by Lisa McGarry

This fascinating programme brings back to life the incredible story of the Great Escape, immortalised by Hollywood, and internationally famous as an extraordinary example of human courage and ingenuity. It follows a team of engineers, archaeologists, and serving RAF officers who have gathered on the site of Stalag Luft III, the supposedly escape-proof POW camp, with an extraordinarily ambitious plan: to excavate for the first time ever the remains of ‘Harry’, the tunnel from which 76 allied airmen escaped on the night of 24 March 1944. It took a year to dig the tunnel and for nearly 70 years Harry – and with it the final secrets of the remarkable story of the Great Escape – have remained undisturbed.

But how did the POWs dig a 100-metre tunnel seven metres below ground with only rudimentary tools and right under the noses of their German guards? How did they get rid of several tonnes of sand? How did they ventilate and light the tunnel? How did they forge more than 100 documents? What did they do with the 90 double bunk beds, 635 mattresses, 3424 towels, etc that they stole from the camp? And who were these remarkable people?

To find out a group of serving RAF airmen replicate some of the key tools, structures and inventions created by the original escapers. The programme also assembles a remarkable cast of surviving veterans of the escape including: Frank Stone (resident of hut 104, from which the tunnel was sprung, and batman to chief tunneller Wally Floody); and Stanley ‘Gordie’ King (the man who operated the tunnel ventilation system on the night of the escape). Interweaving the thrilling present-day quest with the visceral story of the escape itself and the unfolding story of the excavations, experiments and exciting new discoveries, this film offers a new insight into the Great Escape, and a celebration of the courage and ingenuity of a remarkable group of men.

Monday 28th Nov – Channel 4