One of the most well-known stories of the Second World War, the Great Escape from Stalag Luft III in 1944 was popularised by the 1963 film starring Steve McQueen, James Garner, and Richard Attenborough.
Less well known is that the original escape attempt was inspired by an equally daring escape that took place during the First World War.
In 1918, a group of 29 British officers escaped under the noses of heavily armed guards at Holzminden prisoner of war camp in Germany.
The prisoners took more than nine months to dig an 80-metre tunnel using sharpened cutlery and bowls before escaping in July 1918. Of the 29 men who escaped, 19 were caught and 10 reached Holland on foot.
Their story is told at the Australian War Memorial as part of the Great escapes exhibition, which features stories of Australians who attempted to escape captivity during the First and Second World Wars.
“People tend to think of mass tunnel escapes as a Second World War thing, but they happened in the First World War as well,” said exhibition curator Jennie Norberry.
“Holzminden very much parallels Stalag Luft III in the Second World War in that it was a camp that was created for people who had attempted to escape previously.
“It became famous after the war as a ‘boys-own adventure’ type story, but it hasn’t lasted in public memory as well as the Great Escape has.”