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Friday, 27 March 2020

😲 Escape Routes 😲

On the night of 22nd of September 1943, Johnny Pohe's plane (The first Maori to become a qualified pilot) was hit twice over the German city of Hanover. Johnny and two of his crew floated in an emergency dinghy for two days until they were spotted and captured by the Luftwaffe (German air force). Since Johnny was an officer, he was sent to Stalag Luft |||. This was a German prisoner-of-war camp for officer airmen.

My reading groups task was to re-create the image of the Stalag Luft ||| camp.. Here is my copy:

Even though 600 men had worked together to finish "Harry" in a year, there was only enough time for 200 to escape. So, the men divided themselves in two groups. The first one contained men who spoke German, had a history of escape, and men who had done a most of the work, this included Johnny. They had to wait for a moonless night to escape the camp (Further information down below). That night had finally come on 24th of March 1944. Their escape plan went ahead from 10:30 pm, and at 1 pm the tunnel collapsed and they worked desperately to repair it, then at 4:55 am the seventy-seventh man was spotted by a guard and surrendered. This created suspicion and the camp was searched, and luckily they were unable to find the tunnel's entrance. Eventually, all was revealed when a guard crawled back from the exit of the tunnel. Men had missed their trains and had to wait for the next one because of the delays, and for those who had escaped (Johnny was one of them) had to spread out on foot and were forced to leave the safer woods and fields to follow the roads. Only 3 men were able to make it back to England and 73 men were captured, including Johnny. These men were either shot individually or in pairs and we are not sure if Johnny died alone. Though another New Zealand pilot named Arnold Christensen was executed at the same time as him. Johnny was cremated and his ashes were buried in Sagan, a town near the camp. 

About the Stalag Luft |||: Stalag Luft ||| was a German prisoner-of-war camp for officer airmen. It had been carefully designed to prevent prisoners from escaping. The prisoners' barracks were raised off of the ground so the guards could spot any signs of tunnelling. The German's also used microphones to detect any sounds of digging, in case they couldn't see it with their own eyes. The camp was was built on sandy soil that easily collapsed and was built hundreds of kilometers away from safety and allied territory.

About the Tunnels: Tom, Dick and Harry were the escape tunnels. If one of them were found, it was thought that the German's wouldn't search for another. The prisoners hypothesis proved to be right, and by September 1943, hundreds of men were working on these three tunnels. One of the tunnels, Dick, was abandoned after it's planned exit point was built over during a camp extension. Tom was discovered by the Germans and was dynamited. Eventually, Harry became everyone's only hope. Building this tunnel took around a year to create, and was finished in March 1944.

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