British officers march in Poland to honor The Great Escape
March 26, 2014
A contingent of 50 British air force officers began a four-day march in the western Polish town of Żagań on Tuesday to commemorate the 50 airmen who died fleeing a Nazi concentration camp in what became known as The Great Escape.
On the night of 24 March, 1944, 76 servicemen fled from the German Stalag Luft III camp through a a 102 meter tunnel they had spent 11 months constructing. Only three got away safely. Of the 73 recaptured, 50 were executed.
Stalag Luft III in Zagan was 100 miles south-east of Berlin on the Polish border and held nearly 10,000 prisoners at the peak of its occupation.
Marek Lazarz, director of the Stalag Luft III Museum, said the British officers began the march in pouring rain from a monument marking the tunnel where the escape took place on March 24 and 25, 1944. The 1963 Hollywood movie "The Great Escape," starring Steve McQueen and Richard Attenborough, tells the story.
The RAF's Air Vice Marshal Stuart Atha told hundreds of people who gathered with a small group of prison camp survivors at the monument that The Great Escape was "an extraordinary chapter" in history “written by men with great courage and character, an exceptional band of airmen whose bravery, ingenuity and resilient spirit set an example for all time.”
At the culmination of their march in the western city of Poznan, the RAF officers will lay wreaths at the graves of the prisoners in a service on Friday.