Photo of Alan in Stalagluft 3 and comments on his letters

October 10, 2009

Alan and companions in Stalagluft 3

Hopefully, if you are reading this, it is because you have read the previous posts which show the original letters (and transcripts) from Alan back to his family, written whilst prisoner of war in Stalagluft 3.

Many thoughts come to mind having read his letters, and none more so than the constantly up beat and positive tone of his writings, always enquiring after his family and taking an interest in their activities back home. He is always seemingly positive about his eventual fate, writing several times about making plans to celebrate events he has missed “when he returns home”.

I was surprised at the contents of the parcels he received from home, and the fact that he could request certain items, which his family did their best to obtain and send to him ; even to the extent of having a “new battle dress” made up and sent to him, along with tradeable items such as chocolate and cigarettes. The reference to “gramophone needles” made me smile, as I believed that gramophone needles were used by the “Great Escape” team for making compasses to aid those who managed to escape.

As can be read in the letters, Alan was able to study for his Law Exams while he was prisoner, with books and materials being sent to him through his Red Cross parcels and from his family. He was even able to take some of his exams in the camp, and his descriptions of trying to study in his hut amongst “embryonic musicians” are amusing!

Whilst everyday events are described with a wry humour, especially regarding the consumption of tea and coffee and the fact that he had had no alcohol for so long that he considered himself “dry”, I was amazed to see the planning and effort that had gone into keeping some sort of normality of home life in the camp, with the organisation of football teams and leagues, and the introduction of football/rugby/cricket seasons!

It needs to be born in mind that all the above was taking place at the same time that possibly the greatest prison camp break out in history, was being planned and arranged. The break out, which became famous in the film “The Great Escape” involved 3 tunnels being dug from under the prisoners huts, to several hundred yards away, under the perimeter fence. A complex system of communication, and ancillary activities was set up to facilitate ventilation in the tunnels, disposal of the soil dug from under ground, and the preparation of forged documents, civilian clothes and travel permits, amongst others, to allow those who tried to escape the best chance of reaching England.

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