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.

Answer: I am German and just watched the movie. From memory the conversation went something like this: German guard talks in English and Bartlett responded in German "English? What are you thinking?" German guard: "Oh so you're German?" Bartlett: "Yes why! Of course I am German. What is the meaning of this? Threatening me with this pistol?" German guard: "Well all right then." And they leave him alone. Although his accent would have given him away, it's a lot less strong than most English people's German, but still noticeable.

Question: In the scenes in which the POWs use the bags inside their trousers to distribute tunnel dirt over the compound, how do they put the pins back into the bags? It seems like a pain in the butt to have to take the bags out, just to put them back in, just to take them back out, etc.

Cubs Fan Premium member

Chosen answer: The movie is based on a true story and depicts actual events. After dispersing the dirt, the POWs simply removed the bags from their pants, reinserted the pins, and put the filled bags back inside their trousers again. Of course it was a pain, but what other options did they have? Little or none. Carrying out a secret operation in a POW camp with few resources, they worked with what they had, and made what they had work.

raywest Premium member

Question: Who is the actor playing the very tall cooler guard? Has he appeared in any other films?

Answer: His name is Trevor Wood, apparently rather than acting again, he went on to become a solicitor and partner in several London law firms.

Sierra1 Premium member

Question: When Roger is explaining the escape plan, he says that Tom will run under the vorlager, the cooler, and the wire. The cooler and the wire are obvious, but what's the vorlager?

Cubs Fan

Chosen answer: Vorlage is German for "forward position," so this likely refers to either the main gate, or a machine gun nest.

Captain Defenestrator

Question: Why is Hilts the only prisoner out of the 11 or so who are returned to the camp after the great escape the *only* one to be sent to the Cooler? Shouldn't the other escapees be sent there, too?

Answer: The other escapees undoubtedly faced some sort of punishment - Hilts was singled out for the Cooler as he caused the most disruption while free.

Tailkinker Premium member

Question: How come Hilts could not answer the German at the end of the movie when he said he could speak German to Colonel von Luger?

Answer: He could have only known a small amount of German, enough to answer a question or two, but not enough to carry on a full conversation. Also, the German seemed to be wanting to have a full conversation with him. He was on the run and didn't have time to talk. He was most likely being a smart ass saying he knew German.

Answer: .And, just to add to the previous answer: even if he could speak conversational German, he would likely do so with a very strong American accent (as he does when he speaks the few words to the Commandant earlier), so the guard would have picked up on that right away, anyway.

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.

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

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.

Prisoners of war would receive Red Cross parcels, and may have also scrounged, made or been issued a few other bits and pieces. In particular, they'd probably have a change or two of underwear, some toiletries and a few books or games at the very least.

In international conflicts, in addition to prisoners regularly receiving Red Cross care packages, the Geneva Convention requires that captors treat all POWs humanely, and provide food, clothing, housing, medical treatment, and hygiene. As mentioned, these prisoners brought their belongings with them from other camps. International Red Cross inspectors monitor POW camps for compliance. Failure to comply with the rules constitutes war crimes. Germany was generally more compliant than Japan. POW camps were to detain captured soldiers and prevent them rejoining the war, not to punish them as criminals. Once the war was over, POWs were repatriated.

raywest Premium member

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

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

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

stiiggy

Just to clarify. They weren't exactly the "worst of the worst" for bad or incorrigible behavior. They were the best at attempting to escape POW camps or otherwise subverting their German captors. The fed-up Germans decided to contain them all in one prison to stop the constant breakouts. They only succeeded in creating a POW "think tank" by pooling together the most talented escape artists who combined their skills and knowledge.

raywest 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.].

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: Paul Brickhill, who wrote the novel the film is based on, was a member of the X organization which planned the escape.

More trivia for The Great Escape

Join the mailing list

Separate from membership, this is to get updates about mistakes in recent releases. Addresses are not passed on to any third party, and are used solely for direct communication from this site. You can unsubscribe at any time.

Check out the mistake & trivia books, on Kindle and in paperback.