This is an archived page from the older DCBoard Forum of RAF Commands. This page is read-only. If you wish to post a query about this page, then please go to the newer RAF Commands Forum and register as a member. Alternatively you can leave a comment on this page using Facebook in the comments box at the bottom of the page.


Great Escape matters

Great Escape matters
Author: HughAHalliday
Time Stamp:
02:21:32 Sunday, February 18, 2007
Post:
I can claim little original research in this matter, but in reviewing material available I find as many new questions as answers.

I have been advised that the first 20 or so men to emerge from the tunnel on 25 March 1944 had been selected on a priority basis - because they had European language skills and thus were most likely to score a "home run". In fact, of all those who escaped, the three who did succeed in gettiug clear away were two Norwegians and a Netherlands officer.

It is also clear that the Gestapo, in selecting who would be shot, were most determined to eliminate these "linguists" - of 15 European nationals who escaped and were recaptured, 13 were executed and two spared. I admit a presumption, however - was Bedrich Dvorak (escaped and spared) Czech (as I assume) or another nationality ?

If, indeed, the "linguists" were targeted, then Gordon Kidder (RCAF) was almost certainly doomed by the fact that he held a university degree in modern languages; on enlistment he had claimed to speak fluent German. Kidder got as far as Zlin, Czechoslovakia, in company with Squadron Leader Thomas Kirby-Green, RAF. The latter was reported to have had previously trained Czech airmen in No.311 Squadron and probably spoke the language to some degree. I would appreciate having confirmation or correction on this point. I suspect that Kidder and Kirby-Green got further away from Sagan than any others (the "home-run" escapers excepted).

Seven members of the RCAF escaped, all were recaptured, and six were shot. We shall probably never know how the seven were chosen by the Escape Committee. I suspect (but have no proof) that Kidder may have been given priority (as a "linguist") but there is nothing I have seen to suggest how the others came to be among the 76 who emerged. I somehow suspect (again without proof) that Henry Birlkland may have earned special consideration - for one year before enlisting in the RCAF he had been a mucker and gold miner at Summerland, British Columbia and hence might have been deemed a special asset during tunnelling. I fear the operative word here is "might".

Any other inputs or insights would be welcomed.


RE: Great Escape matters
Author: alieneyes
Time Stamp:
06:35:53 Sunday, February 18, 2007
Post:
I

>somehow suspect (again without proof)

>that Henry Birlkland may have

>earned special consideration - for

>one year before enlisting in

>the RCAF he had been

>a mucker and gold miner

>at Summerland, British Columbia and

>hence might have been deemed

>a special asset during tunnelling.

> I fear the operative

>word here is "might".

Hugh,

From Allen Andrews excellent "Exemplary Justice" pg 47:

"The most energetic beavers in the tunnel were Flight Lieutenant Johnny Bull, Squadron Leader Tom Kirby-Green, who also headed Security, Flight Lieutenant "Cookie" Long and Flying Officer Henry Birkland, a Canadian who had insisted on working naked until his boss decided that the sand-scars on his knees and elbows would tell too many tales if he were suddenly strip-searched by the guards"

On page 64 Andrews refers to Birkland as "the toughest tunneler of them all"

Cheers,

Dave



RE: Great Escape matters
Author: floyd williston (Guest)
Time Stamp:
06:41:05 Sunday, February 18, 2007
Post:
Hugh:

Check out this website. (Floyd)

http://www.ateal.co.uk/greatescape/


RE: Great Escape matters
Author: Dick
Time Stamp:
09:42:58 Sunday, February 18, 2007
Post:
Hi Hugh

http://www.elsham.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/gt_esc gives details of the Great Escape.It mentions Dvorak along with Ivor Tonder as being survivors who were sent to Colditz, both being shot down on the same day in Jun 1942 flying Spitfires with 312 Sqn, which was a Czech squadron. It mentions Tonder as being Czech but is silent about Dvorak. P R Reid doesn't mention either name in his 2nd book The Latter Days at Colditz.

