The Great Escape

Factual error: Why is Hilts not wearing a uniform? A serving officer captured behind enemy lines in civilian clothing risked being shot as a spy. If a prisoner's uniform was too worn or damaged to wear, it was routine for the German authorities to replace it - a P.O.W. in civilian clothes is an obvious escape risk. He is wearing a pair of tan chinos, a cut off sloppy Joe sweatshirt, both ridiculously anachronistic - Sixties hipster fashions - and nowhere even close to a World War 2 uniform. He is also wearing Army Type III Service boots - something that would never have been issued to a fighter pilot.

28
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Suggested correction: The character of Hilts was based (in part) on the life of a British OSS agent who managed to pass as pilot by stealing a flight jacket (revealed in the DVD). We can only assume that since the Germans believed the camp was escape-proof, it didn't matter what Hilts was wearing, since he wouldn't be going anywhere.

Cobblers. Hilts is wearing casual clothing typical of the time the film was shot, not when it was set. No prisoner of war would be dressed the way he was. The posting is correct.

19

I've always assumed that the actor, Steve McQueen, insisted on the outfit so he would look hip per his image. He had a reputation for being a prima donna on set.

Factual error: A convoy of open trucks arrive at the camp bringing the latest batch of prisoners, many of whom are carrying rucksacks and tote bags of clothing and other possessions. Where did they come from? Combat servicemen in World War Two did not carry overnight bags with them - a change of clothes or a handy supply of toiletries was the least of their concerns. A prisoner of war arrived in the camp with the clothes he stood up in and nothing else.

21
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Suggested correction: These prisoners were being transferred from other camps to this camp. As Big X said, "they are putting all their eggs in one basket." It's likely they are carrying possessions they've acquired during their time in captivity.

What "possessions"? Do you think they had Oxfam shops in POW camps during World War 2? They would be dressed in their combat fatigues and nothing else.

4

They would have possessions as they would receive parcels from home and Red Cross parcels.

They were universally known for their trading and scrounging abilities. Remember these were the "worst of the worst" in offending.

stiiggy

POWs acquired possessions by hand-making, scrounging, care packages, 'selling' watches and rings to guards or local civilians.

Agreed, there was always a bit of trading going on for little trinkets. As has happened in many wars.

Ssiscool Premium member

The Great Escape was from a POW camp specifically set up to hold trouble makers from other camps. Also, sometimes people expect to be captured and prepare to for it! Today, during funeral of John Lewis, speakers repeatedly mentioned that he was carrying a backpack with 2 books, an apple, an orange and a tooth brush. Which haven't been seen since his head was beat in. A least one German Fortress commander, sworn to defend his fort until he and all those under his command were dead, surrendered with multiple suit cases to make his incarceration more comfortable. Like the character Yossarian in Catch-22. [Spoiler alert: he makes elaborate preparations to the paddle in a life raft from Italy to Sweden.].

Factual error: Many of the prisoners are wearing watches, which is incorrect. Upon arrest a prisoner's watch was confiscated. This prevented them using them to bribe or barter with corrupt guards (and as this film acknowledges, there were plenty of those) as well as making coordination of meetings or escape plans difficult.

18
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Suggested correction: It is true that most prisoners had their watches confiscated when they were captured. However, British POWs could write to Rolex in Geneva through the International Red Cross requesting a watch. Rolex would supply one with an invoice to be paid at the end of the war. The watches sent were steel because gold watches would have been confiscated by the guards. At least some of the prisoners involved in the Great Escape had these watches. Corporal Nutting, one of the masterminds, requested and received an Oyster 3525 Chronograph - a more upmarket model than the ones favoured by most POWs, which he used to measure the frequency of German patrols. After the war he paid £15 for it. In 2007 this watch and the associated correspondence was sold at auction for £66,000.

Peter Harrison

They are not wearing Rolex watches and the newly arrived prisoners are all wearing watches, which would normally have been confiscated.

3

No, they are not all wearing watches. Having watched the first half hour to check, the only definite watch I can see is being worn by Steve McQueen. I can't see enough of it to say definitively whether or not it matches the watches Rolex were sending. Many of the others are either definitely not wearing watches (Charles Bronson, for example) or, if they are, it is hidden by their clothes.

