The Luftwaffe are having a hard time looking after their RAF prisoners of war, so they build a new camp with high security to put 'All their rotten eggs in one basket' as the German commander says. Unfortunately this brings together the greatest escape artists around and they work together building three tunnels, hatching escape plans and forging documents in ingenious ways, each man with a different task led by Roger Bartlett (Richard Attenbourgh) to take 250 men out of the camp, the largest ever escape attempt. Meanwhile American Captain Hilts (Steve McQueen) tries other escape attempts which repeatedly end him up in solitary confinement, and heroically he finds local information out for the others then deliberately gets caught. One of the tunnels is found and the effort is put into one tunnel. On the night of the escape they find the tunnel is 20 feet short of the safety of the woods and slowly they get out avoiding the searchlights. However one man gets impatient waiting and goes out while a German is looking and gets caught - 76 men have already escaped. The escapees disperse in various ways and most get caught, including Bartlett and Hilts, but not before the latter has had a long motorbike chase. The Germans shoot 50 men including Bartlet and return several others including Hilts. The camp commander is also relieved of duty. Only three are seen to escape, the two tunnel diggers and the manufacturer. Based on a true story.
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.
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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