Another survivor, B A James published his own book about the Escape in 2002 but I don't know it's content or it's Title

Dick


RE: Great Escape matters
Author: en830
Time Stamp:
11:27:29 Sunday, February 18, 2007
Post:
[font size="1" color="#FF0000"]LAST EDITED ON 18-Feb-07 AT 11:29 AM (GMT)[/font][p][font size="1" color="#FF0000"]LAST EDITED ON 18-Feb-07 AT 11:28%A0AM (GMT)[/font]

From my research into the Great Escape, I would say that you are right, the first 50 or so were "special" cases deemed most likely to succeed, in general due to their ability to speak several languages and blend in. If I recall correctly it was basically the first 100. No 87 out of the tunnel was Flt Lt Roy Brouard Langlois, who, as a Channel Islander, would have been able to speak French as well as English, and maybe a smattering of German.

I am led to believe that the selection process centred on a number of issues, first were the prolific escapers, "Bushell was doomed as soon as he set foot out of the tunnel", the second was on their marital status. It's documented that General Nebe agonised over the selection and actually swapped individuals around because they were married and had children, though this didnít help the likes of Kirby Green.

I would assume that the Canadians featured in the escape because of either their escape experience and their ability to speak a second language, i.e. French. From a quick scan of the books the Canadians were:-

F/L Henry J Birkland

F/L Gordon A Kidder

Patrick W Langford

F/L George E McGill

F/L George W Wiley

F/L James C Wernham

The one that does intrigue me, is the addition of the New Zealander F/O John P P Pohe, who was of Maori decent, surely his natural features would have meant he stuck out like the proverbial sore thumb.

Ian Le Sueur


RE: Great Escape matters
Author: HughAHalliday
Time Stamp:
03:36:31 Monday, February 19, 2007
Post:
I have been looking at the files of the RCAF men shot (seen five so far, one more to go), though language skills did not figure in all dossiers (on enlistment they listed the languages they spoke and wrote). Birkland, in fact, had not finished high school (which is why I assume he was allowed out because of tunnelling contributions).

Can anyone confirm whether Kirby-Green was with No.311 Squadron and whether he may have picked up some of the language ? I note that he is NOT on the lists of those decorated by the Czech government.


RE: Great Escape matters
Author: en830
Time Stamp:
07:45:55 Monday, February 19, 2007
Post:
[font size="1" color="#FF0000"]LAST EDITED ON 19-Feb-07 AT 07:49 AM (GMT)[/font][p]>Can anyone confirm whether Kirby-Green was with No.311 Squadron and whether he may have picked up some of the language ?

> I note that he is NOT on the lists of those decorated by the Czech government.

He was shot down in a 40 Squadron Wellington IC Z8862 BL:B 16/17-Oct-1941. I've looked at a number of sources and can not find a reference to him being attached to 311.

Ian Le Sueur


RE: Great Escape matters
Author: Allan2
Time Stamp:
11:02:58 Monday, February 19, 2007
Post:
Hugh,

I may be reinventing the wheel here, but can I recommend the recently published book on RCAP POWs, details that I have just posted to the Books and Research forum. Some of these "Great Escape" issues are addressed there-in.

Allan Stark

Melbourne


RE: Great Escape matters
Author: John Larder (Guest)
Time Stamp:
17:59:08 Monday, February 19, 2007
Post:
" It was estimated that 200 could be got out in the time available to first light. The first 100 names were specially selected. Of these, the first 30 places were reserved for those who, in the opinion of the escape committee, had the best chance of getting home, and they were all nearly fluent German Speakers.......The last 100 names were drawn from about 500 names which were put in a hat. (Moonless Night B.A. (Jimmy) James)

Dvorak and Tonder after a long spell in Pankrac Prison. 21/11/44 taken to military prison then released into Barth PoW camp. Mid December they were re-arrested and tried at Liepzig for treason, convicted and sentenced to death, held at Colditz pending execution (A Gallant Company - Jonathon F. Vance)

Description of Nebe choosing those to be executed in Exemplary Justice by Allan Andrews.


RE: Great Escape matters
Author: floyd williston (Guest)
Time Stamp:
18:16:22 Monday, February 19, 2007
Post:
All references to Kirby-Green seem to confirm that he

was with 40 Sq. when he was shot down.

