamps, candles and elicit electrical cables - as well as this stamp, cut from a boot heel and intended for the forger's bench - to adorn travel passes and the like. Real escaper's stuff. We could not have hoped for more.

The Great Escape was filmed by Windfall for Channel 5/Nova, directed by Mark Radice. It has spawned a number of academic papers with colleagues Jamie Pringle and Larry Babits, see www.peterdoylemilitaryhistory for more details.

 Peter Doyle's book on POW life Prisoner of War in Germany was published by Shire, and is available here.

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