Peter Harrison

Factual error: When McQueen steals the motorbike from the German soldiers and rides off it is clearly a Triumph, a British make, not a BMW or Zundapp which was what the German army used. More to the point it looks like a 1960s model.

5

Factual error: As Steve McQueen is making his 'great escape', he drives his motorcycle through a gap which a chasing motorcycle and sidecar can't squeeze through, so it crashes. Cut to a crane shot of the retreating McQueen racing into the distance. Keep your eye on the left of frame and into view, on top of a building, is a distinctly un-1940s TV aerial. It's there for a full 7 seconds.

Factual error: When the SS and Gestapo are leaving Bartlett in Von Luger's office on his arrival in the camp, they all give the Nazi salute with bent arms. The correct form was a straight outstretched arm and hand: only Hitler himself was allowed to give the Hitler salute so sloppily.

tobyduckett
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Suggested correction: Absolute rubbish. And Von Luger was a Luftwaffe officer, not a die hard Nazi.

stiiggy

You need to explain why you believe this is incorrect. Do you mean they actually give proper salutes? Do you mean it isn't a mistake to show an officer give an improper salute? Do you mean the Nazi's weren't as strict on salute protocol as the mistake suggests?

BaconIsMyBFF
1

Von Luger's disgust of the Gestapo is shown when Big X is returned from custody. I have rendered a sloppy salute to a particular officer to make a point.

stiiggy

Factual error: The entrance to tunnel Dick is shown improperly; the trap door was on the side of the drain basin, not the bottom. This was discussed in the Brickhill book, and subsequently verified by research on the site (shown on the US television program NOVA) which found the original door and its lifting handles.

Factual error: In the scene at the railway station, the carriages bear the 'DB' logo of the Deutsche Bundesbahn which is definitely post-war. During the war they would have carried the Deutsche Reichsbahn logo.

Factual error: Why is Hilts not wearing a uniform? A serving officer captured behind enemy lines in civilian clothing risked being shot as a spy. If a prisoner's uniform was too worn or damaged to wear, it was routine for the German authorities to replace it - a P.O.W. in civilian clothes is an obvious escape risk. He is wearing a pair of tan chinos, a cut off sloppy Joe sweatshirt, both ridiculously anachronistic - Sixties hipster fashions - and nowhere even close to a World War 2 uniform. He is also wearing Army Type III Service boots - something that would never have been issued to a fighter pilot.

Upvote valid corrections to help move entries into the corrections section.

Suggested correction: The character of Hilts was based (in part) on the life of a British OSS agent who managed to pass as pilot by stealing a flight jacket (revealed in the DVD). We can only assume that since the Germans believed the camp was escape-proof, it didn't matter what Hilts was wearing, since he wouldn't be going anywhere.

Cobblers. Hilts is wearing casual clothing typical of the time the film was shot, not when it was set. No prisoner of war would be dressed the way he was. The posting is correct.

I've always assumed that the actor, Steve McQueen, insisted on the outfit so he would look hip per his image. He had a reputation for being a prima donna on set.

More mistakes in The Great Escape

Col. Von Luger: Group Captain Ramsey, in the past four years the Reich has been forced to spend an enormous amount of time, energy, manpower and equipment hunting down prisoner of war officers.
Group Capt. Ramsey: At least it's rather nice to know you're wanted, isn't it?

More quotes from The Great Escape

Trivia: The motorcycle used by Steve McQueen is the same motorcycle Henry Winkler used on "Happy Days."

More trivia for The Great Escape

Question: At the scene where Bartlett is running away from the pursuing Germans in the town, a car stops him. Bartlett says something in a foreign language to the German who steps out the car which makes the Germans drive away. Could someone please tell me what is said in the Bartlett/German conversation and what language does Bartlett speak in.

Answer: It's German, although I can't quite make it all out. The Germans tell him to stop (sounds like one says "hey you" in English). He asks what this is all about and, in English, the soldier accuses him of being English. Bartlett acts offended at the idea, and at being threatened with a pistol. The soldier then asks if he's German, he says something in the affirmative, and the soldiers apologize as they climb back in the car.

More questions & answers from The Great Escape

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