70 years ago this week, 76 Allied Aircrew escaped from Stalag Luft III, a breakout known to the world as ‘The Great Escape’.
Many managed to get 100 miles away from the camp but in the end all but 3 were re-captured. Of those recaptured, 50 were killed in cold blood under Hitler’s orders.
Air Vice Marshal Stuart David Atha DSO ADC is a serving senior officer of the Royal Air Force and is currently Air Officer Commanding No 1 Group. He is sat with Air Commodore Charles Clarke, a former POW.
To commemorate the epic journeys these brave men made to fight to get back to freedom, fifty modern-day RAF personnel are taking part in Exercise Great Escape Eagle.
The exercise sees fifty personnel marching 100 miles in four days. The team will march from Zagan, the original site of Stalag III to Poznan in Poland, the final resting place of the mastermind of the Great Escape, Squadron Leader Roger Bushell.
The team are led by Wing Commander Mark Smith of the Force Development and Adventure Training Wing based at RAF College Cranwell. He said: ‘The history of the RAF is one of great daring and great bravery. We’ve never minded facing down bad odds!’
‘I think many of the RAF’s stories are so interwoven into the very fabric of Great Britain, that they really belong to everybody. The team are marching the route to commemorate our fallen RAF Brothers, but we keep in mind that we represent the whole of the UK’s remembrance for this important anniversary on this challenge.’
RAF Personnel are walking 100 miles in 4 days to commemorate the 50 murdered Great Escapers
The event has been planned by Squadron Leader Trev Down and Flight Lieutenant Simon Flynn. Simon, a trainee pilot, said: ‘Many of the men were my age and all aircrew so this event has big resonance for me. As aircrew and professional military operators, I think that living up to the history that these men made, is never far from any of our minds.’
The event is also a military challenge, incorporating lessons along the way. Squadron Leader Robb Pitt, has planned the week’s training. He said: ‘The men of the Great Escape epitomised what we all train to be in the RAF: Capable of seizing the initiative in a bad situation and being totally physically prepared to do so. It’s a privilege to put ourselves to that test.’
The team will be live on BFBS throughout the week with Richard Hatch so you can send your questions to him at Richard.email@example.com.
Source / Author / Photo: RAF
Editor: Sqn Ldr Pitt
Photographs: RAF Personnel are walking 100 miles in 4 days to commemorate the 50 murdered Great Escapers. They attended the 70th Anniversary with representatives from many nations paying their respects alongside them.
RAF/MOD Crown Copyright 2014