The Last Survivor Of The Great Escape Has Died Aged 99

The last survivor of the 'Great Escape' of 1944 has died aged 99, according to the Mirror.

Bomber pilot Richard 'Dick' Churchill was one of 76 men who attempted to escape Stalag Luft III, a Nazi prisoner of war camp, during World War II.

Only three were able to fully make their escape, while 50 were rounded up and killed on Hitler's orders.

The troops attempted to escape the camp by crawling through tunnels, and Mr Churchill and his comrade Bob Nelson were able to find shelter in a barn. However, they were found three days later by German farmers and subsequently recaptured by troops.

Mr Churchill believed his life was spared because he was a namesake of the then Prime Minister, Winston Churchill.

Mr Churchill was recaptured three days after he escaped. Credit: BBC
Mr Churchill was recaptured three days after he escaped. Credit: BBC

Speaking to the BBC last summer, Mr Churchill, of Devon, UK, explained why he tried to flee.

He said: "You fell into a certain category. Were you going to sit and enjoy the very few delights of a barbed wire prison camp until you were rescued by your comrades, if you were rescued, or were you going to try and get out of the place and rejoin and drop something on them?

"You could be a quiet person, do nothing much - above all, don't annoy the Germans or the Gestapo - or you can try and do the opposite and feel better as the result of doing it."

What a guy.

The courageous exploits of Mr Churchill and co were immortalised by the 1963 film The Great Escape, which starred Sir Richard Attenborough and Steve McQueen.

The film was based on the novel of the same name by Paul Brickhill, and while largely based on factual events, there are some details in the film that stray from the truth.

Unlike in the film, there were no America prisoners of war involved in the escape attempt, nor were there any motorbikes to hand.

The Stalag camp was formed in March 1942 in the German province of Lower Silesia, near the town of Sagan - which is now Zagan in Poland.

The escape mission was devised by RAF Squadron Leader Roger Bushell and three tunnels were dug, to provide cover if one was discovered. The plan was to free 200 men through the tunnels, but on the night of the escape, one of the tunnels was found to fall short of the fence. This slowed the escape and the 77th man was spotted by a guard.

The last survivor of this escape mission may now have passed, but their bravery will not be forgotten.

RIP Richard Churchill.

Featured Image Credit: BBC

Jake Massey

Jake Massey is a journalist at LADbible. He graduated from Newcastle University before going to live in Australia and New Zealand for a few years, where he wrote a travel blog. He has previously written for the Eastern Daily Press, Giggle Beats, CALM and Front Magazine. Jake enjoys playing football, listening to music and writing about himself in the third person.

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