The Great Escape

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.

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.

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 and a cut off sloppy Joe sweatshirt, both ridiculously anachronistic - Sixties hipster fashions - and nowhere even close to a World War 2 uniform.

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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.

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.

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

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.

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More for The Great Escape

Quotes

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?

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Mistakes

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.

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Trivia

While Steve McQueen performed most of his own stunts, the only stunt he didn't perform was the 60 foot jump over the Austrian-Swiss border fence. The jump was performed by stuntman Bud Ekins, who later doubled for McQueen in "Bullitt."

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