Jail Breaks Philpot Escapes a German POW Stalag Part 2

About the great escape of O. L. S. Philpot from a German prisoner-of-war stalag, history and account of the camp.


Flight Lieutenant O. L. S. Philpot's Escape from German Prisoner-of-War Camp Stalag Luft III-1943

Meanwhile, using whatever makeshift tools they could devise, other prisoners were fashioning costumes and false passports for the potential escapees. The end results were works of art.

Once the tunnel caved in when a vaulter came down on a weak spot, but he had the presence of mind to fake a broken leg and lie across the telltale hole while Codner, who was in the tunnel, patched it up.

In the fall, with time growing short (their rail-road timetables would shortly expire, and their escape plans called for railroad travel), Williams pushed a poker up through the dirt at the end of the tunnel to see how far they had come. The end was 9 ft. short of a ditch where the searchlight would cast a shadow to provide them with some cover, so they dug on.

On Oct. 29, the tunnel was complete. At 6:00 P. M., the three waited at the far end while another prisoner sealed up the entrance. Philpot later wrote about his final descent into the tunnel: "It was extraordinarily similar to plunging into a really cold sea."

Knowing the guard was coming through at 6:30 and their train would arrive at 7:00, the three men wasted no time. First Codner and Williams left the tunnel. Then it was Philpot's turn. In his pose as a Scandinavian businessman, he was wearing a suit, shirt, tie, and shoes; the name on his fake passport was Jon Jorgensen. Over his clothes he wore dyed Red Cross underwear to keep tunnel dirt off and to make him less conspicuous as he ran to safety. One of the men had given him a watch with a luminous dial, and he carried a homemade compass.

Poking his head up like a groundhog, he saw a tree and the lights of the compound. He knew the other two had gotten away safely, because there was no noise of pursuit. It was so bright that he felt "like an ant on a brilliantly lit billiards table." The guard was in his box 80 ft. away, and a searchlight swept past. The tunnel seemed like home. In Philpot's words: "I could only think of boundary lights, search-lights, goons in boxes, harsh excited German shouts, and, above all, that cracking, splitting noise of shots disturbing a peaceful country night. I now almost wanted to pat the tunnel-as an old dog for which I had an affection. This earthwork was now no longer enemy but friend. It gave me cover. I had air now-and it was safe, and homely; I wanted to lie prone in it forever."

But it was time to go. He put his bundles of paraphernalia on the ground, climbed up, picked the bundles up, and ran across the road into the woods, which seemed more frighteningly open than he had imagined. From the camp he could hear prisoners singing loud hymns to cover the escape.

Without real incident, Philpot made it to the train station and caught a train to Kustrin, then another to Danzig, where he arrived at 5:00 P.M. on Oct. 30. He stowed away on a ship to Sweden and was subsequently flown home to England. Before he left, Philpot sent a friend at the camp a watch engraved with a smiling horse with three upraised tails.

Williams and Codner also made good their escape, though it took them two weeks, via a French labor camp and the Danish underground, to reach Sweden.

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