Special Lecture: Digging Tunnels: The Archaeology of the Great Escape

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Special Lecture: Digging Tunnels: The Archaeology of the Great Escape

By RAF Museum

On Monday 25th March 2024 at 7pm, Professor Tony Pollard will discuss the archaeology of the Great Escape. This lecture will be hosted in-person at the RAF Museum's Midlands site and live-streamed via Crowdcast.

Talk Outline
To mark the 80th anniversary of the Great Escape, this lecture will review the archaeology of POW escape practices at Stalag Luft 3, which extended beyond the events of 25 March 1944. In 2011, the speaker directed excavations at the site of the famous Prisoner of War camp at Zagan in Poland (German held Silesia during the Second World War). The project was the subject of a Channel 4 documentary, but not every aspect of the work was included in the programme. This talk is an opportunity to hear a personal perspective on the project, the full results of which are currently being prepared for publication. A high point was the discovery of the entrance to Harry, the deep tunnel through which 76 prisoners escaped, and which was then backfilled and buried by the Germans. Of those 76, many of them RAF, only three succeeded in escaping by making home runs. The rest were re-captured and on the direct orders of Hitler, 50 of them were murdered. A second tunnel, post-dating the Great Escape, was also encountered during the investigation. This was dug under the camp theatre and designated George. Associated with these feats of clandestine engineering, which for the POWs represented the continuance of warfare by other means, were a range of fixtures, fittings and accessories. These resulted from the creative modification of everyday objects, ranging from milk tins serving as air ducts to sports equipment repurposed as tunnel components. The experiences of a participant in the escape effort will add further insight, thanks to the testimony of the late Frank Stone, who became a good friend of the speaker during the project.

About Professor Tony Pollard
Tony Pollard is Professor of Conflict Archaeology and History at the University of Glasgow. He has directed battlefield and conflict related archaeological projects in the UK, Europe, Africa and South America. His interests range from 18th century warfare, particularly in relation to the Jacobite wars in Scotland, to the cultural heritage of the Falklands War (he is co-director of the Falklands War Mapping Project). On behalf of the Australian Army, he led the survey and evaluation of the First World War mass graves of Australian troops at Fromelles, in France. He co-founded The Journal of Conflict Archaeology, has written extensively for academic and popular audiences, and appeared in various television documentaries. Tony is currently a field director and lead academic for Waterloo Uncovered, a project engaging military veterans in the archaeological investigation of the 1815 battlefield.

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RAF Museum

RAF Museum


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