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Thread: Great Escape Tunneller Eric Dowling Dies

  1. #1
    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
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    Sep 2005
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    Default Great Escape Tunneller Eric Dowling Dies

    Great Escape Tunneller Eric Dowling Dies - Simon de Bruxelles, The Times

    Eric “Digger” Dowling, who forged passports, made maps and helped to dig the one tunnel that the Germans did not discover before the Great Escape from Stalag Luft III, has died, aged 92.

    On March 24, 1944, 250 prisoners lined up to await their turn to crawl through the tunnel to freedom. Many of them were equipped with documents that had been forged by Mr Dowling, who learnt to speak five languages fluently during his three years in the prison.

    The prisoners were due to get out via a tunnel nicknamed Harry - the other two, Tom and Dick, having been discovered by the guards. But the tunnel fell short and the escaping men were forced to make a dash across open land. The 77th was spotted by a sentry, who sounded the alarm. All but three of the 76 were swiftly rounded up and 50 of them were executed on the personal orders of Hitler.

    Mr Dowling, an RAF flight lieutenant who was navigator of a Wellington bomber, was imprisoned in Stalag Luft III in occupied Poland after his aircraft was shot down in April 1942.

    Although he was not among the 250 prisoners chosen by lot to take part in the Second World War’s biggest break-out – which was made into a film starring Steve McQueen and Richard Attenborough - he played a vital role in the preparations...

  2. #2
    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    What a story and what a hero. I remember very well when the movie came out--Hollywood had to Americanize it to sell it with Steve McQueen and James Garner, when all the players were Commonwealth.

    I am sure that his family is proud of him,


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    Default He was not a fan of the movie

    According to the AP article on him he did not like either the movie or Americans. According to his son -

    But he also said his father was not a fan of the movie.

    "He wasn't the greatest admirer of Americans and it didn't go down too easily that one of them should be playing the starring role," Peter Dowling said. "A lot of the reality of digging tunnels was left out too."

    He said his father felt the scene in which McQueen attempts to race to freedom on a stolen motorcycle "was well over the top."I can understand thinking that the movie was over the top, since he actually lived it, but I wonder if their is something here I am too obtuse to notice. A lesson to be learned. I know that currently Americans are unpopular in Europe, but I thought a member oif the WWII generation would be more pro-American.

    Anyway he must have been one outstanding individual. My sympathies to his family.

  4. #4
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    Default The Book

    I read (listended on audio) Paul Brickhill's book The Great Escape two months ago. Good account by someone who was there (though like Dowling, Brickhill did not participate in the acutal escape).

    Much of the book centers on Roger Bushell, also known as the Big X. It discusses him being shot down, his early escape attempts, and him planning the escape. Unfortunately, he was one of the fifty who was shot.
    The Wikipedia film entry for The Great Escape lists the film's true and fictional events.

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