Tri-Service

'Great Escape' Survivor Dies Aged 101

One of the last surviving men to have taken part in the Second World War's most famous prison break has died at the age of 101.The death of...

One of the last surviving men to have taken part in the Second World War's most famous prison break has died at the age of 101.

The death of Australian pilot Paul Royle at his home in Perth means that there is now just one person left alive who took part in what became known as 'The Great Escape'.

76 Allied airmen escaped from the Stalag Luft III camp in 1944. Deep in rural Nazi-occupied Poland just three evaded capture and made it safely home - two Norwegians and a Dane.

Of the remainder, 50 were shot dead and the others returned to prisoner of war camps.

Mr Royle, a pilot in the RAF when he was shot down in May 1940, had been among 'the penguins', those tasked  with getting rid of the dirt from the 110 metre tunnel constructed by the men to allow their escape - dropping the loose earth down his trouser legs wherever he safely could.

Number 57 to travel through the tunnel lying on a trolley he fled with fellow prisoner Edgar Humphreys. 

The former Flight Lieutenant spent two days travelling towards Switzerland through snow-covered forests before being caught. He was finally freed in 1945 by British troops having been moved to the Marlag und Milag Nord prison camp in Germany.

Flt Lieutenant Humphreys was not however so lucky, having been interrogated by the Gestapo he was one of those selected for execution on the orders of Adolf Hitler.

Although willing to talk about his wartime experiences Paul Royle was however no fan of the 1963 Hollywood film immortalising their exploits - telling the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on the 70th anniversary of the event that there was no motorbike involved and no Americans.