Here is one reference.

http://www.pegasusarchive.org/pow/cSL_3_Fifty.htm

Hugh, have you seen this?

http://164.11.131.30/WCC/wielen1.htm

(Floyd)


RE: Great Escape matters
Author: floyd williston (Guest)
Time Stamp:
18:32:22 Monday, February 19, 2007
Post:
Forgot to check with Ian whether he's googled:

F/O John P P Pohe and the Great Escape.

There are several interesting sites. Somewhere a while back I saw a reference to Pohe and assisting with weather forecasting, direction, etc. but that may have been mere speculation.

(Floyd)



RE: Great Escape matters
Author: Linzee (Guest)
Time Stamp:
18:47:00 Monday, February 19, 2007
Post:
Pohe was on the same course as my grandfather, Archie, at 10 OTU. I have the following sparce details about him in my files:-

F/O Porokoru Patapu Pohe. Born 10/12/21

Pilot

51 Squadron, Snaith.

23/9/43 - Took off from Snaith at 1844 in Halifax JN901, on a sortie to Hannover.

Crew Details:

F/O PP Pohe RNZAF

Sgt S Hayes

Sgt F G Ward

Sgt F G Wells

Sgt J H Hawkins

Sgt C F Dowlman

Sgt T A Thomson RCAF

Shot down by a night fighter. All the crew managed to escape from the aircraft and were captured and became POW. Pohe was one of the 50 murdered during the Great Escape. He was recaptured near Gorlitz and last seen alive on 31 March 1944. He was murdered by Dr Wilhelm Scharpwinkel and his assistant Lux. Pohe was cremated at Gorlitz. He was aged 29, son of Whatarangi Ropoama Pohe and Honoria Maraea Pohe of Taihape, Auckland, NZ.

By the looks of it the info above has come from CWGC and OTU Losses by W R Chorley plus other sources.

Regards

Linzee


RE: Great Escape matters
Author: Dick
Time Stamp:
22:03:38 Monday, February 19, 2007
Post:
From the first book that told of the Great Escape,"Escape to Danger" by Paul Brickhill and Conrad Norton,published in 1946 by Faber&Faber:- "The X Organization conducted a secret ballot to determine the lucky men who would take part......To give an extra chance to people who had done most work,Roger Bushell picked the first 30 himself and then 70 more names were drawn out of the hat. Roger then picked a further 30 and 70 more names were drawn blind.Twenty more were then chosen of deserving people who still lacked a place.People were to go out in the order chosen or drawn" The Committee had already decided that 220 were the maximum that could be got out in one go. The book does not say what the criteria for choice was, beyond those who had put in most work.

Dick


RE: Great Escape matters
Author: HughAHalliday
Time Stamp:
01:37:23 Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Post:
I had bought the LeGrandeur book on RCAF POWs some time ago but must admit I had not looked closely at its contents until prodded by Allen (and others) - and indeed, the section of the Great Escape may render my present efforts redundant. That said, I post here my latest findings on one of the RCAF escapees, with mention of Kirby-Green. The fact that K-G was shot down while on strength of No.40 Squadron does not preclude previous service with No.311 Squadron, but I would appreciate any specialist dealing with No.311 being able to confirm or negate the clain that he was in that unit:

KIDDER, F/L Gordon Arthur (J10177) - Mention in Despatches - No.156 Squadron (deceased) - Award effective 8 June 1944 as per London Gazette of that date and AFRO 1729/44 dated 11 August 1944. Born 9 December 1914; home in St.Catharines, Ontario. Educated at University of Toronto, 1933 to 1937 (BA in Modern Languages); also took post-graduate courses from John Hopkins University. Worked as a Clerk for Department of Education, June to September 1936 and again June to September 1937 before becoming an insurance salesman, clerk and underwriter, including period of 1938 to 1941 with Foreign Department, Western Association Company. On enlistment he gave his languages as English, French, German (good) and Spanish (fair). Enlisted in Toronto, 8 January 1941 and posted to No.1 Manning Depot. To No.1A Manning Depot, Picton, 20 February 1941; to Station Rockcliffe, 21 March 1941; to No.3 ITS, Victoriaville, 5 May 1941; graduated and promoted LAC on 9 June 1941; posted that date to No.11 EFTS, Cap de la Madeleine. Ceased pilot training 4 July 1941 and posted to Station Trenton; to No.1 AOS, Malton, 1 September 1941; may have graduated 6 December 1941 but not taken on strength of No.1 BGS, Jarvis until 9 December 1941; graduated and promoted Sergeant, 17 January 1942; to No.2 ANS, Pennfield Ridge, 18 January 1942; graduated and commissioned 16 February 1942. To "Y" Depot, 18 February 1942; to RAF overseas, 4 March 1942. Taken on strength of No.3 PRC, Bournemouth, 16 March 1942. To No.2 (O) Advanced Flying Unit, 24 April 1942. To No.23 OTU, 19 May 1942. To No.14 Conversion Flight. 5 August 1942. Promoted to Flying Officer, 1 October 1942. To No.156 Squadron, 14 August 1942 (documents say No.165 Squadron, clearly wrong). Shot down and taken prisoner 13 October 1942 (Wellington BJ775); shot 25 March 1944 after the Great Escape. No citation in AFRO.

Upon being shot down, Kidder wrote to his family on 4 November 1942 (received by them 8 January 1943) and they reported on some of the contents:

"I am being treated very well in hospital still with one broken and one damaged foot and various cuts etc. but nothing serious. Considering what happened to us it is really miraculous that I'm still able to talk about it. We were brought down in the sea and Mac (Sergeant E.E. MacDonald, Box 63, Picton, Nova Scoria) and I were able to get out but the others were lost. We had quite a time keeping afloat until we were picked up by a German ship."

He may have gotten further than most escapees from Stalag Luft III. He was in the company of Squadron Leader Thomas Graham Kirby-Green (born Nyasaland, 28 February 1918), formerly of Training Flight, No.311 Squadron. The following narrative (found in Kidder's file) was specifically about Kirby-Green and based on an interview with a Gestapo man (Kiowsky) who was believed to be credible:

"He [Kirby-Green] was a prisoner at Sagan in Lower Silesia. He escaped and was arrested at Zlin, Moravia, at 1100 hours on 28th March 1944 by the German Criminal Police. Charge: "Escape from Prison Camp".

"With Squadron Leader Kirby-Green was a Canadian Flight Lieutenant and the story applies equally to him.

"They were arrested at Zlin were handcuffed and were then ordered to be transferred to Moravska-Ostrava en route for Breslau. There is some uncertainty as to how they were dressed, but it would seem to have been in "mixed clothes".

"They left Zlin in two Gestapo cars. The driver of one was Kiowsky, at present in custody at Zlin. I was invited to personally question Kiowsky at the Narodni Vybor, Zlin, on November 30th, 1945, as well as a man Raska of the Gestapo. The driver of the other car - Schwarzer - has not been caught. In the two cars were the two prisoners, accompanied by:

"(a) Gestapo man Zacharias

"(b) Erich. Born 16 December 1911. Recently known to be living at Wartenstadt (near Mittenwald [?], South Bavaria). Father's name Hermann. Mother's: Anna Treller. Erich is apparently in the British Military Zone of Germany, having received from the British Authorities a certificate of being a "harmless person". He is married by the whereabout of his wife is unknown.

"(c) Second guard was a Gestapo man from Brno but his name is not known.

"Whilst travelling from Zlin to Moravska-Ostrava the prisoners asked Zacharias what would happen to them; he merely indicated their fate by turning his thumbs down.

"They were handcuffed with their hands in front of them.

"Arriving at a spot somewhere between Frydek and Moravska-Ostrava and about 10 kilometres from Moravska-Ostrava, the cars were stopped to permit the prisoners to relieve themselves. Kiowsky was some metres away when hearing a shot he turned and saw Erich with a revolver in his hand having shot Kirby-Green in the back by the shoulders; as Kirby-Green swung round from the shot, he then shot him in the head and Kirby-Green collapsed.

"It is asserted that these murders were ordered by the Chief of the Gestapo of Zlin, Hans Ziegler.

"After the murders, Erich stayed with Zacharias and one car while the other went to Moravska-Ostrava to arrange for the removal of the corpses. Before they came back Zacharias ordered the removal of the handcuffs so that it would seem they had been shot thus. The German uniformed police removed the bodies. Where they are buried is not known. Before leaving for Zlin, Zacharias said that everything was arranged in Moravska-Ostrava.

"Some 14-21 days later Erich, Zacharias, Kozlovsky (of the Office of Gestapo Administration, Brno) Schwarzer and Kiowsky went back to the scene of the murder. Kozlovsky had a plan in his hand. They feared an inquiry by the International Red Cross. Kozlovsky gave instructions that if questioned they were so say that 'they were killed 25 metres away from the road when trying to escape.' He marked the plan with the place were they were supposed to have been killed.

"The Chief of the Gestapo, Ziegler, forbade any discussion of this incident, for fear of Red Cross investigation.

"Ziegler, it is reported, stated before they left Zlin, 'You will probably not reach Breslau.' "

- excerpt from report by Dr. F.V. van der Bijl, Prague, 2 December 1945 to British Ambassador to Czechoslovakia.

I realize there are some anomalies in the above report ("Erich" and "Zacharias" are the same man), but I let the original, contemporary document speak for itself. Monique (my wife) was across the table from me as I studied this file, and I handed her the report that Dr. F.V. can der Bijl had written. Monique is both a research assistant and proof-reader, and was well aware of other documents we had seen (notably relating to Floody and Ogilvie). Having been fascinated on reading the document, I was equally fascinated to observe Monique's reactions as she read it as well.


RE: Great Escape matters
Author: Gordon Thorburn
Time Stamp:
12:15:41 Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Post:
Those most assiduous diggers, Bull, Long and Kirby-Green, were all ex Wellington pilots with 9 Squadron, Bull and K-G being contemporaries although Bull was a sergeant then and K-G an officer.


RE: Great Escape matters
Author: CZ_RAF
Time Stamp:
13:17:09 Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Post:
Hi all,

some brief info about the Czechs.

B. Dvorak, I. Tonder and A. Valenta were choosed maybe that the former Czechoslovakia was near and they were also trying to get there but the most important reason was that they were very active in escape preparation - digging, preparing clothes, getting information from Germans - it was Valenta who was speaking very fine German and when escaping he has paper as a German architect.

I can not remember well but I suppose that Dvorak and Tonder maybe survived that was captured by police and were passed to the Gestapo later after the execution what was their only luck as I suppose they will be also shot as they were "traitors of the Third Reich".

All Czechoslovak RAF POWs in Colditz were adjudge to death and only after intervention of Brittish government via International Red Cross the Germans delay the execution until the "victorious end of the war"...

I have not my materials here at the time so I hope I am remembering this info well.

If anyone needs any more info just ask.

Pavel

P.S. I suppose Kirby-Green may know only few Czech words as Czech language is quite difficult to pronounce for native English speakers and everyone will find out he is not Czech. Also the partner of Dvorak (Plunkett?) was not able to speak Czech when travelling through former Czechoslovakia and Dvorak was speaking for him. Also is sad, that they were captured not by Germans but by Czech protectorate policemen at the station... When they were captured together and Dvorak was recognited as former Czech they do not believe Plunket is not Czech to...



RE: Great Escape matters
Author: CZ_RAF
Time Stamp:
13:25:05 Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Post:
BTW there is a small memorial to few of the Escapers murdered near Ostrava (I think including Kirby-Green) and if anybody interested I think I will be able to locate its photo in my archive - I remember I have visited this place few years ago by chance...


RE: Great Escape matters
Author: S_M_Fochuk (Guest)
Time Stamp:
15:14:29 Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Post:
Without stating the obvious and using Google, have you consulted any of the survivors? I attended their 50th reunnion in 1998 that was held in Ottawa and I do know of their organization that the late Tony Little of Ottawa used to head. I am sure it's still running and they might be able to put you in touch with members who were there.

Stephen



RE: Great Escape matters
Author: HughAHalliday
Time Stamp:
15:44:20 Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Post:
I gave spoken on the telephone with Jack Moul who was about to exit "Harry" when the escape was discovered. I mailed him a text I had been writing (Friday) but obviously there has been no time for him to reply. I am still trying to sort out a few details (including when Cameron died, postwar). It appears the Kirby-Green "connection" to No.311 is a false lead.

By way of explanation, I write articles for "Legion" magazine and one on the Canadian angles of the Great Escape was suggested. While I am always on the lookout for more information (perhaps to use elsewhere at a later date), the draft text is now 2,650 words and the magazine prefers 2,500 words. Editing is always a pain, in large measure because it is like performing an amputation on one's self - without anaesthetic !


RE: Great Escape matters
Author: David Sumerauer (Guest)
Time Stamp:
16:02:34 Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Post:
Hello Hugh,

T.G. Kirby-Green was definitely attached to 311 sqn in late 1940 instructing Czech airmen on Wellington bombers. There is at least one photography of him with W/Cmdr Toman-Mares DFC, OC 311 sgn, W/Cmdr Griffiths DFC, S/Ldr C.P. Pickard DFC and other senior officers of 311 sgn. AFAIK he was awarded with Czech decoration (I suspect Czech Medal for Bravery) while he was involved in several combat missions leading freshmen crews).

The Czech decorations to the allied members of 311 Sgn were discussed in one old topic, but the archives are not accessible at the moment.

Best Regards.

David


RE: Great Escape matters
Author: CZ_RAF
Time Stamp:
17:15:04 Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Post:
[font size="1" color="#FF0000"]LAST EDITED ON 20-Feb-07 AT 05:15 PM (GMT)[/font][p]Hi all,

T.G. Kirby-Green was definitely attached to 311 sqn since August-Septemer 1940 as an instructor and there are three photos of him and other members of No. 311 Sq.

He was awarded by Czech pilot brevet

Thee is note that on 24.12.40 W/C Mares-Toman passed to the Czechoslovak Inspectorate General proposal of awarding 4 RAF members by the Czech War Cross including F/Lt Kirby-Green but I have not available info if he really got it. On all photos he is wearing battledress with only RAF pilot wings...

Pavel



RE: Great Escape matters
Author: S_M_Fochuk (Guest)
Time Stamp:
17:24:06 Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Post:
Hugh,

After the Battle Pubs has published a couple of articles, including one that included Wally Floody. That might be a start but unfortunately Tony Little borrowed my copies but I never got them back.

Stephen


RE: Great Escape matters
Author: floyd williston (Guest)
Time Stamp:
20:37:36 Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Post:
Hugh:

See your post re 72 Squadron for suggestion re date Cameron died.

(Floyd)


RE: Jack Moul, ex-Stalag Luft III
Author: HughAHalliday
Time Stamp:
11:51:04 Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Post:
Died in Burnaby, British Columbia, 26 February 2007 - Jack Moul, formerly of Port Alberni, British Columbia - Born November 1920. Enlisted in Vancouver, 6 November 1940. To No.1 ITS, 21 February 1941 - LAC, 29 March 1941 and posted to No.9 EFTS. To No.2 SFTS, 27 May 1941. Sergeant, 8 August 1941. To Embarkation Depot, 9 August 1941; to RAF overseas, 27 August 1941. Commissioned 23 June 1942. Promoted Flying Officer, 23 December 1942. Promoted Flight Lieutenant, 23 June 1944. Repatriated 1 June 1945. Released 10 September 1945.

He had joined No.416 Squadron upon its formation in November 1941. On 23 October 1942 he and Pilot Officer R.A. "Bob" Buckham (who had been with him at SFTS) were engaged in a "Rhubarb". Their Spitfires crossed the French coast at Point St. Quentin. After shooting up some block houses, they flew inland and set about to straf a freight train. They were met by flak, then the locomotive blew up and Moul's aircraft was damaged. They turned for base, but he was unable to climb above 300 feet. Ten miles from the French shoreline his engine caught fire. With no prospect of baling out, he ditched, hit his head on the gunsight and lost consciousness. He awoke to water pouring into the cockpit. He climbed out onto the wing and took to his dinghy, only to find he was floating in a minefield. A Walrus seaplane was despatched to rescue him, but heavy waves prevented it from alighting. Moul was ten hours in the water before he drifted ashore and was picked up at midnight by a German patrol. By 11 November 1942 he was at Sagan.

Jack Moul was actually in the famous tunnel, at the bottom of the shaft that led to the exit, when shots and yelling warned him that the jig was up. The disruption of the escape probably saved his life as well.

He left the air force in 1945 but kept on flying, first with a charter company and eventually with Pacific Western Airlines, finally retiring in 1979.