Menu
Entertainment

Book records over-the-top escape from Nazi camp

One of Hamilton-Baillie's ingenious scaling contraptions photographed across the fences the day after the escape, 31 August 1942.
One of Hamilton-Baillie's ingenious scaling contraptions photographed across the fences the day after the escape, 31 August 1942.

WORLD War II's greatest escape, which involved Australian and Kiwi officers scaling barbed wire fences instead of the previously favoured method of tunnelling, has been told for the first time.

Mark Felton's Zero Night: The Untold Story of World War Two's Most Daring Escape tells of the events surrounding the night of August 30, 1942.

Forty officers from Britain, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand staged the audacious escape from Oflag VI-B camp in Nazi Germany.

They built huge, folding wooden ladders in the camp's music room under the cover of raucous playing of instruments and choir practice.

While final preparations were made, the ladders were disguised as bookshelves to dupe the guards.

The notorious "Warburg Wire Job" was overshadowed by the Great Escape tunnel two years later, immortalised in the classic film starring Steve McQueen and Richard Attenborough.

Scottish lieutenant Jock Hamilton-Baillie, 23, came up with the ingenious ladder plan after witnessing many futile tunnelling escape attempts.

Major Tom Stallard, 37, with early help from RAF hero pilot Douglas Bader, planned Operation Olympian.

Of the 26 men who clambered over the ladders just three successfully made the "home run" back to Britain.

The book's blurb says Kiwis took part in the escape, but the book fails to contain any details of their heroics.

NZ military historians Christopher Pugsley and Professor Glyn Harper are in the dark over the Kiwi link.

Military historian Dr Damien Fenton, a research fellow at Massey University, is unaware of any personal account or memoirs by New Zealanders at Oflag VI-B.

He said the camp crammed in about 2500 British Commonwealth officers, including nearly all the New Zealand Army officers captured in Greece and Crete in 1941 and a smaller number of New Zealand RAF officers shot down over occupied Europe.

The over-crowded jail was shut down after repeated escape attempts.

"The August escape was the last straw," Dr Fenton said.

While the cramped and unsanitary conditions were condemned by the International Red Cross, morale remained high.

"As you'd expect from a camp of mostly well-educated officers with the qualities of intelligence, initiative and leadership to match, the prisoners were exceedingly well organised and the de facto camp administration run by the POWs second to none," Dr Fenton said.

Inmates organised and ran sports competitions, camp concerts, a library, theatre groups, educational courses, and even a Maori language course.

"All these activities were a great help in giving cover to the work required to plan and carry out the various escape attempts," Dr Fenton said.
 

Topics:  anzac world war two



Regions declared big winners in SCU funding deal

ALL SMILES: Professor Shoemaker is thrilled by the deal struck with the Federal Government.

Funding deal puts Allied Health campus in Coffs back on track

Swimmer missing at Valla while others rescued along Coast

An IRB is searching the waters at Valla Beach for a missing swimmer.

Search for missing man caught in Valla rip will start again at 6am.

Axemen start season with bang in 9s

The Hoey Moey Tooheys Coffs Coast 9s final at Geoff King Motors Park was played between Group 2 rivals the Coffs Harbour Comets and the Orara Valley Axemen who won 12-10. Nines rugby league 17 February 2018 Photo: Brad Greenshields/Coffs Coast Advocate

Promised improvement more than just empty words after Coffs Coast 9s

Local Partners

Stone the flamin’ crows: Home and Away actor's new project

HE’S played the iconic Alf Stewart for 30 years — but now, Home and Away’s Ray Meagher is working on a new project.

Audience member shocked penis puppeteer

Rich Binning and Barry Brisco from Puppetry of the Penis.

It takes a lot to shock Rich Binning who appears nude on stage

What’s the greatest 1980s movie ever?

That lift, featuring Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey, back when she had a normal nose.

From Dirty Dancing and Crocodile Dundee to Die Hard

Jennifer Lawrence flaunts her nudity on set

Actress Jennifer Lawrence attends the premiere of "Red Sparrow" at the Newseum on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018, in Washington. (Photo by Brent N. Clarke/Invision/AP)Source:AP

Jennifer Lawrence so comfortable on Red Sparrow set, she went naked

Bardot’s biggest secrets finally revealed

L-R: Belinda Chapple, Tiffany Wood, Sally Polihronas, Sophie Monk and Katie Underwood made up Bardot.

Popstars girl group Bardot’s biggest secrets finally revealed

How three Aussie movie-makers lured Helen Mirren

Jason Clarke and Helen Mirren in a scene from the movie Winchester. Supplied by Studiocanal.

It took a lot of work for three Aussies to lure the Oscar winner

Roxy Jacenko: ‘I came over all hot’

Roxy Jacenko and Oliver Curtis have talked about their sex life since his prison release last year. Picture: Aaron Francis.

The pair gave revealing interview about their lives since his release