The Great Escape: Secrets Revealed on History Television

On the night of 24th March 1944 76 allied airmen escaped from the North Compound of Stalag Luft III, a supposedly “escape-proof” POW camp in what is now Western Poland.

This was the “Great Escape”, one of the most iconic and thrilling stories in military history, immortalized in the Hollywood blockbuster.

The real men behind the escape came from just about every allied country and were among the elite—daring pilots and flight officers trained to take the initiative and use their intelligence and cunning. The tunnel they dug was an engineering marvel; nicknamed “Harry,” it was 7 metres deep, more than 100 metres long, and took a year to complete.
For nearly 70 years the tunnel has remained undisturbed – and with it the final secrets of the remarkable story of the Great Escape.

In August 2011 a team of engineers and archaeologists gathered at the site with permission to excavate, for the first time, several key targets at Stalag Luft III, including tunnel “Harry”.

Their challenge is to dig 7 metres down into treacherous, unstable sand to reach the tunnel, without destroying the archaeology….or themselves. The process is a roller-coaster of set-backs and triumphs, culminating in some truly breath-taking archaeology discoveries.

Meanwhile, a team of currently serving air force officers took on the challenge of replicating some of the key elements involved in the original escape, using only materials and tools available to the original escapers. Their goal is to build a 10 metre section of tunnel (complete with ventilation, lighting, and trolley system) and then escape down it.

Both teams are watched over, and often aided by some of the (highly emotional) veterans of the original escape, including Canadian veteran Gordy King.

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