In the Spring of 1943 Squadron Leader Robert Bushell conceived a plan for a major escape with his fellow captives from the Stalag Luft III prisoner of war camp in the German province of Lower Silesia, now known as Zagan in Poland. The camp was originally an ‘officers only’ camp and held captured enemy airmen of the RAF and other allied airforces. The location of the camp was specifically selected as it was believed that it would be impossible to escape from by the means of tunnelling, Bushell thought otherwise.
After almost a year of planning and the digging of several tunnels, on the night of the 24th March 1944 the escape took place. In all 76 men crawled through the tunnel and breached the outer fence of the camp, this amazing story inspired several writers and film makers. In 1963, the movie, ‘The Great Escape’ was released starring a host of famous actors including Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson and Richard Attenborough. 2013 marks the 50th anniversary of the movie launch and the 70th anniversary of when the master escape plan was formed and the digging of the tunnels began.
To commemorate this event in military history, Aviation Archive present the ‘Great Escape Collection’, the range features the aircraft in which the escapees flew before being captured.
Born in Norway in 1918 Per Bergsland was a Norwegian fighter pilot who, after his country was occupied by the Nazis in 1940, escaped to England and served with the RAF. Flying with 332 Squadron he was shot down on 19th August 1942 while participating in the Dieppe Raid. Captured quickly, he hid his Norwegian nationality from the Germans, fearing reprisals against his family still in Norway.
Held at Stalag Luft III, Bergsland was part of the ‘Great Escape’, later managing to make his way across occupied Europe to neutral Sweden and then back to Britain; his pre-war skills in orienteering aiding his escape. He made his journey in the company of Jens Muller, another Norwegian pilot. They were two of just three who successfully escaped out of the 74 that fled the camp that night. After the war Per Bergsland continued a career in aviation.
AA31934 is available in three variants as part of the Great Escape Collection: